Affordable Travel Guide to Hostels

Hostels Aren’t Just for the Young Any More

Hostels

In the 1960s and 1970s, when the young were committed to back-pack style travel, especially within Europe, and with next to no funds, hostels were an essential element in travel. Over the years, their popularity has faded in and out, but other than sleeping overnight in a tent (which is not possible in some locations) hostels remain a cheap type of accommodations in cities and resort areas.

Originally known as “youth hostels”, they are still primarily occupied by the under-30 age group, but in Europe there is a tendency for young families to stay at hostels. In order to accommodate such varied groups, many hostels offer family wings that cater more to travelers with babies and young children, hosing them together in a cooperative situation.

A History of Hostels

The first permanent hostel was established in 1912 by a schoolteacher, Richard Schirrmann, who came up with the concept based on necessity being the mother of invention. While on an excursion with his students, Schirrmann and his group became caught in a storm and were given makeshift shelter in a local school. He was instrumental in encouraging the development of similar types of accommodations that could handle large groups at low cost, and not be campgrounds. Early hostels had stringent rules, complete with noise by-laws and curfews.

Hostels Defined

Hostels have continued to be a part of the travelers’ landscape, offering budget-priced, sociable accommodations. Overnight where guests rent a bed (usually a bunk bed) in a dormitory-style room; most hostels these days cater a bit more to individual needs than they used to, especially given our politically correct society. Some are geared to women, or men, others to couples or young families. We know of a few elder-hostels, but they are less common. Modern hostels also offer private rooms, excellent for families or guests with special needs.

Due to the travel demographics of their guests, world hostels are found in most major cities, and in locales such as Whistler, British Columbia, where the young come in summer to work the resorts and in winter to work the ski hills.

Second only to camping in a tent, hostels are cheap accommodations bar none. But like most other accommodations, reservations are virtually mandatory. Yu might get lucky, but why risk it? Book in advance!

The Hostel Experience

There is a common bond among people who travel and stay at hostels. The communal living areas, such as kitchens, dining halls and living rooms make for a socially interactive stay, ideal for those who love to meet new people, and share travel experiences. They are not so suitable for the shy or those who crave peace and privacy.

When hostels were at their height of popularity, in the “hippie generation”, like-minded souls gathered and bonded, often starting out as individuals and forming groups with the people they met at hostels. And there was risk in staying in an open room, both sexes, with no safety features. These days, hostels are monitored at the least, if not governed by a resident security guard, and many have individual rooms; all hostels have some form of lockers or places where guests can contain their valuables.

If you don’t mind sharing a bedroom and bathroom, and will be happy to share common rooms, and create your own meals, a hostel is guaranteed to be one of your cheapest overnight options, and you never know just how many friendships you’ll develop.

Hostel/Hotel; One Letter Difference?

Hostels and hotels (including inns and bed and breakfast accommodations) vary dramatically, Even a cheap hotel will not be as “bare bones” as a hostel. Be aware of the differences:

Hostels

  • Offer basic amenities (resulting in cheaper rates)
  • Rooms are shared among travelers, sometimes as many as a dozen guests
  • Shared bathrooms
  • You may have bring your own towels, bed linens and personal hygiene products, like soap (check this in advance so that you are prepared and come equipped); some offer towel rentals
  • You will be expected to clean up after yourself and pitch-in with household chores in the common areas
  • Shared kitchen; some hostels offer meals-included deals, or breakfast only
  • Less formal environment

Hotels

  • Wide range of amenities, resulting in higher room rates
  • Private rooms with en suite bathrooms
  • Clean towels are delivered and beds are made daily, with maid service and on-site dining
  • Some “convenience” suite hotel rooms and extended-stay hotels offer kitchenettes
  • Usually offer room service and continental breakfast
  • A more formal environment

According to www.hostelinfo.com, many hostels use an on-line booking system, just like a hotel. Typically, the hostels will reserve half of their beds, or less, for on-line booking. It is important to note that just because the booking site says there are no vacancies, it doesn’t mean that a particular hostel won’t have any available beds, but this is not always the case. As noted above, book in advance if you know your dates of travel. Savvy travelers who frequent hostels on an ad-hoc basis carry a pup tent in case there’s no “room at the inn” when they arrive without a reservation.

Hostels, like hotels, have booking policies and may require a deposit at the time of making a reservation, but because some younger travelers don’t carry credit cards, they will hold a room until a certain time without deposit, or if you book far enough in advance, you can send a check. They also have cancellation policies, so read the fine print on their websites, or call for complete details. Unless they are part of a chain, such as HI Hostels, policies may vary. If you want to get a true feel for the culture of an area, you need only spend a weekend in the local hostel, according to www.hosteldomino.com. So whether you’re a young traveler, or someone young at heart, who is seeking adventure and a clean place to stay at an affordable cost, hostel accommodations may be ideal for your needs. Sweet dreams to you and your budget!

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