Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

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Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by Theseus » Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:02 pm

I will be solo traveling in parts of Europe for 3 weeks in May. Most likely Spain and Portugal. I usually stay in nicer hotels when I travel to Europe but I like talking to people - locals or otherwise. Hotels are not most conducive if you want to chat up with someone at the end of the day. I have read hostels are a good places where you always end up talking to people from different walks in life. I am debating if I should do that.

I am 52. I do like comforts and some of the conveniences of a nice hotel. So questions are 1) Are the hostels age appropriate for someone like me? 2) Are the all basically same or they have different amenities and cater to different age groups? 3) Would my personal belongings be safe (I usually travel with a laptop, phone, cash)? 4 ) How far in advance will I need to book a room in a hostel? 5) What should I expect compared to a hotel?

Also, I don't speak Spanish or Portuguese - not sure that makes a difference.

Or there are better ways for a solo travel and still have human interaction?

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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by 123 » Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:36 pm

Our nephew traveled through Scandinavia a couple of summers ago and used hostels exclusively. He said that while the majority of hostel users were under 30 it was not unusual to have older and retired travelers utilize them. Some of the hostels he used only had options of multi-beded rooms with 4 - 12 residents per room while others had individual rooms for 1 or 2 people (more costly). He usually kept his laptop and phone with him during the day (small backpack) but some hostels had lockers (bring your own lock). It's best to book far in advance for popular places but you might get lucky depending on cancelations. Hostels know their customers so there seem to apps and websites (a good site to browse is ... f_guests=2 but there are others) to make advance bookings. Hostel accommodations generally always have centralized bathrooms with showers. Hostels will usually have a gathering/community room with possibly a TV. Hostels may have a shared kitchen available. Hostels have overnight "quiet hours". Hostels are more likely to be located in older downtown areas of the city, unlike hotels that may be built out on the highway. English is widely spoken and understood among the hostels. Staying in hostels is far more iikely to involve interaction with other traelers than hotels since everyone wants to know what's happening in town and the pluses/minuses of the nest town they're headed for. Someone else at the hostel has likely just been there.
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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by xb7 » Fri Feb 08, 2019 1:15 pm

Hostels can vary a lot. What I suggest you do is look for hostels that you can actually book ahead, so you can look at details laid out in a consistent way to compare. Search online for, I don't know "finding nice european hostels" and you'll get both articles but also sites to book from, such as

My wife and I stayed in a hostel in Reykjavik where we had our own room, shared bathroom of course, and communal areas. We weren't pushed cheek-to-jowl with other people, which limits somewhat the sorts of conversations you can get into, but we nevertheless managed to have some great conversations, one extended one in mixed English and Italien (mostly English) with a delightful couple from Italy, and I think we met and talked with some English people there too.

I had a similar experience in Spain at one of the "nicer" hostels with a group visiting from Israel.

I've also had a lot of experiences hiking the Caminos in Spain and Portugal where you have 8 or more people sleeping in the same room, often mixed gender. You definitely have opportunity to get to know people there, and sometimes you connect really well, often you politely just ignore each other. I think that's less commonly a hostel and more often called something else (in Spain it's an Albergue). But the lines can blur, depending on the region; sometimes an Albergue will offer private rooms, and hostels will sometimes have a cheaper group sleeping area. The nicer places will always offer a place to secure your stuff. In Europe the typical approach is that you put in a Euro coin to get your key, get the Euro back when you put the key back in the locker. But not always; one hostel in Portugal I needed my own lock for their locker, so I bought one from them (and had to carry it on my back afterwards just in case --- never needed it again!).

A fine place to meet and talk with others at a hostel is where they have a dining area with a kitchen (bring your own food). But sometimes they have other shared spaces that work well for that too.

I think that no matter how much money you have or how much luxury you like to have as a sort of 'default' experience, going in at least some of the nicer hostels once in a while is a great idea. Too often when people travel there's no connection with others, it's strictly about seeing art in a museum and bagging famous places to get a selfie showing you've been there. I really value talking with people from all over the world. In the cheaper hostels it's all about saving money. In the nicer hostels it can certainly be that, but often you meet more adventurous and often interesting people.

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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by Starfish » Fri Feb 08, 2019 1:46 pm

You can also rent rooms on ABnB and interact with the owners.

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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by Raybo » Fri Feb 08, 2019 2:35 pm

If you like to interact with locals, check out It is full of local people who will offer you a place to stay in their houses for free. There are also people looking to meet travelers, as well.

This site has been around for many years and has all the problems of free internet sites. Namely, a lot of unfinished profiles, young people looking for free lodging and offering nothing in return, and other useless information. But, if you are diligent and stick to people with several references and those close to your age, you might be lucky and find a match or two.

I've couchsurfed dozens of times and have always had a great time with wonderful people. I've also met locals through the site for a meal and for useful information.

Note that you don't have to offer anything in return to join the site.
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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by SrGrumpy » Fri Feb 08, 2019 11:23 pm

Don't expect much sleep. You may be in a room with at least a half-dozen people, and there's always someone who checks in late or checks out early, zipping, unzipping bags, etc.

European hostels are varied. In recent years, about your age, I left a few in the wee hours because of noise. Once I just slept in a bus shelter, another time in the common area. Another one was great because I had the room to myself.

I would get Airbnb if I were you. Life's too short.

P.S. I stayed at the Lost Inn, Lisbon - twice! That was fine. Night-time activities, etc. Younger skewing. Not sure kids want to hang with people their parents' age, though.
Last edited by SrGrumpy on Sat Feb 09, 2019 12:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by Watty » Sat Feb 09, 2019 12:31 am

With hostels you have to read the reviews a lot more carefully since they vary a lot.

It will vary with the area but often times in urban areas they will tend to be more dodgy so be extra careful about reading the reviews in large urban areas.

Spain tends to have a good selection of very reasonably priced hotels and pensiones which were comparable in cost to two people staying in a hostel so we didn't stay in any hostels in Spain. My impression was that in Spain the hostels were not as common or as nice as in some more expensive countries since there are a lot of affordable alternatives.

We did stay in a lot of hostels in Ireland and that worked out great both with the quality and the cost savings.

When I am not in the peak season I will often travel without many reservations except for key dates and when I will be in potentially expensive large cities. That way I can easily change my plans depending on if I want to spend a longer or shorter time someplace or if I get some bad weather. While I on the road I will typically make reservations for hotels or hostels a day or two ahead of time but I normally do not travel during the peak season.

One option would be to not make a lot of reservations and then try out some hostels early in your trip to see if you like them or not.
Theseus wrote:
Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:02 pm
1) Are the hostels age appropriate for someone like me?
Check the local school calendars and if schools and colleges are still in session then you may actually be one of the younger people in a hostel. Running into people that are in their 70's is not uncommon, at least during the school year when there are few younger people in the hostels.
Theseus wrote:
Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:02 pm
3) Would my personal belongings be safe (I usually travel with a laptop, phone, cash)?
We usually had a private room which is pretty common and we have never had a problem.
Theseus wrote:
Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:02 pm
4 ) How far in advance will I need to book a room in a hostel?
I usually book stays in large cities well ahead of time since the good inexpensive choice tend to fill up fast.

Otherwise it varies too much to say, but if you are not in a peak season and you are flexible you should have little trouble finding a hostel or inexpensive hotel a few days ahead of time. If you will have a rental car then that will make it a lot easier to find an acceptable place to stay at the last minute.

Of course if you happen to hit a date when there is a big event rooms will be harder to get so be sure to check the local events calendar.
Theseus wrote:
Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:02 pm
5) What should I expect compared to a hotel?
Private rooms with a bath are pretty common now so the line between a hostel and a modest hotel is not always clear.

One big difference is that a hostel will usually have a kitchen where you can cook a meal. In addition to saving money that is handy to have since after I have have been on the road for a while I will not feel like eating every meal at a restaurant. I am not sure about Portugal but in Spain many(if not most) restaurants don't even open until eight or nine so it can be difficult to find an early diner so being able to fix your own food could be an advantage too.

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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by Caduceus » Tue Feb 12, 2019 12:00 am

I don't think you should stay in hostels for the human interaction, unless you're, say, under 30, or if you want to stretch it, under 40. I've backpacked solo through Europe for a year and the vast majority of hostels will be filled with young people from foreign countries who will be more interested in their age group. I've seen the occasional solo traveler strike up good friendships, and even seen more than a couple of solo male travelers hit it off to the point of visiting the red light districts together (!) but those are the exception. There's a very transient quality to hostelling - I actually tend to feel more alone in hostels than in a hotel.

You should stay in a hostel if you don't mind cheaper accommodations as you will be spending most of your time outdoors. But if your primary worry is social interaction, hostelling is not the solution. You can talk to anyone as a traveler. It doesn't have to be people in a hostel.

I would download one of the apps (if you don't already have them) that are popular with the locals and use them to chat people up. It doesn't have to be for hook-ups. You can totally meet people for coffee or for activities.

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