Just me, sipping a sangria at my hostel. If you've ever been curious about trying a hostel, read on!
I've been itching to travel the world, and because time waits for no one, I am not trying to wait any longer, not for people and not for the pandemic to "end." Additionally, for a while, I've been following many female travel bloggers, joined online travel communities, and even have a couple of female friends who have traveled solo through South America. And so in January, I finally went on my first international solo travel destination - Lisbon, Portugal! For more on that trip, see this post.
I've traveled solo domestically and written in the past about Why Solo Travel is IT!, and after my trip to Lisbon, I am convinced to do it even more! I treated this trip a little differently by staying in a shared room in a hostel for the first time ever! There were many factors that went into my decision, but my main goal was to connect with others from different backgrounds. The hostel I picked turned out to be AMAZING and really opened my mind to trying more hostels in the future! (See my Lisbon post for the hostel name!)
I will definitely be looking into hostels for my next solo trip, so I'm here to break down what I consider to be the most important factors in a great hostel as a solo traveler, especially female:
1. Community activities - The introvert in me has no idea who's typing right now, but I WANT to meet other people when I am traveling solo! A hostel that hosts events to bring its guests together really stands out to me. I've stayed at other hostels in private rooms with a companion and never heard of any activities going on or met other people. It was just a cheap place to lay our heads. By meeting up for sangria nights, bar crawls, or homemade dinner, I met many interesting people, found others with whom to explore nightlife, and even made friends that I still talk to today and hope to see again! Even though I just met them, I still felt safer than being completely alone.
2. Availability of female-only dorm rooms - This helped me feel safer and more comfortable, not having to worry about keeping covered up, only getting dressed in the bathroom, or hearing "activities" in the middle of the night. *Sidenote: others and I DID hear some "activity" in the men's room which was promptly stopped by the hostel staff.
(Believe it or not, I never ran into this in college, so yes, I was shocked! We're all adults - go get a private room, please!)
3. Security - Hostels generally have some sort of locker for your belongings. I've heard a story about lockers being broken into. This hostel, however, had under-the-bed storage that opened and locked electronically, similarly to a safe you would find in a hotel room. It felt heavy duty and super secure! I was impressed!
4. Amenities - I didn't give much attention to this since when I travel, I usually think of my hotel as just a place to sleep and nothing more. BUT they offered laundry service, an iron, access to the kitchen, computers, and even yoga mats, which came in handy the day I decided to go work out by the water!
5. Cleanliness - Search the reviews for the hostel. Mine was as clean as you can get for a place with shared bathrooms. But still manage your expectations. The staff likely won't service your room daily, as at any time of day, there could be hostel guests in the room. Also don't forget the shower shoes!
6. Breakfast - Always the most important meal of the day for me and usually when I book hotels, I look for free breakfast. I was planning to eat out more in Lisbon, but I planned so many early morning excursions, that I didn't have time to stop elsewhere for breakfast along the way. Luckily, my hostel had a no-frills, but filling, breakfast ready every morning!
7. Price - Price is not really a factor because hostel beds (in a shared room) are cheap (like $15-30 in Europe) compared to a hotel room! Obviously the less beds per room, the more expensive it becomes, but never as much as a hotel room.
So anyway, I urge you, if you are considering trying a hostel for the first time, just do it! Worst case, you hate it and never do it again or it's so unbearable, you find a hotel room ASAP. Could be a funny-in-hindsight story to tell, right?
Have you tried hostels before? What was your experience like? Would you consider it after my experience? Please share below, as I'm on the prowl for my next hostel stay!