Living in the US I never in a million years thought I would stay in a hostel. Hostels always represented Europe and low budget travel and housing options for those who love to party all night. They were not something I tried in the 25 years I was traveling before I met Mike where I had an excellent income and I stayed in mostly 5 star hotels around the world. I would never have thought of hostels as an option.
Then we decided to travel and live on a budget of $1500 a month. Hostels were added into the equation mostly because without them we would have had to stop traveling ages ago.
Now there are some hostels who tell you the age range of those they want inside their establishment and we have no problem with that; that is fair warning that those of us over 35 or 65 or over 70 will most likely not be happy with the accommodations so that works for me.
The priceless moment comes when Mike and I approach the lobby in any hostel that we have made a reservation and we get these looks of shock from the clerk when we tell them we have a reservation. We think a lot of seniors or older travelers get lost and they go into these places to ask for directions to the nearest B&B or 5 star hotel so the kids get used to seeing someone our age but they don’t think we’re staying.
Hostels are not all located in seedy neighborhoods. Recently we were in a 4 star hostel in one of the most prosperous and expensive neighborhoods in all of Barcelona. It was in a great location; had security cameras everywhere, key card room entrance and we had our own private bath. In fact if it had a television in the room we would have upgraded it to a 5 star hostel and it would have been as nice as any hotel we have ever stayed in.
Most hostels have a limit policy on the length of your stay; usually no longer than seven nights but some will allow a stay of up to two weeks. There are situations where the kids will work in exchange for a room so that is unfortunately where one of the downsides of staying in a hostel comes from. The place is therefore only as clean as the kids who are doing the work want it to be. Now some places require the kids to become interns or to have another purpose for being in the city so that does up the ante as far as them actually doing a good job in cleaning.
Most of the hostels we have stayed in are incredibly quiet. We have had rooms where we have shared the space with a dozen other people. Other than needing to nudge Mike periodically to stop his snoring, it’s been incredibly quiet. Most kids are respectful when they enter the bedroom where everyone else is crashed out. The parting happens on the party floor which is usually away from the sleeping area. They also use double paned windows which keeps the noise from outside out and they use really thick and dark drapes so the room can be dark as night all day if you wish so that you can sleep. Some of the bunk beds come with a reading light for each person which is just enough light to read by or to organize your things.
Unless you have a private room most hostels offer you lockers to secure your stuff. You need to have your own lock (which we carry around with us) and we’ve never had any issues with theft.
I know you are thinking about bed bugs; never seen one in a hostel and never heard of any either. Hostel owners actually change out mattresses immediately if there is an issue. Nothing will kill your business faster than a bed bug notice on any of the hostel internet boards. I read all of these boards when deciding on a place to stay. I have written on these boards as well.
The only downside for me about hostel living is the kitchen facility. Some hostels will give you breakfast which means they are doing all the prep work and getting things ready in the morning. Usually the breakfast is well appointed and will fill you up for a good day of touring and walking around. Sometimes however it’s a free for all and people can use the kitchen to cook and make their own meals. However it is in the cleanup that I have seen people do some pretty disgusting things and I would never use a sponge or a kitchen utensil they have touched; let alone think that they cleaned.
We have seen people bring in their own utensils and dish clothes and sponges and they clean, then cook, then clean their stuff and leave. This is called making hostel living work for you. We use plastic forks and spoons and we only purchase food which we don’t need to leave in a refrigerator; we purchase mostly picnic items when we stay in a hostel and we don’t use the kitchen unless we have too. Rarely have we found hostels with dishwashers in them; most dishes are therefore washed by hand; and someone needs to tell these owners that changing the sponges that are used to wash these dishes should happen weekly; not yearly.
Hostels are therefore a great option to spend as little as possible on an accommodation but to still be able to travel a great deal. It’s just a place to take a shower and a place to stow your stuff, just like those 5 star hotels.
Mike and I are now used to traveling around in cities and towns and heading to hostels. Taxi drivers are still a little shocked when we tell them that is where we are staying so even they think that hostels are for the young. Maybe Mike and I never grew up and haven’t faced the fact that we’re older and should be staying in B&B’s and 5 star hotels; but we want to travel more and spend less on someplace to lay our heads; just like the kids. They don’t seem to mind that we are staying in the same place; in fact some of them think its cool and they wish their folks would think about doing it so they would travel more.
Maybe that’s the key here. Mike and I want to keep traveling and the kids get it; they get that hostels are a way to travel more and spend less. They think we’re cool, and that trumps spending more money on a B&B or a 5 star resort or hotel.