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I May Be Too Old to Stay in Hostels (And Some Hostels I Love)

Why I May Be Too Old to Stay in Hostels

Yeah, it was 3:30 AM… That’s definitely not a #nofilter selfie.

Hostels are great. There are a lot of reasons why I’ve chosen to stay in hostels over the years. They’re usually run by locals, brimming with energy, a great place to make travel-loving friends. I love hostels.

I’m also totally over them.

While Airbnb is my drug of choice, as a poor teacher/traveler/writer I spend a fair amount of time in hostels. And, for the most part, I’ve had pretty pleasant experiences. But perhaps I deluded myself into believing I’m still down for the hostel wild rumpus, because recently I haven’t been so impresses. Maybe I’m getting old, or tired, or old and tired and I’m starting to wonder why I should stay in hostels when I could splurge out a few more dollars for something less fraternity-party-meets-family-reunion-with-your-uncle-who-snores. Because here are just a few reasons I’m feeling pretty over about hostel dorm rooms.

(Caveat: I have stayed in some fantastic hostels, and you can find my recommendations at the end of this post. However, if you want to commiserate with me or just laugh at some general awkwardness, don’t skip this part here where I moan a bit.)

1. You can never agree on the temperature of the room.

I’ve noticed that hostels don’t seem inclined to have air conditioning in their dorm rooms. This gets sticky in places like Mexico or Europe in August. Then starts the negotiation of how to ventilate the room. Leave the windows open and pick up street noise? Leave the door open and suffer hallway light? And even if you set it up the way you prefer when you go to bed, someone is sure to come in after you and change everything according to their preferences. Which is why I seem to be continually waking up in a dry, stuffy shoebox heated by a half a dozen other people.

And the stuffier it gets, the more pungent the general aromas of six or ten or fourteen people living together gets.

2. People act like they’re in their own home.

I was chilling out on my bed one afternoon, reading a book, when a couple that had been hanging out in the reception area came wandering back in. The girl went over to the lockers, and – being about 5’4 – stretched to reach the top shelf. Her long t-shirt rode up, and my eyes were instantly drawn to her bottom.

Since she was wearing nothing but high-cut brief panties.

Seriously, this girl was walking around in a ‘long’ t-shirt and her underwear, with her cheeks hanging out. I’m trying to make sure I stay on the right side of anti-body shaming feminism here, guys, but this is not a gendered thing. I was equally shocked by the guy that was rummaging around the kitchen for breakfast in just his towel. What flies at home isn’t necessarily all cool when you’re sharing space with others.

Maybe my old-fashioned sensibilities just don’t belong with hip and free young people anymore.

Why Stay in Hostels_The Glory of Privacy

How I felt waking up in my sister’s guest room after three weeks of hostel life in Mexico.

3. I don’t get to walk around naked.

I hate getting out of the shower and having to immediately get dressed. But – unlike the guys who wander back to the dorm room in their towels and then shimmy into their underwear – I don’t feel comfortable being anything less than fully clothed in common areas.

4. I’m tired of locking my stuff up all the time.

I’ve never had a problem with my gear being stolen at a hostel. I’ve always stayed at places where there’s at least a small locker where you can secure your valuables. The point is, I’m just being lazy! I want to binge watch Rick and Morty before shoving my computer under my bed and falling asleep at 1AM. I don’t want to have to rouse myself to carefully stow my computer in a locker instead.

5. My own life story starts to bore me.

When I was staying in a hostel in Bucharest, I began to dread the question, “So how long have you been here?” People breezed in and out of the city for a night or two, and I had been here five weeks (not in a hostel that whole time. I max out in hostels around three weeks). The bureaucratic saga of my visa application was tedious for anyone except the consulate workers that were dragging it out, and I considered making up a new identity, Sasha, a reality TV show producer researching destinations for a new dating TV show that would arrange mail-order brides and grooms from the US for rural Eastern European families…

Why Stay in Hostels_New Friends

That being said, you do get to meet some pretty cool people. Like this Australian guy whose job was to give motivational talks to school children while they made paper airplanes and this Dutch journalist writing about Mexico for National Geographic.

6. Hookup culture is always there, lurking.

I was hanging out at a hostel in Cancun (ugh, first mistake), when the group dwindled to an Australian guy, a British girl, and just me. Overall the crowd had a good group dynamic, but there had been something kindling there between the Motherland and the Commonwealth, and as soon as it was just the three of us sparks between the two really started flying. I tried to find a graceful exit as soon as possible that didn’t involve me just standing up and walking away as they were drawing tattoos on each other, but it took a few minutes of me awkwardly peeling at my beer bottle label to find the right moment of escape.

7. A twin bed is, confusingly, only meant for one person.

You know what’s strange? Rolling out of your bottom bunk and realizing that there was not just one, but two, people suspended above you on a delicate wire mesh frame. Look, bro, I get that traveling the world is romantic and you want to cuddle after a long day of crossing borders and drinking cheap wine, and I appreciate that you are both fully clothed, but it’s just a little out of place.

8. I don’t need to hear anyone vomit.

I mean, this one is pretty self-explanatory. Party all you want, but if you’re going to get that trashed — please take your time coming home. I passed on a hostel in Budapest because they had a picture of a “detox bed” on their website. It was clearly not the kind of place to have a carb-induced drowsy night in post-pastry overindulgence. We just have different ideas of fun, guys.

Why Stay in Hostels_In Room Vomiting  Why Stay in Hostels_Poor Drunk Girl

That being said, hostels are great fun – especially for solo travelers! They’re a fantastic way to meet locals and other travelers, get travel tips, and save some money. Here are some of my favorite hostels I’ve stayed in over the years.

Tabinoya Traveller’s House, Tallinn, Estonia

Tabinoya has an unbeatable location, right in the center of Tallinn’s Old Town. While the people who were staying there were social and we all went out on a pub crawl, Tabinoya itself isn’t a party hostel, giving it a good balance of energy and also chill relaxation. That really set it apart from the other hostels in Tallinn, which definitely seemed to be more on the loud, party side of things. Staffed by friendly and helpful people!

Tribu Hostel, Isla Holbox, Mexico

Isla Holbox on the Yucatan Peninsula is the definition of chill, and Tribu Hostel fits the atmosphere perfectly. Part tree house, activity center, and bar, Tribu Hostel caters to whatever your interests. You can chill with friends on hammock swings in the courtyard, cook in their massive kitchen, or join in on some of their activities. The staff was super helpful, answering questions I emailed them promptly, and the facilities were very clean – impressive considering the amount of sand we all trekked around.

Why Stay in Hostels_Tribu Hostel Isla Holbox

Hostel Home Sweet Home, Belgrade, Serbia

A lot of hostels claim to be ‘homey,’ but Hostel Home Sweet Home in Belgrade fits the definition to a T. The setup and interior decoration makes you feel like you’re actually staying your cool aunt’s city apartment. There are ‘real’ bathrooms, a ‘real’ kitchen, and a ‘real’ living room. Again, the staff were wonderful, a team that was half your mothering big sister and half your sarcastic but cool older brother.

The Spot Cosy Hostel, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

For travelers looking for a hostel in Cluj, I kinda wanted to live at The Spot forever. The team has restored and decorated a house from the 1920s, packing it with quirky little details and love. I also adored the sheer amount of space here. The rooms are some of the airiest I’ve seen in hostels, and there’s a garden and back patio, with hammocks scattered around the property. Part of the reason they have so much space is that they’re about a fifteen-twenty minute walk from the Old City, but it’s a really pleasant walk along the river or through the park. You can also take the bus, rent a bike, or catch a dirt cheap taxi. And here also, there’s an awesome staff that continually invited me to hang out with them and was super helpful and responsive.

Why Stay in Hostels_The Spot Cosy Hostel Cluj

Photo courtesy of The Spot Cosy Hostel.

And now from you – do you have any hostel horror stories? Or any excellent hostels to recommend? What’s your answer to the question, “Why stay in hostels?” Let us know in a comment!

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make any purchases using the links on my website I receive a small commission at no cost to you. On the flip side, none of the above hostels sponsored my stays. 

Why I May Be Too Old to Stay in Hostels

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7 thoughts on “I May Be Too Old to Stay in Hostels (And Some Hostels I Love)

  1. Eva Casey

    Oh GIRL do I feel this post. Someday when we meet in person we can exchange hostel horror stories! hahaha..did you by chance see my Snapchat story of the guy who tried to climb in bed with me, mistaking me for a girl he was trying to hook up with, not once, but twice? And then proceeded to get in bed with the right girl in the bunk below mine and hook up. Loudly. Before I told them to STFU and be adults 😛

    Two hostels I went to on my Europe trip recently were Tree House Hostel in Riga and Dream Hostel in Warsaw, Poland – I highly recommend both!

    1. Amy Post author

      WHAT? No, I did not see that story! That’s horrific! I’ve been super lucky that it’s never gone that far in the dorms… at least when I’ve been around/awake.

      I’ll make sure to bookmark those for later. Also, when you are you coming back to Europe?! :)

  2. Dominique

    Ha, I’m quite done with hostels. It’s just such a pity hotels are expensive when solo travelling. My pet peeve is when people are packing and unpacking for hours and you hear plastic bags rustling. Your above points I can really relate to as well though, especially the heat of the room! I prefer hotels over hostels every day

    1. Amy Post author

      Yeah, solo traveling really does make it difficult to find affordable hotel rooms! I’m lucky that in Ukraine, hotels are actually quite affordable. I think on my next weekend trip I’m going to do one night in a hostel and one night splurging on a cute boutique hotel room.

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  4. Ray

    The worst Hostel experience I had was in Los Angeles when my Japanese roommate took it upon herself to have sex with a guy in our room after only arriving here literally 12 hours earlier. He was Japanese-American, so I guess that is how they connected?!? The worst part of it all is that it was just us three in this room for six. I sure as hell made it awkward for them the next morning when they were getting their stuff ready for the day. I don’t think I have ever thrown out such stink eye at someone as I did to those two that day.

    The best Hostel experience I had was at the Indy Hostel in Indianapolis, USA. The United States does not have much of a Hostel culture at all. So I was pleasantly surprised to find this place in Indianapolis. Here is my review of the Indy Hostel for those interested in reading up on what good American Hostels are like: http://bit.ly/2hLQNJf.

    1. Amy Post author

      That sounds AWFUL! I’m so glad I’ve never had that experience. But it’s nice to know that there are some quality hostels in the States. Accommodation can be really pricey in the States so it’s good to have more budget options popping up.

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