Say the word “hostel” and chances are it immediately conjures up images of rowdy college students backpacking around Europe. And while hostels have certainly catered to students and younger travelers over the years — the concept of the hostel was actually founded by a German schoolteacher traveling with his students and in need of cheap accommodations — there’s a growing contingent of older travelers who recognize hostels as an affordable and comfortable option.
Hostels tend to be most plentiful in Europe, where there are fewer budget hotels and the average city hotel room can run several hundred Euros per night, but the idea is gaining popularity in the U.S. and other parts of the world. For the adventurous older traveler on a budget, staying in a hostel can be an ideal way to see the world and not break the bank.
Not All Hostels Are Created Equal
Some older travelers resist hosteling because they think that staying in such an accommodation means sleeping (barely) on a bunk bed in a room with strangers, fighting for bathroom time and dealing with curfews and a long list of restrictions. Even the low rates — some hostels charge less than $20 per night — aren’t enough to convince them.
What these travelers don’t realize is that hosteling has come a long way and for less than the cost of the average American budget hotel they can have clean, comfortable accommodations in some of the world’s greatest cities. Many hostels offer private or family rooms with their own baths, letting travelers get a good night’s sleep and wash in privacy. Some hostels even cater to older travelers, offering rooms and amenities more appealing to the experienced traveler on a budget. It’s not unusual to find hostels that offer cafes, gyms, saunas, Wi-Fi and other amenities. One hostel in Lisbon (click here for Venere.com’s related offerings), for example, offers a free breakfast and a book exchange, while a hostel in London has its own movie theater.
So how does one find the right hostel? Research before the trip to get an idea of the options available. Several websites offer unbiased traveler reviews of individual hostels and by reading the reviews travelers can get an idea of what to expect in terms of the typical visitor, cleanliness and overall experience at the hostel. Pay close attention to themes in the reviews; one person complaining about the cleanliness of the facility or a party atmosphere doesn’t necessarily represent the hostel, but if several people complain about the noise there may be a problem. Look for notes about the location and other factors that could influence enjoyment of the hostel; if younger travelers note the building is located at the top of a steep and tiring hill, older traveler may not want to make that walk after a long day of sightseeing.
Making the Most of the Hostel Experience
One reason that hosteling is so appealing to travelers is that it affords the opportunity to meet and interact with people from all over the world. Hanging out in the common room or even just chatting with roommates introduces new perspectives — and it’s a great way to discover travel tips. So when staying in a hostel, try not to hide out in the room. Instead say hi to others staying at the hostel and try to make friends.
Before arriving at the hostel make arrangements to ensure an enjoyable stay. While reservations aren’t always necessary — another part of a hostel’s appeal — for private rooms it’s best to call ahead and reserve. Pay attention to the check-in times, though, as the hostel might give the room away to the next weary traveler who shows up. If a private room isnt available, request a bottom bunk and bring earplugs to ensure a good night’s sleep.
With low rates and plentiful amenities, hostels offer travelers of all ages the chance to see the world without the high costs of a hotel.