At work the other day, a client was talking about a business trip they were going on and how they were nervous about the place they’d be staying in, while cracking a joke that they “hoped it wouldn’t be a hostel or something.” I piped in and talked about our trip to New York and the hostel we stayed in. They looked really confused and said, “oh...you stayed there because it was cheaper.” And while that is true, there’s so much more to it than price.
People usually think hostels are grimy places where young people stay because they can handle the not-so-five star amenities (ie bunkbeds and shared bathrooms) and are trying to save money. But here Caroline and I were, in our mid-twenties with steady jobs and an income, actively choosing to book a hostel in New York City. Here’s why:
To Meet People
Really the whole point of a hostel is to make friends and give people the space and activities to do that. The majority of travelers are open to making friends and will put in the effort because that’s what the hostel vibe is all about: sharing experiences and connecting with people from all over the world. There’s just a different, exciting energy when strangers you meet are genuinely interested in your travel story and open to making those connections, even though there’s a tiny window for your friendship. This dynamic adds some spontaneity and excitement to your trip because new friends are never planned for.
Unlike hotels, hostels are the BEST at offering fun activities that bring people together and show you the secret local spots (all of which are usually free!). HI New York City also had a community open mic night, a gorgeous patio for mingling, tours through Harlem, movie nights, you name it. If we ever felt lost on what to do or where to go, our hostel had a huge list of options that made us feel like they really cared about our stay.
Many people make the mistake of thinking a hostel is a last-ditch option when you’re running out of money instead of a lodging facility equipped with everything you need. Free tours and maps? Yep. Breakfast Cafe? No problem. While it isn’t the Hilton, you are offered the same basic amenities: a bed, a shower and a secure place to keep your things. If your goal is to explore the city, does it really matter if you’re bunking with a few roommates?
And no, we don’t book a hostel every time we travel. It truly depends on what kind of experience we’re looking to have and who we’re traveling with. And while this post is pretty much a raving review about hostels, don’t worry, we’ve stayed in some questionable places (looking at you Pizza Hostel in Naples!). But even with that in mind, we STILL chose hostels time and time again because some of our favorite travel stories have come from some crazy adventure we had or hilarious people we met while staying at a hostel. And those memories are absolutely worth more than a plush queen bed at the Hilton.