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Top 10 Reasons to Stay in a Hostel

It is assumed that travellers and backpackers stay in hostels because they can't afford anywhere else but actually there are heaps more reason that that to bag a bed in one of these fun places. Our guide covers the Top 10 things about living and staying in a hostel.

1. Yes – They ARE Cheap-as

Short of getting invited to stay in some-one's home, the hostel option is almost without exception going to be the cheapest one. Opt for a dorm bed and you save even more pennies for the important stuff – like having fun experiences and seeing awesome sights.

There are tons and tons of hostels in New Zealand because there are tons and tons of backpackers looking for budget accommodation. Even so, the competition is fierce which means even lower prices for you.

And the savings just keep coming on the hostel front if you are likely to be spending many nights in them. Join one of the membership schemes – such as BBH or YHA – and get discounts on your nights AND loads of other bonuses and freebies.

2. It Is the Only Way to Go for Solo Travellers

Hostels are great for everyone. Couples might use them and friends travelling together frequently use them but if you are flying solo a hostel is your essential accommodation. There is no way you can be alone or lonely for long when you stay in hostels because apart from anything else they are full of lots of other solo travellers looking to be sociable. So, even if you are excruciatingly shy or lacking in confidence, simply plonk yourself in a common area – which includes dorms - and look smiley and sooner or later some-one will come and start chatting to you. 

If there is some kind of day trip, tour or experience you'd like to do in the area but don't really want to sign up for it alone then ask around among the other solos. Chances are at least one of them has been waiting for some-one to ask them and they will jump at the chance to have a buddy to enjoy the fun stuff with.

3. They Have All Kinds of Wonderful Facilities

Pools, spas, roof-top terraces, TV rooms, bars, gardens, hammocks, games rooms........of course not all hostels have all or even any of these but you never know what you might get as standard and all included in your low cost accommodation. Walking round a hostel on arrival and seeing quite what is there can be like rummaging through a treasure chest – you never know what you might find.

Unless you are set on keeping yourself to yourself, always try and opt for a hostel with at least one communal area. These places – the bar or pool for example – will be where you will start getting chatting to those fellow backpackers (who may or may not end up being bosom buddies or travel companions).

4. You Can Cook Your Own Meals

Everyone knows that New Zealand is not one of the cheaper options on the backpacker world travel circuit. Here, unless you are careful, one of the quickest ways to see your travel budget diminishing at an alarming rate is by dining out all the time. Luckily, you won't have to resort to the backpacker staple of instant noodles for every meal to save money because when you stay in a hostel you will almost always have some kind of cooking facilities. 

You can save heaps by bagging the discounted or on offer items at the local supermarket (or using what is in the 'help yourself basket – see item 5) and then cooking them up or preparing them yourself. To save even more money make a deal with some fellow travellers to all pitch in for the ingredients for a meal to share; not just traveller-budget logical but social too. There is often one or two people around who just LOVE cooking so all you might have to do is put in your money contribution, perhaps help with chopping an onion and then sit down to enjoy cuisine from all over the world.

5. You'll Have Plenty of Perks

We already mentioned that competition is fierce among hostel owners and this is good news for you. In an effort to tempt the travellers in, hostels might offer all kinds of perks and freebies. These extras range from the tiny but welcome to those which truly will save money such as included breakfasts. Universal perks tend to be such things as free wifi and book exchanges but otherwise there is no knowing what you might find and such lures are constantly changing. Up for grabs might be free tea and coffee 24/7, hammocks in the garden, DVD/video libraries, free shuttles, tour discounts, complimentary first drink at the bar, free live music and so on.

Additionally, most hostels have some kind of kitchen or place to prepare food. The transitory nature of hostel guests mean there is almost always a 'help yourself' basket where all those travellers departing can put their leftovers. Sometimes this might be little more than a half empty packet of salt but at other times it might be a six-pack of beer.

6. They Are Living Guide Books

You are going to be mixing it up with those who have been-there-and-done-that (your fellow hostel stayers)......and their information is going to be far more recent and up-to-date than any printed guide book that you might be carrying. Fellow travellers are walking treasure boxes of travel advice, recommendations, hints and tips and almost universally travellers love to pass onto other travellers any savings, deals or little nuggets of insider info they have come across. Equally as valuable is the flip side of the coin – they can tell you what wasn't so great and what to avoid dishing out cash for.

Just keep in mind when you hear recommendations and/or avoid-like-the-plague suggestions that the idea of ideal varies considerably from person to person. One person might have hated a hostel because it was so quiet and tucked away......which might be the VERY reasons why you'd love it...or vice versa.

Besides your fellow backpackers, the hostels themselves are one big fount of knowledge, help and advice. You will often find dedicated tour desks (which might offer hostel guests special deals and discounts) and you will have access to tons of tourist literature. You might find walls and shelves full of reference books, flyers and promotions while notice boards might include things as diverse as advertising a pub crawl to some-one selling their surf board or van. 

Hostel staff are typically either local and therefore full of valuable insider-knowledge for your destination or made up of fellow travellers, usually working on a bed-for work basis. Either way you are likely to have access to all sorts if you need to pick their brains.

7. They Are Ultra-social, Multi-national and Anything Goes Places

Cost aside, almost always the main reason for staying in hostels is to meet other travellers and these other travellers will be from every corner of the globe. Typically speaking, those who stay in a hostel, although very very diverse, are all on the same page when it comes to wanting to be social and meet people. Quite simply, hostels are social central in the backpacker world. 

If you are used to staying in hotels this whole social aspect will be very new to you; you will be more familiar with stilted hellos in the lifts or the dining room. When you are sleeping in a dorm it is kind of rude – and virtually impossible - not to get chatting to the guy sleeping in the bunk beneath you. Hotels – even the cheaper ones – tend to be more formal and can be very anonymous and corporate but things are different with hostels. You're just as likely to find the guy you're chatting to at check-in or the women you're having a conversation with at the bar is the owner. 

Additionally, no one is going to look at you askance in a hostel if you come to breakfast without brushing your hair or wear clothes with I've-been-on-the-road-for-months holes in or stains on. No-one cares. The vibe in hostels is typically very relaxed. In short, hostels are usually more personal, warmer and social than other accommodation options.

8. They Can Bring the Party to You

If you're intent on having some great nights out of the partying kind hostels can be your best friend. If you choose your hostel carefully, you'll actually be right where the party's at without moving a muscle. In the bigger cities and towns there is always at least one hostel which has a reputation as the party hostel so, set your compass for these places to launch yourself straight into the pulsing heart of some after dark fun.

Some of the hostels just tend to attract those looking to party so to some extent the vibe will be dependent on who has booked in at the same time as you; that means there is not always a party going off at such places. Other hostels however go out of their way to ensure it is always party time by organising nightly or weekend events, games and get-togethers which might range from the more sedate to some wild adult-only themed shenanigans of which your mother almost certainly wouldn't approve.

9. They Are Great for Sourcing Travel Buddies

We've already said that hostels are essential for the single traveller but it goes further than that. What starts off as a chat with a stranger as you both swing in your hammocks or discuss who should turn off the light in the dorm could lead who knows where. Many folk who meet and connect in hostels then end up travelling together - perhaps for a day......perhaps for several months. And this is by no means limited just to solo travellers but pairs, couples and groups too. 

What's more, it can also be a way of splitting costs. Perhaps you will find some-one to grab a ride with in their car and split fuel costs or you might decide to hire or buy a car or camper between you. 

Hostel notice boards are often full of this kind of thing too 'looking for a travel buddy to come and find some fruit picking work with me', 'do you want to get together with another surfer to share the vehicle and travel costs to go in search of waves?' or 'anyone want to do the such-and-such a tour on Friday? If you are looking for a travel buddy simply keep your eyes and ears open.

10. They are Universities for Learning About Other Cultures

OK – so you are travelling in New Zealand for several reasons, one of which might be to get an insight into different cultures. If this last is a priority for you then staying in hostels is a must because this way not only do you get to experience the culture of the country you are in but quite possible that of heaps of others too.

Your fellow hostel guests might come from literally every far flung corner of the world. You are going to be culturally immersed and spoiled in so many ways. And you are going to learn SO much about the world and how different countries do things and what goes on in various different cultures. You might get to sample the cooking of some-one from Japan, you might get to practice your Spanish with a Peruvian, you might learn something of the folk-tales of Finland, you might get invited to a wedding in Sri Lanka next year or you might be taught how to dance salsa by a Mexican – there really is no knowing.

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