Another alternative way to save money when traveling through Europe is to stay in a hostel. Sure we have all seen the horror flicks and heard the stories floating around pop culture but trust me, the many hostels I have stayed at are NOTHING like what you watch in the make believe world of movies.
In 2016 when I made my first trip to Europe I was determined to get the full European experience when it came to lodging. I especially wanted the quaint English cottage behind the white picket fence covered in vines or moss but chances are, since I was not going to be driving, that was not going to happen for me. Plus, since I was going to be on a very tight budget luxury hotels offering turn-down service and my very own English butler were definitely out as well. So, instead I settled for staying in hostels, then rented a room in a house from a private citizen when I placed an ad on a Yahoo Forum looking for accommodations recommendations.
First and foremost they are definitely a money saver. I literally rented a bed in a 12 person coed dorm room for $9 a night at Paddy’s Palace in Dublin. With this rate I had access to a fully stocked kitchen to store and cook my own food. They provided what we in America call a Continental Breakfast for free; I had access to laundry; storage lockers; the TV room and even free WiFi. As an extra bonus for me, if I booked and stayed for two nights, I received a free bus tour of Wicklow and Kilkenny. I literally felt like with the savings I had they were paying me to stay with them.
Now, I’m sure you are asking “what’s the catch?” and “if it’s so cheap why isn’t everyone staying in hostels?” Well I will tell you. One catch is that the time of year you make your visit will play a small part in the nightly rates. Taking a trip during the off season not only ensures less crowds but cheaper rates. I took my first trip for a month starting January 20th.
Secondly, the environment in a hostel is not for everyone. If you like it a little more quiet and your own private space then it might not work for you. There are plenty of people who take advantage of the “chill out rooms” who are for the most part friendly. Many times I was invited to join someone at a party or just to be part of a group of travelers talking about our experiences. When it came time for bed never once did I feel uncomfortable or threatened sleeping next to my coed strangers. Quiet times were quiet and most everyone was mindful if coming in drunk at 3AM. If I had to complain about one thing during any of my hostel stays around Europe it would be the noise on the streets from traffic and passersby.
If you are traveling with a small child, or as a family, a hostel stay may be for you as well. They only catch to this is that not all hostels are “kid friendly”. Be sure to check their policies online when booking, it will state if children are allowed or not. If they are allowed they will only be able to stay with their family in a private room. How this works is like this. Say there are three of you traveling, you, your spouse and a child age four. You can rent a private room in the hostel or you will have to pay for however many beds there are in your room. So if you only need three beds and the hostel has a four bed room available, you are paying for the fourth bed to ensure no stranger is placed in your room with you. We had to do this on our most recent trip to Europe when we took our toddler granddaughter along.
I personally like the value of staying in a hostel especially when I know for a fact that I am not there for anything other than sleeping and maybe eating if I need to cook myself something. Otherwise, I will be out and about seeing the sites and rarely in the hostel anyway.
The down side of staying in a hostel is that there is a possibility that you will have to climb to the top of a three or four bed bunk in an already over crowded room. Yeah, I had this experience as well and let me tell you, it sucked! But, I was at the end of my trip and was heading back to the States the next morning so I climbed up and went to sleep. At least it had a private bathroom in the dorm. But now that I know what this particular hostel offers you can bet I’ll never be staying with them again.