When traveling, everyone likes a chance to save a bit of money.  But, how far would you go to save that extra dollar? Would you bunk with a stranger, or 10?  Sleep on the hardwood floor of communal tent? It sounds crazy, but it’s legit.  The hotel’s boho cousin, the hostel, is a means of providing budget-friendly travel for the often young and adventurous.  Guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share bathrooms and lounge spaces.  Depending on the level of the hostel you may even have a kitchen, or on the other end of the spectrum have porta-potties and communal showers with no hot water.  Funny, but these babies are wildly popular in Europe, and even here in the U.S.

A bit of history

In 1912, Richard Shirrmann established the first permanent Youth Hostel in Germany’s Altena Castle during the German Youth Movement.  The intent was to get the cities’ poor children out into the country for fresh air and a bit of self-sustainment, meaning all children were expected to help run the hostel by doing chores to keep costs down and build character, spending the rest of their time outdoors.

Types of hostels

Since the worldwide expansion on the concept of youth hostels, a number of versions have taken from all with their unique rules, guidelines, safety precautions, and community-involvedness. In countries like India, Australia, and a few European countries, hostel usually refers to boarding schools or student dormitories near universities.  Another type — often smaller versions in rural areas — offers shared accommodations to backpackers and others looking to access more remote areas.  If you’re not a youth, or a backpacker, and you just want somewhere cheap and fun to stay, then the next couple categories encompass the hostels for travelers found widespread through the United States, Europe, Asia, and other notable areas: both independent, and boutique.

Amenities

While some hostels confine themselves to curfews for guests, or are closed during the daytime, independent, boutique, and mobile hostels vary chiefly in amenities offered.  Traditionally, a true hostel must offer dormitory style accommodations. These dorms may be filled with single beds, bunk beds, and even triple bunks in a room that will sleep anywhere between 4 and 20 people.  Although, some hostels additionally offer private suites that sleep 1-2, and even quads perfect for a  small group of companions who wish for a bit more of an exclusive stay. 

When leaving the hostel, personal belongings can be kept in lockers, if provided.  There is almost always communal areas where you can expand your international connections, such as a community kitchen, dining hall, lounge/common area (think of a living room or a hotel lobby, depending on the size of the facility).  Many offer different recreational activities for guests like pools/hot tubs, foosball tables, a bar, and others.  Always double-check the amenities a hostel offers before you stay with them — some even offer free Wi-Fi!  Certain meals may also be provided for like hot breakfast, or breakfast bars.

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Etiquette

When staying in a hostel, there are a few rules you can follow to make your stay, as well as everyone else’s, more enjoyable.  First of all, introduce yourself.  Everywhere.  Be friendly, and don’t be afraid to join in on conversations. You are likely to make new friends in this type of environment, so why not put your best foot forward?  You may even create a crew to hit the local pubs later that evening when you’ve all returned from your daily adventures.

Second of all, keep your area and your personal items contained; don’t make someone step over your belongings to get down from their bunk, or out the door.  Some hostels offer room service, they’ll make the bed for you, set out fresh linens, towels if they’re offered.  Double check with the front desk, but if room service is offered, don’t leave your personal belongings spread out everywhere.

Thirdly, this may seem obvious, but never use or take another person’s belongings without explicit permission.  You would be horrified if someone grabbed any of your personal effects without your knowledge, regardless of whether they would ever return it or not.  Going backpacking in Arizona?  Suitemates very well may offer their sunscreen to you, but never take it under any assumptions without permission.

Resources

Hostels can really be a safe and fun way to get away.  There are some organizations, and online places to connect you with the best, or nearest hostel to your destination, as well as giving you the peace of mind that where you’re going is legit.

HI, or Hostelling International is a federation of more than 70 National Youth Hostel Associations in more than 80 countries. Hostelling International is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization working closely with UNESCO and the World Tourism Organization UNWTO. Searching for hostels using HI will often generate an affiliate organization with access to hundreds of hostels in the area.  Through this type of search you will locate associate hostels and boutique hostels.

When searching for a hostel it is highly recommended that you read the reviews.  User reviews are your most informative resources when hosteling. In order to get a true grasp of the environment of the hostel you’re looking at, you’re going to have to read more than a couple reviews.  Consider the Google rating, but don’t let it necessarily deter you. Read reviews from people who gave the establishment 5 stars, 4 stars, 3, and all the way down. Read the lowest rating and find out why they were dissatisfied.  Does it seem to be issues of preference, situation, or poor quality? It takes a bit of time, but it’s worth knowing what you’re getting yourself into.

So, you’ve got the 411, you’ve got the etiquette, you’ve got the resources.  Now, to all you wandersome souls, live that #hostellife!  You know what I’m trying on my next trip.

By: Bailey I. Knopp for 82717

Sources: Suzy. “22 Things You Should Know Before You Stay In A Hostel.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 07 Dec. 2017. Web. 18 Apr. 2018. Wikipedia. “Hostel.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Apr. 2018. Web. 18 Apr. 2018. Wikipedia. “Hostelling International.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Apr. 2018. Web. 18 Apr. 2018. “10 Tips for Staying at a Hostel.” StudentUniverse. Flight Centre Travel Group, n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2018.