Ever wondered what it’s like to stay at a hostel? If you’ve never booked a youth hostel before, then you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Not only do they provide affordable accommodations, but they also give you the chance to meet interesting people from around the world. Here’s what you should know about hostels before you book one.

What to expect at a hostel

You might be wondering: what is a hostel anyway? Basically, the hostel definition is that it’s an inexpensive alternative to hotels that provides dorm-style facilities for their residents. Once you book a room in a hostel, you can decide if you’d like to rent your own private room or if you’d like to stay in a large room with other travelers. While it’s cheaper to stay in a dormitory with up to 20 people, we suggest that you try a single room for your first time so as not to be overwhelmed.

That’s not all. Since many travelers choose to share bunk-bed filled rooms with others in hostels, it gives you the unique opportunity to interact with a ton of international people. You’ll also save a ton of money on your stay when you rent a shared dorm because it can cost as little as $10 per night. But there’s a kicker: hostel bathrooms are typically shared between guests. While most hostels have various showers and sinks for their visitors, there’s often only a couple of restrooms per hostel floor.

Although hostels are usually low-priced, rates vary from place to place. For example, booking a hostel in Washington, D.C. would cost a lot more than it would if you booked one in South America. If you need a general guide of daily rates for one person, you can normally find a room for between $10 to $40 in England and Wales, $15 to $30 in France, and $10 to $30 in Italy.

Benefits of staying at a hostel

What’s the real story about hostels? Youth hostels are a fantastic choice if you’re traveling in a large group. When you book a huge dorm room for your party, you’ll have no trouble cutting costs and staying close to your friends. Plus, it can make planning a vacation for the group easier because you can book a single hostel for your entire crew at once.

It gets better: many hostels are located right in the heart of bustling international cities. While they’re not as popular in America, you can usually find a hostel just about everywhere in places like Europe, Central America, and Asia. If your hostel has a prime location, then you’ll have the chance to visit local markets, restaurants, and cafes. Also, it’s extremely easy to check out the nightlife with your new friends when your hostel is just around the corner.

As if that wasn’t enough, most hostels come equipped with kitchens. That way, you can visit the grocery store and purchase food to cook your own meals on the road. This is a great opportunity to save money on food during your trip. Additionally, staying in a hostel with a kitchen allows you to show off your cooking skills to your group.  Bonus points? Plenty of hostels provide complimentary breakfasts for their guests.

Even though every hostel is unique, many of them provide a plethora of activities for their visitors. These can include anything from pub crawls, trivia night, or tours around the city. Other fun hostel events include movie nights, day trips, and themed parties. If you decide to join a group activity at your hostel, then you’ll find that it’s a wonderful way to get to know your fellow travelers.

Tips for staying at a hostel

We can’t emphasize this enough: read hostel reviews before booking your stay. When you research a youth hostel in advance, you’ll make sure that you know what to expect ahead of time. Although it might be a little biased, user reviews can reveal some pretty eye-opening details about your potential lodging. Keep your eyes out for professional reviews to learn more about things like amenities, noise levels, and cleanliness before your trip.

Pro tip? For those planning to stay in a hostel for the first time, it’s smart to book your hostel for only one night. That way, you’ll know whether or not you’ll want to extend your stay based on your first night. If you’re unsatisfied with your accommodations, then booking a night at another place is trouble-free. Also, if you’re a solo traveler, it may be wise to book a single room to ensure your security and privacy.

Despite the fact that hostels are similar to hotels, they do not provide you with any sort of toiletries like shampoo, towels, or soap for free. That’s why you shouldn’t forget your toiletry bag at home for your hostel stay. Of course, most hostels let you purchase these items for a fee at the front desk, and sheets are often included in the overall cost. If you’d like to feel more pampered on your stay, bring your own flip-flops for showering and earplugs for sleeping.

In short, hostels are an excellent substitution for hotels for your next journey as long as you’re aware of your personal safety and belongings. And remember, if anything out of the ordinary does happen, make sure that you talk to your hostel management immediately. That being said, enjoy your trip!