The Adventure Hostel in Interlaken, Switzerland

Hostels are a great option for budget-conscious travelers who are looking for a unique and social experience, and I personally am a huge fan of them. But I have met so many people who scoff at the mere mention of “hostel,” or who think they’re dirty, dangerous, and reminiscent of horror movies (which do real hostels a serious disservice.) The truth is, hostels come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and atmospheres, and can accommodate everyone from the 18-year-old looking to party to a married couple in their 60s looking for a quiet hiking trip. Trust me, I’ve met people of all ages during my hostel stays!

I will say that hostels are far more common outside of the U.S. It is possible to stay in American hostels, but I have found they are few and far between, and usually geared toward a younger party crowd. AirBnBs and vacation rentals are a much bigger deal in the States, so older travelers and couples tend to book those for hotel-alternative experiences. In Australia, New Zealand, South America, Europe, and Asia (especially Southeast Asia), hostels are very mainstream and plentiful, so you will have plenty of options and variety!

The view from our Switzerland hostel’s private room!

The key is doing research on the hostel before you book, and I use HostelWorld to do this. You can read ratings on everything from cleanliness to the selection of amenities, as well as personal reviews from guests who will help you figure out if it’s a party youth hostel (great for social butterflies looking to meet new people and have a good time), a quiet guesthouse, or something in between. Plus, most hostels on HostelWorld offer free cancellation so you can make flexible arrangements.

Here are a few reasons why you should consider staying in a hostel on your next trip:

  1. Cost-effective: Hostels are generally much cheaper than hotels, making them a great option for budget travelers. You can save money on the room rates, plus utilize their facilities like a kitchen to cook your own food. Most hostels will also have the hook-up on local discounts, traveler passes, etc.
  2. Social atmosphere: Hostels are known for their lively and social atmosphere. You’ll have the opportunity to meet other travelers from all over the world and make new friends. I am still friends with several people I met in hostels in Australia and New Zealand ten years ago! Most hostels also offer communal areas, like kitchens and lounges, which provide a space for guests to socialize and exchange travel tips. (Again, read reviews on HostelWorld to determine just how lively a hostel’s atmosphere is so you can find one that works for you.)
  3. Cultural exchange: Staying in a hostel allows you to experience different cultures and learn from other travelers. You’ll also have the opportunity to practice speaking a foreign language if you are in another country.
  4. Meeting people with similar interests: Many hostels offer organized activities and events, such as walking tours, bar crawls, and pub quizzes, which are great ways to meet other travelers and make new friends. This is especially helpful if you’re traveling alone and starting to feel lonely.
  5. Location: Hostels are often located in the heart of a city or town, giving you easy access to all the sights, sounds, and experiences that your destination has to offer. Many hostels also offer transport services, such as shuttles or bike rentals, to help you get around cheaply.
  6. Variety of accommodation types: Many hostels offer a variety of accommodation options, such as private rooms, dormitories, and even camping. So you can find something that suits your preferences and budget, no matter what kind of traveler you are. When I was younger, I always stayed in the smaller dorm rooms so I could meet other people. Now, I book both dorm rooms and private rooms depending on my mood and the city, and when my husband and I travel together we always book a private room. (We did stay in co-ed dorm rooms in Iceland and Ireland six years ago though!)
  7. Local experts: Hostels are run by locals, who can give you the best advice on what to do, see, and eat, how to get around, and other important information about where you’re staying. It’s also fun to hear their stories; many hostel managers/owners I’ve met are actually expats from other countries, and I love to talk to them about their backgrounds and travel adventures.

Overall, hostels provide a unique and affordable way to travel and can offer a lot of different experiences. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option that allows you to meet new people, immerse yourself in different cultures, and take advantage of great locations, I recommend staying in a hostel on your next trip!