A room at the Rainforest Retreat in New Zealand.

Hostels are the ideal place for the flashpacker to lay their head.  However, instead of sleeping in a dorm room with five other people, flashpackers will put up a little more money for their own private room.  This gives them all of the benefits of staying in a hostel while eliminating one of their biggest concerns – security.

Backpackers jump high in the air on the Great Wall of China in Beijing.

The jump shot of the group that went from the hostel to an isolated part of the Great Wall of China in Beijing.

Meet Fellow Travelers

The Biggest reason you need to stay in a hostel is so you meet people.  This is especially true if you’re traveling solo.  Even travelers who want their own room can benefit from staying in hostels because of the common area.

Every hostel I’ve been to, every single one, has had a common area.  Big or small, nice or run down, these areas are the key resource of the hostel.  Where else can you meet a large number of like-minded travelers?

The interactions you will have might simply lead to a nice conversation after a long day sightseeing.  More likely, these interactions will lead to any number of unexpected bonuses to your trip including dinner or drinks with strangers, sightseeing with your new friends, or even a brief fling on the road.

A BBQ outside at Miyajima hostel lets backpackers and flashpackers mix and mingle.

Miyajima hostel hosts a BBQ where travelers can meet and mix with the locals and each other.

Meet locals

In a hotel, your interactions with staff will be very structured and sterile.  I can almost guarantee you won’t be having drinks later that night with the bellman or desk clerk.

The hostel is a different animal.  Staff interaction with guests is much less formal and after their shift you’ll often find them hanging out in the common room with the guests.

In English-speaking countries, you’ll often find that hostel staff are other travelers working to prolong their own trip.  However, whether the staff are locals or travelers, they’ll have spent more time in the country than you and can provide you with important information.

The "dirty market" in Beijing, China

I would have spent twice as long finding the “dirty market” in Beijing, China, had I not gotten great directions and information from the hostel.

Information from Travelers and Locals

The information you get at a hostel is very different from the concierge at the hotel because the information is coming from locals and other travelers.

From local staff, you’ll find out about key spots in that city as well as their own recommendations. Imagine a close friend from another country came and stayed with you for a week.  Would you take them to the exact same places the guidebook recommends?  It’s the places you would take them that differ from the guide book that I’m interested in.

You’ll also get some info on the local scene from fellow travelers based on things they’ve done or are planning on doing.  More often, in addition to an invitation to look them up if you ever get to their hometown, you’ll get information about where they’re going or where they’ve just come from.

During a previous backpacking trip with a friend, I was staying in a hostel in the Greek Isles.  The two of us were just starting our trip into Europe and we met two young women who were on month 8 of their own trip and had just come from the direction we were going.

They recommended a hostel in the mountains of Gryon, Switzerland that wasn’t in the guidebook and certainly wasn’t on our list.  That hostel ended up being one of the highlight spots of that trip and we would never have found out about it any other way.

Hostel Resources

In addition to providing access to people who share your traveler’s point of view, hostels usually have some form of library and a small amount of computers for your use.  After 17 months on the road, I’ve yet to find a hostel that doesn’t have some form of internet, though connection speed a Facebook access is something else entirely.

Some hostels even create their own handmade recommendation books for places to eat and things to do within walking distance of the hostel.  During my trip through Kyushu, Japan, I stayed at a hostel in Beppu, a city famous for its natural onsen (Japanese public baths).  The hostel had two beautifully handmade books, one with recommended places to eat and the other full of onsen recommendations and information on how to get there.

No temptation

When you stay in a hotel, there is the temptation to stay in the room.  Whether due to bad weather, homesickness or something else, those temptations are lessened when staying in the hostel.

What you’re paying for is a bed to sleep in and you should view it as such.  In a hostel, there’s no TV in your room or room service to make it easy to stay in bed. Spend your time seeing the city, talking with travelers in the common room or doing research on your next stop.

Three travel buddies pose for a picture above the hostel's "local food tasting" event.

Three travelers pose for a picture above the hostel’s selection of local food from Xi’an, China, during a free local-food-tasting event.

Part of the experience

When you travel, you should be looking to get away from what is “normal” at home.  Tourists think of hotels like their home away from home -  a comfortable security blanket where everyone speaks English and you don’t have to talk to anyone.

Hostels are a bit less comfortable and edgy.  They offer something different than what you get at home and should be considered part of the over all travel experience.  Hostels will also often host free events of their own such as local food tastings, movie nights, and walking tours led by hostel staff.

Cost of Hostels

This is probably the number one reason most people choose to stay at a hostel instead of a hotel.  Put simply, it’s very difficult to travel long term when you’re paying outrageous fees for a hotel room you’re only going to sleep in.

Yes, sometimes staying in a hostel means having to follow a curfew or sharing a bathroom with the rest of your floor.  These little irritations are a small price to pay for all of the benefits to be gained.  Just like hotels cover a wide range of style and quality, the same can be said of hostels.  If you don’t like a hostel’s curfew or other peculiarity, just pick a different hostel.

What do you like best about staying in a hostel?

Join the discussion 27 Comments

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  • Joseph Elwell says:

    While I can afford a fancy hotel, I still prefer hostels. My number one reason is temptation. I find that if I go to a 4 star hotel I won’t leave the hotel. Either I’ll stay in the room, or lounge in their amenities (pool, beach front, etc). While it might not seem like a waste to soak up the hotel’s beachfront – you’re not experiencing your destination if a cabana boy is refilling your strawberry daiquiris.

    When traveling alone I tend to prefer minimal accommodations. I’ve been known to pay for a hammock slung outdoors. What better motivation to find someone else’s bed to bunk in, if you know you’ll be sleeping outside tonight?

    When I’m traveling with a significant other, I like to get a private room. Still on the cheap side, but it’s good to have a private room for private activities when the sun goes down.

    On the other hand, I’ll never stay at a place with a curfew. For the same reason I choose a hostel (to force myself out of my room), I won’t stay at a place with a curfew. You’re paying to have yourself locked up! Since most of the cost of travel is airfare, when staying at hostels, I’ll pay whatever it takes to make sure I can experience the night life (especially if the guidebooks claim there isn’t one).

    Hostels with bars can be hit or miss. You might think that it’s an easy way to avoid getting out. But more often than not I find that if I start the night in the hostel bar, I’ll find some fellow travelers and we’ll drink ourselves into leaving. Or even better, if I’m feeling adventurous, it’s nice to come back to a lively bar after already having cased the nightlife in the town you’re in. So more often than not, hostel bars are a hit! Careful though, this tip doesn’t translate well to hotel bars. People in hotels just have a different attitude about traveling. For them, it seems, it’s more about being at the destination than the adventure.

    Joseph Elwell.

  • Jaime D. says:

    These are some great tips! I have never stayed at a hostel and can not wait to experience the whole backpackers environment!!! I am gonna have to get used to them cus that is where I will be staying while on my RTW trip~

    • Travis Ball says:

      Yeah, they can take a little getting used to if you’ve never stayed there, but only because you’re sharing a room with strangers. In my experience, they don’t end up staying strangers for too long, and quite often the people in your room are the people you’ll experience that location with.

      You’re going to love it! Can’t wait to hear your reactions.


  • gibbs says:

    Hostels are the way to go. All you need is a bed and some chill travellers.

  • Lisa A. says:

    great minds think alike! i tried it in amsterdam-netherland, edinburgh-ireland, kuching-malaysia, sydney-australia, siem reap-cambodia, ho chi min city-vietnam and i love them all!

    i could say i’m the only one who love to stay in a hostel among my friends. i guess they haven’t seen the beauty of the hostels yet. i should share your article with them since i have no power to convince them =]

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  • asteria says:

    I ♥ staying in both hotels and hostels!I used to work for a large international hotel chain, so I enjoyed the perks of having cheap associate rates and discounts that comes with it. But whenever I want to save more money so I can stay a couple of extra nights or see a couple of new places, I’d pick a hostel anytime!

    Its true that some hostels are dodgy, that’s why I ALWAYS check their ratings on tripadvisor, lonelyplanet and hostels.com :)

    • Travis Ball says:

      Sounds like you had the best of both worlds. Don’t get me wrong, a hotel is nice every once in a while, especially if you’d like some privacy and/or a tub to soak the aching bones in. Hostels, however, should be looked at as more than just a cost savings. Of course the main reason people choose hostels over hotels is the price tag, but there are so many more benefits to a hostel if you’re willing to sacrifice a little privacy and, possibly, cleanliness. Joey’s comment is a good example of why one who can afford to stay in hotels while traveling might choose a hostel instead.

      Good tip as well: Check the ratings and reviews of a hostel before you book, and also when you get there double check it meets your standards!


    • asalvesen says:

      I too have two travel accommodation loves – hostels and staying with locals. For finding awesome hostels, I too recommend using hostels.com – and also asking for advice from tweeps (which is great especially when you’re going to a more obscure, off-the-beaten-path destination). For finding locals, I got to: https://www.tripping.com. You’re right on that hostels, hotels and hospitality exchange don’t have to be mutually exclusive!

  • Poi says:

    We’ve been staying hotels in Vietnam as they’ve been cheaper and I miss the hostel atmosphere sooo much, you feel so much more welcome and part of the place first chance we can, straight back into them.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m about to cross the Cambodia/Vietnam border tomorrow and looking forward to sharing the hostel experience with my father, who I’ll be traveling with for three weeks. We’ll probably do a double private instead of dorms, but still mingle in the common rooms.

      You’re saying Hotels are cheaper than Hostels in Vietnam?


  • yTravel Blog says:

    Great post. Hostels are so much fun. We camped throughout Africa as it was cheaper but on those rare occasions we stayed at a hostel (sometimes we camped in their gardens) we had an amazing time. It was so memorable for all these reasons.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks! I’m envious of your African experiences and can’t wait to follow in your footsteps. When camping, do you worry about gear (if you have gear with you worth worrying about)?

      How were the hostels in Africa different than elsewhere (if at all)??


  • That’s so true about hostels forcing you to go out and mingle rather than hiding out in your room. Although, sometimes I enjoy a nice comfy room to myself after many days of traveling. Great post!

  • You’ve hit it right on. I’m really not interested in sharing a room, but private hostel rooms are great. I found that quite often they also offer relatively cheap tours of the sites. When I’m only in a town or city for a few days a tour can be a real time saver. Otherwise, I’ll probably miss out on something that I wanted to see.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah, the tours can actually be a primary reason to pick a hostel. Just recently in Chengdu, China, I stayed a “Mix Hostel”. Apparently, they offer the best and least expensive tours that get you to Tibet. People were flowing through that place like water just to book the tours and get the necessary permits for Tibet. Pretty interesting.


  • Favourite Travel Blog Posts for the Week of Oct 11 | yTravelBlog says:

    […] 7 Reasons to stay at hostels by Travis at Flashpacker HQ […]

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  • Rob says:

    Nice, the main reason I do it is to meet other travelers and save cash. Being on the road is fun but it’s the people you meet that will deliver the most memories, unless of course you’re obsessed with some city or landmark that will make your day.

  • […] to start solo with the goal of meeting someone(s) along the way to latch onto and travel with.  Hostels are the best place to seek out and meet other travelers.  It’s fairly easy to meet people on the road and join up for the next destination. Short, […]

  • Great article! I only stay at a nice hotels if I’m seeking relaxation or being compted, otherwise, its a hostel for me! 

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah, I know what you mean. What’s great is that now, some hostels are even offering private rooms, so you can get the comfort and privacy while still having access to much of the information and social interaction.

  • Great piece of information shared on staying in a hostel. It will help in saving the money as well as help in gaining more information about the local places.

  • […] you have it.  That was the bag I had with me 24/7, in a locker in the hostel or locked away in a private room.  I was most nervous in transit and the bag would never leave my […]

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  • Ohjeannieo says:

    Totally agree.

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