Horror Movies Got It Wrong: What You Should Expect When Staying in A Hostel For The First Time

Jessica Nemire

Horror Movies Got It Wrong: What You Should Expect When Staying in A Hostel For The First Time

If we believed everything Hollywood movies told us, we would think hostels are dirty, run-down, and full of people waiting to steal your stuff and/or stab you the second you fall asleep. We’re here to tell you that this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Before we do that, let’s go over the basics. 

What is a hostel? 

A hostel is a budget accommodation shared by travelers. When you pay for a room in a hostel, you’re paying for a bunk bed in a shared dorm. Most people staying in hostels are young backpackers trying to see the world on a budget, and hostels are hands-down the most affordable accommodation option available to backpackers. (Except for, of course, Couchsurfing, which doesn’t cost any money).

The average cost of a hotel in San Francisco is $230 a night per person. Insane, right?! Depending on where you’re coming from, that could be almost as much as the flight you bought to come here!

However, you can stay in a hostel in San Francisco for as low as $50/night. AND - this is our favorite part - hostel dorms come with the added bonus of new live-in friends from all over the world to go sightseeing with if you so choose. Some hostels also have private rooms, but those won’t be as cheap.

(Also, pssst, if you use that link above to book a stay with us for three nights or more, it may or may not give you a pretty cool discount on your stay. Just sayin’.)

So! Now that you know more about what a hostel is, let’s debunk some of the top myths we’ve heard about hostels. (DeBUNK? Get it? Like bunk beds? Okay, we'll stop).

1. Hostels are dangerous, and terrible things will happen to you if you stay in one.

We don’t know why movies have picked hostels as a fun place to make scary things happen, but we promise it’s just not the reality. Like we said before, hostels are mostly just full of broke travelers. Everyone staying there is trying to do the same thing: save money and see the world. More likely than not, the worst thing that will happen to you in a hostel is you’ll make friends with the staff or someone in your room, and then you’ll want to change your travel plans and stay there. Which, depending on your plans, maybe you can.

 A real text conversation our community manager had when she told someone she hasn't stayed in many hotels - thanks, Hollywood!                                                                                

2. Everyone who stays in a hostel is sketchy and waiting to rob or murder you whenever you turn your back.

Sure, you might meet some characters while you’re in a hostel, but they’ll be more of the “doing yoga in their bunk while regaling you with a 30 minute tale of their trip to Myanmar” variety and less of the “stab you in your sleep” variety. You’ll also meet lots of fun people your age, some of whom might even be going to the same place you’re going next, so you can make travel and transportation plans for the next city. Yay, travel buddies!

3. Okay, so people in hostels aren’t automatically sketchy, but you said they’re all broke so will they try to rob me?

In the 100+ hostels we’ve stayed in, this has never happened. Hostel-goers are generally the most laid-back and friendly people we’ve ever met (you kinda have to be if you’re cool with sharing a room with strangers). On the off-chance that you do get a thieving roommate, guess what! Most hostels have lockers in the room where you can store your belongings. If you don’t have your own padlock, many hostels can rent or sell one to you. If you book your hostel dorm on a website, the site should tell you if there’s lockers, if there’s padlocks, and everything else you might want to know about where you’re staying before you book.

                                                                                                                                                                       Photo credit: Pacific Tradewinds Hostel                                                           

4. Alright, so hostels are just cheap places with friendly people? But what’s so GREAT about them?

Because most hostel-goers are on a budget, and most people who work in hostels are travelers themselves, hostels have all sorts of services and free stuff to make your stay awesome. Yes, we said free stuff! Most hostels have a common room, where guests can hang out and get to know each other if they want to make a friend. Most hostel common rooms have games, activities, and even a bar. It’s common for hostels to have a calendar of fun activities guests can join for free or very cheap. Game nights, trivia nights, bar crawls, you name it!

On top of having a very active common room here at Pacific Tradewinds, we also have a WhatsApp group chat for our guests so you can learn about the free and cheap activities going on during your stay and find guests to do them with!

Hostel receptionists can also recommend tours for you around the city, help you book a taxi to the airport, and answer all your questions about what to do and where to go. Tours and other activities frequently offer a discount for guests staying at a certain hostel. (Guests at our hostel, for example, get 40 percent off all tours with Dylan’s Tours. Ask us for the code when you make your reservation!)

On top of events and activities, hostels frequently offer their guests free WiFi, towels, coffee, and a heap of other things. Our hostel, for example, gives our guests free ramen, coffee, tea, and toast whenever you want. Yes, free ramen!

                                                                                                                                                                      Photo credit: Pacific Tradewinds Hostel

So, does this mean that absolutely all hostels will be clean and without problems all the time?!

Of course not. As with any hotel or other type of accommodation, sometimes there are problems - but, again, not of the murder or robbery variety. Luckily, you can check guest reviews before you arrive so you can get a good sense of what it will be like when you’re there. If the hostel is rated 4 stars out of 5, with 300+ reviews, chances are it’s pretty damn good. You can also check out the Hostel’s Facebook and Instagram pages before you book to get an idea of what the community is like.

If you highly value your alone time while traveling and don't like the idea of sharing a kitchen and common spaces with other travelers, that's totally fine! But a hostel is probably not for you. BUT, if you want to meet new friends from all over the world and save money on accommodation, give hostels a try!

Also, keep in mind that it is a shared space with other travelers, so when staying in a hostel, please remember to respect the space and needs of others. If the hostel has quiet hours, please follow them. This helps keep the hostel a fun and chill place for everyone!

Here at Pacific Tradewinds Hostel, we love first-time hostel guests! We pride ourselves on giving guests a warm welcome and being their home away from home for a few days. Check out what first-time hostel guests have said about us!

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