15 College Tourists Discuss Why You Should Stay in a Hostel
Forget the Hostel Horror Stories. Hostels Offer Hospitality & Fellowship
By Courtney Guth, University of Maryland
Have you heard the tale of the terrified traveler? She checked into a hostel, only to find herself with 37 new roommates all squeezed into a closet sized room. One roommate snored loudly. Another stole herself. Oh, and she never returned…
Such is the stuff of urban legends and travel folklore. I’m sure we’ve all heard a travel horror story or two, but that doesn’t mean we should limit our options when it comes to affordable travel. Sometimes hostels get a bad name, often accompanied by the adage, “you get what you pay for,” but that doesn’t have to be the norm.
During my time in Ireland, I had a great time at the hostel. It became my home for the duration of the trip, and I have fond memories of the friendly staff and people I met during my time there. I’ve heard others discuss their positive experiences as well, so I took to the streets (okay actually I used Facebook Chat) in order to dispel the rumors of hostels. Here’s what my fellow College Tourists had to say:
College Tourist: Rachel Fraczkowski, Loyola University Maryland
Last semester, I spent 5 months in Auckland, New Zealand. From the beaches of Abel Tasman to the endless planetarium at night, the country is full of beauty. However, in a country of a 20 sheep per person, traveling can be a hazardous trek. Thankfully, the hostels of New Zealand were everywhere, affordable, and filled with friendly people. One hostel even had a hot tub and brownies for all travelers. I was mostly surprised by the presence of regulars at each hostel, and wonder whether the United States could benefit from such an affordable service for travelers and renters!
College Tourist: Janet Kozlowski, Elon University
I’ve stayed in multiple hostels in China and South Korea. Hostels present an affordable yet safe way to travel in new places. Each hostel brings new and unexpected experiences. In Shanghai, I found a place that cost $5 a night, and I stayed in the dorm with 4 Danish guys. They were really nice, and it was fun hearing all their stories from traveling the world. Hostels provide an easy way to meet new people in a foreign country where you otherwise might not be able to communicate with anyone. In Seoul, the people I met gave me great recommendations on things to see while I was there. Their help was invaluable.
College Tourist: Betsy Long, University of Maryland
Last winter, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Sydney, Australia. While I was there, we took a three day trip to Cairns, a town on the Great Barrier Reef. While in Cairns, our group stayed in a hostel. I was a nervous about going from our nice Sydney apartment to a small room, but it turned out being a good experience. I shared a room with the other girls on my trip, but I got to meet people from many different countries! The hostel also provided free dinners and even had an awesome bar/club area! It definitely changed my opinion of how I imagined hostels to be.
College Tourist: Steve Kramer, University of Maryland
Last summer I studied abroad for 2.5 weeks, split between Paris and Madrid. While in Paris, my class stayed in the Oops! Hostel located in the 13th arrondissement. Although compared to the hotel where we later stayed in Madrid, the hostel was rather compact, it was a great experience. My room fit 6 guys sleeping in 3 different bunk beds, and also had its own bathroom/shower. Every morning we’d go downstairs to the lobby for the free breakfast of croissants, cereal, coffee, etc. It was by no means the ritz but considering the price we payed and the accommodations, I would definitely recommend it for anyone else traveling through that part of town. The place was in a great location. I don’t know how crime or anything was around there but we never thought twice about walking around at night. Additionally, Paris is noted to have one of the best metro systems in the world, and the hostel was about a block from the metro station. Whenever we wanted to hop across the city really quick, it wasn’t hard to do at all.
College Tourist: Joanna Kozlowski, Fork Christian
When I traveled to Romania we stayed in a family village on the western border. Our accommodations had formerly been a barn and were renovated to house visiting groups for long stays or weekend retreats. Our place was run by a local family who cleaned and cooked meals for us daily. I have never been around such a hospitable and friendly community. They treated us so kindly yet at the same time helped expose us to the Romanian culture.
College Tourist: Allison Smith, University of Maryland
Over the summer, I studied abroad in Italy, and then went on a week-long vacation to Greece. While in Greece, I stayed in a hostel in Mykonos. The hostel far exceeded my expectations. I found the hostel online, and I had crossed my fingers that it would be safe and clean. When we arrived, the owner of the hostel picked us up at the marina and brought us to our room. The room was clean, safe, and in a great location in Little Venice, one of the major towns on the island of Mykonos. I was so glad that our hostel experience went so smoothly, and I would definitely recommend a hostel to anyone who wants to travel with as few expenses as possible.
College Tourist: Brooks Gabel, University of Maryland (Founder justlikeyou.org)
I have been abroad to Spain and to Italy since I have been in college. During my stay in both countries I stayed in hostels as I traveled to new places. Contrary to what some movies have portrayed, my experience was phenomenal. As someone who was looking to see new things, meet new people, and orient myself with a whole new world, hostels provided me with all three of those opportunities. I still today regularly speak with people I met from around the world from hostels all over Europe.
College Tourist: Hannah Hethmon, University of Iceland (Follow Her Adventures on her blog)
The Reykjavik hostel community is fused with the lively social, music, and nightlife scenes of this colorful city. Most have lounges and bars that draw hostlers, tourists, and locals alike for live music and daytime events. They even serve as off-venue locations for the Reykjavik’s city-wide “Iceland Airwaves” music festival. These hostels are great places to meet other travelers, local musicians and music lovers, and foreigners living in the city.
KEX hostel is a quirky, eclectic meeting place for wanderers and lovers of the arts. It’s charming loft bar and music venue is fronted by an easy to miss door stuck in between private art galleries and residential towers along the Saebraut, the waterfront road. The space is a cozy mix of exposed brick, floor to ceiling maps, bookshelves, plenty of seating, and stories being shared over Iceland drafts by travelers from all over the world in dozens of languages. KEX features such classy events as brunch, Jazz every tuesday night, as well as dance and performance art.
Loft Hostel is smack dab in the middle of the city. It’s appropriately named lounge and bar has a balcony looking out over the most colorful part of Reykjavik (look closely, and you’ll see some great works of street art that aren’t visible from the street level). Big couches, dormer nooks, and soft lighting make it a great place to curl up with hard apple cider to watch small, intimate shows. Loft also hosts great daytime events like clothes swaps, Christmas markets, and art workshops.
College Tourist: Michael Epstein, University of Maryland
Hostels are a great option for the low-budget student studying abroad. Over the course of my study abroad experience, I stayed in 5 different hostels, each with their own characteristics and personalities. Of these, my favorite hostel was in Copenhagen, Denmark. Since the drinks were too expensive, I allocated my funds to the billiards table. By 9pm, the hostel lobby had turned into an all-out club, which was an incredible experience. Another great hostel was in Berlin, Germany. This one had a bar with outrageously inexpensive beer, so we spent a lot of our time there. Each hostel is different, and you can make out of it what you want to. If you choose to spend time there and meet friends you can, or you can just use it as a place to sleep.
College Tourist: Anna Jiang, University of Maryland
I stayed in a bunch of hostels when I was abroad. I traveled almost every weekend. Overall I had a really great experience with all the hostels I stayed in. Usually I went on hostelworld.com to find and book hostels. This website was really easy to use and helpful because it provides reviews from past travelers that have stayed in the various hostels. Most of the times I traveled on weekends I traveled with my roommates and/or friends in my study abroad program and we usually just shared hostel rooms with each other. However, there were a handful of weekends where I had to share hostel rooms with people I didn’t know, and I never had any bad experiences. I met several other study abroad students and travelers from all over through staying in hostels. If you do your research, hostels are great budget-oriented accommodations for travelers.
College Tourist: Zach Jones, University of Maryland
The hostel that I stayed at in Paris was named Oops. The last group meal my class and I ate together took place at a restaurant a few metro stops away from the hostel named Plan B. I thought that was pretty ironic. Check-in at the hostel was a little miserable. It was raining, the class could barely fit in the lobby, and we were all still feeling the effects of the jetlag pretty harshly. We finally got settled in – 6 boys to a room, 4 girls to a room, 1 bathroom each. To say that it was an out of comfort experience is an understatement, but I grew close to all of my bunk mates (yes, we were bunked two to a stack). The different snoring, alarm clocks, shower/bathroom schedules were all aspects that we had to adjust to. Fortunately, I was with a good group of guys so it wasn’t that bad. We had a lot of laughs. The lobby was great. We met many others from the US and other parts of the world, such as Germany and Poland. I especially enjoyed trying to speak to the receptionists in the little French that I knew. They were some of the few people in Paris that did not write me off when I tried but ultimately failed at speaking the French language.
It was a good and enlightening experience to speak with others from the US. Being away from home will give anyone home sickness, even if only a little, but finding someone else from your home made you feel closer to it, at least for me it did. Overall the experience was out of my personal comfort zone, but I like to think that is a positive because without change there can be no growth. Submersing ourselves in a foreign culture, in a foreign place, with many things that did not go the way we would have initially wished was the best way for us to not open our eyes to others’ differences but to accept them as just as valid as our customs. This hostel encouraged and exemplified diversity in every way possible.
College Tourist: Rachel Lebowitz, James Madison University
One of my favorite hostel experiences was after I had studied abroad in Florence. A couple of my friends and I wanted to visit Switzerland, so we booked a hostel in Zurich. This particular hostel was located on top of a bar and was run by the managers of the bar. Every night, there would be live music and free drinks for the students staying in the hostel. It’s really interesting to find out other students’ stories and hear about all of their travel adventures. Traveling has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a student at James Madison University, and I can’t wait to check off more places on my traveling bucket list.
College Tourist: Kevin Elliott, University of Maryland
While studying abroad in Paris, I stayed in a hostel with all of my classmates. I went into the situation with all of the stereotypes of movies and books, so I was kinda bummed when I found out we were staying in a hostel. However, once we got there and stayed a night or two, I loved it! The staff was great, the rooms were nice, and I met a lot of the other people staying there that weren’t in our class. I ended up going out a couple times with these kids from other countries, which is something I would have never thought I would do. Great experience all around!
College Tourist: Emily McDermott, University of Maryland
Hostels expand your world traveling experience beyond the city you are in. They invite people from all over the world, and it is an excellent place to make new friends in a new city. Meeting new people was my favorite part. In Bristol, my study abroad group and I met a guy from Australia, Josh. He went out with us to pubs and sightseeing around the city. It was amazing how even from different continents we all had so much in common. He kept in touch with us and even found us when he passed through London and went out with us around town. It is great having international friends!
College Tourist: Kyle Milligan, University of Maryland
I stayed in a hostel in Berlin for New Years last year, and it was fantastic. I managed to get a private room with the people I was traveling with. The other guests were nice, and we ended up going out with them on New Years. I would definitely recommend looking at hostels for anyone traveling in Europe. I’ve heard that some of them can be a little seedy, but from my experience it’s easy to find a good one if you’re careful and do some research first.