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Benefits of Bad Hostels: 6 Reasons Why the Worst Hostels Are the Best


If you've done any backpacking at all, you've stayed at a few different hostels, and you know how different they can be.  Some hostels plop you right down in the velvet-clad lap of luxury; they go beyond lamps and lockers to offer gyms, spas and restaurants.  Other hostels are dives, plain and simple. 

Myself, I've always preferred to frequent no-star establishments, and no matter how many questionable roofs I sleep under, I just keep on loving 'em.  Here's why I think the worst backpacker hostels are actually the best.

1) Dodgy Hostels Are Cheaper

You won't be surprised to learn that dodgy hostels are comparably cheaper than the other kind, and that's important when you've got somewhere to be and no time for panhandling.  You'll have more money for traveling, eating, and, of course, getting hammered.

2) Dodgy Hostels Don't Have Creepy Security Guards

You'll care about this when you're sneaking that contraband alcohol back to your room (Dodgy Hostel doesn't have a bar or, at least, a bar that is open).  Some people feel safer when they see uniformed guards roaming the premises, but personally, it creeps me out.  Call me paranoid, I just don't like being ogled by guys with badges.  And who says putting a guard on something actually makes it safer?

Personal feeling aside, a lack of security staff means no one will bust that party you're throwing in your room tonight, unless you really DO party like a rock star!

3) Dodgy Hostels Build Character

One of the things I like most about run-down hostels is that they're owned by real people, who make real mistakes,  like forgetting to order sheets for two weeks in a row.  That might frustrate some folks, but I encourage those folks to look at it this way: life is unpredictable.  Any of us might encounter anything at any moment.  Not knowing whether you'll have fresh linens keeps you on your toes and teaches flexibility and improvisation (not to mention patience.  Lots and lots of patience).  No towels?  No problem, I'll use my T-shirt.  No sheets?  Well...I spy some curtains that look like the right size...

4) Dodgy Hostels Have that Personal Touch

The staff of Dodgy Hostel is almost always friendly, sometimes to an insane degree (who knows, perhaps they are insane).  The staff of those other hostels are just doing a job, but the staff of Dodgy Hostel are willing to engage.  They won't just tell you which bar to go to, they'll take you there after their shift and buy you a drink (I'd like to think they feel bad about the sheets).  

5) Dodgy Hostels Encourage Exploration

Some Mom & Pop establishments have odd daytime lockout hours; some chuck you out at nine in the morning and you can't come back till three, no matter how you beg and plead.  This might seem like a pain in the arse, but it's actually a blessing (you know, one of those disguised blessings).  You'll be out in the city, gorging yourself on local flavor (even if you're hungover and it comes right back up again).


6) You'll Make Friends for Life

If there's one thing you can say for adversity, it's that it brings folks together.  I've stayed at dozens of hostels in my traveling career, and I've met hundreds of people, but the ones I stay in touch with are the ones I met at Dodgy Hostel.  I met some of my best friends in a hostel whose kitchen boasted only one knife and one fork (in terms of cutlery, that is.  For some reason they were well stocked in everything else...except sheets).  At mealtimes, guests were obliged to take turns taking bites.  Adversity forges alliances; sometimes the unexpected one-night romp, but, more often, friendships that last a lifetime.

So, don't be afraid to book a bed in Dodgy Hostel.  Sure, you might wind up taking a freezing shower every morning, sharing one fork with six  Australians, and sleeping in a folded curtain.  But you'll almost certainly wind up making great friends, learning life lessons and becoming a better person (you know, in the end).  I promise, Dear Traveler, you won't regret it.

But all the same, you might want to bring your own fork.  And sheets.