Who doesn’t love the idea of making life-long travel besties, collecting wacky experiences and staying in totally unique digs? There’s no better way to foster those awesome experiences than by staying at super cool hostels when you travel (ahem, as long as you follow these safe hostel tips).

Backpackers walking and using map

These shared-space situations often get a bad rap, but hostel groups like Hostelling International USA (HIUSA) are looking to change that misconception with their trendy spaces, safety measures and welcoming communities. We chatted with Netanya Trimboli, communications director of HIUSA, to get the lowdown on the truth behind the five most common hostel myths. Be ready to want to book your next stay ASAP.

Myth 1: They’re hard to sleep in.

Reality: While you should definitely bring earplugs and an eye mask for your hostel stay, Netanya says that most hostels foster a positive, community-based experience with everyone looking to make the most out of their trip — not looking to create an unfavorable environment for anyone during their stay. That being said, if you’re exhausted and just want a good night’s sleep, spend a little extra for a private room. Then you’ll be sure you won’t be woken up at 3am by the party crowd.


Myth 2: They’re unsafe.

Reality: With things like a full-service, 24/7 front desk, lots of secure storage, required ID at check-in, a strict guest-only policy in the bedrooms and the option of female-only or private rooms, Netanya assures us that many hostels are incredibly safe places to stay. In fact, a large percentage of hostellers are solo guests who are actively looking for a genuine connection with like-minded travelers. “There is a mutual respect and comradery that is organically part of hostel culture,” she says, so you can feel comfortable that you’re staying with like-minded people wherever you go.


Myth 3: They’re inconvenient.

Reality: Sure, Netanya suggests packing a reading lamp, shower flip flops and all the toiletries you may need (most hostels don’t provide body care products like hotels do), but otherwise, she sings the praises of many hostel’s 24/7 front desk (you’ll definitely have lots of questions abroad), secure lockers, WiFi, board games, guided tours (booking with or through the hostel will save you TONS of time) and self-service kitchens (a great way to save money). In fact, she says, “My favorite [part about hostelling] is cooking with these new friends in the hostels’ self-serve kitchens, which usually results in a completely disconnected ethnic variety that tastes amazing.”


Myth 4: They’re socially awkward.

Reality: A major misconception about staying in a hostel is that it’s uncomfortable and potentially awkward sharing living quarters with perfect strangers. While Netanya totally gets the hesitation, she says that staying in hostels is just like sleep-away camp or a college dorm. Basically, you’re going to make friends immediately. She’s stayed at her fair share of hostels on major solo trips and says that “by staying in hostels, I had new travel companions who joined me at my next destination. And before you know it, you’re part of a group of friends you feel like you’ve known your whole life.” If you do like your space, but want to meet people, try booking a private room.


Myth 5: They’re all the same.

Reality: Every hostel has its own vibe and level of service, Netanya reminds us. Some cater to a quiet, sleepy crowd off the beaten path, and others have a party atmosphere that’s right in the center of town. By doing some research up front, you can make sure you find a hostel that suits your personality and particular wants and needs.

Have you had an awesome stay in a hostel? Tweet us @BritandCo and tell us about your experience!

(Photos via Hostelling International USA and Getty)