In May, I had the amazing opportunity to backpack all around Europe for a month and a half. Being a budget traveler, my boyfriend and I looked into hostels to stay most of our time. However, with this was my first time out of the country and me being someone who is not comfortable sleeping next to strangers, I was really nervous about staying in hostels! As for anyone but especially as a a female, traveling and staying in places where you don’t know can be really frightening. I was certain I would have at least one horrible hostel experience, but this was not the case!
A little background information about myself: I am someone who loves to be alone and doesn’t need company everyday. I can be to myself at times and private. If someone starts a conversation we me, I will gladly talk to them and want to get to know them! I am a very light sleeper, I have a hard time sleeping with lights and noises, so sleeping next to people has always been hard for me. However, I am not high maintenance at all and will try just about anything at least once.
I am going to break my experience down into 5 sections: Location, Roommates, Bedroom, Bathroom, and Accommodations.
I would break my locations down into 2 categories: Tourist center and city outskirts. The hostels located in the tourist center were great because you didn’t have to walk far to see amazing sights and have a lot of activities to do. However, it was much more expensive in these areas, especially the restaurants! Definitely take the time to walk 10-15 minutes outside the tourist center to find food for half the price! The atmosphere was lively and busy, there was always something to do. However, it was crowded nearly every street you went! If I had the chance to stay at a hostel in a tourist center again, I for sure would!
As for the hostels located on the city outskirts, we only had one bad experience in Barcelona. At certain times in the day (anytime from 10pm-8am) I did not feel safe walking the streets near my hostel. There were many people yelling and getting into fights at night and people coming up to you asking for money. These people would get very close to you and most would even touch on you. They looked potentially homeless or like they were in a hard place at the time. This made me uncomfortable, but this only lasted during those hours of the day. If you walked around in the afternoon, the streets were crowded and lively and everything felt normal and safe.
The rest of the hostels we had located in city outskirts were completely fine and it ended up being the location that I preferred! It was less loud at night and you could walk around the neighborhoods without having to push through crowds or get annoyed by people trying to sell you things. It was also much cheaper, especially the restaurants and grocery stores. My favorite part about being in the outskirts is you can explore that area that many tourist get to see. For the most part, they still had activities you could do, bars you could drink at, and many delicious family owned restaurants you could enjoy. I never felt unsafe at these outskirt hostels!
The first impression of our roommates were sadly the worst hostel experience we had people wise. It did not do the rest of the hostels justice though. Our first roommates and other people staying in the hostel were not talkative at all and kept to themselves; sometimes even gave us dirty looks. It made me feel a little uncomfortable but it didn’t make me feel like they would harm me. However, the rest of the roommates we had in other hostels were great! Many would introduce themselves, keep a conversation going, and want to get to know you more. At a hostel we stayed at in Italy (which was the best hostel experience I had and will be doing a review on it soon. The hostel was called the Ring Hostel, on a little island in Italy called Ischia.) we were greeted by an amazing staff who offered free alcoholic beverages and home cooked meals on the roof top! After only ten minutes of mingling with the other stayers, they invited us to drink wine in the hot springs with them! We of course took the chance and had a great time and made new friends. This was the coolest experience we had, I definitely would not say many people want to go to the extreme to let you join them on their adventures, but if you feel it is safe then say yes! As many people won’t go to that extreme, I would say most people do want to get to know you and listen to your stories about traveling. We had many amazing conversations with people, waaaay more than we had unfriendly conversations. Hardly anyone will not want to speak with you or be rude to you. Overall, the people that stayed with us made hostels worth staying in and made our experience great!
Overall, you get what you pay for. The rooms were nothing special, but never dirty or unsafe. We usually stayed in rooms with anywhere from 6-15 people in them. Most of the rooms were bunk beds. The beds were clean and most were pretty comfortable. However, every pillow we had at a hostel was super flat! There was usually outlets in your bunk to charge your phone. All of the rooms had windows that stayed open to get fresh air and keep the room cooler. Since we did leave the windows open, it did get noisy at night when people were partying on the streets. This made it harder to sleep for me but it wasn’t impossible to fall asleep.
Some of the hostels we stayed at had actually beds instead of bunks, which was really nice. These rooms always had less people in them. At one hostel we only had one other roommate (who was really sweet) and the other we were completely alone in! Overall. I liked these rooms more because they had more space and less people to worry about waking up in the middle of the night if you had to go to the bathroom. Overall, I enjoyed our rooms and never had any real problems with them. That had all of the essentials that we needed. I never felt unsafe or uncomfortable with any of the roommates we had!
Bathrooms were the biggest problem that I had with about half of the hostels. The toilets were fine and the bathroom was decently clean in them all, but the showers made me very uncomfortable. About half of the hostels that we stayed in had tiny showers that just had a thin curtain in front of it. The curtains never closed fully and would move around most of the time from the windows open in the bathroom and the pressure of your shower water. In most cases, it was impossible to keep your clothes in the shower with you without them getting soaked and the clothing rack was too far away from the showers so you basically had to walk out naked. I’m not someone who is comfortable naked in front of strangers, so this was a no go for me. Also, it’s very easy for anyone to come in on you if they wanted to.
However, some of the hostels did have showers with a door that closed and locked behind you. Some even had shower rooms that had one private shower which was awesome. In these cases either the stall was big enough to hang your clothes and get dressed in there, or the clothing rack was close enough to where you didn’t have to walk out naked. I felt completely comfortable and safe in these. When I know better next time, I’ll definitely look to see what showers they have and even pay a few extra dollars for the ones with locking showers.
As for the free breakfast, lockers, and wifi, I never had any complaints. The free breakfast was nothing special but it was trustworthy food to fill your stomach. Most places offered bread, jelly, fruit, cereal, yogurt, juices, and coffee. Every room had a locker that was safe to use and no way you could break into it. The lockers were usually pretty big and we never had trouble fitting both our of bags in them. As for the wifi, I had trouble picking up in most of the hostels but my boyfriend hardly had trouble. I’m not sure what the reason was. I would say overall, the wifi works pretty well but don’t depend on it! You may not always pick up a signal.
Staying in hostels was honestly the complete opposite of what I thought it would be. I imagined it to be crowded, dirty, and unsafe. I imagined the people to either be rude or party animals who always kept you up. Luckily, my experience was the exact opposite of what I thought. You had your space, your space was clean, and you didn’t feel unwelcome. People were mostly on the same page as me. They were friendly and wanted to talk, but also wanted to do their own thing. My roommates wanted to go to bed before midnight so they could wake up and begin their journey again. I hardly ever felt unsafe my time in Hostels and in Europe in general. I would stay at every hostel again if I had the chance. I am a person who thinks like a mom and is always dreaming of scenarios in my head of things that could go wrong, but for the most part I felt very safe and at ease, which says a lot. If you have a chance to travel the world, STAY IN A HOSTEL! You’ll feel safe and even make a few new friends.
Safe travels everyone, adventure awaits!