Hostels, in my experience

I’ve been keeping a diary out here, in the brush, to document my time away so I can look back and remember all the good times on those long, rainy days in Brittania.

However, increasingly I’ve noticed I haven’t really been writing about the spectacular places and experiences, but instead about the people and the relationships I’ve made along the way.

The reality is, you’re not going to meet too many locals who aren’t your tour guides and taxi drivers. How many foreign exchange students have we hung out with in Eastbourne after all?

This makes your accommodation the most vital point of communication. Like a western hub, or an oasis nestled in an unfamiliar land.

The trouble is, sometimes the hostel BECOMES the experience, and you may as well be back at home dossing around with your own kind.

And that’s OK for some people. Like Uni, it’s a nice escape from real life, to hang around with people your own age. To drink and party.

Like Uni there’s that danger you’ll lose the purpose for being there in the first place.

It really depends on the hostel you choose to stay at. And we’ve made plenty of bad decisions choosing hostels. And you only realise when you get there if they are:

  • Poorly located
  • (Have) The wrong atmosphere
  • Not facilitated with the things you need

It’s never as black and white as that though. We’ve just spent 2 nights in a completely dead hostel out of town. A month ago I would’ve cut the stay short, but we’ve actually enjoyed having no one to talk to but ourselves.

What I’m trying to say is, you’ve got to pick the hostel according to your mood.

I don’t normally opt in for the party vibe, but we’ve met some of the loveliest people through party hostels.

And when you’re actually out here, it’s so easy to pick up recommendations for your next stop.

Obviously take these with a pinch of salt — what’s good for the recommendee won’t always match your idea of a good time.

Becca described her McDonalds the other day as the best thing in the world.

I turned my generously sized nose up at her, because I have higher standards than that.

Genuinely though, word of mouth saves a lot of time and stress choosing a hostel.

However, if you don’t have the luxury of social skills, or you haven’t started your travel yet. Here are some general hostel types to look out for.

1. The partay hostel

Wondering where all the other Brits are? They’ll be combatting Aussie’s and Kiwi’s at drinking challenges.

Expect tank tops, dorm sex and hangovers. And by dorm sex, I mean putting earphones in to mute the sound of other people’s bad decisions.

Also expect friendly, down to earth people. Sure everyone’s going to get drunk, but making friends is on everyone’s agenda here.

2. The hotel

Polar opposite of the party hostel. These aren’t hotels, but they’re trying hard to be just as sterile and emotionless as the real thing.

Expect good facilities, polite staff, and lots of Chinese groups who won’t acknowledge you, ever.

3. The Offseason

The pictures on hostelworld showed people chatting amiably, but for some reason or other there’s not a soul around.

Shouldn’t have turned your nose up at that recommendation…

Great for sleeping, but not much else.

4. The family hostel

Often smaller, sometimes empty. But you can guarantee you’ll have a good time here.

The staff don’t just work there. This is their lives and they’re offering to share that with you.

If you’re looking for friends to daytrip with and explore, the friendly atmosphere is perfect for bringing likeminded travellers together. Check out The Living Place 1, Chiang Mai and give Ari a hug for us.

5. The franchise hostel

There’s no illusion of family here. There’s marketing tropes everywhere and maps showcasing their other exciting hostels.

Regardless of locale, you’ll have the same experience at every branch.

However, I’m not denying they know how to run a reliable hostel.

Go here if you don’t want any surprises!

6. The high hostels

Very, very chilled.

Too chilled actually. Life seemingly moves in slow motion here. The guests stay for weeks and rarely move from their bongs.

Look out for idyllic locations, hammocks and dream catchers.

One upside though. These hostels more often than not have the best dog game.

That’s how Becca decides on her favourite hostels.

No doubt there’s plenty more hostel types I’ve missed out. Maybe some time I’ll tell stories about the hostels I’ve stayed in and the people I’ve met who’ve made traveling such a joy.

Gotta be careful though. I’ve added most of them on Facebook. Wouldn’t want them to get big headed or anything.


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