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Things to Consider when Staying in Hostels

Updated on June 19, 2011

Hostels are a popular choice of accommodation among adventurous travellers, backpackers and those who are travelling on a basic budget. When you are staying in a hostel you get the basics of a bed, a bathroom and a kitchen for a relatively low price.

In this article I'll discuss some commonly held beliefs about staying in hostels and I'll hopefully make you reconsider some choices that seemed straightforward. Should you sleep on the top bunk or the bottom bunk? Should you use shared facilities or ensuite facilities? If you haven't travelled much in hostels before, you may have some answers in your head already.

Keep your answers in mind, read this article and see if you still agree after that!

 

Base Christchurch, New Zealand
Base Christchurch, New Zealand | Source

Top bunk versus bottom bunk

Do you wish to sleep in the top bunk or the bottom bunk of a bunk bed? Without giving the question any thought, most people seem to prefer the bottom bunk. This is easier to get into and you don't have to climb up and down all the time. Why would anyone ever want to sleep in that top bunk?

Well, there can be good reasons to do that. It depends on your roommates whether the top bunk is the better choice for you. If your roommates are often out to party and they come back rather drunk then the bottom bunk is a lot easier for them to get into. You really don't want to have a drunk guy trying to climb onto your bed in the middle of the night.

Another reason is that nobody will sit on your bed or make a mess of it. Girls cite this reason more often than guys but it is true: your bed will stay tidy (or at least as when you left it) and people won't sit on it when they want to read a book or hang out in the room.

But what about the climbing? I don't want to climb all the time! Yes, that can be a problem because not all top bunks are easy to climb into and they can be even more difficult to get out! In one occasion I had to pretty much jump on the pile of clothes and stuff from the guy underneath me because I had no other place to go. The bunk bed was located in a corner and that was the only way out.

There is no clear-cut advice but please don't assume, as many do, that the bottom bed is always the better choice. Evaluate the situation when you get into the room, check how hard it is to get in and out of the top bunk and then decide.

Top bunk instead of bottom bunk

  • Pro: Better place to be when your drunk roommates get back.
  • Pro: Others will not make a mess of your bed.
  • Con: Have to climb in and out of the bed all the time, which can be difficult.

Ensuite versus shared facilities

The price of your room in a hostel often depends on the decision that you make for either ensuite or shared facilities. With shared facilities you share the facilities with at least several other rooms, sometimes all the rooms on the same floor. With ensuite facilities your room has its own bathroom with sink, toilet, and a shower. Rooms with ensuite facilities cost a little more per night.

It seems nice to have your own bathroom for your room. You will only be sharing it with a few other people and it is conveniently close. No need to walk across the hallway to brush your teeth or to take a shower. Those are good reasons in favor of ensuite facilities but there are also some downsides.

If you don't like your toilet or shower, you are pretty much stuck with it. If the shower is not as clean as you'd like or your roommates keep making a mess of it, then you are out of luck. Or if anything is a bit broken then you might want use one of the properly functioning shared facilities.

Ensuite facilities are regularly cleaned but in practise that is always after you want to use the bathroom. With shared facilities you can at least walk to the next shower and use that one. You have paid money for ensuite facilities but now you might end up using the shared facilities anyway.

Also, the ensuite facilities are usually needed by everyone at around the same time. In particular in the morning this can be a problem when everyone has planned the same activity for that day. It is the same story in the evening when most want to go to bed. People go to bed at different times so this is less of a problem. But the reality is that the bathroom is usually used by one person at a time. And that means you have to wait. Your ensuite facilities are now unavailable facilities. But down the hallway are those shared facilities which are available... you see my point?

Shared facilities instead of ensuite facilities

  • Pro: You can usually pick another shower if you don't like one.
  • Pro: Greater availability at peak times, such as in the morning.
  • Pro: Cheaper room price.
  • Con: You are sharing these facilities with loads of others who may care less about hygiene than you do.

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What was your experience when staying in hostels?

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    • simeonvisser profile imageAUTHOR

      simeonvisser 

      7 years ago

      Yes, you are very right in adding those points. For example, the Westend Backpackers hostel in Sydney is really a party hostel with daily announcements to visit bars. It can also vary from room to room. I happened to end up in room 111 in Nomads Melbourne and that was really a 'party room' with music on at night and sensual endeavours if you see what I mean.

      Whether a kitchen is good is something you should either check online or listen to the word that goes around among fellow travellers. Some kitchen are really big and well-equiped but many are either too small or lack the equipment that you would like.

      Staying in hostels is cheap and they are usually at a decent location but they also attract a certain type of people and you may not be at that end of the 'party scale' so to speak.

    • tomsum profile image

      tomsum 

      7 years ago from Australia

      Some good points. Other things I used to consider in hostels when I was backpacking was:

      - Were there full shared kitchen facilities (oven, stove top etc).

      - Some hostels are often known to be 'party' hostels in peak season, you may or may not be looking for this, so certainly something to keep in mind before booking in!

      - Location (for obvious reasons)

    • simeonvisser profile imageAUTHOR

      simeonvisser 

      7 years ago

      @livelonger: Thanks for that, I hadn't thought of that because personally I'm not too bothered by that. But it can indeed be an issue! At the bottom bunk you are not very likely to have a room light shining in your eyes.

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Great list. I no longer stay at hostels - one of the benefits of getting older, I suppose - but a con of having the top bunk is you're often closer to the ceiling light, so you should make sure you have a light-blocking eye mask if that'll be a problem.

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