As a travel journalist I spend more time in five star hotels like many film star or bank managers. Someone else pays for that. Or the hotel offers the room for free – in exchange for some publicity. That is of course very nice, but also a little ironic. Because with the money I earn with this ‘dream job’, I will not be able to afford a five-star holiday myself. That also means that if I do a job without such sponsorship – and that happens regularly – I usually book a bed in a hostel. That costs me somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of the price of a ‘good’ hotel, and that difference taps quickly. So I often ended up in a dormitory directly from a sparkling suite.
Quite a transition, but is it bad? Not at all. The circumstances of my occasional somewhat bizarre existence between five and zero-star accommodation have given me the opportunity to see the pros and cons of both sides of the spectrum. People in hostels can often only dream of a five-star hotel, while people in five-star hotels will rarely wonder what can be fun at a hostel. Therefore, here are five reasons why, in my opinion, hostels can even be a better option – especially if you are traveling alone.
1.You make new friends quickly
No matter how beautiful the designer furniture in your five-star suite is, how delicious the breakfast is, how attentive the service is: if you travel alone you will sooner or later need a bit of human contact. In a hostel everything is focused on making friends quickly: you often share a room (although private rooms are usually also an option), and there is a social atmosphere in which everyone talks to each other in communal areas and kitchens. An appointment to have something to eat together or a day trip is usually made very quickly – you are not the only one who is in need of some company. Put that in front of a lonely stay in a restaurant between tables with loving couples – and the choice is made quickly as far as I’m concerned.
2.You are right in the middle of society
Five-star hotels are often designed to keep everyone as far away from everyday life as possible. You may wonder how long a stay in a safe bell of comfort and luxury must last before it becomes a golden cage. Why are you actually traveling? To experience the same as at home, or at least the same as in five-star hotels around the world?. But if you’re just a bit adventurous, or if your goal is to get some of a country and feel what it’s like to be part of daily life, then you would better select the hostel. Hostels are usually not part of a chain; more often they are run by a family, or there are a group of young people who are willing to offer you a look into their lives. You can use the kitchen, where you can get started with the ingredients from the local supermarket or from the local market. The staff is not constantly anxious to ensure that you do not stumble across a threshold, and you explain just as easily how you get to public transport, as by taxi.
3.Accommodation is (at least) ten times cheaper
This is, of course, an open door. But think about what it means. Accommodation is often the biggest cost of a holiday. If you have more time than money, you can go ten times as far with a stay in a hostel. That is ten times as many days on the beach. Ten times as much time to be able to run from one attraction to the other in a hurry, but also just sit down with a book on a couch or go to sleep. Ten times as much time to let chance happen: spontaneous encounters or finds are often the most memorable moments of a trip. And if you do not need that extra time, you save a box of money that you can spend on better restaurants or extra activities such as dance and language lessons, bungee jumps or helicopter flights – or just a bunch of cocktails.
4.One does not do money-making
In a hostel, extra facilities are cheap or free. Many five-star hotel, on the other hand, raises money to art: 20 euros for a day on the internet or 2 euros for washing one pair of socks are no exception. A mysterious supplement often rests on taxis that are brought in, and then there are all staff who keep their hands everywhere. Internet is always free in a hostel. There are facilities to do the laundry yourself, and if you want to do it yourself, there is often a launderette around the corner that it does for a grab penny, and you often have to bring it.
5.You have less hassle with internet
Admittedly, this depends very much on the country and the city where you travel. But my experience is that many five-star hotels have an extremely lousy Wi-Fi connection – which you often still have to pay for. Often the biggest problem is an impossible login system that is controlled by a third party, which regularly causes problems that take hours before they are resolved. Hostels often do not have the fastest connection, but problems are solved quickly because the modem is close and there is no need to wait for a system administrator who only knows how everything works. Moreover, hostels are usually frequented by a younger audience that simply does not accept a non-working Wi-Fi connection.