I’ve done a lot of backpacking in the past and even today I love staying in backpacker hostels type of accommodation. I didn’t think there was anything unique or scary about them until Sandra from Vancouver asked me “What’s it like to stay in hostels? What can I expect, especially for a woman?”.
It dawned on me that not everyone has experienced staying in backpacker hostels and may even fear it. Sandra has always stayed in hotels. I must admit, when I first started travelling, I only ever stayed in hotels. In fact, being sent on educationals/familiarisations to foreign countries as a travel agent, we frequently stayed in 5 star hotels.
It wasn't with ease. I started my first introduction to Europe on a Contiki tour – a bus tour for 18-35 year olds. It gave me a brief overview of many countries in 4 weeks and I took note of the countries I wanted to go back to so I could spend more time there.
So after the tour I arrived in Paris in the morning and booked two nights into a backpacker hostel for the first time. My travel diary notes explain my state of mind:
“I’m sharing a room with 5 other girls – I can’t sprawl my things out. I won’t be able to sleep thinking someone will pinch something. How am I going to share with five strangers? I want a room of my own so I can sleep peacefully and without worry.”
After checking in, I walked around the city and booked myself into a 2 star hotel to move into after my pre-booked two nights at the hostel.
I arrived back to the hostel in the evening and got to meet the other girls in my dorm. In the first 5 minutes, after telling them that I was travelling for one year, they said I was so cool and they all gave me their addresses in the US and said I must visit them. However, that evening I still slept hugging my daypack containing my valuables (which were only a camera and passport) under the covers.
The next evening, I met two American girls in the hostel and they took me out for dinner and paid for me! It was their last night and wanted to use up their French Francs (this is pre Euro days!). I couldn’t believe how generous they were.
Why was I judging other travellers to be horrible thieves? I then realised that tourists at hostels are doing the same thing as me – travelling the world and experiencing new cultures on a budget. After that dinner, I didn’t want to move to the 2 star hotel. In fact I stayed in that 2 star hotel for one night only as I got bored in a single room with no one to talk to. I have been hostelling ever since (when I’m in my backpacking groove).
It involves lots of sharing.
Now yes, you do sometimes meet strange people, scary people and some look untrustworthy. But that can happen in hotels too. So always keep valuables in lockers or locked in your suitcase/backpack, as you would do in hotels (which provide safes instead of lockers).
Also, backpacker hostels have changed over the years. They are no longer all dingy, dirty, small accommodations – although some still do exist. But new backpacker hostels have emerged to suit the new type of travellers – glampackers! Check out this article from Hostelworld, showcasing 27 LUXURY hostels. It’s not about slumming anymore!
Some backpacker hostels also have 5 star views:
So hostelling is just another way of travelling. There is nothing to fear about, even if you’re a solo female traveller. In fact, it helps provide some security for solo travellers. It helps you open up to making new friends and experiencing new adventures.
Do you have any other tips for travellers new to backpacking and staying in backpacker hostels?
AVOID BEING CAUGHT OUT
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A travel gypsy by heart, having already been to over 70 countries and still counting. Founder of Travel Groove, to share travel tips, tricks and knowledge with other travellers.
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