Written by Alice McLeod on 27 / 10 / 2023
Gap Year Advice
Embarking on a gap year is an exciting adventure, filled with new experiences, cultural exploration, and making friends from around the world. While traveling, one of the most affordable and popular accommodation choices for gap year students is staying in hostels. Hostels are not just a place to sleep; they are vibrant hubs of international culture and camaraderie. Heading off on your gap year and never stayed in a hostel before? Fear not, you’re not alone. Hostels and gap years go hand-in-hand, and if you haven’t done much travelling before then maybe you’re not familiar with how they work, the dos and don’ts, the things to look out for, and the joys of the bottom bunk. Fear not, that’s what we’re here for.
A hostel is essentially a form of low-cost, short-term, sociable shared accommodation. Beds are usually bunkbeds in a shared dormitory, with shared facilities like bathrooms and a kitchen. You can often get women-only rooms, and many hostels offer private rooms too, but they tend to be more expensive. Most hostels will offer lockers where you can lock away your valuables, and most provide linens. Some hostels also have a restaurant and/or bar which is a great place to meet people, and they tend to be catered towards backpackers – i.e. cheap!
Hostels are fab options for backpackers for a number of reasons, the main one being how affordable they are. They’re also an amazing way to meet new people and buddy up with fellow travellers, many of whom will have awesome tips and tricks for you about the best places to visit and where you can find the cheapest pint locally. Hostels range in location, from city centres to off the beaten track, so make a perfect base to explore from. It might be tempting to book a hotel room, but trust us, you’ll be missing out on everything hostels offer, from walking tours, roof-top bars, and organised pub crawls.
Pack your earplugs because hostels can get noisy. Whether you’re sharing a room with a snorer, or your bunk mate is reading until the early hours, hostels can be noisier than hotels. Don’t forget your earplugs and an eye mask! You're sleeping in a room with a number of different people so don’t expect the same level of privacy you’d get if you were in a hotel. There may reach a point on your travels that you need a break from hostels and splurge for a few nights in an Airbnb or hotel, and that’s totally fine!
Prices can vary massively between countries and locations; in places like South East Asia you can find hostels for as little as £3 a night. It often depends what amenities they offer, but in general they’ll be a fraction of the cost of a hotel room.
Bottom bunk every time. It’s easier to access, you don’t have to climb up and down (especially tricky after a drink or two at the hostel’s bar), all your stuff is nearby, and you don’t have to worry about falling out of bed in your sleep. In some hostels you can also hang a towel down from the top bunk to create a little more privacy and block out the light. There are pros and cons to both, and you will no doubt experience both on your gap year so you’ll end up making your own opinion on what you prefer, here at The Leap though we’re big bottom bunk advocates.
Hostels, you’ll learn to love them. They’re the very best place to make new friends on your gap year, offer low-cost accommodation, and you’ll make loads of new memories whilst staying in them. If you're a solo traveller then hostels are a great way to meet fellow travellers from all over the world (read our guide to making friends whilst travelling here). You may have to contend with loud snoring, shower hogs, and the odd food thief, but at least you’ll have some funny stories to tell your mates when you get home. If this all sounds like your idea of a personal Hell then check out our team programmes, you might still be sharing a dorm with other people, but they'll be people on your team who you'll be with for the duration of your programme - no strangers sharing your bunk!
What's the easiest way to book a hostel? Most hostels you can book online through an app like booking.com or hostelworld.
Are linens and towels provided in hostels, or do I need to bring my own? Most hostels will provide you with at least bed linens, depending on the hostel, you might have to bring your own towels.
Do hostels have age restrictions for guests, or are they open to travelers of all ages? Hostels don't tend to have strict age restriction policies, so you might find that you're sharing a room with a huge range of ages. Some will be more catered to young people than others though so do your research.
Do hostels offer laundry facilities for guests to use during their stay? Yes, many hostels have coin-operated washers and dryers that are available for guests to use during their stay. If not, they'll know the nearest place to get laundry done.
on 27 / 10 / 2023