One of the cheapest and most fun ways to stay in Europe is in youth hostels. Hostels are budget and socially oriented dormitories aimed primarily at young travelers. Rooms are general dormitory-style (either single or mixed-sex), although privates rooms are often available.
Hostels can vary greatly, be sure to search online or consult your guide book to find a hostel that matches your needs. Be sure to balance cost, amenities, cleanliness etc. when deciding on a hostel.
For those who never stayed in a hostel before, we’ve put together some pros and cons of staying in hostels to help you decide if it’s right for you.
- Much more affordable than hotels. Even private rooms in hostels will often be much cheaper than a hotel room
- Hostel staff are usually very knowledgeable, and can provide information on everything from transportation to the local nightlife
- Very easy to meet other travelers
- Hostels may offer free, or cheap breakfast which can cut down on your food costs
- Many have a cheap bar attached
- Many have additional facilities availble for free, or for low cost, such as: Internet, Kitchen and Laundry
- Often centrally located or easily accessible via public transit
- Sometimes you get what you pay for, the quality of hostels can range from luxurious to spartan to dirty
- Lack of Privacy. Staying in hostels often means sleeping in a dorm-style room, unless you spring for a private room which is obviously more expensive
- Shared living means it can get a bit noisy, making it harder to sleep
- May have to provide your own sheets, or rent sheets for extra money
It is usually wise to book your hostel at least a couple days in advance of arriving in a new city. That way you don’t have to worry about not having a bed.
For major cities, such as Paris, London, or Amsterdam, pre-booking weekends can be required, especially during the summer.
If you’ve taken a spur of the moment trip and just arrived in a new city, see if you your guide book has any listings for that city. You can also ask at the information booth at the main train station, most have a list of hostels.
Money Saving Tip
While staying in Hostels is the traditional, and often most practical form of lodging, Hotels can also be an option for the thrifty backpacker. With a little research and/or luck, hotels don’t have to be prohibitively expensive, especially if you’re traveling in a group of 2~4 that can split a room.
Additionally, if you’ve spent a couple weeks in hostels, treating yourself to a night in a hotel can be a luxury worth paying for.
Similar to the hostels, we’ve put together a list of pros and cons of staying in hotels.
- Hotels are usually nicer
- Privacy, and private bathrooms
- Breakfast is sometimes included
- You’ll also pay more than a hostel room. More affordable if split among a group
- Harder to meet other people, other guests are usually older
- Cheaper ones are usually further away from the city center
CouchSurfing is worldwide network connecting travelers with local people that have a spare couch. It’s a great way to both cut down on sleeping costs as well as meet some amazing people. I would highly recommend trying this at least once on your trip.
Airbnb is an online market place for people offering to rent unique spaces, from rooms and apartments to houses and villas. There are often Prices and spaces range
Airbnb can also be a smart way to stay in a city for longer than a couple days. Let’s say that you visit Budapest and absolutely love it. Instead of staying in a Hostel for a month– you could rent a flat for as little as a four or five hundred dollars.