There’s no doubt about it, hostels provide affordable accommodation for those of us that like to spend extended periods away from home whilst on a tight budget. Usually, the bigger the room you’re willing to sleep in, the cheaper your bed, and that’s because the bigger the room, the more beds the hostel will cram into that room.
Dorm rooms aren’t the only rooms available in hostels however, lots of hostels now offer single, double and twin rooms, so you don’t have to wake up next to a stranger every morning. A comforting thought.
When I first went backpacking in 2006 I was nervous about staying in hostels, but I soon came to love them. They’re a great place to meet people and get useful travel advice, I’d definitely recommend a stay in a hostel. The only thing that annoys me about hostels is the unexpected costs. With some extras it was my oversight, but there are others where I really do feel that the hostels are taking the p*ss, I thought they were supposed to be on our side? Below is my list of unexpected but often essential expenditures when staying in a hostel.
1. Key deposit – Ok so it’s a deposit so you’ll get the money back … in theory. Lose, damage or have that key stolen and your deposit is gone! A key deposit is something you need to be prepared for upon arrival at your chosen hostel. Don’t get caught out with not having the cash to pay the deposit otherwise you may be subject to point number 2 from this list.
2. Credit and debit card charges – Ah yes, for paying for your room or key deposit using your plastic you could have just cost yourself a few more pennies. A lot of the hostels I stayed in on Australia’s east coast (2006) would charge up to 5% for using plastic as a payment method. Its not clever to carry around lots of cash in an alien land, but getting into the habit of paying for your hostel beds in cash could save you money in the long run.
3. Hiring cutlery – Yep, no lie, when staying in Byron bay I had to hire 1 bowl, 1 plate, 1 knife, 1 fork and 1 spoon at $20 for the set. Of course a couple of those items went missing and so I lost my deposit. Beware the ‘fully stocked kitchen’ selling point, it may only be fully stocked once you paid extra for it!
4. Bed linen – I was always told don’t bother with a sleeping bag whilst travelling, and for the most part that has proved true. Most hostels will provide your bed sheets to go on your bed. The most they will ask is that you strip the sheets off the bed when checking out. I think that’s fair enough, it keeps the hostel clean and bedbug free. There was one hostel in New Zealand however where bed sheets were not included in the price our of 16 sleeper dorm room (1 massive bunk bed, 16 people). They instead asked for cash in exchange for a duvet and sheets. They promptly ran out of these as like me, none of the other backpackers on my tour had even considered bringing a sleeping bag. The end result of this situation was the hostel manager driving to his home and getting some of his own sheets and duvets, and then letting us rent those. I doubt he washed them before taking our cash.
5. Laundry – I wouldn’t expected any hostel to do my laundry, but it’s something that didn’t even register when I was planning my RTW trip. I quickly came to terms with how much it was going to cost me though, spending $5 on a wash and then another $5 to dry said washed clothes. Doing this routinely all the way up the east coast of Oz seriously ate into my budget. Add to that having to wait for the washes, or returning to the laundry room only to find someone has kindly emptied your wash for you and dumped half your clothes on the floor. Days doing laundry felt like days wasted.
Hostels are cool, as I said above I love staying in them, they’re part of the travel experience in my opinion. This list is just a small warning to remind you that occasionally, the price on the flyer or website may not be all inclusive of what you need from your hostel. If in doubt, ask. You’re better knowing beforehand what you need to budget for, rather than being caught short at check-in.
Written by Neil from Backpacksandbunkbeds.co.uk