Even though Youth Hostels may be primarily for youth, most of them are not restricted to youth. Besides young people, there are families, couples, as well as solo travelers of all ages. Retired professional people, teachers on sabbatical, there is rich mixture of people from every walk of life that don’t need the amenities of a private hotel. For them, a youth hostel works just fine. They’re glad to save $15.00 or more on their night’s sleep, and spend it instead on a bottle of wine for lunch.
Most of the time I have found youth hostels to be clean and not too crowded, and overall a positive experience where I got much more than my money’s worth. Many times I was the only one in the dorm, or I had a private room. The worse experiences I have had was once I endured a strange guy whose feet stank to high heavens. Bad. Horrid. Since that date, I have questioned why I didn’t say anything, like, hey, why don’t you do a number on your feet. Well, it’s always easier to think of what you would do afterwards. At any rate, I suspected him of being a few bricks short of a full load. My suspicions totally disappeared the next day…. when I saw him with some stuffed animals hooked to his belt. I asked him what those were… and he told me they were his ‘friends’. That removed my suspicions…. I KNEW.
In another youth hostel I felt like I was in an insane asylum! The hallways leading to the room led through a maze of walls painted bright colors, very modern, and as I went through the doors in the hallway, each one slamming behind me echoing throughout this madhouse. I finally reach my room- there were a few beds in it, but none were occupied, I had the room to myself. The bathroom was private, but again, it was strange- there was no shower door, it was totally open, like I was just standing there naked in the corner of the bathroom getting sprayed! Very cold feeling- guess I like a shower door that keeps in the steam and warmth of the hot water! I kept thinking maybe I am the one that’s crazy- and this place was the center of normality…
Then another time it was hot and sweltering and I admit the body odor of the combined occupants was just too much. I checked out and opted for a one star hotel which was just a few dollars more. It was well worth the extra money! Then another time, I kid you not, two employees spent the whole night yelling at each other in a heated argument.
But besides those times, my experiences have all been positive. Staying in a youth hostel is a great place and way to meet people; you are a lot less likely to meet people at a hotel. But at a youth hostel, either in the lobby or in the room, people are open and friendly and it’s easy to find yourself walking down to a local cafe for a bite to eat with new found roomies.
Most rooms are dormitory style with bunk beds with a shared bath and shower down the hall. They give you bedding and assign a bunk and a key to a storage locker for your personal belongings. They do NOT provide a towel so don’t forget to bring your own – the quick drying travel towel and a pair of light weight flip flops (for showers) are essential if you are going to stay in a hostel. Also, bring ear plugs. With people coming and going at all times of the night, as well as the cacophony of snoring that is likely to be in a dorm, you’ll sleep like a baby. I remember once in Aix en Provence I slept so well I didn’t wake up until someone roused me out of bed late the next morning. I didn’t hear a single thing!
Hosteling International is the largest organization; membership is $28.00 ($18.00 if you are over 55) annually. Be sure to get a directory that gives a brief description of the Hostel, as well as locations, directions, and contact information. In larger cities and in summer months it is recommended to make reservations. If you travel on the fly as I do, make your first reservation before you leave on your trip, then subsequent reservations from the hostel you are staying at. The agent at the desk can do it for you.
Have fun, meet people, and remember…. you ARE the one that’s crazy…