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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.