The Pros and Cons of Living in a Hostel

by nest hostels valencia, on Flickr

by nest hostels valencia, on Flickr

When I first decided to stay in Bogotá, I had this dream of finding a chic studio or one-bedroom apartment in one of Bogotá’s more desirable neighborhoods at a great price.

But that didn’t happen. After a week of hardcore hunting and scrutinizing 10 to 15 apartments, I gave up. That makes two months I’ve been living at a hostel in Bogota, and I’ve spent another month or so at a hostel in Medellin. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly of unpacking your backpack in a hostel.

Pro: It’s easy.

One of the great things about living in a hostel is that you don’t have to think about too much. There’s no buying sheets, pots, or plates, no organizing the cable bill or hooking up internet, or cleaning. All you have to do is pay on time and take advantage of the resources the hostel provides.

Con: You have to share your space.

No Cooking by Orin Zebest, on Flickr

No Cooking by Orin Zebest, on Flickr

Being a vegetarian and trying to save money, I prefer to cook. Unfortunately, there was a massive “peace group” that stayed here for over a week and completely dominated the kitchen. I was forced to eat out for every meal for the duration of their stay. I’m not gonna lie – I don’t like to share.

Pro: You get hookups and discounts.

After the hostel management realizes you’ll be a paying customer into the unforeseen future, they’ll normally strike a deal with you or provide you with lots of free extras. In my hostel in Medellín, they gave me one night free a week, and would often put me in a private room if there weren’t many other guests. In my Bogotá hostel, I get to stay in an awesome private room that’s above the dorm, with amazing views of the city – all for the price of a dorm bed.

Con: You’re the talking guidebook.

Don’t get me wrong – I love to help other travelers and share the information I have about a certain place. I’ve also picked other backpackers’ brains when I’ve arrived in new cities. One thing I don’t like, however, is people treating me like I’m a Lonely Planet come to life. Once people find out how long I’ve been in Colombia, they ask my advice without asking me about myself. It sucks to be used.

Pro: You have constant access to local knowledge.

hostels in Medellin

last night in my Medellin hostel

After a few weeks in your new home, you’ll likely be good friends with the staff. This gives you a direct line to local information at all times. You won’t have to guess where to find the cheapest jackets, which bus takes you to Neighborhood X, or how much a taxi ride will be.

Con: It’s hard to feel like you’re “living” here.

Even though I’ve been in Bogotá for two months, I don’t really feel like I live here, a feeling which I have to chalk up to not having my own place. Compare this with my experience in Quetzaltenango, in which I shared an apartment with friends. Even though I was in Xela for less time than in Bogotá, I definitely feel like I lived there.

Pro: You’re always meeting new people.

Though sometimes I’m annoyed by backpackers at my hostel, I’ve also met a ton of cool people too. As long as I’m friendly and keep an open mind, there’s basically an endless stream of people to go out with. Equipped with a new traveler or two every time I go to my favorite reggae bars in Bogotá, Congo and Casa Babylon, my local friends are baffled by the limitless supply of extranjeros every Thursday night.

Seeing as how I haven’t had my own place since April, I am dying to find one soon. I’ll be heading to Ecuador next week, with plans to be a hippie beach bum in Montañita – with my own place.

Have you lived in a hostel? What do you like and not like? Leave your comments here.

PS – Do you like me? I recently created a Facebook page, hope to see you there!

  • Mdc

    Hi there,
    I am finding it fascinating to read your blog (now in my google reader list).
    I hope to travel Solo to Latin America next year and am hoping to gather as much information as possible.
    I have a couple of questions, if you don’t mind. How much luggage are your carrying around and are you using a netbook or a laptop? I hope to continue my online work so wondered how you managed.
    Many thanks in advance.

  • Anonymous

    I have only a 45L backpack, and a daypack,which both contain most of my world possessions. I have an HP Mini because a couple years of carrying a regular sized laptop on my back starts to hurt after awhile :)

  • That’s an interesting idea to live in a hostel while slow traveling. I guess I never even thought that would be an option. Maybe I thought they had a two-week limit, like the campgrounds in the US. But I really like the idea of not having to buy new cookware, sheets, etc. every time I move. How secure do you think it is? I mean, do you leave your laptop in your room while you’re out?

  • It depends on what type of room I have… if it’s a dorm, I usually lock my stuff up or at least hide it. I’ve never had problems with security in a hostel. Definitely no time limit as the owners are happy to earn the regular income you’re paying them :)