By a Newly Converted Hostel-phobe
There are many misconceptions about the hostel way of travelling, and I don’t think the horror film ‘Hostel’ has helped with the stereotype either. A lot of people are worried about being robbed or sleeping on a dirty mattress or being abducted and tortured - yeah, I need to stop watching that film - and you’re not alone. Until a few months ago, I too was a hostel-phobe, but now I have been converted!
Over the past few years I’ve started travelling independently - this means away from the bank of Mum and Dad - and I’ve always looked for the cheapest hotel, or the option to stay with a friend and even went camping when I travelled through America. I pretty much chose everything but a hostel. Although, when I travelled to New York with my older sister I did flirt with the idea, but she wasn’t having it. And her being the older one meant I had no option but to pay triple for a hotel in Queens, over a hostel in Manhattan - sigh, little sister problems. However, a few months ago I broke tradition and stayed in my very first hostel, and it wasn’t just any hostel, it was in fact a YMCA, which has got just as bad stigma, if not worse.
The reason for my decision to stay in a hostel during a trip to Germany was more due to last minute plans and University-induced frugality than choice, so I was a bit apprehensive about the whole thing. After my friends and I jumped off the train from Bremen to Wilhelmshaven we started our ‘quick’ walk towards the hostel.
Now, this is where something strange occurred - the walk to the hostel from the town centre seemed like it took forever, so much so that we asked for directions three times - however the next few voyages to and from the hostel over the weekend seemed a lot shorter. Maybe dragging a suitcase and having a broken toe didn’t help - never accidentally ninja kick your bedroom drawers before a flight. We finally arrived though, but then walked past it, and despite my insistence that the shabby looking place was the hostel, we walked past it again. I don’t know what my friends were expecting, but when it came to hostelling I was prepared for the worst. They apparently weren’t.
First impressions of the hostel
We finally made our way into the foyer and were pleasantly surprised. Despite the depressing exterior, the inside was very nice. Nothing fancy, but still pleasant. After filling in a few bits of paperwork, we were taken to our room which was labelled ‘Savannah’. All the rooms were named after African countries which didn’t make a lot of sense but it was more interesting than numbers.
The room was pretty basic but it had everything we needed: two bunk beds, a table and a good-sized wardrobe. The only annoying thing was that we had to pay a bit extra for bedding but we had good fun seeing who could put the bed sheets on the quickest. The other issue was that they did have a few rips in them, but I guess we were only paying €70 for three nights so we shrugged it off. Other than that, the room was big enough and even though the beds weren’t Egyptian cotton marshmallows, I had three good nights of sleep.
Hostel toilets and showers
At this point there wasn’t much difference from staying in a hotel, just fewer frills. A new experience, however, was going out of the room to use the loo and have a shower, but turns out we were the only people there! So as the boy’s toilets were closer, my fellow female friend and I just nipped in those ones most of the time.
Eating at hostels
One other great thing, which we weren’t aware of, was that breakfast was included in the price! It was actually quite an impressive spread. The lady was even nice enough to leave it out a bit longer for us if we were having a lie in.
There was a very large kitchen, which we didn’t use as there was no point buying food for four days, but the glasses came in handy for sharing a bottle of Jagermeister, which led to a delicate morning in the common room the day after. The common room had a pool table, a TV, and a foosball table. This was something easy and free to do as we recovered our heads and wallets from our Germany nightlife adventure.
My first hostel experience
All in all, I absolutely loved the laidback aspect of the hostel. As we appeared to be the only people at the hostel we could be as loud as we wanted, which was great when we threw ourselves a mini pre-drinks party in the room. This was great for saving more money as we didn’t have to go out for drinks before we hit the clubs.
I was a bit conscious about my belongings being stolen, and turned into my mother every time someone forgot to lock the room. After a while though, I did relax a bit more and became a little less vigilant as I realised that hostels weren’t anywhere near as dodgy as I thought they could be.
I really think I learned a lot about hostels during my four days in Germany, and I’ve decided hostelling is definitely the way forward, especially if you’re on a budget. We paid what would be a nights worth in a hotel for the entire weekend, and that included breakfast!
We also managed to have a great, stress-free time as there were no strict rules, curfews or tidying up frantically for cleaners. I’m definitely coming around to the way of hostels, and even when I get a well paid job – I hope – I think hostels will still be the first place that I turn to. As luxurious as some hotels can be, it doesn’t make up for the social aspect of hostelling, and even now some hostels are starting to look more modern and are a lot safer, so why pay more for less?