Since the hippy trail pioneers of the 1960s, backpacking – and by virtue of that, the backpacker hostel – has garnered a reputation as the most affordable and accessible travel method for the budding global wanderer. Over time, a fair amount of hostel myths have also cropped up: some true, some a little true, and others which are outright false.[related_articles]62229,57653[/related_articles]
While they might have been a less-than-five-star experience back in the day, today’s world of hostels is a very different scene. In fact, you might be surprised just how classy, unique, and awesome a lot of them are.
Here’s our takedown of some of the most hectic hostel myths, and the truth about the world’s cheapest accommodation.
#1 Are hostels only for young people?
Younger travellers tend to gravitate to hostels for their affordability and no-frills approach, but that old title “youth hostel” is really a thing of the past. Hostels are egalitarian setups, and more often than not anyone of any age can check in for a few nights’ rest, just one of the many reasons they make for such a unique communal choice.
#2 Are hostels just human zoos?
Well … in a way, they are – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Having worked on the reception desk of a vibrant inner-Melbourne hostel for more years than I care to mention, I can attest to just how colourful and crazy the “hostel fish tank” can be.[related_articles]15285,7317,61871[/related_articles]
Watching a revolving door of characters from all over the world interact with each other every day at work, I’d often hear David Attenborough’s voice in my head narrating the scenes playing out in front of me. As far as habitats go, hostels are more zoo-ish than a hotel or Airbnb – but then, that’s all part of the charm.
#3 Are hostels all party party party?
Based on their affordability, you might think all hostels are pits of depravity and endless partying. While activities of this sort have been known to take place, no one hostel fits all – some are set up for solely good times, while others you’ll find are more tranquil affairs.
In some cases, hostels will even implement after-hours curfews to curb late-night ruckus. The bottom line is: whether you’re a budget dorm-seeker, or an upper-scale flashpacker, there’s a range of options available for your vibe – choose wisely, check out the reviews, and know what you’re getting into.
#4 Are hostels dirty?
This is one of the biggest hostel myths. Suffice to say, there are probably a slim minority of hostels out there known as bed-bug-infested roach dens and, depending on your hygiene threshold, are probably best avoided.[related_articles]54325,57599[/related_articles]
Most, however, are are clean and tidy, with many taking pride in making your stay as comfortable as possible. The old gritty days of backpacker travel are over: expect fresh linen, clean common areas and generally spotless bathroom and kitchen facilities. (Germophobes, ease your fears.)
#5 Are hostels dangerous
Far from it. When you think about it, hostels are actually some of the safest places you can stay when far away from home. There’s no shortage of immediate neighbours to look out for you, for one thing; plus, most hostels offer prime security in the form of high-grade hotel-style key systems, cameras and reception desk surveillance (as well as lockers for your valuables). The only danger you’ll encounter is in being so lured by your invigorating temporary travel home that you’ll never want to leave (I have seen it happen time and again).
#6 Are hostels uncomfortable?
Even a high-class hotel can yield a dodgy bed every now and then. More to the point, while eight- or 12-bunk mixed-gender dorm life might not be the Ritz, most hostels will deliver a bare basic decent night’s rest; provided you’re down with the occasional snorer or night-time rustle, you’ll find hostel life pleasantly comfortable for the price. Failing that, for the noise-sensitive, most hostels offer smaller shared rooms, female and male only rooms, and even private suites for a slightly higher sum. Above and beyond this, some hostels are surprisingly luxe.
#7 Are hostel facilities basic?
“You get what you pay for”, as the old maxim goes, though having said that, in order to stay competitive in a crowded (and Airbnb-infused) market, today’s hostels offer a lot in ways of facilities and perks. In fact, some are decked to the nines, and not always in ways you’d expect – take the bright yellow breakfast bus at the Lucky Lake Hostel in Amsterdam, for example; the Jedi huts of the Isle of Skye’s Skyewalker Hostel; or the cockpit suite at Jumbo Stay, Sweden’s number one converted jumbo jet accommodation icon.[related_articles]15285,7317,61871[/related_articles]
From jungle to mountain, island to ice plains, to urban centres and beyond, hostels can give some of the most awe-inspiring experiences on the planet. Be wary of the hostel myths you hear, as this accommodation type can have an undeservedly bad rap. Check them out, get amongst it and go have yourself an awesome time.
(Lead image: Lucky Lake)
Cam Hassard is an international penman, sax-wielder and rogue wayfarer who writes for Junkee, Carryology, Huckberry, Caddie, Fairfax Media, Carryology, Intrepid, Peregrine Adventures and Europe Up Close. He’s eaten ant salad in Laos, hauled trucks from NYC to Vegas, and destroyed himself on the Camino de Santiago. Originally from Melbourne, he currently calls Berlin home.