To Hostel or Not to Hostel?


What Are Hostels Really Like?

It seems that the only way for people my age to explore the world is through hostels or by couch surfing. Well I am not going to sleep on some strangers couch, that is out of the question. But I may have to stay in hostels. So are they are as dirty as everyone says? Are they only for partiers, or can people with early bedtimes like me stay in them too? And what truly is better in order to get to know the place that you are traveling to? And it seems that this question of hostels vs. hotels has become quite the debate in my head. So here is what I have so far.

Can introverts handle hostels?

I am an introvert. I like being around people. I don't like being alone. But I also need breaks from being around people in order to recharge. My relaxing time is quiet. And when I travel, it is usually at night since I do not have time during the day to be an introvert. So at night, after dinner, instead of hitting the bars, I'm hitting the books to relax and learn more about what I saw. But in a hostel, especially if you are in a large dorm, can you be an introvert? With people constantly around it seems like I would not get that time to be an introvert.

How accommodating are guests to solo travelers?

Hostels sound great when you are staying with a bunch of friends, that way you each have a bed and no one has to sleep on a couch or on the floor of the hotel room. But for a solo traveler who is really shy, are hostel guests accommodating? I don't want to be the person that wanders around not talking to anyone, but I also don't want to be the person constantly trying to make conversation with disinterested people. So do people who stay in the dorms plan on trying to meet other people? Or are they doing it for budget sake and don't care about meeting people? I am hoping that the first option is what people are choosing hostels for.

How clean is everything?

You hear rumors about bed bugs or having to shower with sandals. But are hostels as dirty as the rumors you hear? Or is it a "you get what you pay for" situation? I know that there are things like TripAdvisor to help steer you away from the bad ones, but what happens when you only have bad options?

Louvre Pyramid, Paris

How early can you go to bed?

I'm and early to bed early to rise person. If I could, I would go to bed at nine while traveling. But its harder when you're sharing a room with five other people who all want to stay up and chat. So will I be forced to stay up later, and sleep in later, and see less in the daylight? That is a hard compromise for me, because when I am there, I am there to see things, not sleep in. Knowing me I would be very accommodating to the people in the room and sacrifice sleep. So if I were to stay in a hostel, would it I be able to actually sleep when I want to?

Are there hotels at the same price of hostels? And what do they look like?

You get what you pay for, right? Are there decent priced hotels out there where you don't share a bathroom with someone. I have yet to find a good one. It seems like I have to pay a lot for a private room and bathroom, or a little for a shared space to sleep. My priority for a little budget is somewhere clean for me to sleep peacefully. So what is my best option?

Can you meet people the same way in hotels?

It's nice to meet people when traveling alone. You get to see how others live or meet people that are trying to have the same experience as you. I find it very rewarding to get to know someone, even if its only for a few short moments. And I think hostels are great environments for that. But can you do the same thing in hotels. Maybe if you hang out in a lounge, but I'm not that outgoing. So maybe hostels are better in that sense for a solo traveler.

Lover's Lock Bridge, Paris

Which one is better for getting to know the culture of the city?

When I am in a city, I don't want to eat hamburgers and I don't only want to talk to Americans. I want to get a good feel of the city. In hotels I feel disconnected from what it really is when I have constant internet access and TV. I've heard B&Bs are good because it is run and owned by locals. But what about hostels? A bunch of people hanging out might not be inviting to the culture of that town, but everyone comes from somewhere so you get to know their culture, right?

So the big question is what should I do. I know that at some point during this adventure I will be staying in a hostel, but at what point? I'm still trying to get all those bad ideas out of my head, but since I am so socially awkward, I get nervous thinking about hostels. In my mind, I would like to safely retreat back to my private room than to stand there awkwardly hoping someone will talk to me. I guess I will just have to take a leap of faith and hope that my first hostel experience will be great in order to encourage me in my future stays.

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