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  1. Sleep mask and earplugs are a must for hostel sleeping.

    I enjoy seeing all the tours and activities in a hostel lobby. You’ll never find affordable activities in hotel lobbies. You can always go out and find your own, but the hostel lobby will at least give you ideas of all the things available for you to do.

    But like you say there are ways around all the things mentioned. I’d rather keep the money in money in pocket and deal with whatever at a hostel.

  2. Dead on Karol!

    I love hostels for their affordability (minus internet) and having a kitchen. Both things are huge for those looking to save.

    A few suggestions:
    If in_____Stay at_____
    Cairns Australia – The Serpent Hostel
    Sydney Australia – The Base Hostel
    Auckland New Zealand – The Base Hostel

    Those are just a few of the ones I have lucked out at.

    David Damron

  3. Bang on on several points (earplugs are a must-have!) but don’t tar all hostels with the same brush. The one I use in Hanoi ( is clean, well-run (by two Aussies with local staff), fun yet with quiet dorms, moderately cheap, and has free wifi *and* PCs to use.

    In addition, it does sell tours but at a good price compared to some of the dodgy operators in the area. The best point is that if you have a complaint you will get a friendly ear and even a partial or full refund of the trip wasn’t up to scratch – I doubt there’s another company in Hanoi that will give you that guarantee.

    You have to remember that hostels, on the whole, don’t make a lot of money from accommodating people – they get a huge chunk of their income from the extras – meals, trips, and so on. I talked to a guy who ran the first ever hostel I stayed at in Oz – Gekko Lodge in Brisbane – earlier this year. He had quit and is now driving tour buses through the national parks.

    He was making next to nothing on the hostel – in fact he lost money one year – and it was a ton of work with far too many legal implications and responsibilities.

    If I had to give one major advantage of hostels over hotels it’s that you do get to meet people. Travelling India, I’d never have met anyone except perhaps briefly at dinner as there *are* no hostels. People staying in hotels tend to keep to themselves and rarely mix. Hostel-stayers are generally far more sociable and a great way to find out where to go once you leave your current location.

    Hostels are *great*… if you a) find the right one and b) are a hostel person. Horses for courses!

  4. It’s pretty easy to pick an exception to every one of the above points — so I will.

    1) InnCrowd Singapore – top local staff who know their stuff. Side point when was the last time you met an interesting local in a hotel?

    2) HQ Hostel Bangkok – enough open space in common areas and chill out areas to play cricket with dead cats. Yes dorms are small, but the social stuff can happen elsewhere in the hostel no need to head for the street.

    3) Refill Now Bangkok – one of the best hostels I’ve ever seen worldwide, there was a bar downstairs, but it was easy to escape the hordes. I thought this was a list of negatives anyway 😉

    4) The YHA in New York had a signboard up with nightly walking tours conducted by a local. Was one of the best things I did in NY and wouldn’t have found it except for the noticeboard. It’s not like they’re forcing the stuff down your throat…

    5) LubD Bangkok — free Wifi throughout. Free WiFi is becoming close to a norm in Asia for switched on joints.

    6) I Stayed at a Meridien once where all night I could hear a tourist with a local lady hollering “i love you love you love you big time baby” so this problem isn’t just with hostels — those two weren’t even in my room!

    7) Any of the above-mentioned places were spotless.

    The point of this post is a bit lost on me — if the author doesn’t like hostels, then don’t stay in them — hopefully 7 reasons why hostels rule is in the pipeline 😉

  5. David: Thanks!

    Mosh: Good points! And I would take a hostel over a hotel any day because like you said you do get to meet new people. But my favorite place to stay in any city is with a local using CouchSurfing. 🙂

    Craig: I’ve found most of the hostels in Australia and New Zealand charge for Internet. I’m in Wellington right now at an awesome hostel (Hotel Cambridge). $10/day for WiFi. At the YHA just a block away it’s $10 for 2 hours. The hostels I stayed in with free WiFi had connections so slow I could barely check Gmail, much less do actual work.

    I don’t mean to come across like I hate hostels. I don’t. They’re better than hotels, but worse than CouchSurfing. 🙂 I’ve stayed in ~15 hostels for a total of ~40 days in the past 3 months and this article is the culmination of what I’ve learned. Hence the tips about finding clean, quiet hostels.

    I’ve stayed in quiet a few amazing hostels. Example: there’s an awesome hostel in Auckland called Lantana Lodge. It was cleaner than most hotels I’ve stayed in and it did have free (fairly fast) WiFi. In the Blue Mountains (Australia) I stayed at Flying Fox Backpackers. It’s the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in. Very small, run by a really awesome guy called Ross.

    Whew! 🙂

  6. Hey Stuart,

    Thanks for your thoughts! I don’t hate hostels. Hence the “and what to do about it.” It’s easy to make the hostel experience a good one. But a lot of hostels do suck. There’s a gem in every city and there are always exceptions to every rule. 😉


  7. To clarify: I probably should’ve started the article: “I’m not a fan of hostels. They’re better than hotels, but not even close to as amazing as CouchSurfing.”

    I’m out of this $10/day Internet (wink wink) in 5 minutes and leaving Wellington really early in the morning. Hopefully there will be some other awesome comments to ponder tomorrow evening! 🙂

  8. Whilst I am sure that some of the advice and observations in this article are true insofar as your own experiences, I think that it should be made clear that these are not always the case everywhere you travel.

    1) You don’t meet locals in hostels

    Well, that is kind of true, and kind of not true. Small guesthouses and hostels, where the staff are locals and really make you feel welcome are great – I have been more integrated into local culture in China through being at hostels than I would have been otherwise. Mind you, in China, 95% of tourism is Chinese, so that would have alot to do with it.

    The other side of that could is that, yes, in the hostel itself, you may not meet terribly many locals, but sometimes, having a place to retreat to and be surrounded by other travellers can be a nice break. After all, I tend to spend all day out and about trying to be involved in the day-to-day life of the country I am visiting.

    2) You don’t get much of your own space

    Do you really need that much space? All I need is a place to rest my head at night and a secure place to lock away my pack. Any more than that is, really, a waste. When I have had to resort to hotel rooms, if anything, I have felt that I have had more space than I have known what to do with.

    3) They’re party houses

    Some yes, some no. All depends on the time of the year, the breakdown of the guests, the weather, the mood, etc. I have been to some hostels which have been like nightclubs with bunkrooms, and others which have been more like an oversized family residence.

    4) Hostels are set up to sell you tours and attractions

    Again, some yes, some no. I have never been harrassed, bothered, pressured, etc. by any hostel to buy tours, tickets and the rest from them. But, then again, I may just be lucky.

    5) Hostel internet is usually horribly slow and you have to pay for it

    Nope. In China, internet, especially WiFi, is free, fast and ever-present. Some places may charge, but the vast majority do not. This has been the case throughout SE Asia.

    6) Sleeping well while sharing a room with nine strangers isn’t easy

    Just takes practice, or an unbringing with a few brothers/sisters and shared rooms.

    7) Hostels are not particularly clean

    Most I have been to have been alright, some a little dusty or grubby, but, hey, at the price you are paying expecting a 24×7 maid service is asking a bit much.

    Personally, I can, as I said, see that alot of this advice is based on your experiences, but I think that the overall tone of this piece is a bit thin, and does not really deliver the message I would expect from a piece on staying in Hostels, even if focusing on the negative aspects of the experience.

  9. Craig and Linda says:

    Linda and I have been staying in hostels for about four years now and, while we have had our fair share of idiots and the occasional place we didn’t vet well enough, we’ve also had many, many more nights of good sleep and safe, clean lodgings.

    One major area I have to disagree with you on Karol, is internet. 90% of the hostels we’ve stayed at throughout Europe and New Zealand have offered free internet. From what I’ve heard, most of South East Asia is the same. Yet, I’ve paid US$25+ for wifi internet access in slimy 3* hotels (and the lobbies of 5* hotels). Where are you finding these uber-priced internet connections?

  10. I guess everyone is entitled to an opinion… I would have to say that i would disagree with a fair chuck of the points…

    1. I find hostels awesome places to meet the locals. Make mates with the hostel staff and hang out with them. When travelling through Asia this was the easiest way to go and meet the locals. If the staff at the hostel you are staying at are not that friendly you should find a better one.

    2. Hey, do have to kind of agree, getting out and about is great, but hey people are on holidays. If they want to watch TV great! If they want to socialize in the hostel and sink piss… then thats great to.

    3. Not all hostels which are fun are party hostels. Yes a large amount of hostels have a fair bit of drinking going on and it is your right not to be a piss head, but to intentionally seek hostels with a low fun rating… would I be out of line calling you a little boring? My web address for the company I work for is above so it is clear I work for a hostel company, and in our properties we run fun non-drinking activities like, Frisbee golf, city and museum tours, didgeridoo making, massage courses… the list goes on as well as night out on the town. Life is all about balance

    4. Little cynical. Yes hostels sell tours. Good hostels send staff on heaps of tours and activities in local areas so they know all the local products. It is not in their interest to sell crap tours as selling bad experience is not good for both the hostel and the wider tourism industry. Hostels have staff to pay and owners need to put food on their tables. As I look at the hostel bookers link above and the worldnomads banner I could easily say that travel blogging websites are just a medium to sell advertising.

    5. Yes you have to pay for it, but it’s not slow everywhere and companies like Global gossip are always raising the bar in internet systems

    6. You have me here. It is hard as well as the advice there if you can find and extra dollar or two go for the smaller dorm

    7. Not compleatly true, though I will admit cleaning up after 100-200 people is a challenge. If you are travelling clean up after yourself and make it nice for everyone. Now I have also lived in plenty of “local” student houses, travelers flats, and houses with professionals, some of these have been nasty shit holes and I would have gladly swapped and stayed in a hostel

  11. Craig and Linda says:

    Great to have so many well-constructed comments discussing the post (rather than attacking the person who wrote it — as so often happens).

    @Shannon, re: internet – I think a lot of travellers (from all over the place) just don’t realise how slow internet is in NZ and Australia, which sometimes gets foisted onto the ISP, or the hostel. It’s slow people … damn slow. This speedtest result was 2/3 faster than the ISP average. It halves around 4pm, when the school kids get home. And it’s expensive; these speeds cost me around NZ$70/month … we start getting charged per gig after we hit 30 or 40gb (around the middle of the month). So I’ve got a lot of patience for NZ places that give free internet. The “standard” Telecom wifi hospots charge NZ$10/hr and — before someone says it — so do the Starbucks. There are, still, many companies including hostels that provide free wifi; good on them!

  12. frankly i’d rather be in a quaint bed-and-breakfast than in a cheaper but noisy hostel. yes i spend more, but i prefer quietness and having my own loo.

  13. While I agree with Karol on couchsurfing, at times I did find myself stuck in some cities and had to stay in a hostel. Like Karol I didn’t want to party all night, so I booked myself a single room, and I could close the door and have a good night’s sleep without too much bother. It only cost a fraction more than a shared dorm. I suppose the key is to look for smaller hostels if you want something quieter.

  14. Angie Hendrickson says:

    It just seems to me that the author of this article is a little far fetched. I almost disagreed with every point as I was reading this. Just rolling my eyes and laughing. I’m one who HATES (I’m 24) getting wasted with my peers, and no, I seldom run into just ‘party’ kids looking to have a good time in a touristy sort of way. On the contrary, I run into many older adults 35-60 and UP, who already know the ins and outs of the city and/or area. The advice I have gotten from such individuals has been stellar and unbelievable. I’m unsure why the author slams being bombarded with information (flyers, pamphlets, and son on). Such things are incredibly useful. What’s posted usually isn’t all ‘touristy’ stuff whatsoever. often times locals, YES LOCALS, will drop off their own information for various get togethers, meetings, lectures, hiking ideas, deals, whatever it may be. Also, I do run into locals at hostels, as well. Or, such individuals who live in nearby towns or cities who have come through many times out of tradition, and are staying the night. I’m still laughing about the statement that ‘most’ hostels are filled with drunken frat kids who only enjoy tourist activities. Take it from me, there is no better way to meet locals, AND travelers, who may already have some incredible information about the region. THE KEY to finding ‘off the beaten path’ information that will save you money, is to TALK, talk, talk, and more talk with whomever you run into. Share travel stories. Most people you meet in hostels will be fourth and fifth time (or more by a lot) visitors of the area and will already know about little known secrets. Most hostel owners offer a ton of advice concerning how to avoid the tourist areas, and where to go for good and free exposure to the landscape, people, and wonderful experiences on foot or by hiking. Trust me, the best experience/adventures do not cost a dime. Hostel lovers and hostel owners are thrilled to share this information if you are willing to socialize, be yourself, be comfortable, do not act snobby or stuck up, and just be down to earth. Ask questions. Ask specifically what you are looking for. Pick your feet up and go.

    Another pick I had with this silly elitist piece – that you have to worry about cleanliness? I have never run into a hostel that wasn’t decently to exceptionally well kept. Most have communal kitchens – one even cooked a home cooked lunch/dinner for less than 3 dollars a night. It was some of the best food I’ve had! The only good suggestion the author mentioned was This is a wonderful program and I also highly advise those who are unfamiliar to check it out. It’s a very ligit service that is safe and free.

    As for not having enough space. What?? Unless you’re a spoiled brat who is looking for five star treatment, has paranoia/schizophrenia, is anti-social or suffers from anxiety problems, or, has no idea what it means to be caught up in the essence of true human experience and traveling (Kerouac anyone?), why on earth would you want much more than a place to crash your head, meet good people, and share travel stories? The bonds you make with fellow travelers in a authentic setting will last you a life time. After all, what more is life about than to make such meaningful connections? She mentions ” whom ever invented hostels must have been a tourist “. On the contrary, it is quite opposite. Please, for proper information on how hostels came to be, the vision for their invention, and so on, GO HERE: Yes, it was a young German TEACHER (tourist? hahaha), in 1909 who had the idea. A passion. And, the idea caught on. By 1932, the international youth hostel federation was founded, dedicated to bringing affordable places to young people so that life may be experienced. The only thing is, hostels today are utilized by young and old. It’s a melting ground for all ages to come together and share one another’s experience. There is no better way, in my opinion, to meet up with other individuals who are also trying to find out all they can to get off the beaten path and whom have common goals as you do.

    As for the childish little ending to this article titled ‘ roll with the punches ‘. Hey, guess what people? Part of traveling is to run into people who are not always going to be pleasant. I mean laugh it off and move on should a drunken guy burst into your room with a question. It’s nothing more than a fun story to tell your friends and giggle about. THAT’S WHAT TRAVELING IS. The same scenario is entirely possible with And, I’d rather have a drunk guy stumble into my dorm than be isolated in a hotel/motel chain watching television, by myself, wishing I was meeting fellow travelers. The whole point to learning about other towns is to not be a loner. Be an extrovert. Chose hostels and let the travel stories pour in and enrich your own experience.

  15. Angie Hendrickson says:

    and unless you plan on sleeping on the cold ground on a street corner for the night… You have little chance of “Meeting Locals” in an expensive yuppie filled bed and breakfast with other snobs, a hotel, or motel – and a much HIGHER chance of meeting locals at a hostel. That is my experience time and time again, and I have stayed plenty at all types of accommodations while traveling. Wanna meet the locals? Pick a street corner to park your butt for the night, or a hostel.

  16. Angie Hendrickson says:

    Another thing… Yes I just keep posting and posting. It struck me just how incredibly selfish and snobby it is to be upset should you find a little dust or dirt in your hostel. This usually isn’t the case. But come on, we live on a planet – it’s called earth. It’s filled with micro organisms, dirt, soil, and living things. None of this is ‘dirty’. If you think of it in that regards, maybe you won’t be worried that you’re going to contract AIDS over night because you walked into a room with a little dust in the corner. I almost feel like a lab rat, personally, when I stay in places that ARE TOO clean. That’s right. Give me a real traveling experience, not one of a spoiled baby who needs to be pampered constantly.

  17. Angie Hendrickson says:

    99% of all hostels I have stayed in have free wifi. LOL. I’m done, really, this is the last post. 🙂

  18. Angie Hendrickson says:

    Oh, no. There was no name calling. It was hypothetical to ‘one’. I never once directly called the author any names. I only mentioned that unless ” one ” is such and such, then “one” should be comfortable with this or that. Please, do not take my words out of context.

  19. Hey guys, great article and great site.

    Most hostels I’ve stayed in (in a variety of Asian, S/E Asian and Australian places) have been clean and well run.

    HOWEVER: I totally, absolutely and utterly agree with Karol about some hostels being party pads. I hate this scene. Totally detest it. If a hostel looks even vaguely like a party pad, I won’t stay there. Also, I when I stay in hostels, I always pay for a single room. As a single female traveller, I don’t want drunken louts groping me in the middle of the night. Nor do I want to hear the people two beds getting it on with each other, either.

    Why am I like this? When I travel, I immerse myself in the local culture, learning the local language and engaging with people constantly. I spend lots of time walking, hiking and exploring on foot. These things tire me out and thus, I need a damned good sleep. Preferably a sleep not disturbed by drunken tossers at 2am, playing techno on their laptop at full volume outside my window, whilst smoking their tiny brains out. This is what happened in a hostel in the Southbank area in Brisbane last year. I’ve had similar things happen in a couple of other places, too.

    My tips: check the hostel out first. If there are older people and families staying there, it’s probably a good sign -not a bad one as some people seem to think.

    Cleanliness in rooms: yes, it’s nice, but city people get hung too up on this stuff. Do some camping or trekking and get over it. Sleep on the ground in a swag, under the stars for a while. You’ll soon learn that a grubby wall or stain on the floor isn’t going to kill you.

    As I’m female, I haven’t tried couchsurfing, although as I live in a place where loads of tourists come to stay (Alice Springs), and happen to have a house with a couple of spare rooms, I’ve thought about being a couchsurfer host.

    (Karol,shame we missed you when you were in Alice Springs… we would’ve loved to have caught up with you and offered you a place to stay!)

  20. @Amanda: Interesting points, and again I guess more evidence that two people can travel somewhat similar paths and have significantly different experiences.

    True enough – some hostels are party pads/nightclubs with bunks/a grey area somewhat resembling a “by-the-hour” hotel. Can’t be argued. These places will continue to operate, and will attract the crazy crowds, but the bright side there, I guess, is that by drawing all the moths to the flame, it leaves the quieter, cooler place for people who aren’t looking for that kind of excitement.

    Regarding “midnight groping”, whilst I have never been an offender or an offendee, I can understand the concern there. However, I would also like to share that during my hostel experiences, in Australia and South-East Asia, most hostels I have stayed in have either 1) had female-only dorm rooms and/or 2) tried to segregate rooms by sex as much as possible unless a mixed group had booked a room together. I have been in mixed rooms (where everyone was a solo-traveler) and there has never been any misconduct that I have been aware of. Considering the difference in price between a single room and a dorm bunk in alot of places, I tend to be happy to run the risk. But, then again, I make Quasimodo look like a pin-up model, so I don’t think I am at all that great a risk at all.

    I share the same travel style in that I spend most of the day out and about losing and finding myself (and hidden gems), and tend to be well-and-truly knackered by the end of the day, but, I am also blessed in that I can be a pretty heavy sleeper (even more so after 9 months of travel) and so it is rare that I have trouble with music or the like interrupting my sleep. Yes, in some cases, people have been sitting outside a room talking loudly, the bar’s sound system has been overkill for the small room and has turned a good portion of the hostel into a sound-box, etc. But, most travellers I have met have been cool when asked to keep it down/move on a bit/shut the hell up, and most staff have also been more than happy to help. Might have just been a bad jag in Brisvegas?

    Families as a sign of a good place to stay? Yes and no. Yes in that most (responsible) parents will not have their family stay in a party pad or the like, but, from a social interaction perspective (and I like meeting fellow travellers alot), being stuck with the Ma-and-Pa crowd tends to be a bit isolating. Plus, kids can be just as noisy as Pantera if they put their mind to it. Old people? They can be cool, and tend to have a fair few tales to share about their travels and other experiences (I met this great Swiss woman in China who was >50 and backpacking solo throughout SE Asia). That being said, I think your chances for finding an oldie who wants to paint the town red on one of those rare occasions you feel like having a blast is a bit of a stretch.

    Agreed that cleanliness is something which, with experience, becomes more of a negotiable.

    Been couchsurfing, in Macau, with a great couple (a German girl and her English boyfriend) and I am lucky enough to still be in contact with them today. It is a great experience, whether you stay with a native or an expat – always something to add to the mix.

  21. Craig and Linda says:

    Hi Angie, we appreciate your passion, but please focus your critique on the piece, not the person who wrote it. Ad hominem name-calling is not only unattractive, it also tends to get edited.

    We’d love to see your thoughts on the companion piece too.

  22. Hey Luke,

    Thanks for the reply. Perhaps I should explain why I use families and older people as a marker of a good hostel to stay in. Apart from the party factor, it’s the safety factor. Things like personal safety are different for men & women -that’s just the way it is. Thus, families are a sign of safety for me. I have never encountered noisy or wild children up at 2am playing techno. Never. And families with small babies… I’ve never encountered them in hostels. By older people, I meant people who are -shock horror- over 35 (like me)… not elderly people! I rarely see elderly people in hostels, but people from 35-60, yes, another sign that hostel probably won’t be an all-night p*ss up. Over 35, you need your beauty sleep.

    Dorms: Blech! Staying in a mixed dorm in Australia (Far South Coast of NSW) I was sat on by a drunken lout in the middle of the night, who thought I was the girl he’d been seeing/hitting on or something. That – and the fact that he and the girl (once located) proceeded to get it on in the dorm- made me move to a single room the next morning. That was 1994 – I have never stayed in a dorm since.

    Anyway, just my 50 cents worth. I’ve stayed in some awesome hostels, so I don’t hate them – I just run a mile when I encounter party pads.

  23. Oh the memories! The first hostel I stayed at was such a strange experience. I arrived quite early in the morning and they showed me to the room and I was greeted by about 10 sleeping people who did not seem impressed with me climbing over the hundreds of nags in order to get to my top bunk. Was a bit of a bad start but thankfully made friends a bit later.

    I agree with all the comments about earplugs, there is nothing worse than trying to sleep in a room with someone snoring like some heavy machinery.

  24. Tell me what is wrong with a Ford! As far as hostels go, you can and should expect a reasonable standard of accommodation and lots of fun times with people who are traveling ; this is what makes up the best memories and equally better story! I have been known to seek out the busiest and often messiest hostel as I am assured to meet some very interesting and unique individuals. Really the majority of hostels I have stayed in have been clean; yes no bed bugs; they have had hot water , a clean kitchen area for your tin of baked beans and the most important a good internet connection. That’s the maximum I expect in a hostel! Yet, I am more often surprised and delighted when I arrive to find some added luxuries such as clean towels, coffee and tea and maybe just maybe a swimming pool. Great traveling my friends!

  25. Traveller says:

    Hostels are quite good option for budget travel, but I try to keep as far away from them as I can. I hate all this people partying all night. I like to start my day early, when travelling, and it’s impossible, when you can’t sleep all night because of the party next door.

  26. its a funny way of seeing things, everything has its pros and cons, you have to understand that you get for what you pay. dont expect to be in a 5 stars hotel while paying 15 bucks. may be you are too old for hostels

  27. I have come to love hostels. I grew up on a farm and have developed the ability to sleep almost anywhere during my spare time.

    Hostels may not be pretty but it definitely is the perfect place to rest for a budget traveler like me.

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