(why I book hostels instead of hotels when I travel)
Many people are hesitant to stay in a hostel. Fears of getting their passport stolen or waking up to a bug infestation only increase their avoidance. The first time I booked a hostel, I too was afraid of what could happen. Now years later, I have stayed in eight different hostels on three different continents. I actually preferred my stays at hostels more than my nights at the Waldorf Astoria (New York City), my hotel situated beside Kensington Palace (London), and the extravagant castle-like hotels in Switzerland.
There are three main reasons that hostels are better than hotels:
The price alone makes hostels a very attractive option. Travel can be expensive and paying $100-200 a night for a room that you only sleep in seems a bit silly to me. I would rather pay $25 a night for a bed and spend the rest of that money on local attractions and souvenirs.
2. Meet More People
Staying at a hostel is a great way to meet other travelers. While staying in a hotel most people will sit in the hotel lobby or have breakfast in a big sitting area. It is very unlikely that you would sit at the same table or share the same couch as someone else. In hostels, the “lobby” is usually more of a living room or smaller kitchen where you are forced to share the same table for breakfast. This creates conversation. Some of my favorite memories are of the people I have met at hostels. In my last hostel, I met a very nice family from New Zealand. After trading stories for quite some time, we exchanged e-mails and if I ever go to New Zealand I now have a free place to stay. This type of thing does not happen in hotels.
3. Get the local flavor
The best thing about staying in a hostel is getting a taste of the local culture. Hotels require their staff to follow strict guidelines on guest interactions. Often times the staff is even from another country so you never get any real cultural interaction. When you stay at a hostel, it is with someone who is from that area. In my experience hostel owners are very people-oriented and experiencing such kindness from a local dramatically increases the warmth and positivity of your overall experience. You could spend a whole day touring a city, but if you do not have any real interactions with a local who is not a tour guide, than you did not experienced the country fully.
Staying at a hostel might sound scary at first, but I highly recommend it. The last trip I took was with my dad and I had pre-booked hostels only. My dad is used to travelling first class business style everywhere. I was nervous how he would react. At the end he said, “If this is what staying in a hostel is like; I will always stay in one from now on.” So my recommendation is to step outside of your comfort zone, and try it just once. What is the worst that could happen?