Hostels in South America can so relate. Staying in hostels in my early 20s vs late 20s is so different!

Here is a list of good and bad things about hostels, all subjective. My previous experiences with hostels were in India, Mexico, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, and the United States. I have had my share of amazing hostels that I did not want to leave, and the ones that made me question, why am I staying here!?

Great aspects about hostel living during your travels:

  1. Affordable. When doing long term travel, or even for 1 week or more, it can be expensive if you do not budget wisely. I have traveled, backpacked, since I was 23, and I was a grad student and a nurse at the time. I managed to do a 2.5 week Euro trip by saving wisely and budgeting for hostels and cheap flights, trains. Hostels were anywhere from 10 Euros to 50 Euros for a bunk per night based on the country or location. I could not have afforded to travel if I stayed in hotels all the time.
  2. Socializing. Hostels are amazing for meeting new people. I have made friends from all over the world in hostels. As a solo travel, this is a must, unless you want alone time. I enjoy making friends, and learning about their cultures and countries. It is so cool how I meet some stranger over breakfast or a girl in my dorm room, and next thing I know, we take a 8 hour bus ride to a town or go explore the city together. I have met people from all ages, 10 years younger, to 50 years older. Fascinating the stories you hear and what you learn in hostels. A melting pot of cultures. You are never alone, unless you choose to be in hostels. I still keep in touch with my travel friends from hostels sometimes.
  3. location: most hostels are located within central areas for easy commute. If not, they often still have a tour desk or information for booking transportation and activities. This is really convenient for last minute plans when you arrive at a new place. Often times, metros or bus stations are nearby, or you can find other travelers who are going to same places as you and share rides or walk together if you want.
  4. free breakfast or kitchen: A major way to save money or stay healthy when traveling, is to cook your meals or eat simplistically. I enjoy trying local cuisine, but that can be done with one meal out per day or budgeting for food. Hostels with kitchens for guests are wonderful! They have basic stuff, but you can make do. Also, free breakfast is a great way to get stored up on energy for the day and save money too. Common breakfast areas and kitchens are way to meet others too, and I have had the most interesting conversations while cooking in hostel kitchens or eating breakfast (usually is basic too, but food is food. be thankful!).
  5. Teaches you to be a minimalist and flexibility when you live out of your backpack and try to keep it simple. Sharing a dorm room with strangers is not always easy, and you have to fall asleep or try to with lights on or noise.

Now, the not so great things about hostel living. Of course, it is all subjective and all about perspective. There is always a good and bad side of everything, so all about perspective. The older I get though, the most I do realize these things though.

  1. Lack of privacy. Being in female dorms is OK, but I hate mixed dorms. I only stayed in 1 mixed dorm out of necessity due to a last minute booking and hated it. People have no respect for privacy.  Female dorms are my preference, and it is not too bad, but sometimes, you want space. Some hostels are nice in that they have curtains on beds so it feels like a mini fort or like 2 by 6 feet bedroom! Some people do not care about privacy though.
  2. Lack of cleanliness. Some hostels are very clean, but others can be dirty, especially bathrooms. I stayed in a hostel that I hated because of the dirty bathroom. I left, and so did other travelers I met. I have also had hostels with really clean facilities, and I was impressed. I stayed more nights there!
  3. Lack of consideration for others: Most seasoned travelers or backpackers are extra cautious, but not all. Some are groups of friends traveling together who think they are the only ones in the room. It is a dorm room, not your private hotel or guesthouse! They come in the room 4 in the morning and turn all the lights on and make ton of noise. Worst is when they play loud music all night long when there is a thing called headphones and clubs that can be gone to for such activities. Hostels have bars too that they can hang out in, but they choose to turn their dorm into a party although it says no noise or keep quiet after 10pm. I make every effort to stay in non-party hostels, but they all can be party hostels based on the people there. It is a draw of luck.
  4. Laundry! Most hostels charge ridiculous amount of money for laundry services. Sometimes, it is hard to find a laundromat nearby or you do not have the time, so you give in. Also, in South America, most hostels did not like me washing my clothes and hanging they to dry on my bunk. In Europe, Mexico, India, this was the norm to wash clothes by hand in the sink and hang them to dry. EVERYONE did it, and hostels did not care. In South America, I was told I cannot do that, and had to use stupid machines like western spoiled society. Backpacking is about self reliance and hard work. It is what it is, and I accepted it.
  5. Smoke everywhere. That goes for society in general though, no matter what place or country. If you want to increase your risk for COPD and Lung cancer, please do not harm others who try their best to be healthy. I want to give everyone the smoking cessation lecture and teach them about all the different modalities such as nicotine gum, patches, lozenges, oral medications, etc. I can give the lecture in Spanish, and have done so many times at work, but during traveling, I have to bear with air pollution. People come to dorms after smoking like a pack, and they stink up the whole room. They may be really kind people, but that behavior just made me so angry. I do not want my hair or the bed to smell like smoke.
  6. cash only: Even if the hostelworld or other hostel booking sites say accepts credit card, do not be fooled. Some hostels make excuses such as their card machine is broken or etc. You do not have ton of cash on you because that is stupid to carry so much cash when traveling. This forces you to find ATM machines and pay crazy fees sometimes. At least be honest on the booking website, so people can prepare enough cash adequately and plan wisely. This was never an issue in European or even Indian hostels.
  7.  You can nowadays find same price or even cheaper air bnb rooms, and avoid all of the above. Half of my trip, I chose to stay in air bnb rooms in peoples’ houses or apartments. I loved it. I did not spend too much more than a hostel dorm, and sometimes, even saved money! They have kitchens, laundry facilities, and I can still socialize with the host families and other travelers staying there. I made many friends that way too.

I love hostels, but I also hate them sometimes. Regardless, if booking a hostel, I recommend



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