For the past few years, I’ve stayed in different hostels all over the Philippines, Southeast & East Asia. Staying in this kind of accommodation helped me change from being an introvert to the most social person I am now. It also helped me go out of my comfort zone & overcome my anxieties while travelling on my own.
Before anything else, let us see how a hostel is defined in a dictionary. Merriam Webster defines a hostel as an inexpensive lodging facility for usually young travellers that typically has dormitory-style sleeping arrangements & sometimes offers meals & planned activities. Oxford Dictionaries define it as an establishment which provides inexpensive food & lodging for a specific group of people, such as students, workers, or travellers.
Spin Designer Hostel‘s dormitory beds (El Nido, Palawan) 🛌
Both definitions mentioned inexpensive accommodation where young people / travellers stay while travelling. Yes, hostels cater mostly to young travellers, to people like us. Majority of the hostels offer dormitory or shared accommodation but there are also some who have private rooms at a little higher (but still cheap) rate.
In this post, I will elaborate more on the ups & downs of staying in hostels. I will also give tips when looking for a hostel or when you are already in a hostel. Hopefully after reading this post, you will consider staying in a hostel for your next trip.
Disclaimer: All points & tips below are based on personal experiences.
Hostel rates are way cheaper than that of hotels & serviced apartments. You only pay around 25% -30% of a hotel’s nightly rate. Imagine paying only ₱400 – ₱600 for a night stay in Coron compared to paying ₱3,500 per night in a fancy hotel both located in the same area.
My dormitory room in Glocal Nagoya Backpackers Hostel | A night’s stay costs ¥3,200 (weekend peak rate) – still cheaper compared to ¥12,000+ per night hotel room rate 🛌
For an affordable price, you get the same basic amenities which hotels provide you – a bed with pillow & sheets, luggage storage, free Wi-Fi, reading light & the list goes on.
You meet new people
Meeting a lot of people is probably my favorite advantage of staying in hostels. You meet these people in your dormitory rooms or in a hostel’s social / common areas. Most of the time, it just starts with a simple, “Hi, how are you?” or “Hi, where are you from?” & ends up having good new friends & awesome memories.
A simple card game turned ‘drinking’ card game with these people from all over the world | Location: NapPark Hostel @ Khao San, Bangkok (September 2016) *Credits to Danielle for the photo*
Most hostels have spacious communal lounges where people can sit down, talk to other people & exchange experiences & recommendations. A significant portion of the travelling population is composed of solo travellers; most of them are up for meeting new people & having good times with these new people.
Fun & cheaper activities
Met these people in a waterfall tour organized by The Siem Reap Hostel
Hostel owners are aware that they cater to people who travel on a budget thus offering cheaper & more fun activities. Day & island tours are sometimes cheaper when you book them through your hostels compared to booking them outside or in a travel agency. If your hostel doesn’t offer these activities, they usually recommend agencies where you can get these tours / activities for a cheaper rate.
You save money on food
Osaka Hana Hostel‘s communal kitchen, dining & lounge area
Some hostels (especially in Japan & Korea) have communal kitchens where you can prepare your food during your stay. It helps save money rather than going out & buy food in the restaurants / cafe. Some hostels also offer free, simple breakfast like coffee or tea plus toast, omelette & cereals. It may not be as fancy as the hotel’s breakfast buffet it sure helps you start your day right.
Hostels employ locals which help the guests from check-in up to checkout. These local employees also help you have the most authentic experiences in a place by providing good food & activity recommendations. Sometimes, they even join you eat in these restaurants & try these activities.
Hostels are centrally located in most cities & places. They are usually located a few minutes walk from train stations, bus stops & bus terminals. You don’t have to worry how to go to the airport to catch your next flight or to the bus terminal to make it to your overnight bus ride.
Just like hotels, hostels have security systems installed throughout the property. This makes security surveillance a lot easier for the owner & staff. One big difference between these 2 accommodations is hostels do not allow outsiders to go inside the dormitory rooms. Visitors (non-guests) are only allowed up to the reception / waiting area.
No / lesser privacy
Staying in a dormitory room with up to 16 or 20 people means lesser or even no privacy. You basically share everything with your roommates. Each room provides lockers for your stuff. If you are a person who loves to leave everything outside of the bag, then hostels aren’t for you. Bathrooms & toilet are also shared with the other guests. There is also a high risk of theft where your belongings a can be stolen by anyone in the hostel.
Backpackers Hostel K’s House Kyoto‘s Common Bathroom
No control over your roommates
Sharing a room with different people means you do not have control over them. Generally, people staying in hostels are respectful to their roommates. There are just a few uncontrollable instances where unsolicited noise is created (for example: talking to another guest or fixing stuff / luggage) thus interrupting your sleep. There will also be people who snore loud or who move a lot while sleeping.
You also do not have control of how the room might smell due to a mixture of scents & body smells. Also, even if you don’t talk a lot, there will always be this one person or two who will engage you in a conversation.
Limited amenities / perks
Mad Monkey Hostel Boracay : one of the few hostels I’ve been to that has a swimming pool 🏊
Staying in affordable hostels equates to limited amenities. While most hostels offer free Wi-Fi access, breakfast choices can be really limited – mostly omelette, toasts & jam + coffee or tea. They do not have fancy swimming pools (some hostels have pools though) & fitness areas / gymnasiums which hotels have. They also do not have toiletries included in the rate & towel rental comes with a fee (in most hostels).
Read online reviews
Before booking your stay, make sure to read online reviews of the hostels. Websites, such as Tripadvisor, Agoda, Booking.com & Hostelworld show reviews of people who stayed in these hostels. These reviews help a lot, especially in conditioning your mind on what to expect during your stay.
Book beds with privacy curtains
This is a personal preference, but I would still share it with everyone. Booking beds with curtains gives you the privacy you need. Hostels offer dormitory rooms for 4, 6, 8, 12, 16 & sometimes up to 22 people. Book a bed in a dormitory room with a bedroom configuration you are comfortable with.
Nappark Hostel‘s 22-bed dormitory room | Each bed has a pull-down blinds
Bring padlocks, blindfolds, ear plugs, towels & toiletries
Hostels normally provide lockers without padlocks. Make sure to bring a padlock to safeguard all your stuff inside your locker. This will reduce the risk of having something stolen from you. Also, since you do not have control over your roommates (plus the noise they make), it helps to have ear plugs & blindfolds with you. Some hostels are generous enough to provide ear plugs for free, ask them upon check-in.
Given these hostels provide limited amenities, it helps to bring your own towels & toiletries. It also saves up the cost of renting a towel from reception & buying toiletries outside.
Respect your roommates
You expect your roommates to be quiet while you’re sleeping; make sure to be one when they are the ones asleep. Walk quietly when getting into the room late at night; fix your things quietly & make sure to be considerate enough with the other guests.
Spin Designer Hostel‘s common lounge (El Nido, Palawan) 🛋️
Be friendly. It only takes a simple ‘hi’ to gain a new friend in a hostel. Make the most out of your stay by exchanging experiences & stories with fellow travellers. It’s the perfect time to know about other places, cultures & traditions. It’s also a good way to ask for recommendations on where to go next & what else to do. Make sure to share yours too! Who knows, you might just have unforgettable fun times with your new mates from your hostel.
Staying in hostels is fun. If you’re scared to stay in a hostel, I suggest that you go out of your comfort zone & give it a shot. You might just have the best memories while travelling. Forget about the fancy hotel beds & expensive rates, you’re definitely up for good times when you stay in hostels.
Good times in Nappark Hostel, Bangkok | Played beer pong with newfound friends before flying back to Manila 🍺
Have you thought of an additional point you can share to our readers? Have you tried staying in a hostel? How was your experience? Feel free to share some bits about your stay in the comments below. Anything you want to know about staying in hostels? You may send me an send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also send me a message on Facebook, drop a comment on Instagram or send me a tweet on Twitter.
Thank you for reading & enjoy the weekend. 😃