Hostels: Not Just for Youth

Hostels are synonymous with backpackers in their teens and twenties crammed in 8 or 10 (or more!) to a room with a social party atmosphere. Not all hostels are like that, of course, but it is a stereotype for a reason. And it can make for a fun environment for those in that age/mindset. But what about as you get older or if want something more sedate?

I’ve done a lot of backpacking and stayed in a lot of hostels. As an introvert, sharing a dorm room was never really my jam – too much energy and not enough privacy. But I could deal with it pretty well, especially for the small price tag associated with it. As I’ve gotten older, I’m still looking for that low price tag and some of the other benefits of hostels but with a bit more privacy.

So have I given up on hostels? No, not entirely. With the rise of Airbnb and other peer-to-peer renting sites, the price of a private room is much more affordable. I tend to check those options first but I do still stay in hostels in expensive cities. I’ve figured out some ways to make sure I have a positive experience with them. Here are my tips for staying in youth hostels when you’re not in that “youth” mindset.

Private Rooms

When most people think of hostels, dorm rooms automatically come to mind. While that is the norm, many hostels do offer private rooms. This can still be quite inexpensive if you are traveling with one or more other people. You can split a private double or quad, for example, for not too much more than a dorm of 12.

For solo travelers, unfortunately, a private single room in a hostel is probably going to cost you. Most of the time, I can find a nice private Airbnb room for cheaper than a private room in a hostel but this is not always the case. And it might be worth paying a bit more for that privacy.

Check around for hostels with cheaper single rooms. What a hostel offers can depend on the building it’s in as much as the management style. And, of course, in cheaper destinations, single rooms become downright affordable. I stayed in a large and very nice private room in a hostel in Vilnius, Lithuania for US$15 less per night than the 6-bed dorm I’d stayed in the week before in Helsinki, Finland!

Small Dorms

If you can’t afford a private room, or the hostel doesn’t have any, at least chose the dorm with the fewest number of beds. A dorm with 3 or 4 people in it is a lot easier to deal with than one with 12. Many hostels also have single sex, or at least female only, dorms (sorry, guys), which tend to attract quieter, more sensitive travelers. This is another good option to look for if you can’t afford a private room.


Another choice available in some hostels, especially in Asia, is capsules or pods. Capsules are basically extremely small and close private rooms. Basically the size of a twin mattress and tall enough to sit up in, capsules are self-contained but right next to each other or even stacked two or three high. If you’re not claustrophobic, they’re a cool option to get privacy at dorm prices.

Similarly, when I say “pods” I mean something that gives you a bit of privacy within a dorm room. I’ve stayed in dorms that had wooden boxes as bunk beds with panels you could slide shut to close off the rest of the room. Curtains are a more common privacy screen. Most often you’ll find these on bottom bunks. While they won’t shut out any noise, at least they give you some visual privacy.


While hostels right in the city center or main tourist area are convenient, they’re also more likely to be crowded, noisy, and more expensive. I find it’s well worth a long walk or short ride on public transportation to get the good night sleep a more residential neighborhood affords.

Cook at Odd Times

If you’re planning to take advantage of the kitchen facilities most hostels offer (which I recommend to help your budget and get some healthier, home-cooked meals) avoid the crowds by cooking at off times. It can be a mad-house in a hostel kitchen at 6 or 7pm. If you cook at 5 or 10pm instead, however, you might even have it to yourself.

Read Reviews!

Checking the rating of a hostel is always a good thing to do. If you read through the actual text of reviews rather than just the overall rating, though, you are likely to get a good idea of the noise level, the cleanliness, and the overall atmosphere of the place.

I automatically discard any hostel that mentions it’s over a bar, for example. I know that’s going to be loud and there’s going to be a bunch of drunk people staggering in in the wee hours. Any mention of “party hostel” will also push that option off my list.

I hope these tips help you have a positive experience with hostels at any age!

*This post includes one or more affiliate links. I earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!) if you purchase a product or service through one of these links. Find out more here.*

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