Backpacking to me is not only about the places you go and the things you do. A huge part of it are all the amazing people you meet along the way. It’s not often that you get to meet people from all over the world, who are seeing the same new things as you, and who are in the same mindset of having fun.
But where exactly does one go to meet these other backpackers? Luckily, most major tourist places have figured this out long ago: hostels. Nothing like the horror scenes depicted in the movie “Hostel”, hostels are actually one of my favorite parts about traveling.
Compared to hotels, hostels are a completely different animal. Most of the time, you’ll be sleeping in bunks and sharing bathrooms. Personal space is usually limited to a locker and if you’re a light sleeper, pray that you don’t have a loud snorer in your room. General cleanliness tends to be little lower and you might find yourself kicked out (temporarily!) at some places so they can clean your room/remake your bed.
While these inconveniences may seem annoying, if you’re down to rough it a bit, it’s not a big deal. On the other hand, the positives at a good hostel far outweigh the downsides.
A good hostel provides an incredible atmosphere for meeting other backpackers. Not only are hostels a lot cheaper than hotels, they have great common areas. Good hostels will usually have a big lounge area, a stocked bar, planned group activities, and communal kitchens. All these shared spaces make meeting people incredibly easy and effortless. In a way, it’s almost like freshman year in the dorms, except you can drink and there are no RA’s! Everyone is really friendly and talkative, no one is really judging anyone else, and finding people to hang out with is really easy. You start talking to one person, next thing you know, you find yourself hitting the town with a group of 15.
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Now you might wonder how hostels compare to offerings from Airbnb and other similar services. In general, I find that those sites will give you a better bang for your buck if you’re traveling with a group of people and looking for the most comfortable digs. But the downside is you’ll have a much harder time meeting people because you are somewhat isolated from other groups of people much like hotels.
As for booking? I usually use HostelWorld or HostelBookers. HostelBookers tends to be cheaper but has less availability. Usually you can find a discount code for HostelWorld so the point is moot. What will probably make the sites even more equal in the future is the fact that they merged in April of this year, joining what were the two 800 lbs gorillas under one roof.