John’s Note: I’m excited to announce Hostel Bookers as a new partner here at Travel Rinse Repeat. As always, all the content and opinons in this post are my own.
If you visit this site with any regularity, by now you know that the majority of my travel is work related – in other words, it’s business travel. And I’ll be completely honest – it’s a pretty comfortable way to travel. Frequent first class upgrades, picking my favorite 2012 model rental car off the lot each week, and staying in well appointed, business oriented hotels are all de rigeur for me. Marriott, Sheraton, Westin, Hyatt – I’ve collected over 200 nights in hotels like these since I started traveling for work.
But I have a confession: despite the comfort that hotel rooms offer, when I travel outside of work I still prefer staying at hostels. How is that possible? For most, the thought of hostels evokes dirty showers and snoring bunk mates.
So after living the pampered life at business hotels, why do I still stay prefer hostels?
Hostels Are Growing Up - Not all hostels are total dives or party central for 19 year old backpackers. Some hostels have grown up as more travelers outside the gap year crowd have discovered their benefits. I’ve found plenty of hostels that offer clean, quiet accommodations that cater to a more adult crowd, with amenities to match. Gas stoves, rain shower heads, fluffy towels, and impeccable design are the new norm at many hostels.
Image courtesy of Miss Sophie’s Prague
They Provide Comfortable Working Environments – This one may come as kind of a surprise – most people probably don’t associate hostels with good working environments. But when I was working from Granada, Nicaragua, my hostel was the perfect place to get some work done. Not only was it relatively quiet during the early morning when I was most active, it was also one of the few places in town that offered fast, reliable wireless internet.
Hostels Are The Low Cost Alternative - This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but hostels are cheap! Spending less on accommodations each trip allows me to extend my travel, traveling longer and cheaper than if I were staying at the big hotel brands I stay at when work is footing the bill.
Location, Location, Location – My hostel in Seattle was literally across the street from Pike Place Market. In Cuzco, I was staying just steps from the Plaza de Armas, arguably the heart of the former Incan capital city. Sure, some top notch hotels also have premium locations, but their small size allows hostels to be more nimble when selecting the prime locations.
Atypical Lodging – I’ve stayed in a hostel that was on a boat and another that was in a former prison. Spending the night at an accommodation like this isn’t just lodging – it’s an experience. The big guys (Marriott, Hilton, etc) would never attach their names to properties like this – it’s too risky for them.
Meeting Other Travelers – This is by far my favorite aspect of hostels. A lot of my travel is done solo, and 90%+ of the friends I’ve made while on the road were staying in my hostel. It’s hard to find a better atmosphere than a hostel bar for bringing travelers together. Meanwhile, hotel bars and lobbies (in my experience) are mostly filled with lonely middle aged men nursing their beer or cocktails while silently glued to Sports Center on the television. It’s just not the same.
Simply put, hostels are a great way to travel. Sure, I miss the chocolates on my pillows, tiny bottles of shampoo, and club lounges of the major hotel chains, but there is so substitute for the camaraderie and general vibe one can pick up while staying in a hostel.