Many people think that hostels cater and then 20-something backpackers — but that’s just a myth. You’ll find a variety of people from various different walks of life residing in hostels, and for some, the perks of cheap, reliable accommodation are too good to avoid.
In this guest post, Barbara Weibel of Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel tears down all of the negative hostel stereotypes and tells us why they’re actually an excellent option for seniors.
When I show people that I stay in hostels within my travels all over the world, the original reaction from most seniors is astonishment verging on horror.
“Aren’t they filthy?”
“Don’t you should endure a couple of drunken twenty-somethings who party forever long?”
“Are they really safe?”
As a result of number of budget hotels and motels spread across America, hostels haven’t really caught on in the U.S. because they have far away. According to Hostelling International-USA, no more than 350 of the 10,000 hostels found all over the world are located in america, so American unfamiliarity with them is hardly surprising.
For many who don’t know, hostels are budget accommodations where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunkbed, in a dormitory. While configurations vary, most common are dorms with four, eight, and 16 bunks.
Dorms are often mixed gender, though recently many hostels have begun offering female only dorms. I’ve slept in both rather than felt at all uncomfortable.
Each dorm shares a bathroom, and guests get access to a completely equipped kitchen where they are able to refrigerate groceries and prepare their own meals. There is nearly always a common lounge or gathering area where folks from all nationalities can mingle and share meals.
Additionally, many hostels now offer private rooms with en-suite bathrooms. (That they have even private facilities is among the best-kept secrets about hostels. A lot of people I tell are shocked.)
Many hostels even offer family rooms for four people. Of course, these private and family rooms have equal usage of all of the common areas enjoyed by dorm guests.
My preference for hostels began out necessarily. As a corporate dropout determined to recreate myself into an unbiased travel writer and photographer, I had to view every penny. I lay out on my first round-the-world journey in early 2007. Arriving in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, with a reservation at an inexpensive hotel for the first two nights, it didn’t take me long to get the backpacker district and switch to the cheaper digs.
Initially, I chose private rooms with en-suite bathrooms but I soon switched to the more economically priced dorm beds. All my worries about unclean conditions, bugs, and being kept awake by boisterous hostel mates were for naught. My accommodations were always clean, bug-free, and fairly quiet.
Initially, I also concerned about being accepted. I envisioned a couple of twenty- and thirty-year-olds thinking, “What’s this old broad doing inside our dorm room?”
I soon found that this fear was only in my own mind.
I’ve developed wonderful friendships with folks of all ages by residing in dorms.
In Ecuador, I met a 30-something teacher who subsequently invited me to go to her in Lima, Peru. She and her mother spent a whole day showing me around Lima, including treating me to lunch at their oceanfront Country Club.
In Nepal, I met a 50-something woman from England who became such a dear friend that people later spent per month traveling together around Ireland and Northern Ireland. I even shared a bunk with an 80-something woman in Mexico — and she took the upper bunk!
One of the primary hostel secrets I’ve discovered is you could book a two-bed dorm room, and unless it’s any occasion or other high-traffic time, you’ll more often than not have the area to yourself. For reasons uknown, hostels hesitate to book another person right into a two-bedroom if indeed they have alternate beds available.
What things to Expect in a Hostel
Hostels are safe, well staffed, usually well located, and generally provide a free breakfast. Most offer metal lockers to secure your property while you’re away for your day, but make sure to bring along your own padlock.
While a lot more are providing bath towels, many still charge extra or don’t have towels available, so it’s smart to carry a camp towel with you. Some have laundry facilities and travel libraries where travelers can swap books. A few I’ve stayed in even had hot tubs, barbecues, and beaches at their front doors.
Regardless of the persistent stereotype, I’ve never been kept up by drunken partygoers. Generally, my dormmates have already been delightful and considerate. For creepy-crawlies, I’ve never even seen a bedbug. Hostels, generally, are clean, but make sure you read customer reviews and the hostel’s conditions before booking.
I’ve find a few hostels that won’t accept guests over 40, and the reviews will clearly indicate whether a house is a “party hostel” — I stay a long way away from those.
For solo travelers, couples, families, and friends traveling together, hostels provide a marvelous, eclectic experience, however the biggest benefit may be the people you will meet. Within my a long time of travel, I could honestly say I’ve never met anyone interesting at a hotel.
But I can’t even count the quantity of friends I have everywhere because of residing in hostels.
After years of working at jobs that paid the bills but brought no joy, baby boomer Barbara Weibel walked from corporate life in 2007 to pursue the only things she’d ever wished to do: writing, photography, and travel. Since that time she’s traveled solo to 98 countries on six continents, including every country in Europe. Understand how much it costs her to visit around the world regular and read her fascinating stories about immersing with cultures all over the world on her behalf popular travel blog, Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel.