Kristel Rennai is a passionate, spirited freelance writer with endless wanderlust and a social conscience who laughs loudly and often inappropriately. Lead singer of Adelaide band, The Vibes www.facebook.com/thevibesacoustic
Published November 4th 2015
When traveling overseas, I am of the firm opinion that staying in a hostel is the best way to meet other like minded travellers and discover the best hidden gems a location has to offer. Sadly, I think those who don't stay in hostels are missing out on some amazing experiences.
I have stayed in many hostels across the USA and Europe and have always had an absolute blast. On one of my trips to America I even ended up living and working in USA Hostels San Diego , a place where I made some of my best travel friends.
Just one example of an experience I wouldn't have had if I hadn't been in a hostel was in San Francisco whilst staying at The Green Tortoise. We were told about a special event that was happening at 5am the following morning to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the great 1906 earthquake and fires which we never would have known about had we just been obliviously holed up in a hotel. It was a spine tingling moment as hundreds of us made our way in the early hours of the morning to the service and stood in pitch darkness as the sirens rang out in remembrance. Such a historic moment and I still remember it vividly and am so glad we were chatting with the other hostel patrons who were in the know.
I also think that if you want to spend your days lazing by a swimming pool, you might as well just book into your local hotel. Why waste your money on traveling if you don't really want to experience or see anything of the local culture.
And let's be honest, we've all stayed in some pretty average hotels. I can say whole heartedly that some of the hostels I stayed in were far nicer than the hotels that cost me more. I stayed in one hotel in the USA, somewhere in Atlanta, that was straight out of a horror movie. Stains on the walls, broken taps and a sizeable cockroach infestation were all included for the price... yay!
The hostel concept originated in Germany in 1909 when a teacher had the idea of using schools empty due to holidays as inexpensive accommodation for young people and across Europe, the standard of hostels is incredibly high. My hostel in the Czech Republic was PLUS Prague which boasted a swimming pool/sauna, a fitness centre and an opera bar and restaurant... not bad for a bed in a twin share room with a private bathroom at $28 AUD a night!
Another cool thing about hostels is the different forms they inhabit. There are hostels in jails eg. London's Clink, an old converted jumbo jet in Stockholm and in historical chateaus like the beautiful hostel where I was lucky enough to stay in the Beaujolais wine region of France.
The knowledge that you can glean from hostel staff around the world can be invaluable and ranges from best bus routes to where to get the yummiest street food. It's also nice as a solo traveller to know that you can join in organised activities with people in the same boat as you and if you are traveling with friends, it's a case of, the more the merrier.
Don't get me wrong, hostels can be noisy and cold and you basically need to lock your food up with a padlock so it doesn't get eaten by the strange French Canadian guy who sings in the shower (personal experience), but you will meet some of the most fascinating people who will happily share with you the best places they have discovered to visit. You will undoubtedly make friends from all over the world. Personally, I wouldn't miss out on that for any 5 star hotel!