Most people who stay in a backpackers hostel, particularly while travelling Western Europe, will stay in a hostel for only a number of days, or possibly a week, before moving onto the next location and the next hostel.
Hostels are usually much cheaper than a hotel on cost per night, but usually (in my own experiences) when you plan on staying in one location for more than a week, it’s usually much more cost effective to get a flat share.
For instance, taking Edinburgh as an example, the average cost of a dorm bed per night in Edinburgh in the middle of June is around 15 GBP per night. That would be 450 GBP per month. You can easily get a flat share in the city however for around 300 GBP per month (probably around 330 – 350 GBP per month including bills).
Yet, when I was travelling in some countries with similar price structures, I found many people (myself included) staying in backpacker hostels for months at a time, even though it probably would have cost less to get a flat. So why is this? Does the country or continent you travel in have an effect? Does the type of visa or the length of your stay in a place play a part?
The first thing that was obvious to me when looking back at my hostel patterns over the years, was that the more I enjoyed a hostel the longer I stayed. In Perth (Australia) for instance, I planned on staying one week and ended up staying 3 months!
I even left in the middle to venture out into the Outback, and came running back a number of weeks later. It wasn’t just me though, many of my room mates were long(er) term residents too, compared to your average hostel customer.
There was a whole group of us who stayed at least 3 months, which for a backpackers hostel is a very long time. The general consensus was that we all enjoyed the atmosphere of the hostel too much to look at other accommodation.
We liked the fact there was a familiarity with the longer term residents, but still new people coming in everyday. We also just liked to party every night, and in a hostel you are never short of someone to go for a drink with.
There is also the fact that a) we were too lazy to actually look for other accommodation when we liked where we were staying, and b) the location of the hostel was so close to the nightlife it was almost worth paying a bit more for.
There is also the fact to consider that in places like Australia and New Zealand, most backpackers go there on a Working Holiday Visa. They are in a country for around 12 months, and are planning on working for some of that, so will probably stay longer in a location if the can find work.
They also have a limit to how long they can stay in the country as part of their visa, so will want to make the most of a destination, and see as much as they can, as flying back to Australasia can be an expensive flight journey from most other parts of the world!
In Europe, I think the tendency to hop from destination to destination quickly is because there are so many countries crammed into what is a relatively small continent.
There’s so much to see in such a short space of time (if you are planning on seeing it while the weather is good in summer), so people tend to hop from location to location every few days or weeks and pack a lot in.
With big countries like Australia, and Canada for instance, they cover roughly the same area but don’t generally have as much packed in to see. There is also the issue of visa’s to consider too with Europe.
American tourists doing a Euro Trip will have to get visa’s which inevitably have an expiring date, and therefore mean they can’t travel so slow. Australian’s and New Zealanders are usually doing a bit of travelling before or after they do a Working Holiday in the UK as it’s an English speaking country and they are more likely to get work there.
This means while they are travelling mainland Europe they are only there until the money runs out, and they have to find work. Europe is also an expensive continent so the money usually runs out fast. EU residents travelling Europe don’t have the visa issue’s and can work in most European countries, so are most likely to stay longest in a hostel, but even then, most return home at some point as it’s usually only a few hours away in a plane and they can see it again anytime…
In the states, getting a visa for more than the summer period can be quite hard. There is also not really a hosteling culture there, so you won’t tend to see many backpackers living in a hostel longer term there. South East Asia is probably a bit of both, as is South America.
So what are the benefits of staying in a hostel long term, and are there any negatives?
Well, from previous experience I found staying in a hostel long term gave you great night life every day if you wanted. There’s also the fact that you’ll be meeting new people most days, hostels are usually well placed for local amenities, and it’s not hugely expensive if that’s what you want to do.
The downsides are that, although hostels are accommodation on a budget, it is still cheaper to stay in a flat share in most places if you are staying longer than a week. There’s also the fact that although in the short term a lack of privacy probably won’t bother you, it may do if you’ve been sharing a room with 8 other people for a month.
Oh and the usual hostel stuff where people steal your food will always be a problem that you won’t have (at least to the same extent) in a flat share.
So what do you think? Could you live long term in a hostel?