Thursday, July 30, 2009

Around the World Travel Guide Part 3 [Hotels vs Hostels]

Helpful Tips for Planning a Year Long Trip Around the World Part 3
[Hotels vs Hostels]

Whenever you mention that you’re planning on staying in a hostel, be prepared for people to reference a terrible movie that has, perhaps, destroyed this type of travel for an entire generation. If you’ve not seen the movie, then pat yourself on the back. And if you’re a nervous traveller who is thinking about staying in hostels – do not watch this film. You’ve been warned.

Hostels are not necessarily the rundown, smelly, university dorm room filth pits that you may see them as in your mind. Mind you, they aren’t necessarily not that either. By the same token, hotel does not always mean lap of luxury either.

So let us take a look at what the two different experiences have to offer.

Who stays in a hostel? The short answer – everyone. The other short answer – budget travellers. While it’s not rare to find people living out of hostels, for the most part these are people like you who are travelling from one place to the next on a dime.

If you’re looking for a top quality hostel, make sure you book through Hostelling International. They charge a $40.00 yearly membership fee, but – honestly – just access to their search engine makes it worth while.

The Pros of Staying in Hostels
  1. You will have someone to talk to at the end of the day. Even if you’re a shy person, you will undoubtedly meet a new friend in a hostel. And if you’re an English speaker odds are there will be another there. Never underestimate the simple joys of a conversation after a day in a foreign country.

  2. The hostel will provide plenty of resources suited to your needs. If you’re looking to take a day tour, or want to know what the local hot spots are then your hostel should be able to provide you with the proper information. They usually have maps, tourist pamphlets, and general knowledge of the city.

  3. You don’t need to travel alone. Hostels are a great place to meet up with other people to travel with for the day, or hook up with for the next leg of your journey. Solo-Travelling can get lonely, and if you’re on your own hostelling might be worth it for this reason alone.

  4. Free internet access. Most hostels have this, and this is worth its weight in gold! Especially when you consider that it’s an idea, and not a physical object, thus having no weight. Some hostels will have Free Wi-Fi but no computers. In this case it might be worth while to invest in a netbook.

  5. A choice of books to read. English books are difficult to find on the road. And when you do find them they can cost upwards of thirty dollars for a paperback (thank you Australia.) But! Hostels often have lending libraries. These are just bookshelves based on the honour system where you take a book, and leave the one your just finished reading. In this way you can constantly have new reading material without overloading your pack with novels. Books are much heavier than you may think. Just having two can be pushing it.

Cons of Hostels
So perhaps you’re wondering just what type of fool wouldn’t stay in a hostel when there are good people, good times, and access to things that are rare or expensive in the world outside of this utopic hostelling world.

The main con of hostels are safety. Not for yourself, but for your possessions. It’s quite possible when you’re out exploring the town, that someone will have a little peek through your possessions and take a thing here or there – or just leave with your whole pack. Now this is not going to happen every time, and I’ve only heard of it happening once to someone I knew.

But there are ways around this – bring a lock to lock your pack, and to chain your pack to something heavy (like the bed.) Keep your valuables in your day pack. Do not show off things that someone might want to steal.

A number of hostels offer lockers that you can slap a combination lock on, and keep your possessions safe as well.

But be warned, theft does happen. This is the reason, after all, you bought your travel possession insurance. And if you buy things on credit card, the card will often cover the loss / theft of any property you lose (honestly – there’s a reason the book that comes with your card is forty pages. Give it a read.)

Well now, you don’t have time to deal with the terrifying world of hostels – nor are you a smelly hipster, who likes to bunk in rooms of twenty other people (conveniently forgetting that hostels offer private rooms too.) You have money to burn, and a chip on your back.

O.K. maybe you don’t – but tell people you’re in a posh hotel and that’s what they may think you believe. It’s not necessarily the case at all. If you’re travelling with just one other person you can often find very comparable rates, when split in half. So lets look at the pros and cons of hotels.

Pros of Hotels
  1. A clean room all to yourself, where free shower caps, shampoo, and soaps rain freely down around you.
  2. Safety and Security knowing your possessions will not be stolen (…probably.) when you’re out all day.
  3. A freshly made bed every single day, with nice clean sheets.
  4. Television all to yourself (sure most hostels have them, but what are the odds that you’ll be holding the remote there?)
  5. A shower that you don’t feel you need to wear flip flops into.

Cons of Hotels
  1. Expensive internet Access
  2. Expensive food, and beverages
  3. Harder to meet people on the road

Honestly, I would recommend you try out some of each. Spend a night in a hotel, spend a few nights in a hostel. See what fits your style of travel better. And make sure you don’t judge all experiences based on one place. It’s possible to have a terrible stay, or a stay that will raise your expectations beyond what you’ll find anywhere else.

The most important advice is simply to know thy self, and go from there.

Next Up
We will explore the many many places available on the internet for you to research your trip, and your possible destinations. Free glossy magazines suggesting itineraries will also be pointed out to you. What convenience, delivered right to your front door. Who doesn’t love a good glossy travel picture?

Jump to other Parts
0. Index / Summary
1. Planning Destinations
2. Budget / Culling
3. Hotels vs Hostels
4. Internet Research
5. Tour Groups / Solo Travel
6. Important Travel Gear
7. Packs / Packing
8. Medical Requirements
9. Saying Goodbye / Staying Connected
10. No Fear Travel
Bonus: Overlooked Travel Tips and Tricks

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