A standard bedroom at Lisbon's Home Hostel

Why You Should Stay In a Hostel In Europe, Not a Hotel

Cities like Lisbon, Budapest, and Krakow have turned to hosting clean, stylish hostels to entice frugal young travellers.

*This was originally published on Kolby Does Europe

Talking to a friend today, we realized the only difference between a hotel and a hostel is the letter ‘s‘. (He gets credit for the line, not me. His name’s Mike Reed, and he’s wherever he is all week.) But while that sounds like a compliment – and I mean it to – it’s misleading, as well. Because that singular ‘s‘ can be a discriminatory numeral, for no reason whatsoever.

And often, when a hostel is done right, it’s not equal to a hotel… it’s better.

It’s like hipsters invading a formerly dumpy downtown area is often a solid predictor of what’s about to become trendy and soon, therefore, expensive. But with hostels, you know that when a country – or a city, in the case of Lisbon, Barcelona, or Budapest – is doing them right, it’s a sign that while a destination may be popular with only young travellers for now, it’s going to be a favourite of the adult soon. And sadly, the adult rich. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with a traveller who flings dollar bills or can afford to – but certainly, you know they’re ruining the authenticity of a city because they poor money down the wrong drains. They spent 20 Euros on crappy chain restaurants – choosing North American-style diners instead of actual tavernas, coffee bars, or tapas joints. They’d rather spend the hundreds on the same Best Western they’ve always stayed in – often paying an extra $10 for every added amenity – than spend tens on somewhere that has everything they think they’re paying more for.

Take a quick gander at the world’s best hostels, and you’ll see they’ve not only got Bars, Restaurants, cosy Beds, pristine Showers, and gorgeous wooden interiors, but they’ve got a slew of activities to suit a variation of travellers – Pub Crawls for the still-immature and energetic, Free Walking Tours and Day Trips for the historians, a cheap Bar and nightly, home-cooked Dinners for the social sweatpants-ers, and they’re starting to have more of the extras you never knew you wanted, too… the bunk beds have dividers and curtains, and each bed in Lisbon’s Home Hostel (for example) gives the sleeper a little ledge near their head with two outlets, so you can doze off while charging your phone or your iPad, and you don’t have to worry about it getting stolen from the corner of the room.

(*At Lisbon’s Home Hostel, just for a thermometer, the bar sells small and large beers for either 1 Euro or 2 Euros, and happy hour slices those prices in half. You can guy a whole bottle of wine for 6 Euros, and the hostel’s home-cooked three-course dinner comes with unlimited wine and beer… for 10 Euros total.)

Some of Europe’s most desperate cities have been pouring their effort into their hostels – they need to, with Poland, Portugal, Greece, and Spain crushed by the ’08 economic crisis and the slow drip to recovery.

They need the dollars tourism brings, and cities like Lisbon, Porto, Budapest, Berlin, Corfu, Madrid, and Krakow have turned to hosting clean, beautiful, stylish hostels to entice frugal, under-30 backpackers and partiers.

In turn, the classics – cities like London, Paris, and Rome, where hostels can be great but aren’t yet as established, common, or uniformly excellent – are getting stale. They’re not bringing in anyone new, because they’ve never had to. Their appeal is historically documented and obvious. They’re fat – they’re not trying. They’re not creative and they’re lazy.

But of course, I can’t shame you into anything. And I’ll never tell you not to go to London or Paris or Rome, because they really are terrific. (Duh.) And I might not be able to convince you to substitute Italy or the South of France for the coasts of Portugal or the ruin bars of Budapest. You’ll just have to know what you want, and I’d encourage you to try something – anything – new.

Here’s a menu of what the rest of the world loves…

The Hoscars 2014 – The Best Hostels in the World

Best Small Hostels:

1. Soul Kitchen (St. Petersburg, Russia)

2. Budapest Bubble (Budapest, Hungary)

3. Adventure Queenstown Hostel (Queenstown, New Zealand)

4. Hostel One Paralelo (Barcelona, Spain)

5. Mosquito Hostel (Krakow, Poland)

Best Medium Hostels:

1. Home Lisbon Hostel (Lisbon, Portugal)

2. Travellers House (Lisbon, Portugal)

3. Yes! Porto Hostel (Porto, Portugal)

4. Goodmorning Lisbon Hostel (Lisbon, Portugal)

5. Living Lounge Hostel (Lisbon, Portugal)

Best Large Hostels:

1. Tattva Design Hostel (Porto, Portugal)

2. Yes! Lisbon Hostel (Lisbon, Portugal)

3. M Montreal (Montreal, Canada)

4. The Cat’s Pajamas Hostel (Berlin, Germany)

5. Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof (Interlaken, Switzerland)

Best Extra-Large Hostels:

1. Wombats City Hostel Budapest (Budapest, Hungary)

2. HI – Boston Hostel (Boston, United States)

3. PLUS Berlin (Berlin, Germany)

4. Wombats City Hostel Vienna – at the Naschmarkt (Vienna, Austria)

5. Abraham Hostel Jerusalem (Jerusalem, Israel)

Just Posted

Comedy, chicken poop and dancing at Lytton Festival

This year’s festival will honour longtime supporter Shirley James

LETTER: Recreational angling has low-impact on Fraser salmon

Jason Tonelli writes about his displeasure at the call to close recreational fishing on the Fraser

Hope’s Wheeled Wild Women hit the road for cancer research

Group of friends ready for the 200-km bike trek that ends in Hope

PHOTOS: Paintings return to Kilby for fifth annual festival

The Plein Air Festival will be taking place at the historic site all weekend

Cougar spotted in Seabird Island

Residents are asked to report all sightings to conservation

Sts’ailes invites adults to become engaged in Halq’eméylem with new video series

‘Qw’oqwel te Qw’oqwel’ gives language learners an immersive way to learn Halq’eméylem

‘It’s just the freedom:’ Paralyzed Broncos player pursuing life on the water

The former Humboldt Broncos goaltender, who started in the net when he was nine, was paralyzed last year

Young balance-bikers race in B.C.’s inaugural Strider Cup

The course has several obstacles including ‘Mount Scary’ and the ‘Noodle Monster’

Canadians killed in Afghanistan honoured during emotional dedication ceremony

One-hundred-fifty-eight Canadian soldiers died during the mission

It’s snow joke: Up to 30 cm of snow expected to fall in northeastern B.C.

Alaska Highway, Fort Nelson to be hit with August snowstorm, according to Environment Canada

‘I’m just absolutely disgusted’: Husband furious after B.C. Mountie’s killer gets day parole

Kenneth Fenton was sentenced to prison after he fatally struck Const. Sarah Beckett’s cruiser

Sea-to-Sky Gondola in B.C. likely out of commission until 2020

Sea to Sky Gondola carries between 1,500 and 3,000 people every day during the summer season

Helicopter-riding dog Mr. Bentley now featured on cans of new B.C.-made beer

Partial proceeds from every pack go to Children’s Wish

PHOTOS: Weapons seized at Portland right-wing rally, counterprotests

Not all who gathered Saturday were with right-wing groups or antifa

Most Read