Embrace the Simplicity

When traveling to another state or country, travelers feel a little uneasy when contemplating a hostel as potential accommodations. Many seem unable to detach it from the 2005 Blockbuster film of the same title. The sadistic torturing of travelers in dingy hostels seems to hold some ring of truth for those mislead. Although theatrically entertaining, the fictional image of hostels cannot be more wrong. In fact, these budget-friendly hostels have become widely popular throughout the world not only with backpackers, but also college students and families.

Hostels first originated in Germany around 1909, when German school teacher Richard Schirrmann and his pupils were caught in a thunderstorm during a school trip. They were forced to find accommodations at an empty school. There, Schirrmann got the idea of using empty schools during the holidays to house young travelers in the countryside. His idea caught popularity, and by the 1930s there were more than a thousand hostels in Germany. Soon the hostel movement spread around the globe. In 1932, the International Youth Hostel Federation, or now known as Hostelling International, was founded.

Hostels, like hotels, require planning in advance, especially for those trying out hostels for the first time. Here are some suggestions and tips for ensuring that your hostel experience is fun and secure.

An excellent Web site to do some hostel searching online is Hostel.com. This site gives you the opportunity to look through thousands of hostels and other sources of cheap accomodation. All you have to do is input the country, city, number of guests and the date you’ll arrive on, and it will give you results. Choosing a hostel can be a bit overwhelming since there seems to be different kinds of hostels with various focuses. Depending on the individual, some will pick a place on the basis of high ratings or others for the amenities provided. However, one important tip is to look closely at reviews for each of the hostels you’re considering. Reviews from others who’ve actually stayed at the hostel are helpful in finding out beforehand how and what to expect. Overwhelming bad reviews are usually not exaggerated, so avoid those sketchy hostels.

One thing to consider for those first-timers is that hostels are like dormitories, which on average will lodge four to 12 people in the same room. If you’re comfortable sharing rooms with others, take the opportunity to meet new people from different states and countries. However, if you prefer to fly solo or with just a group of four then there are private rooms available. Also, check beforehand if your hostel offers any amenities included in the price, such as free breakfast, fresh linens or free Web access. Many hostels host social dinners and bar-hopping events, which allow its boarders to get to know one another and establish a nice network.

There’s the saying that you get what you pay for. This seems right in the alley with hostels. If you’re expecting five-star luxuries, you’re going to be disappointed. One of the things that make hostels so cheap is that they stick to simplicity. However, you should get the most of your hostel experience. You can do this by making sure that your hostel is located near popular sites or within walking distance of public transportation. Also, if you’re planning to share a room with other individuals, you might want to check to see if your hostel offers lockers so that you can store any valuables, thereby providing some ease at not having to worry about losing your passport.

Last but not least, make the best of your vacation. Just do a little research beforehand; it will help ensure that you won’t be another traveler having to write a bad review. So grab your duffle bag or suitcase and embrace the simplicity without having to take a big hit on your wallet.