Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

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Theseus
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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?

123
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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 https://www.hostelworld.com/search?sear ... 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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xb7
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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 https://www.hihostels.com/

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.

Starfish
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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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Raybo
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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 couchsurfing.org. 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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SrGrumpy
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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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Watty
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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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Theseus
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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by Theseus » Sun Feb 17, 2019 9:01 am

Thank you everyone for providing some perspective.
Caduceus wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 12:00 am
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.
Caduceus. This is a good suggestion. I will see if that can work.
Watty wrote:
Sat Feb 09, 2019 12:31 am
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.

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.
Watty. I like your suggestion of trying out a hostel in the early part of my stay and then if I like it continue it on. I am going in "off-season" I think. First 2-3 weeks of May should be borderline off-season I think. But I will check local school calendars.
SrGrumpy wrote:
Fri Feb 08, 2019 11:23 pm
I would get Airbnb if I were you. Life's too short.
My usual so far is a 3-4 start hotel or AirBnb. I wanted to change it up - especially for social interaction. But I like Watty's suggestion. Try it out and if I don't like it, just find a hotel.
Raybo wrote:
Fri Feb 08, 2019 2:35 pm
If you like to interact with locals, check out couchsurfing.org. 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 is intriguing, but rather too adventurous right off the bat. But if the hostels go right, perhaps I will consider it.
xb7 wrote:
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 https://www.hihostels.com/
Thanks xb7. I checked this link. Very helpful. And googled a few places. Including Rick Steve's site that has some information on hostels travels.
123 wrote:
Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:36 pm
a good site to browse is https://www.hostelworld.com/search?sear ... f_guests=2.

Hostels are more likely to be located in older downtown areas of the city, unlike hotels that may be built out on the highway.
123, thanks for that link. Helped a lot in figuring out what's possible in Madrid etc. Also, my preference is usually stay near older downtowns so the hostels are much better that way, it seems.

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Epsilon Delta
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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by Epsilon Delta » Sun Feb 17, 2019 11:50 am

Theseus wrote:
Sun Feb 17, 2019 9:01 am
Watty. I like your suggestion of trying out a hostel in the early part of my stay and then if I like it continue it on. I am going in "off-season" I think. First 2-3 weeks of May should be borderline off-season I think. But I will check local school calendars.
The experience at a hostel in London is very different from that in Achnasheena, let alone Slovakia. At the smaller hostels the experience will vary day to day. The other guests will vary from no-one, to an assortment of Aussies to full with a youth group.

It will take a few tries to get the full experience and maybe figure out how to maximize what you are looking for, if the first stay does not put you off completely.

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VictoriaF
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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by VictoriaF » Mon Feb 18, 2019 1:12 pm

When I travel on my own, I try to stay in private rooms of hostels. For me, that's the best of both worlds. Sometimes, private rooms have own bathrooms, sometimes bathrooms are shared. I prefer to have a private bathroom, but it's not a major requirement.

My major requirement for a hostel is location in the center of the city and good connectivity by public transportation.

Some hostels offer community events and programs, others don't. Most hostels have a community room, where people come to mingle. The majority of hostels have kitchen facilities (refrigerator, stove, dishes), where you meet people in a casual way. Being able to have your own meals saves significant amount of money on restaurants. When you store your food in a hostel's refrigerator, make sure (1) to mark it with your name, room number and the date you are leaving, and (2) keep your food in opaque tied bags not to tempt those looking for free food. Of course, you can also buy some food for the community and mark it accordingly.

Victoria
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an_asker
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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by an_asker » Mon Feb 18, 2019 3:26 pm

Theseus wrote:
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?
Most of your concerns have been answered by others. Re: security of your belongings, it varies. Last year, I stayed in two hostels in Europe - one night in Salzburg and one night in Munich. I liked the security of the Salzburg place better where I had a nice huge in-room locker with a lock-and-key. Both places, I shared the room with three others. Because of my hours - got to the place late at night and had to move out early next morning - I couldn't really chat up the roommates. And yes, just by a look around the place, though younger than you, I was at least a decade or two older than most of the others (for whatever that's worth). :sharebeer

But thankfully, I didn't have issues getting sleep.

[Edited to add] There were some that I looked at which had an upper age limit. I wouldn't have made it.

sabhen
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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by sabhen » Mon Feb 18, 2019 3:55 pm

You may want to visit a local Toastmasters club if you speak a bit of the language. There are also English speaking ones. People there are usually very friendly and very welcoming. Afterward, people meet for drinks and chit-chat. It's a great way to meet the locals.

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Theseus
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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by Theseus » Mon Feb 18, 2019 4:00 pm

sabhen wrote:
Mon Feb 18, 2019 3:55 pm
You may want to visit a local Toastmasters club if you speak a bit of the language. There are also English speaking ones. People there are usually very friendly and very welcoming. Afterward, people meet for drinks and chit-chat. It's a great way to meet the locals.
Thank you for the suggestion. I have never been to any Toastmasters club before but I can try and see how that goes.

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Epsilon Delta
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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by Epsilon Delta » Mon Feb 18, 2019 4:07 pm

In some dialects of English "chat up" has connotations that I suspect several posters are unaware of. I suggest you not use the term in European hostels unless your intent is different than is indicated by the rest of the posts.

halfnine
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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by halfnine » Mon Feb 18, 2019 4:20 pm

While most hostels cater to the party and younger crowd, there are hostels in Europe that cater to families and locals. Though, you're less likely to find them directly in the city centre and the hostels might be less suitable for public transport. You'll simply have to do you own research to sort them out.

These days spending time with other travelers is down near the bottom of my list. After enough travel over the years hanging out with traveler Mike is much similar to hanging out with traveler Peter or traveler Stefan. While it kills the time it doesn't enhance the local experience. I much prefer these days trying to find ways to mingle with locals. Particularly those who have nothing to do with the local tourist industry.

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Theseus
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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by Theseus » Mon Feb 18, 2019 4:23 pm

halfnine wrote:
Mon Feb 18, 2019 4:20 pm
I much prefer these days trying to find ways to mingle with locals. Particularly those who have nothing to do with the local tourist industry.
How do you go about that?

SrGrumpy
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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by SrGrumpy » Mon Feb 18, 2019 7:47 pm

Theseus wrote:
Mon Feb 18, 2019 4:23 pm
halfnine wrote:
Mon Feb 18, 2019 4:20 pm
I much prefer these days trying to find ways to mingle with locals. Particularly those who have nothing to do with the local tourist industry.
How do you go about that?
Hmm, if I were working in the tourism industry, devoting my professional life to helping visitors and showing off my city/country, I might be offended that someone would prefer not to "mingle" with me.

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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by VictoriaF » Tue Feb 19, 2019 11:39 am

halfnine wrote:
Mon Feb 18, 2019 4:20 pm
I much prefer these days trying to find ways to mingle with locals. Particularly those who have nothing to do with the local tourist industry.
My international trips are built around mingling with the locals. I belong to an international organization that holds multiple meetings around the world and frequently offers post-event tours around host countries. For example, in 2018, I attended meetings in Serbia and Slovakia, and in 2019, I will be visiting Belgium and France. Over the past ten years I have made friends in several European countries and receive personal invitations apart from scheduled meetings. The group also meets in Asia, Australia and New Zealand, but I have not tried these yet.

Finding an affinity group with international chapters is a good way to see the world.

Victoria
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halfnine
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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by halfnine » Thu Feb 21, 2019 4:20 pm

VictoriaF wrote:
Tue Feb 19, 2019 11:39 am
halfnine wrote:
Mon Feb 18, 2019 4:20 pm
I much prefer these days trying to find ways to mingle with locals. Particularly those who have nothing to do with the local tourist industry.
My international trips are built around mingling with the locals. I belong to an international organization that holds multiple meetings around the world and frequently offers post-event tours around host countries. For example, in 2018, I attended meetings in Serbia and Slovakia, and in 2019, I will be visiting Belgium and France. Over the past ten years I have made friends in several European countries and receive personal invitations apart from scheduled meetings. The group also meets in Asia, Australia and New Zealand, but I have not tried these yet.

Finding an affinity group with international chapters is a good way to see the world.

Victoria
This is an excellent example.

Back to the OP. If you have an interest, activity, hobby you enjoy then these are excellent ways to meet locals particularly in developed countries. Also, if you spend any significant time outside of Europe on a typical traveler circuit you will come to meet and befriend many Europeans along the way which will lead to having friends to visit and stay with when you eventually head to Europe.

halfnine
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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by halfnine » Thu Feb 21, 2019 4:30 pm

SrGrumpy wrote:
Mon Feb 18, 2019 7:47 pm
Theseus wrote:
Mon Feb 18, 2019 4:23 pm
halfnine wrote:
Mon Feb 18, 2019 4:20 pm
I much prefer these days trying to find ways to mingle with locals. Particularly those who have nothing to do with the local tourist industry.
How do you go about that?
Hmm, if I were working in the tourism industry, devoting my professional life to helping visitors and showing off my city/country, I might be offended that someone would prefer not to "mingle" with me.
We all have our preferences. My preferences generally follow this hierarchy.

1. Spend the day with a local outside of the tourist industry
2. Spend the day with a local in the tourist industry
3. Spend the day on my own doing something high on my checklist (which in some locales is just having a wander)
4. Spend the day with an expat
5. Spend the day with other travelers in whatever direction that might take
6. Spend the day on my own doing something lower down the list.

As you can see "mingling" with a local in the tourist industry is still pretty high on the list but if I have a choice in the matter they'll come in second.

Nova1967
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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by Nova1967 » Fri Feb 22, 2019 10:05 am

From my experiences one of the best places to mingle with locals and Ex Pats is at an Irish or British pub, They are common in large cities throughout Europe, Latin America and Asia. English is widely spoken at these places so its a good place to meet people.

lumens
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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by lumens » Fri Feb 22, 2019 1:02 pm

In my experience the HI (Hosteling International) hostels had a wider age distribution, less of a loud party atmosphere, and cleaner facilities. Sometimes you get an entire class of schoolkids coming through on a trip though.

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Re: Hostels while solo traveling in Europe?

Post by mariezzz » Sat Feb 23, 2019 12:10 am

How well do you sleep? Will noise by others around you be a problem? Even if you have a private room in a hostel, they're usually much noisier than hotels (where you've asked to be put in a room away from most noise).

I stayed in hostels when I was in my 20s, and could sleep better, and function better on less sleep. But I've dealt with people in hostels who felt the room for 4-6 people was the appropriate place to reorganize their luggage at 3 am, drunk people who came in noisily, snorers of course, and so on.

I'm pretty frugal, but these days, I'll pay for a modest place to stay that isn't a hostel.

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