Budget Travel: Are Hostels for You?

In 2003, I had my first real vacation. I had gone on vacation with my family, and I had gone on road trips, and taken Spring Break Trips in the past. I had even gone on tour with a band for nine months, but I had never gone on vacation alone.

I had always wanted to go to San Francisco, and it was the first location that came to mind. I went online and started researching flights and accommodations. First, I found a really reasonable flight. Then I started looking at hotels. I knew going the traditional hotel route would be expensive, but I still had sticker shock. I didn’t have a massive budget. I had only been at my current job for a few months, and I was just starting out on my own. I didn’t have a huge cache of money to spend. Even the budget hotels were looking a little steep to me.

I kept looking for cheap alternatives. Somewhere in my search, I found a link for a hostelling web site. The site had a search engine for the hostels in each city. I put in San Francisco, and it brought back quite a few results. I looked at each of the hostels. I even called a few of them to verify their rates and their locations. After sifting through them all I found one I really liked. I chose the Adelaide Hostel in downtown San Francisco. Adelaide Hostel is a smaller privately owned hostel. I chose to go that route over the larger Hostelling International (HI) locations through out the city. HI had higher prices and they seemed less personal. The location was perfect. It was near Union Square, and it was close to major bus lines. Not to mention, it was only a short walk to Chinatown. Plus the price was right at only $20 a night.

I booked my flight, and I made my reservations. Still I was nervous. I had read up on hostels, and read reviews. Still I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. Even as I arrived, I still had my doubts. What is this place was a nightmare?? What if it was so run down and bug infested that I can’t stand it? All my fears were swept away within minutes.

Adelaide Hostel is a European style hostel. It has private rooms and many dorm style rooms. Each floor has a toilet and a shower room. There is a kitchen with two fridges and a stove for the guests to use. They have a lounge area with satellite TV, and they even have free internet access.

From the moment I arrived, the staff was very helpful. They had suggestions on places to go. If I had a question about bus routes, or if I wanted to know about certain neighborhoods, they were always ready to help.

The hostelling experience itself was amazing. I was traveling alone, and I met many new friends. I had roommates from Australia, Brazil, Great Brittan and Germany. There were many other people from several other countries staying there as well. My roommates and I would go to dinner. We would go shopping, or see other attractions together. Other people staying at the hostel had valuable advice.

Staying at the hostel helped me stay on budget. The price per night was great, but there were also many other perks. The hostel served a continental breakfast every morning. There was a kitchen we could use. I could go to the corner store and buy groceries to store on site, and then I could fix them in the microwave or stove. If I did go out to eat, I could store my leftovers and heat them up later. Like I said before they had free internet access. If I had to pay for access at an internet caf�©, those costs would have added up. Since hostels are for the more budget minded, they tend to be more aware of cheaper things to do. They had brochures and coupons available for their guests to use.

There were a few things I had to get used to. When you stay in a hostel, you share a bathroom with other people. At Adelaide Hostel, you share your shower room with a whole floor of people. I am a self conscious American girl. I was going to wait in the shower line fully clothed (or at least in my pajamas) and remerging from the room fully clothed. Others were not so modest. There would be people clad only in towels wandering the halls. On day one, I was shocked. By day five, it didn’t phase me.

Another thing I had to adjust to with hostels, was the dorm room feel. Unless you go for a private room, you will have at least on roommate at a hostel. These people may change every night of your stay, or you may get a chance to actually get to know them. Just like with any roommates, there will be some friction. Some people will want to go to bed early. Others will want to stay out late and stumble in the door at late hours. Some people will want to get out early and see as much of the city as they can. Others will want to sleep in. The modesty issue comes into play again. People like me will change in the privacy of the wash room. Others will strip down in front of everyone. You just have to be ready for any situation.

Hostelling can be very beneficial. It is cheaper than the traditional hotel. You can meet lots of different people. However, it isn’t for everyone. I did the hostel thing for another year or so. I have stayed in quite a few, but now I am to the point where I prefer a hotel. I’m not saying I would never stay in one again. It is always an option. I look back fondly at my hostelling days. I loved having the opportunity to travel, without the burden of hotel costs. Is hostelling for you? Only you can be the judge. You don’t have to be a backpacker, or even a young person. Hostels are perfect for the budget minded at any age.

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