Should I Hostel?
I have been asked this question several times—usually from family or friends who are not sure what a hostel is or only have heard of their 20 something/relatives/children mention them. Truthfully, I have even asked myself this question as I have gotten older.
When most American’s think of a hostel, they imagine dormitory style rooms with drunken coeds partying well into the evening. There are hostels that fit precisely into that description. Or worse, they may think of that scary movie where innocent, fun going hostel goers were taken out in typical scary movie style. (Let’s hope that no hostels fit into that description!) However, I have stayed at many more hostels that were quiet, very clean, and accommodating for any type of traveler. I have stayed at many hostels in my day, and each time I have almost always met someone much older than me.
Generally, hostels are open to people of all ages. Hostelling International, a reputable worldwide organization, states this specifically on their website (see http://www.hihostels.com/web/a-faq.en.htm). Some hostels may impose minimum age limits and there are internet rumors that some regions in Ireland, Germany, and Amsterdam impose age caps. Although the age restrictions are uncommon, the best bet is to review information about the hostel ahead of time and check the website.
Therefore, I suggest that the most important question is: “do I feel comfortable hosteling, considering what I want, need, or prefer as a person of a certain age?”
In the words of Aaliyah, age ain’t nothin but a number. The main concern is whether YOU feel comfortable staying in a hostel. Hosteling undoubtedly has advantages and disadvantages. Only you can tell if staying in a hostel can or will fit your personality or comfort level. Here are some things to consider when deciding whether you will *feel* comfortable hosteling.
- How important are accommodations to your trip?
This is the most important question—and it is imperative that you are honest. Saving a few bucks on accommodations is worthless if you are miserable. Do you enjoy hanging in your hotel? Is being pampered at your hotel just as important as visiting the sites? Do you get giddy over room service? Is turn down service a must? If you cannot envision staying at a place that does not have a concierge, a doorman, or high thread count sheets, reconsider whether you should stay in a hostel.
Hostels provide a variety of accommodations, from dorm style rooms and shared bathrooms to private rooms with private bathrooms. Private rooms and private bathrooms may be limited and are more expensive, but generally will be less expensive than what you would pay at a regular hotel. The more luxuries you are willing to forego, the more you could potentially save by staying at a hostel.
- Are you okay with minimal amenities?
Hostels generally will provide sheets/bedding. However, not all hostels provide towels and it is highly unlikely that they provide toiletries. So if you forget your toothpaste, you will need to make a trip to the nearest store. However, a lack of toothpaste in stock does not equate to zero luxury. Common areas at hostels may have bars, libraries, cable, movies, free internet, or board games. More and more hostels are providing single and double rooms with television and or even cable. Some hostels may even provide a free breakfast with your stay.
Many hostels also provide excellent tourist services. I have used hostel staff to book show tickets, city tours, day trips, and even spa trips at low or reduced rates. In my experience, hostel staffs are invaluable in making the most of my trip.
- Can you pack light enough for accommodations that may not have closets, drawers, or storage space?
A hostel is not the place to roll up with a 10 piece matching luggage set. This is not to say that you cannot have a suitcase. However, many hostels that I have stayed at do not have elevators (making carrying all of that luggage difficult), or have minimal place for storage. Consider this when making your accommodations. However, it is common practice for dorm rooms to provide a locker for you to secure your belongings (you provide the lock) and of course private rooms will have a sufficient lock on the front door.
Hosteling can be a great experience and provides unique opportunities to meet wonderful people. Keep an open mind, but be honest about what you want and need in lodging. Happy travels!