Saturday, July 27, 2013

PROS Vs. CONS of Hostels

Oh the hostel.
The good. The bad. The parties. The solitude. The pleasant and not so pleasant roommates. To share a room or not to share a room. Location. Location. Location.
A forever hot topic to us travelers.
And the "Why are you staying in hostels?" topic for the non-travelers.
And I am here to say enough with the bad rap of hostels!
Sure there are some I would never stay in and have had to stay in, but some really aren't that bad and are actually just perfect for us budget travelers. The locations of most hostels, in my opinion, are better than hotels themselves. You are near tons of action and probably closer to more 'off the beaten path' activities and neighborhoods that you may not see by staying at a hotel.
A hostel is good for all ages. I've seen the late teens staying there through adults in their 40's, even early 50's.
Not every hostel is a 'party' hostel. And some may even label them as such but are not loud enough so that you can actually get a good nights sleep for those who travel for the culture and not the nightlife.

I've made a PROs and CONS list to show what is always on my mind when I look for a place to stay when I travel. Having a CONS list does not make me want to 'not stay in hostels' but it actually makes me well aware of where I am staying and to make good decisions. Some hostels are just better than others. That's a given. I keep this list in mind when I look at places to stay because 1) I'm a solo female traveler and 2) Safety is #1 to me so I am always prepared for the worst.


Make new friends
Get advice from other travelers
Cheaper tours
Able to book buses/transportation/taxis
Some hostels have fun activities planned
Helpful, fun, and trustworthy staff
Storage rooms
Free Wifi
Safe ?
Sharing a room up to 10 beds
Shared bathroom with multiple rooms
*Roommates and their 'guests'
Uncomfortable beds
No lockers
May not be a great location
**Expensive during celebrations
Does not offer most amenities
Loud roommates at night and early morning
Lights turned on at night
***Untrustworthy staff
Not Safe ?
*The one thing I am definitely not a fan of are having roommates who bring significant others or people they have just met 'for the night' into a shared room. I have experienced this quite a few times and it ALWAYS makes the whole room uncomfortable. It's obvious. What you do is your choice but please, please if you plan on doing this (which I'm against people not respecting themselves), get a private room.
**For example, I was in Brazil during Carnival one year and the hostel jumped from $13 to $75 a night just for that week alone. So you're basically paying hotel prices for a hostel room with less amenities. You eat the costs but hopefully you have a great time despite!
***Always be wary of the staff until you get comfortable. I had to pay for something and gave money to one of the guys working that day. I discovered I needed to pay a little bit more so I turned my back to get the remainder cash, handed it to him, and he basically hid the money I gave him and said I didn't give him anything. I HAVE NEVER LIED ABOUT HIDING ANYTHING AND HAVE NEVER STOLEN FROM ANYONE IN MY LIFE so this was a complete shock to me. I was getting a little emotional and he told me 'I didn't have to worry about paying the remainder balance.' So not only did he lie and try to steal money from me, he made it sound like he was forgiving me for not paying him. So just be careful. This happened in Antigua, Guatemala at the hostel: El Hostel. It may have a 92% positive rating on but I would AVOID staying here if possible.
?Safe or Not Safe, that is the question. Some hostels have guards. And some don't. Some keep their gates locked at all times and some don't even have gates. Always research the area you are staying in and the safety of the hostel itself. What they do to make sure nothing bad happens.
My 10 bed Mixed Dorm at Luna's Castle Hostel in Panama City, Panama. Funny that it was a 'mixed' dorm because I ended up rooming with 9 guys! Of course I was extrememly cautious but they ended up being like brothers to me and made sure I was safe and sound.
Now if you look at the list, they are pretty equal. That doesn't mean my argument is lost. What I mainly wanted to get across is that not all hostels are created equal. Some you are glad you stayed in and others you wished you never laid eyes on. But if you notice, I didn't post anything that should alarm you to think twice about staying in hostels. Everything, I think, is considered normal.
This list should be looked at the same way for hotels. Not all hotels were created equal. Sometimes you end up spending quadruple or more for a night in a hotel room but whose to say that the room is clean? Safe? Trustworthy?
Did I miss something on the list? What experiences (good and bad) have you had? Hostel or Hotel?