/ˈhɒst(ə)l/ noun an establishment which provides inexpensive food and lodging for a specific group of people, such as students, workers, or travelers.
synonyms: cheap hotel
Okay to preface, I've been spoiled. While I was working in college recruiting I became accustomed to nice hotels. After two years of intense travel around the Western US, I was a proud Hilton gold member and lived for the cushy king size beds and free continental breakfasts.
Honestly, I was scared to stay in a hostel by myself. I had to call Rasmus a few times for pep talks on my way to London, and had to talk myself out of caving and just staying in a Hilton on my points. There is definitely something intimidating about sleeping in a room full of strangers.
I got to the Generator Hostel in London on a Saturday around 3 pm, there was club music playing and lights sparkling from the bar. There was a line of people trying to check-in. I was surprised by all of the activities that were offered on the main floor: full bar/cafe, pool tables, games etc.
When I opened the door to my room I saw six bunk beds and I found the bed I was assigned to, #1 on the top bunk. Before I could even take it in, this Chinese girl started talking to me. She wanted to know where I was from, what I was doing and if I could give her dating advice. She was convinced that the guy working the front desk was interested in her. She was very confused that I was engaged and without my fiancé, which I explained was completely normal where I'm from. She was overly nice, and talked to me for 15 minutes while I changed and raced around the room to do my hair and find an outfit to go exploring. She followed me out the front door as I left for the subway, couldn't catch the hint that she wasn't invited to dinner with me and some friends I was meeting up with. But eventually she got it and I left alone. When I returned later that night she continued to follow me around the hostel, which became annoying, but at least I was never lonely! All weekend I kept having to explain to her that I liked to adventure by myself. LOL.
Overall, living with other people can be a little stressful. People stumble in the room late at night, it's loud and the beds aren't the most comfortable. But for $15 a night, I would do it again. Everyone I met was interesting. I met some Canadian women on a photography tour, a Spanish cook looking for an apartment, a woman from Paris job hunting and a Lebanese mama getting away from her kids for the weekend.
I'll note that it also feels weird to lock your belongings underneath you when you go to sleep, but after two days, I settled in. If you are tired enough the beds become comfortable. The bathrooms reminded me of freshman year of college. The breakfast was actually good and that is where I met most people. I didn't take advantage of the tours that the hostel offered; they had pub crawls, walking tours of London as well as game nights. I was on a mission to see all of London's landmarks, but for someone more laid-back those activities would be perfect.
Here are my takeaways: bring shower shoes, an eye mask and some ear plugs (I ended up purchasing those from the hostel). Definitely branch out and meet some new people. Honest to God, I met some of the most interesting people and am very thankful to now have some new friends around Europe. Create a HostelWorld account and book through them, they have great customer service and you can cancel your booking up to 24 hours before.
I stayed in a 12 bed female dorm for my first time, just because I was a little timid about the mixed sex dorms and traveling alone. But after exploring our hostel, I would be comfortable and confident staying in a mixed dorm. I interviewed lots of other girls who did, and they thought it was great. They all said they felt safe, and those rooms are usually cheaper.
If I were staying in London again, I would recommend the Generator Hostel for sure. I think it's a great central location and has easy access to the subways. Be sure to look for my guide to London (I absolutely GUSH over London, it's a magical city!).
Next up, Prague. And I will be staying in the Czech Inn Hostel with my friend Sascha!
If you are thinking about staying in a hostel, do it. Really. It is so much cheaper, and if you are doing it right-- you won't spend much time there anyways.
Have you stayed in hostels? I'd love to hear your experiences! Comment below and/or recommend your favorites around Europe.