Hostels: Not Just For Kids Anymore
Updated: Feb 1
A confession here: I'm closer to retirement age than I am to my college graduation, so when I tell people that I enjoy staying in hostels when I travel internationally, I sometimes get funny looks. I suppose that makes sense. During the 70's and 80's, hostels became known as budget accommodations for college kids backpacking across Europe. They also gained the reputation of being somewhat dirty, loud, and filled with drunken trust fund kids. And then there's the whole Hostel series of horror films. Don't get me started.
But what I've discovered in my international solo travels is that 21st Century hostels have come a long way. While still cheaper than most hotels, many are equally clean and quiet. While there are still "dorms" for large groups of people, many modern hostels have private rooms for singles or couples. Yes, there are still "party hostels", where the kids drink and dance 'til dawn, but others have instituted "quiet hours" that allow guests to get their rest. And while your fellow guests will still skew toward millenials, you'll also find a lot of us middle-agers as well, and even a few retirees.
The best thing about hostels, in my opinion, is the sense of an international community that they inspire. I've met fellow travelers from every continent in hostels, Here, you'll dine together, play games together, take tours together, and hang out together. The friendship and camaraderie you'll find between people of all ages, genders, faiths, nations, and lifestyles is inspiring. Staying in a friendly hostel can be as much a highlight of a trip as the destination itself.
Nowadays when I book an overseas trip, my first stop is a website called Hostelworld. Here, you can see a list of hostels in a destination and sort them by price, location, and reviews. There are usually pictures of both the interior and exterior of the accommodations, and a rundown of the services each offers. I pay particular attention to the written reviews, because that will give you a good indication of the hostel's cleanliness, security, and whether it's a "party" hostel or a "quiet" hostel. By doing a little research, you can usually find a hostel that meets your personality.
That's not to say that hostels are right for everybody. If you're someone who likes to be waited on, wants to be alone at night, or would get frustrated having to wait a few minutes for a bathroom or a shower, then you will probably be happier in a hotel. But for my money (and apparently Rick Steves agrees with me), meeting and making friends with fellow travelers from around the world far outweighs the occasional inconvenience of communal living. So while I can certainly afford a hotel or an AirB&B in most cities these days, I'd much rather look for a cool little hostel to spend my down time in.
My Top Ten Hostels So Far (as of February 2020):
5. Mama Simona - Ollantaytambo, Peru
6. Mosquito Hostel - Krakow, Poland
7. Villa Ivan - Dubrovnik, Croatia
8. Porto Wine Hostel - Porto, Portugal
9. J-Hoppers Guesthouse - Hiroshima, Japan
10. Compass Del Sur - Puerto Varas, Chile