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chemgirl Mar 1st, 2006 12:46 PM

What's a hostel like?
Forgive the naivete, but what are hostels like? I'd like to stay in B&Bs this fall on my 2 week trip but maybe a few nights in a hostel would be more cost-effective? I just wonder what you do with your stuff if you're staying a couple days? I'll have a car, so I could leave it there while I'm out and about but is there somewhere in the hostel you can lock things up? I just don't know if I can handle sleeping in a room with other people I don't know! I've read that some places have private rooms; can anyone suggest nice onces to stay in? Do I need to bring my own sheets or pillow? Can you tell I've never been in a hostel before?! :) Any suggestions for places anywhere in the Republic or general tips would be great!

suze Mar 1st, 2006 01:31 PM

You can read or post at Lonely Planet's forum called The Thorn Tree. There are many many people who stay in hostels on that board (not so many here at Fodor's).

suze Mar 1st, 2006 01:34 PM

Or 'google' the word hostels and you'll find a load of websites such as:

grsing Mar 1st, 2006 02:20 PM

I've stayed in a couple, but it's hard to generalize. Hostels can usually be more cost effective than just about anything else short of camping or sleeping in the train station (the first is ok, wouldn't recommend the second), but check prices, some are comparatively expensive. Some hostels have parking available (usually pretty limited), many don't, ask before you get there. Many, if not most, hostels have lockers of some sort, though you usually need your own lock, and not all do. Most hostels do have private rooms available, though of course you'll pay more (be aware that, if you're travelling alone, you'll pay double for a double, triple for a triple, etc., and single rooms are somewhat less common). The experiences I've had in dorms (multiple people in a room; the most I've done is about 10) have been mostly good; most people don't travel with a whole lot of valuables and generally respect other people's stuff, though don't take it for granted; of course, sometimes you'll get people who are disrespectful (the guy trying to have phone sex with his girlfriend in the bunk below me comes to mind) or snore a lot or whatever, but that's part of the adventure, and the price you pay for the cheapness. Sheets/pillow depend entirely on the hostel; some charge extra for them, but allow you to bring your own, some charge extra but don't let you bring your own, some it's included and they may or may not let you use your own. First hand, I can't recommend a great number of hostels, but the websites in the post above me will help (take reviews with a grain of salt, and try to compare them across several websites; another few websites to look at are:,, and, and sometimes just googling the name of the city and the word "hostel" works). The Thorn Tree forum does have a lot more hostellers, but I personally can't stand the navigation system (not that Fodor's is great, but it's better).

katt58 Mar 1st, 2006 02:32 PM

Fodors has been invaded. My husband and I have stayed in a wide variety of accommodations, including hostels. If you go to, you should be able to get enough information to decide if you would feel comfortable in a hostel or not. They have a chart on each hostel that should answer the questions you have. In our experience, some are more for young singles who don't have $$, want to meet other travellers, or like to party. Others attract families and older tourists. They can be delightful or quite awful, just like hotels. We stayed in a hostel in Interlaken, Switzerland, for example, in a double room with a spotless bath, but we had to go down the hall to take showers. It offered internet access, a good breakfast, friendly people with lots of information and ideas, and a lending library with games and puzzles that a lot of families used. The room had light wood furniture, the bed had crisp white sheets and a duvet like many Swiss B&B's and hotels, and our large window opened to a spectacular view of the mountains- at a fraction of the cost of a hotel. Enjoy your information gathering. This is a great place with lots of different ideas.

walkinaround Mar 1st, 2006 03:09 PM

grsing is right, you cannot generalise. most people think of rucksacks and university students crammed in one room but this is not always the case.

"hostel" is also a place that houses criminals as they transition back into society (at least in the UK). but we also have the "youth hostel" types as well. "hostel" can mean cheap and cheerful or it can mean grim. check it out...and make sure you are aware of the rules (like lock out times during the day, or curfews at night, etc).

suze Mar 1st, 2006 03:51 PM

They also vary country to country. Hostels in Switzerland for example generally get pretty good reviews.

Also be aware of different atmospheres and attitudes. Some have a reputation of party places (some in Amsterdam), others may have religious affiliation with no drinking, curfew, etc.

NEDSIRELAND Mar 2nd, 2006 07:40 AM

Your question was on the Ireland forum so I'll tell you my experience there. I stayed at Abbey Tourist Hostal in Ennis. I am an older man so they gave me a room by myself, one that had enough beds to have slept about 8 people.

A young Argentine couple was managing the place: Prices per person were scaled according to how many people were sharing a room (from 12 Euro to 25 Euro): I paid 25.

Bath and shower facilities were down the hall or downstairs. They pointed out the only good shower so I got up early (6:30 AM) and took advantage of it. The kitchen opened at 7 AM and Tea or Coffee, bread for toasting and marmalade were provided.

Alcohol is not permitted and they lock the doors around 11 PM.

As far as I know, they didn't offer a place for safeguarding valuables.

The following year, I stayed at two Hostals in Spain, one in Santiago de Compostela and the other in VilaGarcia de Arousa (on the Galicia coast). In each of those I had a single occupancy room and breakfast was included. Those were more like 1 or 2-star hotels.

No, you don't need to bring your own bed linens. operates 6-day tours from Dublin with hostal stays included. You might be more comfortable with something like that.

davidman820 Mar 2nd, 2006 07:53 AM

I've stayed in hostels. I"ve stayed in 4 Star hotel. Each is a differnt experience. Go for it. You'll meet interesting people with lots of travel ideas. You'll probably learn about a place to see that you would not have seen othewise. And you'll probably have companions for dinner.

TarheelsInNj Mar 2nd, 2006 07:56 AM

Hostels vary dramatically. In some, you can get a private room for slightly more money (though usually less than a hotel). Others are dormitory-style, with multiple beds in one room. Be sure to carefully research the places you're interested in. You just have to determine what you're willing to compromise- a shared bathroom, shared bedrooms, etc.

gr8_fun Mar 3rd, 2006 07:46 AM

I consider hostels to be mainly for the backpack and granola crowd. Most aren't in the best neighborhoods. I wouldn't even consider them for a single women traveling or for a family w/ kids. For a young male, it would probably be okay. JMHO.

grsing Mar 3rd, 2006 07:55 AM

I don't think a woman travelling alone would have a problem in most hostels, any more than they would have a problem travelling alone in whatever city is in question at all, whether in a 4 star or a hostel. Of course, take proper precautions, but it's not like violent crime is particularly common in hostels. For a family with kids, a private room in a hostel would usually be fine (preferably with en suite), but having a family in a dorm would be very strange. Some may not be in the best neighborhoods, but that again varies from hostel to hostel; one I stayed in in New York was in the Upper East Side, not exactly a bad neighborhood.

thursday Mar 6th, 2006 01:01 PM

I've traveled extensively throughout Western Europe and some through Eastern as well, and always stayed in hostels. Started when I was 19 and still doing it today at 27--always a single girl alone, never had any problems at the hostel itself. As the above posts said, the quality varies greatly so do your research. is almost exclusively hostel-stayers, and you'll get great recommendations there. In general, the ones closer to the train stations are cheaper and sketchier, the more expensive ones do actually tend to be nicer. Keep your valuables with you if you leave the room, and bring all your own necessities--including a towel and (here's the only gross part) flip flops for the shower. I love staying in hostels, actually. A great way to see Europe on the cheap, and I always meet at least one person that clues me in to a little-known must see that expands my horizons. My new husband and I are taking our honeymoon in May and will be staying in hostels the whole trip--though not the dorms for this trip. ;)

suze Mar 6th, 2006 01:33 PM

gr8_fun, that may be what you consider hostels for, but it simply ain't true. loads of young single women backpack thru europe this way.

my concern is more to get Chemgirl the correct information about do you need sheets, how to secure belongings, etc.

RufusTFirefly Mar 6th, 2006 01:56 PM

As others mentioned, hostels do vary widely. Some are impossible to sleep in with noise all night. Others are fine. Some are clean and well-managed, others are a mess. Research, research, research.

hopscotch Mar 6th, 2006 02:23 PM

I started staying in hostels this year, at the tender age of 63. In January I was the only person in the 3 to 14 bunk rooms that I stayed in. I think that in the fall, when you are going, most of the youngsters will be back at school and you should find the sleeping conditions pleasant enough.

As repeatedly mentioned in this thread, hostels vary considerably. One thing in common, I found, was free or very cheap internet connections from house computers. Another thing in common is a very agreeable reception. Some give a great breakfast and others nothing. But then they have refrigerators and stoves so you fry your own bacon. Some have a handy laundry. House rules, e.g. "Be Quiet!" are posted in the kitchens and hallways and in the rooms. Don't even think about leaving anything of value in the bag that you leave in the room. I packed my cash and cameras in my pockets or day bag every day and carried them with me. At night you could stow them under your pillow.

I used Lonely Planet's "Europe on a Shoestring. Great book. It is fat and heavy but it is the only book you need.

Hosteling is a great way to travel in Europe. I'm only sorry that I didn't try it 30 years ago when I first started traveling over there.

cchottel Mar 6th, 2006 03:40 PM

If you head to Italy, don't forget to look at staying at a convent. I haven't done this, but plan to look into it on my next Italian trip.

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