Hostels - The New Cheap Hotels?
By Lee Smith
Hostels have long been the "dirty" word in the hotel and travel industry, but times are certainly changing for the better as the public realise more and more that hostels and youth hostels are a viable means of accommodation when they travel around the globe.
What is a Hostel? In a hostel guests rent a bed (sometimes a bunk bed) in a dormitory and they share common bathroom, kitchen, and lounge rooms. Private rooms are also often available if you prefer your own privacy. The main benefits of hostels are the low costs of the accommodation compared to alternatives such as hotels and also you get to meet other travellers from all over the world. Hostels are usually less formal and less expensive than hotels. They are most frequently used by young travellers. In the past many hostels imposed age limits, but today it's more common for hostels to accept guests of all ages. Despite the openness of modern hostels, the majority of guests are traditionally and overwhelmingly between the ages of 18 and 26. Hostels provide opportunity for multicultural enlightenment. There is more interaction between guests than in traditional hotels, and many hostels provide activities to their guests for free or at low cost. There are some potential drawbacks to using hostels, although most are the same as drawbacks that you could find at many hotels. Theft can be a problem since guests share a common living space, but this can be prevented by locking belongings up. Most hostels offer some sort of system for safely storing your valuables, and many offer private lockers. However, for the greater part, travellers are equally concerned for the well-being of their own belongings that theft of other people's belongings rarely takes place. One potential drawback to staying in hostels is difficulty sleeping because of noise, whether from snoring or someone returning to the room late in the evening. For this reason, some hostels associations fix times for last admission and lights out. Despite their low price and somewhat bad reputation, many hostels are of a high standard and have great facilities for people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy.
The budget travel sector, such as backpackers, gap year travelers and also families wanting multi-location holidays, has boomed in the last few years and is driven to a large extent by word-of-mouth recommendation.
With competition in the industry "hotting up" and with millions of customers each and every year choosing cheaper, cost-effective accommodation, the standard and reputation of these places are ever-increasing.
The major hostel booking companies also have ratings systems which, not only helps customers to choose the right accommodation, but also helps to push hostel owners to do more to satisfy their customers as their ratings directly affect how much business they will receive from these booking sites.
The most popular hostel destinations are: London, Sydney, Rome, Amsterdam and New York and no matter where in the world you are travelling to, you will find a selection of great accommodation to suit both your taste and your budget.
Despite the arrival of budget hotel chains such as Travellodge, Ibis and Jury's Inns, backpackers still prefer to stay in hostels due to factors such as atmosphere, fun and the social experience of meeting other backpackers.
The hostel industry, once considered a "cottage industry" has now grown rapidly with the entry of new players opening deluxe hostel chains including The Generator Hostel in London.
Even if you had never heard of hostels before, the arrival of the new blockbuster horror film entitled Hostel, directed by Eli Roth and starring Jay Hernandez, will no doubt help to advertise the industry, despite the nature of the film.
Lee Smith is a freelance writer and writes for hostels in London and the world.
Copyright © 2006 Hostelbookers
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Views expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of CaribbeanChoice, its staff or members.