Hostelling – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

caledonian backpackers hostel

The Caledonian Backpackers Hostel in Edinburgh was well-kept with clean, well-stocked bathrooms.
Photo credit:

Our hostel stays these past couple of weeks in Scotland and England remind me of the stays in hostels during our Latin America vacation in 2011. Hostelling is all about The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

 The Good

Our hostel dorm was one of several that looked just like this one.

Our hostel dorm was one of several that looked just like this one.

1. We chose hostels for our city stays because they are economical. There is often a breakfast served, although not always.
2. The communal kitchen gives individuals or groups the dining option of shopping for specific items and preparing them as they so choose.
3. Hostels are places to meet interesting people. Guests in hotels are less inclined to interact.
4. They do the laundry – linens, towels, etc. Personal laundry service is often available onsite or nearby for a fee.

 The Bad

1. We are old compared to the typical hostel guest. In fact, some hostels do not even want guests past a certain age. We typically do not stay awake long enough to socialize like young people. Thus, we older people find it can get noisy at night.
2. Sleeping is typically dormitory style, and when the party crowd does come to bed, it is often with stumbling in the dark or throwing on the lights. I could say something about snoring but I am occasionally an offender myself. My wife usually pokes me if my snoring is a disturbance.
3. You have no control over who your roommates will be. The typical hostel guest is like the typical traveler. They are generally honest and considerate. Since there are exceptions, we take advantage of lockers provided for securing valuables. I am happy to say we have not experienced missing items during our hostel stays.
4. Shower space is limited. Hostels must strive to keep up with the impact of large numbers. The highest rated hostels are those that are most vigilant at cleaning and maintaining soap and paper supplies.

The Ugly

The Blue Sky Hostel in Glasgow was all about the party. Photo credit: Blue Sky

The Blue Sky Hostel in Glasgow was all about the party.
Photo credit: Blue Sky

1. The level of personal hygiene is not equal for all people. In common areas body odor may be a concern.
2. Another hygiene issue is the way people clean kitchenware. Often, the house does not change out washcloths and sponges. We have learned to pack our own.
3. It is disgusting when people pick their noses in public, especially when they handle plates, cups and silverware without first washing their hands. We have learned to wash ‘clean dishes’ before using them.

Hostels are great for the backpacking travelers of which there are a lot in Europe. This seems to be the preferred style of travel for young people because they typically do not have much money. I respect their answering the call of the open road at their age. I sometimes wish I had been more of a traveler when I was their age.

After the current week we will have spent three out of four weeks in hostels. We are on a budget, and hostels simply make better economic sense. In this sense the positives outweigh the negatives. I also think we may be slightly abusing the hostel system. Ideally, one would not spend an entire week at a hostel. Getting in and getting out is the ideal way to go. Hostels are best when used as respites from the road, not destinations in and of themselves. It is with that in mind that we look forward to the comfort of having a place of our own soon.


16 comments on “Hostelling – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

  1. sweetsound says:

    I seriously hate hostels. But you just can’t argue with the pricetag.

    • Mike Lince says:

      There are one or two hostels we abhorred and they got seriously panned on Trip Advisor. Those reviews are there for the world to see. We have also been to some nice hostels and met some great people – all younger of course. But as you indicated, it always comes down to the money.

  2. I’ve stayed at a few hostels in my time, and they were okay. I wouldn’t choose to stay at one now, and I know for sure that Paul wouldn’t go for it. I realize that it’s typically young people who stay at hostels, but it still made me upset to realize that age discrimination occurs at hostels. That bites! Sounds like you guys are over the whole hostel thing. It will be nice for you to get into your apartment. Celeste 🙂

    • Mike Lince says:

      Generally, we would not want to stay at a hostel that would consider an age limit. I am not sure what their concern would be, but that doesn’t bother me. I do know I would have enjoyed the whole hostel experience more when I was younger. I do enjoy meeting younger people and a number of them have provided me with their email addresses so that when we get to their country or their city they will make sure we know our way around. That said, we are eager to have our own place. – Mike

  3. Michele Ricchiazzi says:

    You two seem to have it all down to a system, but I know for a fact that they wouldn’t ever be for me…safe travels and hopefully you will have your apartment soon.

  4. nantubre says:

    Brave Brave couple! Awesome

  5. Wow, Mike. I give you lots of credit… I would no longer be cut out for this. I was once, but not really anymore… other than for a few days. I recall that some hostels had rooms for couples. Do you and Florence find any where you can bunk together? I guess this is one of the downfalls in a life of adventure. I’m impressed. 🙂

    • Mike Lince says:

      I will admit that hostel hopping is rather wearisome, mostly because we are fully loaded with all of our luggage – essentially everything we own. There are private rooms in most of the hostels. However, those have to be booked well in advance. Since our apartment search left us without a place for a three week span, we were scrambling. We had planned the Edinburgh visit, but the Glasgow add-on was not planned. We also ended up in Birmingham, England because everything we would have considered in London was booked. Oh well – it is all part of the adventure. 🙂

  6. jimhornnews says:

    OMG I had no idea you were slumming over there! I hope the bed bugs were under control. I do hope you can get into an apartment soon. I think I’d stick to inexpensive countries in Latin America rather than slum in expensive Europe. Good luck!

    • Mike Lince says:

      Ha Ha – you Latinoamericanos are all alike – so geocentric! If you remember we had to wait two weeks for the desirable digs in which we ended up while in Mexico. And of course the wait was worth it, but we were slumming then, too. At any rate, assuming all goes according to plan, we will have our place in just a few more days. We are waiting for cleaning after the exit of previous tenants. Thanks, Jim.

  7. reocochran says:

    I liked the humor in the title and can believe this would be true anywhere you would hostel. We have a member of my Presbyterian church who went hostelling and also, felt that her age was not always appreciated. She did tell us some nice stories, like you did too. We stayed only once at a hostel in my lifetime, at Malabar Farm in the Mansfield, Ohio area. (Humphrey Bogart married Lauren Bacall on the interior stairs of the farmhouse.) The author who wrote the book “Malabar Farm” and others, again escapes me… a bad habit lately of not being able to get the library computer to swich using tabs so I may have the name off. Sorry!) Bromsfield had studied the way India used every space for their sustainable farming and brought that back to the U.S. We “volks marched” and then, slept on bunk beds, worried a bit about bedbugs and the cleanliness of the other participants. But, told my 3 kids that it could not be much worse than camping! Smile! Thanks for this honest review of hostels!

    • Mike Lince says:

      This post was meant to be a fair appraisal of the hostelling experience. I hope I managed to convey that. I did mention names in the photo captions. However, my most brutally honest reviews appear on Trip Advisor for the benefit of those who look at such things before deciding where to stay and for how long.

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