- You have to be under the age of 30 to use a hostel.
- Hostels are scummy, dirty places.
- If you stay in a hostel you will look poor.
- You can't use the kitchen equipment without getting sick.
- All foreigners and people in hostels are out to hurt you, rob you and rip you off.
- A woman cannot, should not and must not hostel alone – who knows what will happen to her!
- If you stay in a hostel you will have to listen to other people's funky noises every night.
- If you don't speak the language, you can't communicate.
- Hostel owners bore holes through the walls to spy on their guests.
- If you are over 25 nobody will talk to you.
- Special 'hostel slippers' must be worn inside the hostel.
- The beds in hostels are breeding grounds for lice/bugs.
- I can't leave my stuff in my room, everything will get ripped off!
- When staying at a hostel you can make as much mess as you like, the staff will clean up after you.
- There's no need to worry about being considerate, everyone is just there to party 24/7.
- The hostel owners love people who share alcohol in the dormitories, it adds to the spirit of things.
- Hostels are safe havens to buy/share/deal drugs.
- The refrigerator is full of free snacks for you to indulge in.
- If you mop the bathroom or clean up your dishes you can stay for free.
- If you need your laundry done just hand it to the manager, who will happily do it for free.
- The worse you dress the cooler you look. Also, in hostels most cool travelers don't even bother to shower.
- All backpackers are beer-swilling, pot-smoking oddballs that rarely shower and are always borrowing stuff.
- You must never talk to another traveler unless introduced by the manager.
- When getting changed in the dorm you must turn out the lights.
- When staying in the dorm nudity is the norm.
- If someone complains about your snoring you can be ejected immediately.
- Brand-name hostels are always better.
- Hostels are hook-up central.
- Complaining about a situation will make you an outcast.
- IHostels make money by having a million hidden fees.
- This isn't a hotel; there's no concierge, so you have to figure things out for yourself.
- Stay in a hostel and you're guaranteed to have people to hang out with.
- Myth: You have to be under the age of 30 to use a hostel.
We reckon that while younger travelers often do stay in hostels, that doesn't bar people of other ages from staying there.
In truth, all ages are welcome. Older folks often stay in hostels, so do married couples and families with young children. Travelers of any age can stay.
- Myth: Hostels are scummy, dirty places.
We reckon if your idea of clean is a sterilized laboratory, you're right.
Most hostels are kept up pretty well. With all the traffic that goes through, it is important for staff to keep things tidy, and in general they do. A lot also depends on you: it's easier for staff to keep a clean hostel if you as a guest clean up your own messes, and when available pitch in to help with chores (some hostels offer reduced rates or even a free night's stay to travelers who help with chores – check with management). All told, hostels are clean and pleasant.
- Myth: If you stay in a hostel you will look poor.
We reckon that choice of accommodation is a silly thing to feel a need to compensate for.
Staying in a hostel is not a sign of poverty, but a sign of being budget-conscious and, oftentimes, of wanting more than just a bed to sleep in. It's a chance to meet new people, chill out, and get cool info on where you are. You won't "look poor" if you stay in a hostel – you'll be saving money so you can travel longer. As far as we're concerned, that's wealth all its own.
- Myth: You can't use the kitchen equipment without getting sick.
We reckon that if a pot looks dirty, wash it.
For starters, preparing your meals is up to you; a hostel ain't yer mum's house. Most travelers clean up after themselves just fine, but before you start going nuts in the kitchen, make sure the utensils and what-not are clean. If they're not, give 'em a scrub and get down to business.
- Myth: All foreigners and people in hostels are out to hurt you, rob you and rip you off.
We reckon that stereotypes like this may have a grain of truth, but it's been exaggerated into a boulder.
Just because someone has a bad experience with one person in X country, does not mean that the entire population of X country is a jerk or out to swipe your cash. You are far more likely to have those kinds of problems if you walk around with your money in plain view, wear designer clothes and carry your expensive camera around your neck – then of course you'll be targeted by criminal entrepreneurs. Dress for the occasion, country and culture; keep your crown jewels of travel – tickets, passport, and all money but the day's spending cash – in a concealed money belt; have some common sense; and don't say yes to everything. You'll find more friends than thieves, in those foreigners.
On the same token, most people staying in hostels are just like you: they're travelers who want to have a good trip, not hurt people. Sometimes there are dodgy people, and sometimes dodgy things can happen in hostels, but it's rare and should not be a reason to avoid hosteling.
- Myth: A woman cannot, should not and must not hostel alone – who knows what will happen to her!
We reckon that's as outdated and incorrect as the idea that women shouldn't vote or do any work that doesn't involve kitchens and child-rearing.
Women can and women do travel alone, and they have for a long time. We know of dozens, if not hundreds, of women who travel solo, and do so just fine. And a woman should travel alone – if that is what she wants to do. It's your trip, remember?
The key here, is to think, to keep your wits about you, just as you would at home. No matter how light you travel, always pack your brain and your common sense. Yes, there are dodgy people in the world, and yes some of them should be avoided. There are also dodgy people in your hometown, but that doesn't keep you from going to the grocery store or from having a night out on the town, does it? Exercise caution; avoid/leave dangerous situations (and people); trust your instincts. A woman can travel alone in complete safety, and usually all that happens to her is that she has the time of her life.
- Myth: If you stay in a hostel you will have to listen to other people's funky noises every night.
We reckon that, well, yeah, there's some truth to this one.
Sooner or later you will wind up in a dorm room with a snorer that'd put a lumber mill to shame. Or a farter who really shouldn't have had that curry for dinner. Or a yakker who should've stopped after the 4th pint, not the 10th.
It happens. People stay in dorm rooms, and people – including you, regardless of what you maintain in polite company – snore, fart, sneeze, fall ill and, oh yeah, feel a bit romantic, if you catch my drift. Try to whisper over to the snorer, wake them up; kick their bunk or throw your pillow at them if you have to. Let them know they're keeping poeple up; usually they're apologetic and try to make sure they don't start back. If your previously single bunkmate gropes in at 3am with a soon-to-be shag, feel free to ask them to get their own room, make barnyard noises, or ask if they brought enough for the whole dorm.
- Myth: If you don't speak the language, you can't communicate.
We reckon there's a lot to be said for gestures, a smile, and at least a little effort on your part to try.
It doesn't hurt to try and learn a few words, and you will probably pick up some of the language on the way. However, if you try hard enough, with enough patience there is no reason why you won't get your point across. Here's a communication tip for you: There is nothing more universal than a smile. That alone can help you open doors, when you can't open your mouth.
- Myth: Hostel owners bore holes through the walls to spy on their guests.
We reckon that you should get a grip!
A hotel or B&B owner is just as capable of doing the same thing, and most of them never would either. That sort of voyeuristic idiocy comes down to the type of person involved, not the type of accommodation. Most hostel owners and staff are just people who like travel and wanted to find a way to make a living in this aspect of the business. They aren't perverts, and you aren't going to be spied on simply because you opted for a hostel. Chill out, and change clothes with impunity.
- Myth: If you are over 25 nobody will talk to you.
We reckon that if someone won't talk to you because of your age, then they probably aren't worth talking to in the first place.
Travelers care about meeting other travelers. Some of our most interesting interactions have been with people from generations both older and younger than our own. Older travelers still have a lust for life that keeps them on the road. Since travel is all about new experiences, break out of your comfort zone a bit more: older travelers, try to chat with the younger crowd; and younger travelers, don't forget that age has nothing to do with how interesting and worth your time a person is.
- Myth: Special 'hostel slippers' must be worn inside the hostel.
We reckon that your footwear is your business.
You don't have to wear special shoes, boots, socks, sandals or slippers. Heck, you don't have to wear shoes at all. It all depends on your personal comfort and style. When we travel we prefer to bring just two pairs of footwear: boots and heavy-duty sandals. Give that a go, so if you want some "hostel slippers", then break out yer Tevas when you head for the shower or the telly room.
- Myth: The beds in hostels are breeding grounds for lice/bugs.
We reckon that this can be an issue in some places, but it's not the norm.
You aren't hosteling because you're after ultra-lush, poshed-out beds. Hostels don't generally have pest problems, but it can happen. If you hear of such problems, try not to stay in that hostel, or if you're already there, try to get another bed. Chances are, though, that this is something you won't have to worry about.
- Myth: I can't leave my stuff in my room, everything will get ripped off!
We reckon that this more understandable concern will be resolved the first time you walk into your room.
The first time I stayed in a hostel, I was worried sick that whenever I slept or left, someone was going to tear into my bags and steal my stuff right down to my underwear. Then I walked into my room. A couple of the guys had their beds set up almost like mini-apartments: wee stereos, alarm clocks, clothes, set up all around. They weren't worried about their things being swiped – because they weren't going to be.
Theft is extremely, extremely rare; most travelers are honest people, not thieves. Also, hostels are pretty secure. Rooms just about always have locks, and only the guests for that room have keys. Most hostels also have a secure area, where you can store valuables like your camera. For your crown jewels of travel – passport, tickets, money/credit cards – keep them in your money belt, which you wear while you sleep or you stuff in your pillowcase.
Don't parade valuables (out of sight is out of mind), keep stuff secure; a wee padlock on your bag isn't a bad idea for peace of mind. Remember too: someone with their own 30-lb backpack isn't going to try to hoist off with another!
- Myth: When staying at a hostel you can make as much mess as you like, the staff will clean up after you.
We reckon that "staff" ain't another word for "mama".
Staff is not there to tidy up after you. If you are grown-up enough to travel, then you are grown-up enough to wash your own dishes, make your bed, and keep your dirty underwear off the floor. If you make a mess, clean it up – you wouldn't want other travelers to leave a mess for you, so don't leave one for them either.
- Myth: There's no need to worry about being considerate, everyone is just there to party 24/7.
We reckon that silence isn't golden, but consideration is.
Yeah, some travelers want to party until 6am. Some travelers want to crash out at 9pm though, because they want a good night's sleep before heading out at 6am. Many hostels have a time after which they ask people to keep noise down. If you want to party, head to the pub or club, don't try to make your room piss-up central. Not everyone wants to party all hours, but everyone does want to be treated with respect and consideration. Including you.
- Myth: The hostel owners love people who share alcohol in the dormitories, it adds to the spirit of things.
We reckon that views on booze vary from hostel to hostel, so if you want to knock back a few, try to make sure you stay in hostels where that's cool.
Personally, we like to crack a bottle of wine or tip back a cold one with newfound friends, therefore we try to stay in hostels that allow booze. We're their guest though, so we try to respect what rules there are.
Rules on alcohol vary from hostel to hostel; some prohibit it, some provide free kegs. Allowing booze though, doesn't mean you now have a right to be a drunken ass. If you want to really cut loose and party hard, go out on the town.
- Myth: Hostels are safe havens to buy/share/deal drugs.
We reckon that "hostel" ain't another word for "crackhouse".
We all know that some travelers are into a little puff-toughness, and some do hit the road with illicit substances in mind. Some chemical entrepreneurs, both traveler and local, may hang at a hostel. Keep some perspective though: how many dealers and potheads live in the average college dorm? Or apartment complex? If drugs aren't your thing, don't seek out the drugs, deals and dealers; hostels, however, aren't crackhouses and aren't a focus for drugs.
- Myth: The refrigerator is full of free snacks for you to indulge in.
We reckon that you'd best stop and read the labels!
Food in the fridge, on the shelves, etc., almost always belongs to a guest at the hostel. It is NOT free-for-all. Any food that is open to everyone, is set off somewhere and marked as such. Food – including yours – should be labelled. If you don't see a label, don't assume it's free. You'd be pretty mad if someone ate all your food, so don't eat someone else's.
- Myth: If you mop the bathroom or clean up your dishes you can stay for free.
We reckon that you need to check on this.
Some hostels offer reduced rates or free nights in exchange for helping with chores. Sometimes you can also work at the hostel for an extended period of time, in exchange for free accommodation. Different hostels have different policies; ask the management to find out your options.
- Myth: If you need your laundry done just hand it to the manager, who will happily do it for free.
We reckon that you need to check first.
Many hostels offer some sort of laundry service. There may be machines that you use yourself, in an open laundry room, or there might be a laundry service that the hostel provides. Don't assume; ask and find out.
- Myth: The worse you dress the cooler you look. Also, in hostels most cool travelers don't even bother to shower.
We reckon that traveling for a popularity contest and a fashion show is silly, but a lack of showering does not equal cool.
Dress how you want to dress; if you're Gap Girl or Banana Republic Boy, fine. If you prefer to dress only in clothes bought from the local markets, go for it. But for heaven's sake, bathe now and again. Even if it's just a liter of water where you clean your face and naughty bits. It's the 21st century, and there is no reason to be unwashed and rank. Your dorm mates won't like it, and it's not a good way to make friends.
- Myth: All backpackers are beer-swilling, pot-smoking oddballs that rarely shower and are always borrowing stuff.
We reckon that there are definitely some of those binging, mooching types out there, but just because some are, doesn't mean all are.
There are many more people who consider themselves "backpackers" who are nothing like this. Bankers, teetotalers, students, social drinkers, waitresses, doctors, writers, casual smokers - you name it. They travel – as backpackers. For some, the only difference between how they are on the road, and how they are at home, is they're carrying their "home" on their back. And they usually don't wear suits – which makes sense: jackets and blazers lose their shape under backpack straps. People who are backpackers, are no more normal, and no stranger, than you are.
- Myth: You must never talk to another traveler unless introduced by the manager.
We reckon this ain't an English garden party.
You're free to talk to whoever you want, or to no one at all, if that's what you want to do. If you want to meet people, meet people. Introduce yourself. Offer to share some fruit or a bottle of wine. Travelers are pretty much always interested in meeting and talking with other travelers, and you are no exception.
- Myth: When getting changed in the dorm you must turn out the lights.
We reckon that if you're shy about getting changed in front of people, change in the toilet or another room where you will be sure to have privacy. But no, you don't have to turn off the lights.
- Myth: When staying in the dorm nudity is the norm.
We reckon that there's nothing wrong with being naked, but if you've got to go birthday suit, at least don't wave your bits at everyone.
Nudity isn't the norm, but you will see people in various stages of dress and undress. Don't gawk or stare; we're all adults here. If you're unsure of what to do or wear, there's nothing wrong with erring on the side of modesty.
- Myth: If someone complains about your snoring you can be ejected immediately.
We reckon that you should try not to snore, especially if someone wakes you up and points it out, but you won't get kicked out for it.
Your dorm mates might throw pillows at you though.
- Myth: Brand-name hostels are always better.
We reckon: There's something to be said for how clean the Hostelling International hostels always seem to be, but brand-name isn't always the best choice.
One of the best hostles we've ever stayed in was tiny and independent, but so was the worst one. Independent hostels don't have their procedures policed, so they're free to do as they like. Sometimes this means they add a fun, quirky touch to everything; sometimes it means they're lazy about cleaning the toilets.
Chain hostels, on the other hand, often conform to a cookie-cutter vision. In some cases that vision may suit you. The hostels run by Nomads, a chain in Australia, tend to be a bit run-down and have crazy social scenes, while Hostelling International places are spotless and sport a more subdued atmosphere. Chains are often more expensive, too, and require that you sign up for a membership.
- Myth: Hostels are hook-up central.
We reckon: Actually, backpacker bus tours are a better venue for snagging a date. No, we're kidding...sort of.
Hostels, especially in big cities, can be merry-go-rounds of couples swapping spit and moving on. If this appeals to you, just keep in mind how little privacy you've got.
And if this isn't your scene, don't worry: you should never have to put up with the bunk above you rocking all night long. Tell them to take it somewhere else, like the laundry room. At least they won't be bothering you anymore.
- Myth: Complaining about a situation will make you an outcast.
We reckon: If you don't like something, probably a lot of other people don't, either.
When you request that the stinky fellow in the corner stop leaving his dirty socks on everyone else's stuff, chances are the rest of the room will applaud you. Same goes for asking for quiet/having the lights out after a certain hour or asking the amorous to take it somewhere else. Speak up and not only will you get what you want, you'll get the respect of everyone else who was inwardly fuming.
- Myth: Hostels make money by having a million hidden fees.
We reckon: Well...yes, some hostels do. Move on to a hostel where the management genuinely cares about budget travelers.
Every now and then you'll end up in a place that charges two dollars extra for a blanket (in winter!) or a fee for loaning you cutlery and a plate set. Not to mention, it's three bucks to use the pool table and the locker for your valuables costs more than the net worth of what's inside.
A lot of hostels have deposit systems, where it seems like you're forking over a lot of cash just to get your keys and a coffee mug, but you'll be getting it all back later, so don't sweat it in these cases.
And for every hostel that hits you with the hidden fee, there's one where they provide a free breakfast, loan you a fluffy towel, and toss a mint on your pillow, just like a hotel.
- Myth: This isn't a hotel; there's no concierge, so you have to figure things out for yourself.
We reckon: The front desk staff in many hostels are more helpful than a guidebook and will respond to a friendly question with heaps of information.
The staff, who are often locals, know all the secrets of the neighborhood that a guidebook may not. Like a concierge, they can help you with a variety of requests. Hostel staff have helped me find a job, buy a cheap bicycle, and find loaner gear for an overnight hike, not to mention consistently pointing out the best things to do and the best places to eat in town.
- Myth: Stay in a hostel and you're guaranteed to have people to hang out with.
We reckon: Hostels are one of the best places to meet people when you're traveling, but you'll still have to make an effort.
At home, we're taught that it's polite to mind our own business in public. But if you want hostelling to lead to friendship, you'll have to break that rule. Talk to people: in the bathroom, in the kitchen, in your bedroom - the girl brushing her teeth at the next sink, the guy boiling pasta on the stove, the person in the bunk above you. It's not a social faux pas to invite yourself to join a card game in the TV room; everyone else wants to meet new people, too.