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Many travelers associate hostels with unkempt backpackers strumming on their guitars or massive dorm rooms filled with snoring strangers.
Others still think all hostels are youth hostels, and that they’re either too old or too experienced to check in to one.
However, nothing could be further from the truth. Hostels have come a long way in the past twenty years, and are an increasingly appealing option for travelers of all ages, experience levels, interests and budgets.
Here are five great reasons why you should consider booking a hostel instead of a hotel on your next trip:
1. You’ll Save Money
A quick search on one of the major booking sites shows that of the more than 1000 available accommodation options in London, England, the sixty least expensive options are all shared, dorm-style rooms.
In fact, the average price of a bed in a dorm room in London is approximately 80% cheaper than the average price of a hotel room.
For single travelers, the savings can’t be beat.
Groups of two or more may be able to find double rooms for approximately the same price as two dorm beds, but the hotels with prices that low generally get equally low scores from guest reviews.
The more expensive the city, the more you’ll save by staying in a hostel.
2. You’ll Make New Friends
Whether you’re traveling solo or with others, it’s always nice to make new friends along the way.
When you stay in a hostel you have instant access to a group of people who, like you, are interested in travel, meeting new people and learning about other cultures.
Many hostels organize activities such as walking tours, day trips and pub crawls to help guests get to know one another.
The best hostels also have comfortable common areas where you can relax with a book, sip a drink or connect to the internet while chatting with other guests.
Most travelers who frequent hostels can easily list a dozen cool people they’ve met while hosteling… can you name even one friend you’ve made in a hotel?
3. You’ll Reduce Your Environmental Impact
Think about the cost and environmental impact of lighting, heating, cooling and cleaning a hotel room. Now multiply that by the hundreds of rooms in any given hotel.
The impact is pretty huge, and it’s especially harmful in sensitive ecological areas.
When multiple travelers share common facilities, however, the impact can be reduced. Instead of needing air conditioning in ten separate rooms, hostels can simply air condition one ten-bed dormitory.
Instead of cleaning ten separate bathrooms every morning, hostels can clean one shared bathroom a couple of times throughout the day.
When you’re concerned about your environmental footprint, spend part of your trip in shared dorm rooms and look for hostels that incorporate other eco-friendly practices like recycling, composting and non-toxic cleaning.
4. You’ll Feel Like You’re At Home
Anyone who’s ever taken one look at a hotel’s dry cleaning price list and decided to just wear a dirty shirt again will know what this one is about.
Good hostels anticipate budget travelers’ needs and offer home-style services like washing machines, drying racks, shared kitchens (often equipped with cooking basics like oil and salt), free computers and complimentary boarding pass printing.
Even when you’re not trying to keep costs down, sometimes it’s just nice to cook yourself your favorite meal or wash that t-shirt that somehow seems to have developed a chocolate ice cream stain.
5. You Can Still Have Privacy
The most popular hostels today offer a variety of room types, which may include a mix of both shared and private accommodations.
Solo travelers seeking a bit of privacy can look for hostels that offer single rooms, while groups can look for double or triple private rooms, or even consider booking an entire dorm just for their group (even if you don’t use all the beds, it’s often cheaper than the equivalent number of hotel rooms).
When you’re not into sharing a bathroom with strangers, book yourself into one of the many hostels where rooms feature an ensuite bathroom.
Recently, more hostels have been adding family rooms to their collections, so even travelers with children can take enjoy the benefits of staying in a hostel.
Take Away: Hostel vs Hotel
Whether your goal is to save money, meet new people, reduce your environmental impact or enjoy the comforts of home, staying in a hostel offers many advantages over staying in traditional hotels.
With the option of staying in a shared dorm room or your very own private room, you can now experience all the great things about hostel accommodations while also deciding just how much you want to interact with the other hostel guests.