Most people visiting a travel advice blog don’t need a primer on the basic inner workings of hostels in Europe or elsewhere around the world. Misconceptions from the horror movie trilogy aside, the fact many establishments offer dorm-style accommodations at a much cheaper rate than traditional hotels just isn’t much of a secret with popular websites like HostelBookers and HostelWorld providing cut-rate lodging in locales across the world. The inherent social benefits of spending nights in a hostel as opposed to hotels or apartments nevertheless gets often lost in the shuffle.
Most people primarily focus on a cost benefit analysis and justify lodging decisions based on the number of travelers in their group and the cost of a shared hotel room, individual dorm beds at a hostel, and so forth. While traveling solo almost always means a hostel saves countless dollars in the travel budget, any traveler—regardless of party size—might be better served reconsidering the benefits of hostels outside of the budgeting factor. Hotels in Europe and elsewhere enable people to organically meet fellow travelers and even locals to expand social circles, take new chances, and experience a city in a much different light.
The Drawbacks of Traditional Hotels
What are the chances of meeting an interesting group of people in a hotel lobby or bar ready to add a few more individuals to their travel party and explore the city? Slim.
Outside of special events like the World Cup or Oktoberfest, hotels welcome an inordinate amount of business travelers and couples or families on vacation. I’m not trying to provide a blanket stereotype and exceptions exist everywhere, but the costs of modern day hotel rooms—especially in city centers—preclude a lot of budget travelers and really a large majority of those spending months abroad without an expense account or similar perk.
Stop for a minute and picture an ideal, realistic, and random travel companion. Does he or she drop thousands of dollars a month on generic hotel rooms? Even if he or she does in this hypothetical scenario, what are the chances of a socially acceptable rendezvous in the hotel lobby or restaurant? I’m guessing a typical business traveler and others more anchored to their hotel room aren’t up for the type of adventure and exploration drawing people to this blog and budget travel.
Hostels encourage socializing with all guests through a common room and shared dorms. At a hotel, the closest you’ll get to chatting to another guest is awkwardly asking someone to borrow their sugar for your tea in the morning. – The College Tourist
The moral of the story is simple; the ability to meet and connect with different people in new, exciting settings is greatly hampered by the much-used process of booking a hotel room and sightseeing without any way to naturally socialize with others during down time. While hotels are great for productivity, couples needing privacy, and a little more rest, hostels are the clear winner in terms of social benefit.
Social Benefits of Hostels in Europe & Elsewhere
Hostels in Europe and elsewhere around the world attract a crowd of travelers primarily focused on exploring a new city and its surroundings. The budget-savvy person in town for a job interview occasionally appears, as does students or short-term workers needing a temporarily place to stay, yet poll 10 hostel-goers on any given day and without fail at least seven or eight are traveling around with only a backpack and new experiences on the brain.
Hostels Aren't Only for Solo TravelersWhile it’s true people traveling in groups can squeeze into a hotel room for about the same price as individually paying for dorm beds in a hostel, what’s the point of travel to stay in the same social circle as back home? Consider mixing hostel stays with traditional hotel bookings regardless of group size.
The atmosphere is simply ripe for meeting like-minded travelers who happily jump on board with any kind of plans. Want a companion to explore a local book store or watering hole? How about a partner in crime for an adventure-seeking day or overnight trip to see a natural wonder? Suggest plans to a group of people in a common area and someone inevitably agrees to tag along or offers another (often better) version of the plan.
People traveling alone find this type of camaraderie—mostly unspoken and born out of people in a similar situation in a new place—to be extremely helpful and refreshing. The best part? Travel plans are made with people from all over the world. Not only does a traveler get a partner for exploring the current locale, but often gets to learn about a completely different culture in the process from casual conversation with someone from a completely different walk of life.
A Hybrid Alternative
Many people, myself included, really like personal space. Maybe one’s remote work to sustain income necessitates alone time with a desk or travel plans include a significant other. Certain people also find it hard to sleep in a room amongst strangers, although these tips can greatly help sleeping in hostels.
A Myth About Hostel AmenitiesHostels are never going to replicate 5-star hotels with spas and room service, but that doesn’t mean amenities are nonexistent. Many hostels include some combination of a swimming pool, game room, in-house bar, and basics like laundry and computer stations.
Whatever the case may be, a hybrid solution exists that’s not only more cost effective than traditional hotels, but provides the same social benefits of a hostel while adding much-needed privacy. Most hostels provide private rooms, which become very reasonable if traveling with another person and are still more affordable than hotel rooms for solo travelers. Sure, the exterior noises are usually louder than a hotel, but good earplugs and a comfy sleep mask work wonders in virtually any environment.
The added benefits of booking a private room in a hostel are plenty. Simply mosey down the hall to a common room to mingle with fellow travelers before retreating back to the comforts of a private space whenever the urge strikes. Potential travel plans and friendships are nearby without the biggest drawbacks of sharing a communal space. Consider booking a private room for a few nights and scoping out the place–if the establishment happens to be quieter than other hostels and the staff mentions a dorm room is available without another registered guest for the following week, switch it up to save money and still enjoy the social benefits.