Cheap Accommodation with Style: Hostels Aren't Just for Backpackers Any More

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Cheap Accommodation with Style: Hostels Aren't Just for Backpackers Any More

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Hostel culture has evolved since the days of yore. It's accommodation with style, and it isn't just for backpackers any more.

Hostel Myths

Not so long ago, hostels were only for a certain type of traveler. Set foot in one and you might have seen hordes of backpackers sleeping in open dormitories with no privacy, sharing filthy bathrooms, and cooking cheap meals in small kitchens. They might even have been clad in dreadlocks, reciting poetry, and smoking dope.  

This is - or was - the stereotypical "backpacker." The term was coined decades ago, describing young people who roamed the world on a shoestring budget (usually right after high school or college), with a few belongings stuffed into a backpack, traveling on instinct or whim, instead of an itinerary.  

Today, you still find this type of traveler in backpacking circles, but to a much smaller degree. Check into a hostel, and you'll just as likely find a family with two kids, a person in their forties on a sabbatical, a couple of honeymooners, or even a business person - suit and all.  

The New Hostel Culture

Many hostels have evolved with the times, and have become clean, bright, friendly places for all kinds of travelers. There's even a new term for this increasingly upscale style of backpacking - it's called "flashpacking." 

Flashpacking, as it sounds, is flashy backpacking; and hostels have tuned in to this new mode of travel. From the style of accommodation to the amenities offered, everything is a little bit "flashier" than it used to be.  

Although hostels still have dormitories with bunk beds, they're often more intimate with as little as four beds to a room, and they're not your only option. Most hostels also offer private rooms for singles, couples, and small groups or families. Go to a self-proclaimed flashpacking hostel like this one, and the private room has an ensuite bathroom with all the amenities (including towels and toiletries), WiFi internet, and even a flat-screen television with cable and free movies.  

Best of Both Worlds

In fact, private rooms in hostels combine the best of both hotels and hostels - providing the privacy and comfort of a hotel room, with a hostel's convenience of kitchen facilities and camaraderie of shared common areas to meet other travelers.  

And with all the fixings of technology that you get in a hotel, plus a big savings factor, why wouldn't you choose a hostel instead? 

Saving Money at Hostels

You can save money at hostels in a few different ways; first of all, the cost of accommodation in hostels - even private rooms - almost always undercuts a hotel or motel.  

Then you have the savings factor in being able to cook your own meals. The savings on breakfast alone adds up when you can simply fix a quick bowl of cereal instead of eating breakfast out every day.  

You can apply the same principal to any meal of the day, and turn an expensive vacation into a considerably more affordable one. Accommodation and food are two of the biggest expenses of most vacations-- with hostels you can reduce both.  

Meeting People

An added benefit to staying in hostels is the ease of meeting new people while you travel. I've met countless different people from all over the world at hostels, and some of them have become lifelong friends.  

Most hostels have common areas for relaxing, eating, reading, or watching movies. Here, you are bound to meet new people who will enrich your trip, can give you tips on places to see, or share new ways to save money on your vacation.  

Word of Caution

As a last word of caution, I must stress that not all hostels are created equal. I once stayed in a glorious hostel in Sydney, Australia, but in the hopes of saving a few extra dollars, I moved to another hostel down the street. I found myself in the uncomfortable company not of travelers, but transient locals; this, coupled with its state of disrepair and grime, made my stay uncomfortable and sleepless. The savings was definitely not worth the sacrifice.  

So do your research when looking to stay at a hostel on your next trip. The internet is a valuable source of information, and many hostel booking sites have informative reader reviews. In many countries, it is also acceptable to ask to see the room and facilities before you commit to staying for the night.  

Overall in my travel experience, hostels - and the people who occupy them - are wonderful. So the next time you travel, consider staying in a hostel; you can save money, meet people, and enjoy modern amenities. And don't worry if you're not in your early 20s and traveling solo-- because hostels aren't just for backpackers any more.

Nora Dunn

Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo: a full-time traveler and freelance writer. She is a contributing writer under Life Balance. Having sold her business and belongings to travel, she has been on the road since 2007. She travels in a financially sustainable manner, taking advantage of creative volunteering positions while constantly balancing life and her location independent work on the road. As a former Certified Financial Planner, she is financially responsible for her actions along the way. She believes there is a fine balance between planning for tomorrow, and living for today. Compensated CareOne Blogger.

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  • By having a working holiday, you can earn money as you go to cover your expenses, and in some cases you can even return home with some extra money in your pocket.

  • After four years of full-time travel, I've got a few tricks for finding great deals, and I'm always discovering new techniques and loopholes. Here are some ways to find cheap airfare and get the most value for your money.

  • We obviously don't want to deprive ourselves of a cultural or otherwise special experience abroad, but we also don't want to return home with the worst souvenir of all: debt we can't afford.

  • There are lots of definitions of flashpacking floating around. (This vagueness of meaning is attested to by the fact that my spellchecker doesn't recognize the word).

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