This post is from official student blogger, Leah Sharaby. Leah is a Junior Linguistics Major and Spanish Minor studying in Seville, Spain from Western Washington University.
For many, studying abroad is not only a great opportunity to experience their host city and country, but also to explore other countries and cities! One of the biggest debates I’ve encountered is that of whether to stay in a hostel, Airbnb, or hotel. There are definitely times and reasons why you should choose one over the other, but generally speaking I would say hostels all the way!
I think people definitely have different ideas of what a hostel is like — 12 bunk beds in a room, no privacy, lots of noise . . . Of course, all of these things can happen, but they’re also all avoidable. In the past six months I have stayed at at least nine different hostels, and have nothing but good things to say. The biggest benefits to staying in a hostel are definitely the social aspects, and the low cost. All good hostels offer pub crawls, walking tours, and other kinds of events that are great for meeting people from all over the world, as well as exploring the city you’re visiting. Some of the best experiences I’ve had while traveling have been at hostels and directly because of hostels, and I’m still in touch with a lot of the friends that I’ve made through such events. That being said, the most important things to consider when choosing a hostel are, by far:
- Location: Usually, hostels are only found in close proximity to common tourist attractions, but sometimes (especially in bigger cities) hostels are on the outskirts, so a good thing to do is search hostels by location, and look at a map.
- Cost: A good test is to compare the cost of hotels/Airbnbs/hostels, and I guarantee that a hostel is your cheapest option. If it’s not, then by all means stay in a hotel or an Airbnb. Most, if not all, of my hostels have cost less than $25/night.
- Reviews: Read the reviews. I cannot stress this enough. Hostelworld is the best website I’ve found for finding and booking hostels, and there are usually tons of reviews on there. The average ratings are also super accurate because they only average the ratings from reviews in the past 12 months. My hostel in Venice said that they had wifi on the hostel page, but upon reading the reviews I discovered that they actually only had wifi in the lobby and common areas — this wasn’t a major issue for me, but for some people it would be. Read the reviews!
- Breakfast: A lot of hostels include breakfast, and this is a great way to save money on a trip — if the breakfast they offer is actually passable as breakfast. Read the reviews! Some hostels also have kitchens, which means you can make your own breakfast.
- Room type: Most hostels offer “dorm-style” rooms as well as private rooms. Dorm-style rooms can have anywhere from four to twelve or even more bunk beds in a room, and can be mixed gender or female only. Dorms can be super fun — in Vienna, we shared a room with a girl who came to dinner with us and had a great time. In Rome I slept in a six person dorm, and met some super fun girls from the States and from the UK. When traveling alone I have stayed in single private rooms as well, but the level of socialization is a lot different — I think traveling alone is actually when you should choose to sleep in a dorm. It’s the best way to meet people. When I went to Amsterdam with six of my API friends, we stayed in a six-person dorm room together, something you definitely wouldn’t be able to do in a hotel! Some hostels also offer apartment-style accommodation, with rooms coming off of shared common spaces. I met some great people in my “apartment” in Venice who I got to go to dinner with, which was great since I was traveling alone! At Oktoberfest, various hostels provided camping options, and we went into the festival every day with other people from our campground. On Hostelworld you can filter hostels by room type, a function I definitely like to use.
- Security: This goes back to reading the reviews, but also the description provided by the hostel. I would always choose hostels that offer lockers, unless you’re planning on staying in a private room. The best hostels also provide keys for the lockers, sometimes in form of actual keys (like my hostel in Rome) and sometimes in form of plastic room keys that also double as locker keys (like at Wombats in Budapest and Vienna). Every hostel I’ve ever stayed at has a great overall security system. Oftentimes you need to use your key to even access the part of the hostel where the rooms are located or even the hostel itself!
Wherever you stay, the important thing is having a good time! If you’re planning on traveling during your time abroad, I recommend doing a mix of accommodations, and that way you can figure out what you like best for yourself. And of course, don’t forget to fill out your Student Travel Notification Form, so API knows where you’re staying during your travels.