Hostel Questions? If you’ve never stayed in a hostel before, it can be a bit of a daunting prospect. I remember that before I left to travel, one of my greatest fears was staying in a hostel for the first time. I had no idea what a hostel would be like, what I was supposed to do when I arrived at one, whether I would make friends, or whether I would even like it.
Fortunately, I needn’t have worried. Hostels are great for travelers who want to keep to a tight budget and they’re really not something you need to worry about. Read our FAQ below to find out everything you could possibly need to know about hostels:
1. What is a Hostel?
A hostel is a cheap way to lodge safely with like-minded travelers around the world. Hostels are most well-known for having dormitory-style rooms, often with bunks, along with security, social events, shared bathrooms, a common area, and a kitchen. Got some extra cash? You can splash out a little more money on a private room if you need to.
Hostels are very community-oriented lodgings, and you’ll share everything but your bunk and a locker — in fact, it’s a little like summer camp without the counselors. Hostels can be found in practically every country in the world. I’ve even stayed in hostels in places such as Tahiti, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, and Mauritius.
2. How Much Does a Hostel Cost?
Prices of hostels vary around the world. In Western Europe or Australia in the middle of high season you could be looking at as much as $50 for a bed in a dorm and $80 for a decent private room. In affordable Southeast Asia, though, you can find a dorm bed for as little as 50 cents a night.
So, the short answer is that it varies. Expect to spend around $10-30 a night on a dorm on average, and roughly double that if you plan on going for private
3. Do Hostels Have Age Limits?
Some do, but not many of them strictly enforce it. If a place has an age limit of 30 and you look young for your age, there shouldn’t be any problem with getting in. My boyfriend and I traveled through Europe when he was 36 and he had no problem staying in places with an age limit. Nobody questioned him when he checked-in
Age limits often come with party hostels that have a bar inside — they’ll limit people who are under 16 (or sometimes 18) from staying there. Some hostels that want to keep a younger vibe will restrict guests to being under 30, but these are becoming rarer.
4. Do I Have to Share a Room with the Opposite Sex?
Quite a lot of hostels these days have single sex dorms for those of you who don’t want to share a dorm room with the opposite sex. Mixed dorms are more common, though. If that’s not something you’re up for, you’ll be looking at a private room instead.
I have to say, though, that mixed dorms are perfectly safe environment. I’ve spent the past five years sleeping in them and not had any issues. You’ll soon find that backpackers understand how to respect one another’s space and privacy. If you’re not sure, give it a go and see how it works out!
5. Do I Have to Share a Bathroom?
You should definitely expect shared bathrooms, especially if you’re staying in a dorm. Private rooms occasionally have an en-suit bathroom, but they’re still rare.
Hostel bathrooms usually start the day clean, but remember that you may be sharing with dozens of travelers. Almost always true: the toilet will be semi sloppy and the shower temperature unpredictable. Do bring flip flops for the shower so you don’t pick up anything nasty.
6. Is Breakfast Included?
Breakfast is often included in many hostels, but this often isn’t the bargain it sounds like. Be prepared for a continental breakfast in most parts of the world — buttered toast, an egg, and some coffee. It’s rare to find a hostel breakfast that is actually well-prepared and fills you up, so read the reviews of the hostel before you book it if you’re relying on it as a money-saver.
If breakfast isn’t included, your hostel will have a large kitchen, food storage area, and dining room for your to prepare your own meals.
7. Will There Be Bedbugs?
Bed bugs are far, far less common in hostels than your mother believes. I have never shared a sheet with a bedbug, myself, and I’ve been in some sketchy places where scuttling in corners by more-than-four-legged things was a given. Posh places and budget motels — bedbugs yes. Hostels — not so much. Backpacker’s lodgings work hard to keep the critters out; some won’t allow sleeping bags or sleep sacks because they can harbor unwanted guests that stay behind.
Remember, if a hostel is found to have bed bugs, they’ll likely have to replace all of their beds in order to fully get rid of the infestation. The staff will be doing all they can to prevent them from making your dorm their home
8. What’s the Deal With Hostel Curfews?
You’ll find that many budget European and Latin American digs, or hostels housed in older buildings with one entrance, close and lock the front door after a certain hour. You may be able to get in with your room key if the front door is locked; note whether the curfew is the witching hour by which you must be in or be locked out for the night. Pay attention. Forgot your key? A kindly clerk may let you enter.
Hostel curfews do exist in part to keep the place quiet.
This isn’t something to worry about too much though — after staying in well over 100 hostels, I’ve only come up against a curfew a couple of times.
9. What About Hostel Lockouts?
Some places practice a hospitality-challenged custom of locking guests out in the middle of the day, like from 10:00-2:00, ostensibly to clean. This may mean that you can’t get into your room during those hours, or it may mean that you can’t get into the building at all.
I avoid hostels with lock out policies if at all possible. Our hostel profiles and reviews generally have individual establishments’ rules listed, including lock out policies.
10. Where Are the Best Hostels?
That would be the $64,000 question. Whether you’ll have fun depends in part on your fellow guests, of whom you’ll see a lot. It’s usually better to choose your digs based on amenity and location than party priority.
Pick a part of the city, find out whether the hostel meets your needs and won’t lock you out, and see if you can make your own fun.
Most important of all: read the reviews! I made the mistake when I first started traveling of staying in the cheapest hostels I could find, not bothering to even read the reviews. Don’t make my mistake! When searching for a hostel online, look for places with an average rating of over 90% and you’re practically guaranteed a great time!