You’d be surprised by the amount of people I talk to that “hostel” is just another word for a hotel. Just as many people seem to think that hostels are only found overseas, too. Neither of these things is true. Hostels are very different from hotels, and they can be found all over the United States, believe it or not.
In other words, you don’t have to start looking at Memphis houses for sale just because the Tennessee Days Inn has been taken over by drunk Elvis impersonators. If you know where to look, you can find a hostel just as easily there as you could if you were backpacking across Europe. The question is, would you want to?
The only person who can answer that question is you. Here are some pros and cons that might help you decide if staying in a hostel is a good idea.
Pro: Low cost
One of the biggest advantages of staying in a hostel is that they are, by design, very inexpensive. Very, very, very inexpensive. In fact, while even lower quality motels will cost you upwards of $60, staying at a hostel rarely costs more than $20. When you’re traveling, saving money is often as tricky as it is important. Hostels are a great option for anyone looking to pinch their pennies.
Con: Little privacy
You get what you pay for, though. One of the big reasons hostels are so cheap is because they make more, ahem, “economical” use of what space they have. In other words, they pack more people into their rooms. While some modern hostels do offer private rooms, it’s far from common. Most likely, you’ll be spending your time at a hostel splitting a room with multiple other people. If you’re traveling alone, that means strangers. Last but not least, I have two words for you: communal bathrooms.
Pro: Meeting new people
Of course, for some folks mingling with strangers isn’t a downside at all. On the contrary, it’s one of the joys of traveling. Although you’re giving up a decent amount of privacy, you might find that gain just as much from getting to meet new people, possibly even making friends in the process. While the idea of sharing a room with complete strangers can sound scary, the truth is most lodgers are people just like you: travellers and tourists looking to save a buck while broadening their horizons.
Con: Just the basics
Lack of privacy isn’t the only way hostels lower their costs. They also do it by providing fewer services. Basically, if it’s beyond the bare minimum of standard creature comforts, it’s likely that it’s beyond the offerings of the average hostel. In other words, don’t expect to take a dip in the swimming pool or shed some pounds in the gym. And don’t expect to be wowed by the interior design. Hostels aren’t really about form, so much as function.
Pro: Strict security
While you have little privacy in terms of not having to share a room with strangers—although you can always request a room change if you feel uncomfortable—one advantage hostels have over many hotels is that they have very strict security when it comes to anyone not staying there. That means you won’t have to worry about someone following you to your hostel or sneaking in after hours. And if you’re nervous about losing your valuables, most allow you to keep your belongings in a safe.
Con: Strict curfew
A safer environment often comes with a price, and here that means less freedom. Many hostels, although not all of them, enact strict curfews on their lodgers. It doesn’t matter that you’re the one paying to stay there; just like your dad used to say whenever you touched the thermostat, it’s their house and that means their rules. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself locked out after returning too late.