17 ways to convince a non-hosteller to book a bunk

October 06, 2023

In this day and age, travel is more accessible than it ever has been. Whether you’re looking for a local change of scenery or a six-month backpacking adventure, there are so many ways to execute your vision.

And when it comes to accommodations, those can really run the gamut, too. Deciding on where to sleep gets even more challenging when you're with travel companions who might be used to vacation rentals, expensive hotels, or even a certain type of travel lifestyle. Convincing them to try something different, like hostelling, might require a little persuasive finesse.

You, the avid backpacker, know that you can book a bunk in a hostel and look forward to arriving at a place which not only provides a comfy bed to rest in between adventures, but also gives a home away from home, social experiences and community connection. But how do you convince your friends (you know, the ones whose only association with hostels is the 2005 horror film), that it's far from the terrifying experience they might imagine?

Now, we totally admit to being a little biased here but hear us out because here we have a case for staying in hostels that are bound to convince any travel buddy of yours. Actually, we have 17 reasons why hostels are just… better.

Hostels connect you to locals and travellers

Wander into a hostel and within moments, you may meet a local at the front desk, kitchen, or cleaning up around the property. Those people know the best places in town and they can help you understand elements of the local culture which you may have misunderstood or missed out on. And the guests? These are your kindred spirits who probably share a lot of experiences, opinions and values given that you have a location and travel style in common. They’ll also tell you about their home country so by the time you check out, you’ll have learned not just about the local culture, but perhaps another you’d like to experience one day.

They’re cheaper

There are so many types of accommodations and ways to get a good night’s sleep when visiting new places. But at the end of the adventure-packed day, hostels are one of the cheapest ways to secure your temporary home base.

Hostel tours, social events and communal meals take the headache out of planning

Within moments after checking into a hostel, you’re bound to see a board of activities, meal options, social events, and tours. Whoever is working at the front desk will let you know about everything that’s going on. From bonfires to pub crawls, to happy hour, group dinners, or zip-lining tours, hostels can be that one-stop-shop you’re looking for. Short-term vacation rentals, camping, or hotel stays, on the other hand, require you to do all your own planning.

You get an automatic social scene

It’s not that you can’t meet people if you’re staying at a different type of accommodation, but staying in a hostel sure does make it easier. You’ll meet like-minded travellers in the dorms, common spaces, hostel walking tours, or events organized by the staff. In fact, this is one of the best parts about hostel and backpacker life. Many book hostels for this reason even if they can afford not to!

Hostellife 3

There’s a sense of ease and security when others are nearby

Booking into a short-term vacation rental alone can be eerie when you’re not familiar with your surroundings and may fear break-ins or creepy neighbours. The same goes for a quiet hotel in the off-season. Hostels provide peace of mind and a sense of safety because others are always around. That’s especially true for anxious or solo travellers.

Hostels are a hub for second opinions and recommendations

Stay at a resort or hotel and you have only guidebooks and travel articles to rely on. Those resources are great but factors like current season, weather, economy, or crime rate can make your experience much different from a blogger or influencer’s. Bumping into a traveller in a hostel common space can be a better way to get certain types of information. You get a chance to compare notes on experiences you’ve had in that place during that specific week. For example, maybe you’ll learn that a roadway is closed, a new festival has just popped up, a gondola is too crowded at a certain time of day… those on-the-ground details that go beyond the guidebooks.

Shared kitchens are the secret ingredient for a great time

There’s just something so special about mingling in a hostel kitchen. You learn about other types of international cuisine, share cooking tips, or sit down with a stranger and have a good conversation over a nourishing meal. Is there anything better than bonding over food?

Hostellife 1

You can actually make yourself at home

Once, after trekking through a valley all day, crossing rivers, baking under the hot sunshine, and making our way up a tough uphill, my hiking partner and I arrived at our hostel in the middle of the countryside. I’m the kind of girl who, after a day like that, needs a hot shower, sweatpants, a good comfy couch and to just make myself at home. At that specific moment, I was so glad to have booked the hostel accommodation I did: a hostel with cozy vibes, a home-cooked dinner, dog-eared magazines, and battered hikers who were in the exact same boat as me. No need to worry about hotel guests feeling put off by my muddy boots and hiker stench. No uptight vibes. Just a fire, a good view, and a living room that felt like a real home…

You meet like-minded people who you actually want to socialize with

There’s a difference between just meeting people and meeting *your* people while on the road. You know, the ones who you instantly click with and who don’t drain your social batteries. Hostels pull in a certain type of traveller—the kind who is down-to-earth, adventurous, non-judgemental and resourceful. It’s not just about meeting travel-oriented people, it’s about meeting travel-oriented people who are low-maintenance and practical.

Two words: Free food

And other freebies honestly. I’ve received Swiss chocolate at Christmas, home-cooked meals, wine, snacks, books, and once, even a name-brand German fleece just from befriending others in hostels. So, anecdotally, hostels are where the gifts are. You heard it here first.

No sneaky cash grabs

Since many hostels attract budget-conscious travellers, you’re not as likely to be exposed to touristy cash grabs that you might find at other types of accommodations. For example, hotel menus, gift shops, room service, shuttles, and even recommended tours are all products that are bound to be much, much pricier than the local standard. Hostels don’t do that! (Thankfully!)

Hostels usually offer some kind of unexpected skill swap

Whether you’re practicing a language you’re unfamiliar with, learning how to make a cocktail from a former bartender, getting a crash dance class, listening to sage advice from a well-travelled new friend, or figuring out a new style of cooking, there’s bound to be something that you learn or a skill you pick up because of your hostel stay. I learned the art of scouting out the best bargains from a Luxembourgish girl who had committed to the traveller lifestyle well before I did. I also got a salsa class from a traveller from Cali. (It wasn’t graceful on my part, but so be it!)

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The hostel pets

No matter how the travels have gone, if I’m greeted by a fluffy smiling fur baby at the front desk, I’m a happy traveller. In many hostels, there’s that trademark hostel dog who is like everyone’s pet and the hostel mascot.

You get bar vibes without inflated bar costs

Our plans got rained out on New Year’s Eve a few years back. When I say it rained, I really do mean it poured. When it became obvious that the storm outside wasn’t going to let up in Cusco, my brother and I scrapped our plan to countdown the new year at a downtown party and just stay at our hostel’s bar instead. It was a good thing we did. We had music, wild travellers from Argentina, drink deals, and even a complimentary bottle gifted to us from the owner. One thing that’s true about many hostel bars is that they embody a liveliness and vibrancy that’s hard to match. And the drinks are usually cheaper.

Hostels provide nice workspaces for digital nomads

By now, hostels have tapped into the digital nomad lifestyle and they get it. A heck of a lot of us work on the go. So many of us Gen Zs and Millennials have figured out a way to make money and custom design our dream jobs so long as there’s solid Wi-Fi. Just bring your laptop and trust that the hostel has the rest covered.

A larger number of guests means more accountability

Are the reviews of a short-term vacation rental *really* that accurate if only five people ever stayed there? If a hostel has a strong reputation, that’s based on a constant stream of travellers coming in and out all the time. Accepting a higher number of travellers means that hostel staff and companies are held accountable. Trust us, they’re hustling to keep travellers happy.

Hostellife 2

Hostels have values and community commitments

Pardon the cheesiness, but when you stay at a hostel you’re really staying with a family, community and a space that’s a hub in the local economy. For this reason, you might notice that a hostel supports certain charities or is involved in specific local initiatives. That often looks like donating a percentage of funds to a charity that reflects the hostel's values, honouring (and being vocal about) strains on the region’s resources and corresponding environmental concerns, hiring locals, or running the business using locally-made goods like food, furniture, or handmade products. This is such a common thread in hostel culture. It’s also a feel-good factor for travellers who want to travel as consciously as possible.

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