There are plenty of posts out there discussing the good and the bad about hostel life. Personally, despite the horror stories you may have heard from your cousins mates brother, I think hostels are a great way to travel – especially for the young backpacker on a budget. They are cheap, fun, and there are so many cool hostels these days that are super clean and have all the amenities and information you could possibly need. Sure, going from hostel to hostel can be tiring, but it’s a great option especially if you’re travelling solo.
But what if you’re actually living in a hostel? Like, long term?
This may not be so common in countries where you’re more likely to just be passing through, but is super common here in Australia. Many travellers, myself included, come to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa. They can live and work in a city and as a hostel is a first port of call to get a roof over their head, some never leave.
At first, I couldn’t understand why other travellers were living in hostels when getting a flat-share was, overall, so much cheaper? We were lucky enough to find a great group of people to live with in Melbourne and lived in a share house for 3 months, for just $165 AUD a week each. In a hostel you could be staying somewhere no where near as nice or homely for a much higher price tag.
However, the past few months have seen my situation change quite drastically. First, I lived in Brisbane for a month and we decided to stay in a cheap private room in a hostel. Not only did we never plan on staying in Brisbane for very long, so the lack of commitment that comes with living in a hostel fitted in with our lives, but we were super skint and couldn’t afford an initial security bond to put on a flat.
After leaving Brisbane, we headed to Coffs Harbour to do our farm work. Many backpackers may find that they end up living in a hostel whilst doing farm work. In many regional areas, there are working hostels which have good relationships with surrounding farms, and so it makes sense for backpackers to go there.
After over four months all in all of living in hostels, I’ve now finally left that environment and am back in a flat-share in Melbourne. I met some great people living in these hostels and was thankful for the social aspect, especially when living in the middle of nowhere whilst doing farm work. However, there are a lot of downsides to living in a hostel too and it’s not always the best option, even though it can often seem like the easiest. Below I have listed the pros and cons of each.
Obviously, if you are super skint then this a bonus. When you get a place you have to put down a bond of maybe 2 weeks or a months worth of rent. You get this bond back providing there’s no ridiculous damage, but if you are in a situation where you can’t even afford a bond, at least you can stay in a hostel without worrying about that immediate cost.
No Worries about Bills!
Unlike in many houses, when in a hostel there is no need to worry about water costs, electricity, internet, or even cleaning. Having said that, Chris and I have been lucky enough to recently move into a flat where bills and internet are included, as well as amenities like toilet paper and laundry detergent, so sometimes you can get lucky.
It’s a great way to meet people
This isn’t so much of an issue for me, but if you are travelling solo, it’s obviously so much easier to meet people in a hostel who are all in a similar environment. You may find a great group of friends who are also long-termers. In working hostels near farms this is especially important. The social side of working hostels is often what makes the experience of farm work bearable for many.
It’s great for a short-term stay
Even though you may be staying in the hostel long term, you may only be in the city or town you are in for a month or so. Long enough to replenish your bank balance, but not long enough for you to look for a place and really settle. Obviously, a hostel provides a solution to this.
You lack your own space.
If you are a solo traveller, your only option (unless you have money to burn) will be a dorm. Staying in dorms is fun and a great way to meet people, but living in dorms may not be so fun. Especially if you have work in the morning but your fellow room mates are out partying until 5am. If you’re travelling with buddies or a partner, you can get a private room. In Brisbane, Chris and I had our own double room so we definitely have a bit more space. However, because I’m an introvert and value my own space, I would often find myself holed up in the room. In our working hostel in Coffs, it was a different story. A dorm was our only option financially, which meant that we rarely had any privacy.
You have to put up with other people mess
Sadly people are not always clean or considerate for other people around them. I’ve been in hostels where people haven’t cleaned up their dishes, or have left little room for others in dorms. This can be really frustrating.
The hostel may not provide for all your needs
When you live somewhere, you can have pretty much all the things you consider essential. When you’re in a hostel this isn’t the case. You have to make do with what is there. A lot of hostels don’t have ovens – which means no baking or cooking chips. It sounds like such a little thing, and obviously it isn’t a huge deal, but when you are living somewhere it is nice to have those little things.
You can’t predict other peoples actions
When you’re in a hostel, you can’t choose who you live amongst. You may make the best friends ever who totally shape your experience, or you may end up in a dorm with a bunch of major douches who are loud and obnoxious. When we first got to Brisbane we were in a hostel dorm room with a guy who actually treated the room like it was his, and we were intruding on his space, to the point where he moved the furniture around so his bed was next to the light switch and no one else could get to it. It was awkward and weird and I hated being around his presence. That’s not the kind of vibe you want to be around ever, let alone for a long period of time!
Despite hostels being a budget option for travellers, they are damn expensive to live in. In Melbourne we were staying a beautiful converted warehouse right in the middle of Brunswick for $165 a week. In Brisbane we were in a hostel which, whilst providing to our needs, was slightly rundown, with a super squeaky bed with the springs sticking out and ridiculously thin walls for $235 a week. In Coffs, we only had to pay $168 a week, but this was for a 6 bed dorm, even though the room was really only designed for 4. We also only got 250mb of wifi a day. Now we are back in Melbourne and are once again paying $165 a week for a private room, in a great location, with all our bills, internet use and essentials covered. The difference is insane.
As you can see, for me personally, the cons outweigh the pros. Of course, there are so many factors that will play into your experience – how much money you have, how long you plan on staying, where you are staying, the other people in your hostel, etc. I think living in a hostel is a good short term alternative and I’m glad we’ve had this option, but in the future I would definitely look into other alternatives. I think living in a hostel gets old quickly. At first I didn’t mind, I was just glad to be still for a while and not moving from place to place, trying to find somewhere suitable. But after a few weeks living amongst others, having housekeeping come into your room when you’re still in bed, and not being able to find a damn clean knife in the kitchen get’s pretty old and tiring. I think in the future I may look into working for accommodation, as this is a great way to save money. But when you are paying to live in the hostel, it’s not the same. Going to pay my rent and knowing that the money I’m paying each week is not worth it for the level of comfort I am getting can produce a heart-sinking feeling.
If you’re going to be staying somewhere for only a month or so, then do it, especially if you’re travelling alone. Look around for a cheaper hostel which is more orientated towards people staying for longer than a few days, and which includes things like internet. But if you want to stay a bit longer then make the effort to look on sites like Gumtree and find a real place to live and feel at home. I know my experience in Melbourne would have been no where near as incredible as it was if I had stayed in a hostel. Not only would I have not met the people I met, but I would have not really felt at home there. I would not have had a real home to come back to after work. A place to relax and be myself. I don’t think I would have truly felt like I was a part of the community in that suburb if I did not have a place I could call home. When you live in a hostel, you are always only visiting.
Have you ever lived in a hostel? Share your experience below!