If and when you study abroad or do some traveling around Europe, you’ll probably become a little familiar with hostels, unless you are somehow a student with unlimited funds. This blog will recount some of my experiences in hostels; some great, some terrible, and I will let you decide yourself how to proceed. Personally, regardless of the sometimes questionable activities, people, or circumstances, my time spent in hostels has been generally positive, and it’s hard to beat $20/night.
IES Abroad generously gave us a lengthy fall break after a strenuous week of midterms, and everyone headed off on their own adventures. My first stop was Perugia for the first day of EuroChocolate- who wants to miss that? Since I was only there for a night, I opted for the budget-conscious choice of an 8-bed hostel room for about 17 euros. It was a clean, nice room in a perfect location with friendly staff. However, the people that had booked the same room were not so friendly, clean, or nice. The key players in this experience are the boy in the bunk above me, the girl in the bunk next to his, and the adult couple with an abundance of motorcycle accessories. After a great day of consuming and purchasing incredible amounts of chocolate, I was so ready to sleep, especially since I had a very early flight. Being the proactive and mature person I am, I decided to head to bed around 11 in order to rest a decent amount before flying to Dublin. My roommates had other ideas. It was going well until about 2am, when I was suddenly awake and kind of unsure why. It became clear once I heard the sharp yelling coming from the girl’s top bunk, who apparently thought that the middle of the night was a good time to have a loud argument on the phone while in the room with 7 other people trying to sleep. No big deal, I’m sure she’d be off the phone in ten minutes or so - wrong! An hour and a half later, I was absolutely losing my mind, which the boy in the bunk above me took as his signal to strike up a loud conversation of his own. At some point, he also uttered the phrase: “We all paid 20 euros to be here, you can’t actually expect to sleep.” What? Are you crazy? That is exactly why I paid someone money. Finally, the adult motorcycle couple across from me took the opportunity of the phone call chaos to weirdly massage each other’s backs, very uncomfortable for everyone. Around 4am, everyone decided to calm down and stop being a terrible person. The silver lining in all of this is that I was the eventual victor, as my 6am alarm was probably a bit unpleasant for them to hear. I couldn’t get to the airport fast enough.
My next hostel was in Dublin, and I’ll put the name in here, because I actually highly recommend it: Abigail’s. It was also clean, nice, and had lovely staff, not to mention breakfast included and great facilities. As if they could sense my last awful hostel experience, the staff gave me a double bed for no extra cost. I had respectful and interesting roommates from Italy, which also proved a great chance to continue to practice Italian. We had a nice chat before I promptly passed out around 9pm. The same thing happened for my three nights in Dublin, it was amazing, I still paid very little money for the hostel, I slept like a rock and ate breakfast for no additional cost each day. It was definitely nice to have a less aggressive amount of roommates, but they were also just pleasant individuals who didn’t make a lot of noise later at night.
Final hostel was in Vienna, Wombats, would also recommend. They have a bunch of locations around Europe and really have it together. I was in a room with four other women, an electronic keycard was used for entering the building, accessing the hallway, and of course, entering the room. It was also used for the lockers that were located within the room, no additional charge. Breakfast was not included, but one could pay about five euros to eat the morning buffet. They also offered a free walking tour every morning and provided a drink voucher upon arrival. In my opinion, Wombats was the best for included and available services, and was also positive in terms of the people that stayed there.
In general, the pros of staying in a hostel obviously include the low price, but also the opportunity to meet people from every country who have had incredibly different opinions and experiences. It’s enjoyable for the most part, but it truly depends on the people you are with. As someone who really enjoys traveling alone, there are definitely precautions to take- I wear a variation of a money belt while I sleep that contains my room key, credit card, and cash. I always lock up my possessions- sure, maybe your roommates are nice, but better safe than sorry. Finally, the most important part, whether you're alone or in a group, is to be a good traveler and a good roommate. Here are my amazing tips for doing so:
1. Take regular showers, but don't hog the bathroom
2. Don't spray anything scented in the room without checking with roommates before you assault their noses
3. If you're traveling with a group of friends, book a private room together, it will make your lives easier/better
4. Wake up to your alarm and turn it off
5. Wear flip-flops in the shower
6. Strip your bed and bring the sheets down if the hostel requires it
7. If you need to make a phone call or be loud at night, step outside
8. If you're coming back late or waking up early, try to set the things you need aside at an earlier time
9. Be friendly and courteous to roommates, other guests, and staff
10. Don't use anything that belongs to your roomates without their explicit permission
With all of that being said, bon voyage and enjoy saving money (but be smart about it)