One common misconception about hostels is that you have to be a young 18 – 35 backpacker to stay in one. In my travels I’ve seen many other people who don’t necessarily fit into that stereotype of young single backpackers who have stayed in hostels as they travel. The following are some of the demographics I have came across that don’t fit into the norm:
Particularly in HI hostels, I’ve come across many families with children of all ages. Typically, they’ll be staying in a private room with their parents, and not in the standard mixed dorms rooms that us backpackers would. In fact, any hostels I have stayed in which allow children will usually make it a requirement for them to stay in a private room with at least one parent or guardian. Some hostels specifically do not allow anyone under 18, and this is usually because they have a bar, and therefore their licence restrictions do not allow them to do so. Therefore, if you do want to travel with children, although definitely possible to stay in a hostel, always be sure to check with the hostel first as to whether they have any age restrictions.
2. Elderly Couples
Some hostels, particularly the hostel associations have been around for many years. My own Grandparents used to tour the hostels in Scotland with their SYHA (Scottish Youth Hostel Association) memberships some 60 years ago. I’m sure if my Gran still had the fitness levels she did at 17 or 18 years old, she’d be cycling round Scotland doing the very same thing today. Occasionally, when staying in some of the HI hostels you’ll find elderly couples staying there too. Again, like families with children, they’ll tend to stay in prviate rooms. If they have mobility issues they’ll also be in the rooms reserved for such, but nevertheless you do still find them.
3. Single people age 35+
Out of all the demographics named here, this is probably the most common one you’ll find after 18 – 35 year old backpackers. Contrary to popular belief, there are actually many people over the age of 35, some only just, and others a lot older, who want to travel. They may be recently divorced, having a career break, spending some of that cash they have saved up over their working life, or just single and out to enjoy life. In most hostels I’ve stayed in, either independent or chain, you’ll usually find at least a few over 35s in each hostel. There are some hostels that operate an 18 – 35 age restriction, which will only allow people within that age group to stay in their hostels. Personally, I would advise against anyone staying in these hostels, whether you are in your early 20s like me, or older, as it’s a form of discrimination in my mind. Also, it just makes no sense to turn away business from a hostels point of view so it’s something I just don’t understand. The majority of people travelling will be under 35 anyway, so a few people over that are not going to be detrimental to that party atmosphere. Regardless of this small minority of hostels who have age restrictions however, the majority of hostels do not operate like this, and you’ll find lots of over 35s as you travel.
4. Married Couples
Most people you meet in a hostel will be young single backpackers, or young couples travelling together having just recently graduated uni. More and more however, you do find married couples too. There’s not a lot of them, but sometimes you’ll find recently(ish) married couples (who don’t yet have children) travelling together, or middle aged/older married couples who’s children are all grown up and flown the nest, so they’ve decided to hit the road.
5. Tour Groups
Sometimes you’ll arrive into a hostel and there will be a large tour group hanging about, booked into their own private dorm rooms. I’ve stayed in hostels as part of a tour group during a short 5 day tour I took in South West Australia before, and it wasn’t hugely different to when I’ve stayed in hostels independently. However, I was travelling with a particularly small group, to locations which didn’t have a high number of visitors compared to big cities/tourist spots. If a hostel sets up a regular arrangement with a tour group it can be really good for business. Personally, from someone who is usually there an independent person it can be a bit annoying when there’s a particularly large tour group staying. They tend to keep to themselves rather than socialise with all guests, and depending on the group they can get quite rowdy. I especially don’t like it if it’s a school group, or kids of some sort as it’s like being back at high school. It does really depend on the group though, as some groups can be really cool. I can understand however why some hostels may choose not to allow large groups and/or tour groups to use their hostels after seeing how annoying and/or destructive they can get.
– It would be a lie to say that most people who stay in hostels aren’t 18 – 35 year old backpackers. The majority of travellers do fit into that demographic, but it’s important to be aware that they are not the only demographic. Just because you may be a bit older, or are travelling with kids etc, it doesn’t mean that you can’t stay in a hostel, and travel on a budget.
Whether your blog is purely for leisure or you want to make it into a legitimate business while you are travelling, traffic to your travel blog is of upmost importance.
One of the best new ways to get people to follow your blog is by utilizing the massive networking power of twitter. Now this may seem counterintuitive at first but the most effective way to get traffic to your blog is to drive traffic to your ‘competitors’ sites!
A few things happen when you promote other peoples travel blogs:
- People interested in travel will begin to follow your twitter. Thus you will get a larger following on twitter.
- These people will see your website link and view your blog.
- You will start to build a relationship with other travel bloggers who will be much appreciative of your promotion.
- These bloggers will in turn tell their twitter follows about your blog which is far more powerful than self endorsement.
If you go to my twitter page you can see an example of how to promote other peoples blogs.
As you can see from above I have retweeted people blog posts using the twitter term rt @(the persons twitter name). This will then show up on their main homepage behind the mentions button.
Another way of promoting someone else’s blog would be to flat out say that you reading someone’s blog and tell people about it, also adding in the @(twitter name). These two methods both have the same effect of driving your followers to other travel blogs.
Tip: The more and more followers you get the harder it is to see what important tweeters are saying. So in order to see who is talking to you and about you press the home page and then press the @(yourname) button just under your followers count. This will allow you to talk directly to the people in your community who are talking about you.
In summary be good to other travel bloggers, retweet your favourite posts of theirs or posts that you think your readers would enjoy the most. The end result here is that your twitter following will grow virally, you will build a large community of travel blogging friends and your blog will thrive and receive more traffic.
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?