Last week we were extremely happy to welcome Hollie Roberts to the Circus. Hollie is a travel blogger, who has spent the past year on the road… we wanted to know something that she had learned during her travels, and the topic she came up with was something close to our hearts… hostels and hostelling:
Why on earth would I choose a hostel when travelling?
Hello. My name is Hollie and I’m a traveloholic. I’ve been on the road for over 10 months now.
A previous short term holidayer I had only ever stayed in hotels and resorts. When I first hit Europe in July last year I found myself in Corfu, Greece in my first ever hostel. I was going to find myself in this hostel for the next three months as a volunteer worker for The Pink Palace. Enter baptism of fire.
I will admit I had initial fears – mainly about the bathroom and the bed – but since then I have never looked back. I have continued to work at hostels including X Hostel Bucharest, Stoke Morocco Surf Camp and Oasis Backpackers Sevilla. And also seen many hostels around Europe through a guest’s eyes. I am currently staying at Circus Berlin which, bias or not, is one of the nicest (and coolest) hostels I have ever laid eyes, and my head to rest, on.
So, why hostels?
I’ll start with the obvious. There is no better way to meet people. Whether that be in your dorm, the common area, breakfast, walking tours, or pub crawls, you have no choice but to get together with likeminded people. That person you knocked back vodka shots, or oohed and ahhed at the Berlin Wall, with could turn out to be your travel companion for the next few days or a lifelong friend. At worst someone to stalk on Facebook on your next eight hour bus ride.
If you are travelling alone, a hotel room can be lonely. If you’re travelling with a friend, being stuck together just the two of you 24/7 can be a recipe for disaster, and if you’re travelling in a big group, a 12 bed dorm is much more fun than trouncing the halls to try and find and coordinate each other. It’s like a sleepover on steroids.
Hostels specialise in finding and knowing about activities for the young and young at heart. Even if you have no idea about the metro or what to do with yourself on a rainy day, the staff at reception will. And the majority are some of the friendliest people you could hope to meet. I know it can be a frustrating job to keep a smile on your face and answer the same questions over and over again, but they do it with pleasure to rival any 5-star concierge service.
Another obvious choice for hostels is they’re better for the budget. When you’re travelling, it’s really just a bed and maybe a shower. Your money is better spent on other things. Plus everyone around can advise on cheap eats, cheap beer and free activities. And if you want to splurge, get a private room occasionally, it’s still cheaper than other accommodation options and sanity is priceless. Plus you’re not here to hang out in your room. You don’t want it to be too nice. It can be an encouraging kick up the backside to get out and see what you really came here for.
Many people fear the hostel horror stories of bed bugs, dirty bathrooms and general ickiness. But what I’ve learnt is that hostels all have one goal: getting really good reviews. It is their bread and butter. It is their reason for being. And how do they make sure their reviews are good? They keep it together. They ensure everything is clean and tidy. They are friendly to guests. They are here to keep you happy.
While it’s not always perfect, it’s more often than not, fun. With the right attitude, your hostel stay can be the highlight of your trip.
Even if one day I am not a solo traveller or even if I have the money to splurge on hotels, I feel I will still choose a hostel. How many stories have started with, “I was staying in this hotel” compared to, “oh man at our hostel in Berlin…”