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Tourism-LiveI am a long-term budget traveller who has stayed in approx 100 hostels in 4 different continents. AMA about hostels!

Jan 1st 2016 by cruyfff • 28 Questions • 3372 Points

My name's Dan and I am a long-term budget traveller. Though I am currently living at home in Canada, I have spent most of the past 3 years away from home, mostly in Europe and Asia. Later this week I am moving to Vietnam!

I run www.thenewtravelblog.com and www.danvineberg.com where I try to inspire people to travel the world for cheap.

edit 2: reddit hug of death =( but this video is an introduction to the type of content I try to make. Informational and inspirational...at least that's what I aim for, ya know?

Earlier this week I wrote a guide to staying in hostels (here's the guide). Now I want to answer any questions you might have about staying in hostels.

I think staying in hostels is the best way in the world to travel... so... AMA!

Bonus! I am making video answers to my favourite questions that I will be posting on youtube. I've already done a few, here's the first one.

If you are uncomfortable with me reading your username / your question on youtube just say so and I'll be sure to leave yours out, no problem.

Proof: 2 days ago I shared my guide to hostels, and made video responses to questions asked in the thread... hopefully this is thread proves who I am?

EDIT: This is getting more attention than I expected. That's awesome! I hope some people get inspired to travel in 2016. I will do my best to answer EVERY one! (minus trolls)

edit 2: taking a short break from questions! I will come back to answer any that aren't repeats as best I can. Thank you all for your interest, and special shout out to those giving me advice on Vietnam!!

I know, I know, self-promotion sucks... but if any of my answers have been helpful, truly the best way you can saw thanks is with a quick follow. Building an audience is tough when you aren't posting bikini selfies! =P

youtube / facebook / instagram / twitter

Wishing you all a 2016 that is full of adventure, -Dan

Q:

Any advice for someone in their young 20's who's interested in seeing the world on a small budget but doesn't know where to start?

A:

At the risk of becoming shia labeouf... JUST... DO IT!!

As much as people rip on blog spam these days, there is an incredible wealth of free information about there. Pick your dream destination and some blog posts on it.

Remember that once you're at your first hostel you'll be surrounded by more seasoned travellers and staff who will be happy to help you out if you have questions. That's the big benefit of hostels for me


Q:

All in your head, I've got wrecked with older people staying at hostels. Just be friendly and chill and you won't have a worry

A:

Your question has been answered! (video response I made the other day)

TL;DW: A small % of hostels may have rules that don't allow older people. Most don't, and I've seen people much older than 45. It's not too old if you don't feel it's too old.


Q:

/r/solotravel is my favorite sub

A:

I've travelled solo about 90% of the time I've been at a hostel. It's very common. Keep flexible plans and you'll make new friends, and quite possibly travel to the next hostel together!

I compare it to the first day of school, there are tons of people looking to make friends if you're willing to say hello


Q:

Hi Dan! I met you in Fort Lauderdale for TBEX NA 2015. I drove from Miami to there to give you a ride out but your friend bailed. How's it going? Glad you're doing an AMA!

Question: How do you get people who are afraid to stay anywhere other than a hotel to be on-board for hostels?

A:

HEY! You're awesome! (despite barely knowing me she drove to a different city on Halloween to help me out when I was stranded for a lift)

That's a great question.

I'm dealing with this myself with a few friends I'm trying to convince to stay in hostels... it's never easy!

Maybe just expose them to more information about hostels. I think there's a major misconception that they are dirty and dangerous when it couldn't be further from the truth.

When I arrived in Marrakesh, Morrocco, I was at a Riad (there a hostel is called a Riad) in the centre of the old town. The old town is an endless maze of ancient streets that is very confusing to get around. Plus there are crazy motorbike drivers who could hit you if you aren't used to the pace of Morrocan traffic. So every time someone arrives to the airport, they tell the guest to cab to the main square, where a staff member walks out to meet you and get you safely to the Riad. Then they have fresh mint tea waiting for you, and sit down for 20 minutes circling all the main attractions of a map and making sure you have everything you need.

This is a hostel. A place that costs $15 a night including breakfast and coffee.

Do you ever get that sort of service at a hotel???? Maybe, but they'll want $30 to pick you up and another $10 for the breakfast.

The hospitality of a good cheap hostel is honestly better than most mid-range hotels


Q:

How cheap can you really travel doing these methods? I'm not really well off but I haven't been on vacation in years and would love to try it sometime.

A:

Where are you now? If you're in America the most expensive part will be the first flight. Once you're in cheap parts of the world you can live well for $1000 a month


Q:

Which places have the cheapest/most easily accessible alcohol?

A:

So far Thailand has been the cheapest. But I hear Vietnam (where I'm headed next) is even cheaper so I'm excited!!

Germany is definitely most accessible, as I learned when my buddy met me in the airport when I arrived and cracked a beer.

I looked around the airport and asked "can we drink here?"

He laughed and said, "Of course, this is germany. You can drink anywhere!"


Q:

Cambodia beats Thailand by a bunch! My Tuk Tuk driver bought me a beer for the ride once : P

A:

I hope to go there right after Vietnam! Any off-the-beaten path tips?


Q:

If you liked Chang, drink some Saigon Green in Vietnam.

A:

Will do, can't wait! Chang is my favourite room-temperature beer ever.


Q:

Is it a better idea to go in rooms with fewer beds or the big ones? Is there a difference?

A:

Often you'll see 4 bed rm / 6 bed rm / 8 bed rm / 12 bed rm. Each costing slightly less than the one before it.

I think 6 or 8 is the sweet spot. Once you get to 12 people in one big room, there's just a bigger chance that someone will be a very loud snorer, or someone is checking out in the middle of the night...

One tip though is if the hostel is very empty you can move to a bigger room and pay less and maybe have more space. For example if you're staying some place for 4 nights you could book 2 nights online. Then if you notice that there are only 2 people in the 12 person room, you could book 2 more nights in there


Q:

How do you fund your travels?

A:

Work, travel, work, travel.

Before SE Asia I taught English in Korea.

Before Europe I worked as a bartender in France.

Trying to grow an audience around my site and transition to the elusive work AND travel life. It's hard. Going to be teaching English online when I move to Vietnam to try and keep funds coming for the moment.


Q:

How easy was it to get work authorization in the countries you've worked in?

A:

In both South Korea and France I have had to apply for working visas online, a month or so in advance. Both were pains in the ass. Though other countries (notably Australia I hear) can be much easier.


Q:

I want to do this so bad. I dunno if I could land a job or not tho...

A:

If you have a university degree, you could land a job teaching English in South Korea. Possibly tonight, if you set your mind to it....

That's an exaggeration, but not by much! They truly require a lot of teachers in parts of Asia, and it often pays well


Q:

Which one smelled the worst?

A:

Oh man... I don't get easily bothered by smells... but there was this one hostel in Romania. Only me and two other travellers were there when I checked in. A very quite, clean, peaceful place.

Then this girl arrived... A vegan girl from San Francisco. She had just spent a month living with sheep farmers or something in Mongolia. She must have not had access to a proper shower the whole month she was there, because the smell was horrific. Then she opened her backpack and started taking out dirty socks and clothing. She was very nice when I talked to her, but that's by far the smelliest experience.

Usually the hostels are clean, it's the travellers you need to worry about haha


Q:

Did you bring it up? Some might think that's ridiculous because it would've been impolite. But she's subjecting her smell to all her nearby victims.

A:

Nah... I'm a guy and she's a girl. I know it might seem like something to say, but at the end of the day that would be far too awkward a conversation to have.

I was out most of the day exploring and when I came back the smell wasn't so bad.


Q:

Did she know she smelled bad? Like did she bring it up or apologise for it or completely oblivious?

A:

She made no mention of it. Another girl from Hong Kong kept making passive comments (the hippie girl would say "I just got back from a sheep farm", hong kong girl would say "Yeah, I can tell") haha...


Q:

Of all Hostels you've been to, which is the one you liked the most? and why?

A:

There are really two types of hostels... 1.) Party hostels 2.) Quieter hostels

Favourite party hostel has to be Sant Jordi Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Every night of the night staff members take you out to a different pub crawl. Cool guests and good times. The common area is unbelievable, it even has a half pipe for skateboarding.

Favourite chill hostel was probably the capsule hostel patong in Thailand. Capsules are a cool idea where instead of bunkbeds you each get your own "capsule" in a huge hallway. It had a built in Sauna and a big open common area. Perfect for relaxing, it is harder to meet people in a capsule hostel since you're a bit more isolated


Q:

1.) Party hostels 2.) Quieter hostels

What do you see as the split between the two? Overweighted towards partiers? Pretty even? How do you know beforehand?

I ask because I've traveled a ton, and am not overly averse to hostels (especially in countries where "hostel" is just another word for a kind of hotel). But overwhelmingly hostels seem to be oriented towards meeting up with other travelers and partying.

That's great for some people, but I didn't go to Xazhiristan to get drunk with Americans/Brits/Australians. On the other hand, a nice quiet local hostel is fantastic.

A:

Check out the hostel's website, many explicitly mention "this is a party hostel" or on the other side "no partiers / no drinking allowed". If not, reviews will help you out


Q:

How do I get the best deals?

A:

I go to hostelworld.com, search by city, sort by cheapest, then compare the options rated above 80% by user reviews.


Q:

You can usually get better deals via the hostel website itself. Sort on HW, then go to that hostel's website to book.

HW take large cut and hostels will incentivize not to use them.

EDIT: To clarify, I wrote below. Source: worked at hostel

So lets say a hostel is $25/night. If you pay on HostelWorld, they'll take a "deposit" of 15%, which is really a booking fee. The hostel itself will never see any part of that deposit. So, in reality, the hostel is getting $21.25 for that reservation. The hostel has the incentive (up to 15%) to NOT have you book on HW. Therefore, you'll find 10% off for booking on their site (for example). Either way, it is better for the hostel if you book on their site, over HW

A:

Good tip!


Q:

What are some things to avoid doing when traveling on a budget?

A:

Drinking too much! It's easy to say "why not" in countries the beers are very cheap, but if you do it every night like some travellers do it's a big expense


Q:

Barrage of questions incoming:

How much cash do you keep on hand? What methods of payment do you find most widely accepted? Where's the best place to exchange to local currency?

Is free wi-fi pretty standard now?

Have you ever couch surfed? What was that like? What about air bnb or similar in other countries?

How are you getting around once there: car, bus, bike, taxi?

Thoughts on organized tours versus winging-it?

Edit: how common are laundry facilities?

A:

Trying to keep up with the whole thread, going to answer a couple quickly...

  • Free wifi everywhere. I'd immediately do a 180 out of there if they didn't have it.

  • Yes! Twice in America and once in Morocco! Both Americans were very cool and the Morrocan experience was quiet humbling because the family was extremely poor. The guy had never left his city in Morocco and just wanted to learn about the world through travellers. I ate bread and eggs with him, his wife and his son, for breakfast and lunch.

  • Usually walking. Find a good centrally located hostel. Take metro / buses when needed.


Q:

What should you look out for (good and bad) with hostels in Thailand?

A:

Anywhere that doesn't explicitly mention warm water probably has cold showers!


Q:

There's a lot of talk about cheap here, and it's mostly centering around hostels. But even if you find cheap airfare, that's pretty relative, and it's never THAT cheap. So, both, how are you finding flights? And what is financing that?

A:

You'd be very surprised how cheap flights can be. Heard of ryanair? ;)

But yes you are correct that trans-continent flights are the biggest expense


Q:

If they're so hostel towards you, why do you stay with them? Some sort of ambassador complex?

A:

sigh


Q:

Have you ever seen families with young children at hostels? Not babies. Do you think hostels are ever kid friendly?

A:

Yes I have, a couple of times in Europe!

Some hostels are definitely kid friendly. I assume they booked a private room. For them it would have just been like a cheap hotel. I see no problem with this.


Q:

1) Have you ever seen Hostel the movie?

2) Is it a pretty accurate portrayal? Seriously though, did it freak you out a little?

A:

No I haven't! Should I? Or will it make me never want to stay in another hostel? Haha I've heard it's scary that's about it


Q:

What's the weirdest thing you ever saw in a hostel? Most disgusting?

A:

An aussie cracking an egg in a pint of beer and drinking it down in the morning as a hangover cure might answer both your questions!


Q:

I experienced that hostels can be more expensive than hotels. For example last summer in Prague a bed in an dormitory was around 30 €. We were a group of 3 traveler so I found a 3 bed room in a 3 star hotel for 17€ each (including breakfast). We proceeded our trip through Europe (7 cities) and everywhere we were better off or paid the same in 3 star hotels than in hostels. So here's my question. Do hostel prices vary heavily depending on the season? Or are the prices pretty stable through the year?

A:

They definitely vary seasonally. Prague is a very popular spot to visit these days. Summer would be peak tourist season so I'm not all that surprised!