Why Are People so Afraid of Hostels?

When I talk about my experiences with non-travelers, the subject of hostels comes up often. I’m always surprised by how many people have never stayed in a hostel, and how many people aren’t willing to. It seems to be one of the hardest backpacking concepts for many to grasp.

A hostel is an inexpensive lodging house for travelers, usually catering to young and budget backpackers. They are very low-frill affairs often with dormitories and common rooms. Hostels help you to travel longer, for less money. When a hotel room will run you 100 Euros a night and a hostel bed only 20, it is the clear choice for the budget traveler.

So why are people so resistant to the idea? Here are some common falsehoods about hostels:

Myth #1: Hostels are Dangerous

I’ll blame this one on Hollywood and Eli Roth. The truth is that, unlike certain torture-porn horror movies might suggest, you do not risk being dismembered any time you step into a hostel.

Most hostels are very safe. The people staying in hostels are just like you: travelers on a budget.  You won’t want to leave you valuables strewn about the room but even in dormitory rooms you will find that people are very respectful of your stuff and privacy.

The easiest way to feel at ease with a hostel is to do your research online beforehand. Websites like hostelworld.com offer user reviews which will give you an idea of what your in for. With that and your own good judgment safety should not be an issue.

Myth #2: Hostels are dirty

I think that because they are such a cheap option people assume that hostels will be trashy or dirty inside. Yes, some hostels are dirty. So are a lot of motels. However with a little research you should be able to avoid rundown establishments.

Almost every hostel I have stayed in has been neat and clean. Everybody does there part to keep the communal spaces such as the kitchens as neat as possible. Some hostels will even lock you out for several hours during the day

Myth #3: Hostels are for partying

IMG_3161 - Schaan-Vaduz - Jugendherberge Schaan bei Vaduz
Creative Commons License photo credit: thisisbossi

Community is a huge benefit of staying in a hostel. With so many common areas it is very easy to meet interesting new people and make new friends. However, this doesn’t mean that staying at a hostel is equivalent to a night in a frat house. Many hostels, in particular those affiliated with Hostelling International have a more sedate atmosphere and quiet hours. While it’s not going to be as peaceful as a private room in a hotel, it’s far from complete anarchy.

There are indeed “party hostels.” They will usually be located in the center of town and will have a well-known reputation. Again, research should help you to find or avoid these hostels depending on your preferences.

Myth #4 All Hostels are dormitories

Not all hostel experiences involve 6 bunk beds crammed into a tiny room. Did you know that many hostels offer private rooms? If you really prefer privacy you can reserve a room with a double bed or bunk beds. They cost a little more but are still much cheaper than a hotel.

There has been a rise in “designer hostels” over the past few years. These are hostels with impeccable design, odd concepts and artistic input. You can stay in a tree house in Turkey, a re-designed prison in Slovenia or an opal mine in Australia!

Myth #5 Hostels are impersonal

IMG_1341 - Zell am See - Pension Hubertus - Gartenstrasse
Creative Commons License photo credit: thisisbossi

Aside from being a place to meet new friends and to sleep at night, many hostels offer activities and resources to visitors. They
can recommend restaurants, set up tours and give all sorts of advice. I stayed at a hostel in Montenegro that lead daily cliff walks, sponsored day trips and held community barbeques.

Many hostels, especially outside of Western Europe are family run affairs that can give you some insight into a particular culture. When I was in Bosnia a member of our party came down with the flu and the hostel owner’s grandmother nursed him with soup and tea.

Far from dangerous and dirty places, hostels are a terrific resource for young travelers. If you’ve never had the hostel experience try to work a stay into your next trip. You’ll probably leave with some stories and you may be surprised.

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38 thoughts on “Why Are People so Afraid of Hostels?”

  1. It’s strange that some people think there are “almost no hostels in the US”. In fact there are hostels all over place. Just about every city has one, and some cities have several. There are lots of them in rural areas as wel. Hostelworld lists 255 hostels in the U.S.

    Note that the quality of independent hostels can vary quite a bit.

  2. Wonderful article. Have stayed in hostels in a few countries and always felt they are very safe despite the horror movie. Hostel staff were also very helpful giving directions and getting tickets. Also great place to meet fellow travellers and exchange stories.

    Would recommend hostel staying for anyone who has not tried it yet.

  3. I’d still check the bed for creepy crawlys. And I ain’t talking about just bedbugs. Depending what state ur in, and what bugs call it home, I always make sure to check the bed top to bottom and always pat the boots before stickn my foot in em.

    It can be a nasty surprise otherwise.

  4. I live in the US and am traveling my first time to Rome in March, I am 39 and just booked a hostel for my arrival. I am looking for a new experience and just went for it. I think most of the comments on this post are correct about Americans. We know nothing about Hostels and could learn a lot about the way world travelers experience the world. I bet I am in for an experience I will never forget.

    1. That’s wonderful!I loved Rome a lot and I’m sure you will have a fantastic time there (and save a lot of money staying in a hostel).

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