Hostel Annoyances and Hostel Negatives, Party of 1 (Or how Kelly aka Girl with the Passport whines for over 3000 words about the hostel downside and EVENTUALLY gives you 5 Hostel Alternatives)!
I used to be like you dear reader and never consider various hostel annoyances or any hostel downside really. I used to want to sacrifice my comfort and personal happiness to save a few dollars so that I could travel the world (regardless of any hostel negatives). I was young, impressionable and couldn’t see the error of my ways. I totally and continually ignored any and all hostel alternatives because hostels were where “real backpackers” stayed. Besides, “Dorm rooms are fun” they’d say. Or they’d promise that “dorm rooms are a great way to meet people” or my all time favorite “you’ll learn to love it”.
Well, I tried my dear reader, I really tried to love hostel dorm rooms and ignore any and all hostel negatives. I thought if I just tried hard enough then an assortment of hostel annoyances would no longer bother me. I would then be free to enjoy the dorm room life at the bargain basement price of $22 a night (Pssh, who needs hostel alternatives. I got this). Like a mantra, I kept repeating these words over and over again as I desperately tried to “make it work” with my dorm life (Tim Gunn anyone?).
Well, I quickly learned that there is a reason why hostel dorm rooms are so cheap. I mean, if they were luxurious then clearly you would not be getting such great deals since anyone who can charge more will. What is the hostel downside you may wonder? Well, there are a multitude of hostel annoyances that made me wonder if it was better to travel less and stay at hotels more.
Now don’t get me wrong, hostels are a great, economical way to travel the world (And some of them really are amazing). I mean, I have absolutely no problem booking a private room at a hostel. But since I am a solo traveller, these rooms are often just as expensive as a hotel room. Therefore, it makes no sense for me to book a private room at a hostel since I am not saving any money.
And while I would love to enjoy the hostel dorm room experience, I don’t. I hate to say this because I feel like a snotty jerk who can only drink Swiss water and stay in a five star hotel with a jacuzzi, but I swear I am not. Plus, I really wish I was one of those people who loved hostel dorm life because then travel would be so much cheaper (and I wouldn’t have to look for hostel alternatives). However, for me, the hostel negatives and hostel annoyances outweigh the positives and I really don’t enjoy it at all.
Maybe if I was 20 it would be super awesome and it would feel like one giant slumber party, but not so sadly I am not 20 (I like my age because now I am much less insecure). I am, well I don’t need to divulge my age because a lady never tells but let’s just say that I am significantly older than 20 and really just don’t have time for the shenanigans that take place in SOME (not all) hostel dorm rooms.
“What are these hostel annoyances?” you may be wondering. Well, check out the comical situations that I have found myself in when booking a hostel dorm room. Trust me, there is a hostel downside that they don’t advertise in the brochure!
***NOT ALL HOSTELS ARE BAD. Check out these amazing hostels in Vilnius, Lithuania.
People Wake You Up or Vice Versa
I am not a morning person. To say I loathe the morning is an understatement. I literally recoil from the sun like a vampire and want to scream, “Make it stop” as soon as I wake up. That’s why I typically need at least an energy drink and a cup of coffee before I engage in any form of human contact. If I don’t get my necessary caffeine then I either grunt at you or give you a look of death that says, I am currently plotting your inevitable demise.
Yet sadly, I am a fairly light sleeper (and ear plugs and eye masks don’t do the trick). Therefore, anyone who comes in insanely late (I don’t party like Miley Cyrus, sorry) or wakes up insanely early, I generally want to throat punch because they have woken me up.
Now I don’t blame them at all because they have every right to come and go as they please in this semi-public place, but I hate getting woken up on vacation when I just want to relax. I mean, one of the many hostel negatives for me is that I usually come home having had less sleep than before I left. How does this happen? Well, it happens regularly in a hostel dorm room. That’s why I prefer my own room where I can sleep till noon without anyone bothering me. Plus, I don’t have to worry about my jiggly bits hanging out as I stumble to and from the bathroom since.
The Top Bunk of Doom (At check in they should ask, “Would you like crutches with your bed?)
I hate the top bunk because it is a pain in the ass to get in and out of. I mean, when you are stuck with the top bunk, you have to strategically plan when you will get all of your personal hygiene tasks done because you don’t want to have to go in and out of the top bunk, like 20 times, because you forgot to brush your teeth or something.
Plus, it’s not like you can leisurely lie in bed. Generally, you feel like you are in a coffin because there is about 6 inches between you and the ceiling. And then when you do try to sit up, you bang your hand on the ceiling and have a bruise that will look AMAZING in all of your Instagram photos. Talk about hostel negatives.
But my favorite of all the top bunk, hostel annoyances is trying to climb down the ladder. Now it may just be me because I am a clumsy human being to begin with, but every time I try and descend the ladder of a bunk bed, I either almost break my leg, or almost kick someone in the face because there is rarely any bunk exit coordination between the top and bottom bunk. So you could descend the ladder as your bunk mate is getting up and wham, you’ve made an enemy for life. That’s why I keep it neutral (Switzerland neutral) and avoid this hostel downside by booking either a hostel alternative.
Security of your Valuables
Hey random strangers, I am just gonna leave everything that I hold dear right here and trust that you are all good, kind, and decent people. I mean you are obviously loaded and don’t need my stuff since you are sharing this hostel dorm room with me.
Yeah no thank you. I literally will make my backpack a pillow and sleep on it because no way am I letting anybody near my stuff. And even then, it is hard for me to sleep because my anxiety kicks and I start thinking, “Well what if someone robs me while I’m asleep?” I mean these pickpockets are experts so I could be sound asleep while they ransack my bunk (Maybe that top bunk is a good idea after all…).
However, let’s be honest here. Lack of security is one of the many hostel negatives, but they generally have a locked storage area for you to place your valuables in. But oh wait, that storage area doesn’t exactly have Fort Knox level security.
Typically, they give you a key to a communal storage area that no one is watching and that anyone can use the key to. Sorry, but that doesn’t sound super safe to me. And plus, how do I access my stuff everyday? Do I keep taking it all in and out of the security area or do I just store my valuables in a secure locker and pray that the person with the key doesn’t go on a shopping spree? Yeah, one of my biggest hostel annoyances.
Okay, I try to be a sport about these things and look at it as a fun learning experience. So I can even get down with sharing a room with some random women. Like no problem, I’ll be polite to you and do my own thing. But having an impromptu sleepover with a strange man just kind of creeps me out.
I mean one of my favorite hostel annoyances is when I have to change in the bathroom because I don’t feel like doing the limbo and trying to change without anyone seeing me. Plus, if there are men in the room, it’s not like I can leave any bras or underwear in site because that’s just awkward.
But my least favorite moment of all is when it is just you and another man in a dorm room because you never know how crowded these dorm rooms will be. This always weirds me out because what if he decides to try something and I can’t fight him off or no one can hear me scream? Far fetched I know but these kind of things make me uncomfortable. Plus men can be super gross in the bathroom and leave the seat up or pee on the seat. That’s why I try and avoid the hostel negatives of a coed dorm room when I can and scope out some viable hostel alternatives.
Midnight Shenanigans (insert Marvin Gaye song here)
Feeling frisky huh? On vacation and want to knock boots with someone special for the night? Totally get it. Its fun and its vacation, so why not live a little and have some x-rated gayety with someone of the same or opposite sex? Sure thing because I am all for make love not war, but do you have to do the love part right where I am sleeping?
Sure, you try and keep it low key and hide under the sheets, but we’re all adults, we know what you’re doing and it’s a normal part of life, just not so awesome in a hostel dorm room. Besides, do you really want to get your swerve on with 7 other people present (and if you do I don’t judge but I feel like most people like privacy)?
Plus, you never know when someone is just gonna stumble in while you’re in your bunk, trying to get your groove on. Yeah, no thanks. I really don’t need to lose sleep because the people around me are going at it and the mattress is groaning almost as loudly as they are. Welcome to the hostel negatives of communal living (hello hostel downside).
***Guys, getting it’s with it was a Will Smith song, not a to do list for your hostel dorm room.
Forced Social Interactions with People you Don’t Know
I am an introvert by nature. And while I can totally play it off and chat with you and laugh when you want me to and smile as I ask you such riveting questions as “where are you from?”, “where are you traveling to,,” and “how long are you traveling for?”. But I don’t want to because chances are, I’ll never see you again. I mean I’m sure you’re nice but why go to all that effort to get to know someone that you’ll never see again? Sounds like a waste of time to me (Just to me because I’m an introvert or weird. Either one).
However, you can’t just ignore your roommates because thats just plain old rude. So you do need to acknowledge their existence but not enough to actually engage in conversation. But inevitably they eventually want to chat and tell you their life story while all you want to do is hide from the world in your blanket fort.
It gets even more fun when someone doesn’t speak English or speaks with a heavy accent so you have no idea what they’re saying. In those moments, you’re forced to revert to the tried and true method of, smile and nod. You do this for as long as it takes for them to stop talking. It just gets seriously awkward when they ask you a question and you just give them this vacant expression because you want to be polite but have no idea what on Earth they are talking about. That’s when I usually mumble something about desperately needing to use the bathroom and pray that they leave before I come back.
Everyone feels like they’re 12 (I nanny for an infant, I don’t want to share a dorm room with one)
Okay, 12 is a bit dramatic. Clearly the kids in hostels are not 12 because then they would need adult supervision (I actually think some of the teenagers in hostels could use adult supervision anyway but I digress). But you know what I mean. Generally, there are a lot of young, broke people at hostels who want to see the world but haven’t made their millions yet. They are young, fun, happy, and live by such iconic life mottos as, “Party like we’re gonna die young” or “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”.
They also are super excited about life and travel and say things like, “Oh my God me too. I so relate,” or my favorite “O-M-G you are like my travel bestie. You should travel with me and come visit me at home.” No young-in’ I am not your bestie. I have shoes that are older than you and doing body shots till I puke all over random men is not my idea of a good time. I value my hearing and would rather watch Netflix by myself then be forced to interact with strangers i’ll never meet again. Yeah, age differences or generational gaps are real.
Plus, we have different life priorities. I need to sleep and eat well because otherwise I will become the 600 pound zombie that no one wants that in their life. Thus, I need to sleep and value cultural experiences over sleeping until 3:00 pm because I have a wicked hangover from vomiting in the bathroom.
I am also old enough to realize that my time is precious and while I do like some people, most people kind of annoy me because I am old and crotchety like that. That’s why I’d rather be alone than surround myself with a bunch of people I don’t know and who probably don’t really care about me all that much. Sorry, not sorry, but life happens and I’d rather stalk Netflix and find another show that I can fall in love with (True life, I wanna be Betty White).
Communal Bathrooms and personal Hygiene
Now while I am not a neat freak, I also don’t like living in a toxic waste dump. But this can be rather difficult when you are in a communal living situation and your dorm mates just don’t value cleanliness and personal hygiene as much as you do. Like what do you say, “Hey my funky friend. Could you clean up the pee you left around the toilet seat and while your at it, could you take a shower because you really don’t smell all that rosy? Thanks for your cooperation.” No, you obviously can’t say that but how clean can a space be with so many people living in it? Plus other people might leave their dirty stuff lying around and while it’s a fact of life, no one wants to see that.
Or my other least favorite moment is when its that time of the month and someone doesn’t clean up after themselves, or clogs the toilet. You walk in all ready to take a shower or go to the bathroom and its like a crime scene out of CSI. Talk about gross. One of my least favorite hostel annoyances that made me realize just how valuable my privacy really is (Or how about when there is a wad of hair in the drain of the shower. Didn’t know I was sharing a bathroom with a Yeti).
Changing in Public
I used to be on the swim team in high school, so I am no stranger to changing in public. And don’t get me wrong, I am not a prude but I also don’t want to shove my boobs in your face while you’re trying to walk to the bathroom. You really don’t need that in your life.
So that’s the moment when changing your clothes becomes the most complex task of your life. I mean, it should be easy right? Just remove dirty clothes and replace with new ones. But when you’re in a room full of strangers, changing your bra and underwear can get a bit dicey. Sure, you could walk down the hall and change in the bathroom, but what if someone is in there. It may be easier to just change in your room and not have to instantly create a packing list for your day to avoid forgetting any essential items before making the arduous journey to the bathroom.
That’s when you attempt to get undressed without anyone seeing you and you get stuck. You are trying to do some weird praying mantis pose to get out of your bra, undetected, but them your bra slips and your arm twists and the bra gets all discombobulated and you get stuck. Do you let your bra drop and flash everyone or do you sit here awkwardly, waiting for everyone to leave (Gut check time! What do you do)? See, it’s not all fun and games when you have to deal with hostel negatives. Thats why it may be best to take a yoga class before you set foot in a hostel dorm room.
People Won’t Stop Talking
I don’t want to talk to you. I am traveling alone for a reason and just want to enjoy some peace and solitude but nope. There you go. You just keep talking and talking and I really don’t care. I will never see you again and you’re talking about people I don’t know. Yes, I am so glad you are enjoying your trip but can you stop talking so that I can enjoy mine.
See this smile? This is me screwing my smile because I don’t want you to know the profanities that are going through my head right now. Yeah, maybe you’ll stop if I smile and nod because I want to be nice enough so that you don’t strangle me in my sleep.
What you want to tour the city together? Oh no. I am so sorry. I am here alone but I am super busy and am booked solid with various tours. What tours am I going on? Oh the ones where you can’t come because they’re full. Oh look, over there, someone new. Go talk to them!!
Yeah, it never fails. You are in the mood to just be left alone and then someone feels compelled to talk to you because they cannot see why you might possibly want to be alone. But in this crazy and overpopulated world of ours, sometimes solitude is golden and someone super chatty can become a real hostel downside.
Okay, so now that we have established that these hostel annoyances make dorm rooms kind of sucky FOR SOME OF US, where should we stay instead? What cheap accommodations and hostel alternatives are out there?
5 Budget Accommodations that are Hostel Alternatives
Since you are reading this right now, I’ll assume that you’re not some sort of technological pariah. Therefore, you probably have an AirBnB app on your phone and know exactly what I’m talking about. But, i’ll assume that you are like my dad and have no idea what the internet is, let alone know how to decipher the meaning of the strange amalgamation of letters in AirBnB (try out Airbnb and get your free coupon).
At its core, AirBnB is when you rent out either a room or apartment in someone’s home. So you get the privacy of a hotel room without the cost of one (I can find rooms on here for $40 a night but it all depends on where you are staying). A perfect option for someone like me who wishes she had the budget of a Kardashian but really has the bank roll of a Monopoly game since that money isn’t real (any riches I have are imaginary). Plus, I can have some peace and quiet and bemoan the lack of respect that the youth of today have for their elders (Those damn kids! I walked 15 miles to school, with no shoes, and uphill both ways. Builds character). Kidding I’m not that crotchety but it helps me avoid the hordes of pre-pubescent travelers that want to bong beers, eat edibles, and smoke a doobie in the hostel bathroom (I saw Locked Up Abroad and Broke down Palace, I don’t roll like that).
***AirBnB is one of the many hostel alternatives that provides user reviews for all of their listings so you can find out if the location is good or if the host is actually Hannibal Lector. Just look for so called “Super-hosts” who have a ton of positive reviews. Find out more about my awesome AirBnB experience in Edinburgh, Scotland click here.
***Are you a hipster who thinks AirBnB is too mainstream (like the Starbucks of coffee)? Then you can also try WIMDU.
I have never done Couch Surfing but I know a ton of people who love it and think is one of the many great hostel alternatives. Now back in the day, in the ye olde year of 1990 lets say, couch surfing just meant crashing on someone’s couch when you had no place to stay. Now with the advent of something called the internet and something mysterious called social media, this alternative to homelessness has become an international community thanks to Couch-surfing.
They focus not only on providing you with a free place to stay but organize activities like bar crawls, meet ups, and group outings to sporting events. Bear in mind though that you are staying in someone’s home for free, so try and be courteous and limit your stay to 2 to 3 days at a time. It is also good form to bring a gift for your host and show them how much you appreciate their hospitality. But above all, do your research, let people know where you’ re staying, and check references because safety should be your primary concern above all else. And if something doesn’t feel right, get out of there (Need more solo travel tips? Click here).
3. WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Who let the dogs out? Okay, cheesy hostel alternatives and budget accommodations joke)
I had heard my friend talking about wwoofing in France but at the time, I really thought she was talk about a dog. I really had no clue what it was all about until I realized that this program allows you to exchange free labor for free food and accommodations.
But not only do you get a free place to stay, you also get to give back to the community and work side by side with locals. Plus you can participate in this program even if you have never seen a cow in your life. Seriously not all the jobs are milking cows and chasing chickens. Some opportunities are simple tasks like cleaning or organizing supplies (I’ll take that over molesting utters and dodging cow pies any day).
To become a WWOOFer, all you have to do us sign up for the national organization in the country that you want to visit since there is no international WWOOF membership (you have to buy a membership from each WWOOFing country’s organization). Annual membership generally costs about $30 USD per country. Once you submit your payment, they’ll send you a list of participating farms in the country where you registered. From here, you can contact the ones you like Just read the descriptions carefully and make sure you that you ask about accommodation details, examples of work routines, and food arrangements before you agree to anything (also ask if your host speaks English).
4. House Sitting
Okay, so the basic principle behind this one is that in exchange for watching someone’s home while they’re away, you get a free place to stay (Three cheers for free). Just so you know though, most of these services do have a service fee but once you pay this fee, you can view a database that is chock full of houses that are offering this trade. From here its pretty simple. Find a place that isn’t a dump, contact the homeowner who hopefully isn’t nuts, work out an arrangement, sign any pertinent documents (So that everyone is legally protected in case of disaster. Like in the event that I leave the oven on and burn down the house. Should I write them a note?), and that’s it.
Just know that most of these jobs are more long term and tend to be for a couple of weeks. Plus, you kind of have to cater your travel plans to whoever’s house your staying in, which can be a pain. But it is a great gig if you are looking to avoid the social awkwardness of a hostel dorm room.
***Also note that depending on the job, you may be required to do some animal care, which is all fine and dandy until you find out the cat is an
escape artist and the dog’s real name is not fluffy but Cujo. Kidding but I have cared for many animals in my past life as a naturalist and I can assure you that sometimes pet sitting is not as easy as it seems (like when you walk the dog and the kitten escapes and you can’t find it for two hours and want to cry).
5. Home Exchange
Seen the movie the Holiday? Well, if you haven’t its a predictable but cute romantic comedy with Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black, and Carmen Diaz. Oh wait, this isn’t a movie review. Back to home exchange or the entire premise behind the Holiday. Now for this to work you need your own home or apartment but for a set amount of time, you exchange homes with someone from another country. And if you’re worried about home security, websites like Home Exchange have certain verification and safety procedures that they use to monitor users. Plus families get to talk to one another through email so if someone is a total weirdo, you’re under no obligation to do a home exchange with them.