When it comes to traveling on a budget, you can't really get more affordable – or more basic – than sleeping dorm-style in a bunk bed with a free breakfast. We're talking, of course, about hostels – the cheap, stripped-down alternatives to hotels that are popular with backpackers and college students. But it's not just young people who are welcome, says Generator Hostels chariman Carl Michel. Below, we've listed some reasons why travelers in their thirties, forties, and beyond might consider this ultra-budget-friendly way to stay:
Hostels are on the rise:
Forget the typical hostel clichés of cramped rooms, messy bathrooms, and lackluster design. As hotels show across-the-board improvements in their amenities, public spaces, and digital capabilities, so too are hostels catching up to the times with contemporary designs, upgraded facilities, centralized locations, and dedicated concierge staff. Think The Beehive in Rome, Downtown Beds in Mexico City, and Matchbox Hostel in Singapore.
Older guests are showing up:
Though only 11 percent of Generator's current guests are over the age of 35, that number has been steadily increasing, and will continue to, says Michel, due to a combination of economic and lifestyle factors.
You can still have some privacy:
Just because a hostel has dorm-style rooms, that doesn't mean they're your only option. Many offer private rooms, with individual (un-bunked) beds, private bathrooms, and TVs. For travelers who can afford a bit more than a rock-bottom-priced dorm bed, this option offers a great compromise between those less comfortable shared rooms, and the full-service amenities that a hotel would offer.
You'll save big:
Depending on where you're headed, hostel prices can beat hotel prices by a very long shot. Consider an expensive hotel city like London. As it turns out, it's also one of the major hostel cities in Europe. That's not an accident. Michel explains that since hotel rates can be so high, the gap between those rates and hostel rates tend to be wide, especially when you factor in the value of common hostel amenities like Wifi, tours, bikes, maps, and of course breakfast.
You'll make new friends:
Hotels generally aren't the best places to meet people, as many guests retreat to their rooms after a day of sightseeing and flip on the TV. In hostels, more than half of the guests are there to socialize. Without much effort, a five-minute conversation can earn you some great travel tips, and maybe even a travel companion or two.
With all the money you'll save, you can enjoy a day (or two) of luxury:
After all your savings have been counted, you can justify a guilt-free luxury expense, like a day at the spa, or a fancy dinner out – or even a night in a beautiful hotel. When you consider that a hostel can save you hundreds on lodging, you'll definitely have room in your budget to consider it.
You'll be close to all the essentials:
One thing that can make or break a hostel is its location. When you stumble upon a successful, well-reviewed hostel, chances are it's in proximity of all the major local attractions. As a result, you can stretch your dollar (or euro, or peso) even further by walking or taking public transit to everything on your itinerary – including train stations and other transport hubs.
Just like in big hotels, the staff are experts:
Many hostel staff are hired because of their in-depth knowledge of the city, which they offer free of charge. Those staffers can point a group of twenty-five-year-old college grads to the nearest, cheapest, most popular beer hall, but they can also provide useful tips for travelers who may be interested in art galleries, photo exhibits, notable architecture, and great restaurants.
One word – breakfast:
You may be accustomed to teeming hotel buffets, but hostel breakfasts can be just as good, if not better. Fresh pastries, cheese, made-to-order eggs, rolls, ham, cereal, juices, tea, and coffee are the norm in many hostels, and all are usually offered free, or at a minimal cost.