I am traveling to New York City in March. Planning on staying in a hostel. Do you have any advice on what to look for, pros and cons etc. of 'hosteling'.
I love hostels!
For those who don't know, hostels usually have three options:
1. Dorm room: You rent a bed in a room with 3 to 20 other travelers. Each hostel often has different price points, depending on how many people you could potentially share the room with. For example, staying a room that holds four might cost $20 vs. staying in a room that holds 15 travelers might cost $12/night.
2. Private room with a shared bathroom. Just like a hotel, but no room service and you share a bathroom.
3. Private room and bath. It's rare, but some hostels offer this option, which is basically like a hotel, without room service.
Most hostels also have a shared lounge and kitchen area. They usually offer Internet access, but sometimes charge for it.
The pros of staying at a hostel are huge:
* Saving money:Aside from urban camping (or couch surfing with a friend or someone on couchsurfing.com), there is no cheaper way for a solo traveler to get a shower and a bed.
* Many socializing opportunities: Travelers are usually interesting people. If whether you travel alone or with someone, it's great to meet other travelers in common areas. For solo travelers, this can be especially rewarding.
* Vulnerable to theft: The time I had something stolen was in Moscow when I was staying in a decent hotel. I've never had a problem with hostels, but it happens. With so many people wandering around,
* The savings diminishes the more people you travel with: The more people who travel with you, the more the cost of a hostel approaches the cost of a hotel.
* Peace and quiet can be elusive. After being a busy tourist all day, some people just want to have complete serenity. Although it's easy to sit in a corner of the hostel, people are often milling about, and for some sensitive people that can be distracting or annoying. Others like to control the remote and in a shared situation, you often don't have absolute control of the mind drug, er, I mean, TV.
* Bring earplugs. Although there is a curfew, if you want to go to bed by 9pm, you'll have people still up and about. People snore. Others will get up at 5am because they need to catch an early flight and will make noise as they get ready. Although most people are considerate, it's impossible to be completely silent when you're packing your bags.
* Take your valuables with you and leave behind stuff that you could afford to lose. Although I've never had anything stolen and I have left behind my computer in a common room, it's best to use common sense and protect your valuables.
* Before picking a room, ask the expected occupancy. In Prague I stayed in a room that held 20, but that night only had 3 other guests. The room was enormous and was a better value than staying a room that held 4.
* Bring flip flops. Shared showers = shared microbes. You could get a plantar wart or some other type of fungus. Flip flops can also serve for strolling around the hostel itself.
I've never made a hostel reservation, but I always carry my camping gear and I don't mind looking for another hostel if one is full. I've never had to look into more than 3 hostels to find some vacancy.
However, there are some good websites that help you book a hostel. Check out STA Travel. Although they market to people with student IDs, there are good deals for everyone, especially with the hostels.