Yesterday a good friend of mine asked me a few questions about hostels in preparation for a trip to New England, and today she came back with a few more … and it dawned on me – even domestically (read: in the US) Staying in a hostel is still pretty alien to most people.
Well i am here to help!
I’ve lived in hostels since I was 16 and I’ve traveled all over the world so I have a really good understanding of that What makes hostels tick, what to do, what NOT to do and where to go.
But first I want to explain how damn great and amazing hostels are so you can understand why you should consider staying in one.
Top reasons to stay in a hostel
Price. Hostels are che (obviously).
Some even dirty (and some not so cheery, but we can get into that later.) If you are traveling alone or even with a friend, you will find it difficult to find accommodation that is as cheap and has as many amenities as yours typical hostel. What brings us to …
Fun! Hostels are fun, seriously, seriously fun.
These ‘amenities’ mentioned in 1 can be anything from a hostel swing bar to pool tables, grills, fully equipped kitchens, swimming pools, communal guitars – you name it, I probably found it (or che) in a hostel for free, too use.
The hostels have a lot of single rooms with bunk beds (you can pay more for a private room, but why should you?), Which means they bring in some money in the high season which really means they get the high rents at Busy travel can afford destination ”locations.
- This one. ROCK because you are in the middle of an amazing city
- and B. means the hostel is usually somehow accessible by public transport, which is always great.
The staff and other backpackers.
80% of trips are the people you meet and the same goes for staying in hostels. From the young, vagabond staff to fellow travelers staying at the hostel, everyone is there to have a good time. Most hostels have activities like city tours, pub crawls, themed nights, and even open microphone nights to bring everyone together, but even without all of these fun activities, staying in a hostel is an amazing social experience that you just can’t get yourself in your local Motel.
There are hostels all over the US. Even if you’re just planning a noisy weekend getaway alone or with a bunch of friends, there is likely a hostel that offers a good time (and is totally relaxed at times) and is much closer to you than you think.
If you want to visit hostels near you, I recommend hostelworld.com Because of their rating system (you can get a better idea of what to expect before you go) I can spend hours playing around this website looking at prices and reviews, where I want to go and what activities the hostels have planned. It’s rad. Go ahead and check it out. Really. I’ll wait…
Welcome back! I’m assuming that now you’re super excited to finally start planning that crazy weekend getaway with your best friend, so I’ll give you a few tips on what to do when you get there.
Tips for staying in hostels
Get a travel backpack
Backpackers usually stay in hostels and backpackers are called “backpackers” because they (usually) carry a backpack … not a suitcase. Hostels are notoriously NOT wheeled suitcase-friendly. There are usually stairs (if you are physically challenged there are certainly options here) and tight spaces.
If all you have as a Big Ass Roller Suitcase definitely go for that, but if you have options for a travel bag and backpack instead, I’d just recommend this for easier portability.
We recommend each of the Osprey Farpoint backpacks. They offer different sizes for both men and women.
You have to lock up your shit.
No, hostels are not the hangover spots for shady characters and thieves as some people have imagined, but here’s the deal – just like you would lock your car, even if you live in a safe neighborhood should you lock your things up, even if you are in a safe hostel.
There are a few ways to do this. Most hostels will assign you a locker with your bunk bed to put your belongings in, and most of the time it’s in the same room as the beds. It’s super convenient, but you’ll need to bring your own lock. Let me repeat that for 98% of all hostels you stay in YOU MUST BRING YOUR OWN LOCK. A little bit Combination lock from Amazon is really all you need I personally use a little Burton snowboard lock That extends so that I can close it around my backpack on trains or buses, but everything will work.
Hostel kitchen etiquette.
A surprisingly amazing thing about most hostels is access to a fully equipped kitchen. Not only is it a very fun way to meet people (having breakfast in the morning, eating beer at night), but it’s also super super super convenient (can you say beer fridge ?!)
Before you go shopping, check what is in stock in the kitchen so you better know what to buy. Much of the time people will stay in the hostel, leaving behind the extra food they bought, which usually becomes a communal food supply. Everything from bread to spices to packaged meals – you can absolutely score points in the hostel kitchen. Most things will be labeled or tagged and of course won’t take anything that isn’t yours, but it’s safe to say that the generic brand’s huge ass container of peanut butter that isn’t specifically labeled “STAFF” is a fair game.
Always tidy up after yourself (cleaning supplies are included) and label your things with a Sharpee or Post It … and I always write “COMMUNAL” or “Up for Grabs” on the things I leave behind.
Lockouts and Work to Stay.
Some hostels have something like LOCK OUT which is the case at any time of the day when the staff is throwing everyone in the hostel out for a couple of hours to clean and prep or whatever. Lockouts are usually boldly stated on what you sign to check in and I have to say that they are not common in US hostels and seem to be fading in Europe too. Some people are crazy about lock outs, but I guess as long as it’s not before 10am who cares? A little forced sightseeing has never hurt anyone (and that’s why you’re traveling, right?)
Work to stay is a really cool thing about hostels too. Work to stay just means that if you plan to stay in one place for a week or more, you can sometimes speak to the staff there and arrange to work a few shifts to get free room and board. Super great savings and it gives you a whole new perspective wherever you travel. Admittedly, this is more of an “experienced” thing for the Hosteller, but it is still radical.
The layout and what to bring when staying in a hostel (this is different from a hotel)
Hostels come in different sheds and sizes (isn’t that cute?) And I love them all.
Your average hostel is pretty predictable though, so let me guide you through one …
Most hostels have one court or Outside space furnished with some sort of chairs and tables and a grill. Everyone gathers in the courtyard and relaxes at night, either before going to the bars or when money is tight they just hang out there all night. For a quieter hostel experience, request a dorm room outside the outdoor area.
Lobby / reception.
Hostel lobbies and front desks are super relaxed, so don’t expect a bouncer or even help with your luggage. The staff usually consists of 20 people who came to visit from a strange place and never came back, and almost always they are super nice and helpful.
Down the hall from the “lobby” (if you can call it that) will most likely be the dormitories. Rooms vary, as do the hostels themselves, with 2 to 12 bunk beds, same-sex, shared (which means both men and women), and even private if you want to pay more (again, why?). You walk into your small assigned room and toss some clothes on an open, clean bed, sometimes the little they gave you on the bedpost and the BAM – you’ve claimed your bed (if the bed number wasn’t already taken, are these are the really organized hostels.)
Think of college dormitories. Shower stalls that you walk to with your tiny shower bag or caddy, blocked toilets, and usually sockets on the sinks for shaving and blow drying your hair. I was pleasantly surprised with the cleanliness of most of the bathrooms in the hostel. Some people wear flip flops in the shower and some don’t. Some people just walk from their dormitory to the bathroom with their towel, while others take turns in the actual bathroom. What ever.
Common rooms and kitchen.
Aside from the outside area, reception, dorms, and bathrooms, the common areas are a breeze. A Hollywood hostel has an upstairs bar with lounge sofas, a big screen TV, and foosball. A hostel in Amsterdam has a pool table, a bar and a smoking room with a shared bong and bean bags. Some hostels have nightclubs, others have computer rooms. Usually you can get an idea of what the hostel has on their website. If not, it just has to be a fun surprise!
What to bring.
When you pack, pack like you are about to crash with a friend. Bring your own toiletries and towels, but the hostel almost always provides linens (it boldly states when they don’t). Bring a lock and your sparkling demeanor and you’re done!
Done, done, DISCOVER!