Have you ever stayed in a hostel? When I traveled in high school and college, accommodations were the last thing I thought about. I could sleep almost anywhere.
Back then I slept in bathtubs, in the aisle of a yellow school bus, and on an old charter bus with broken air conditioning in summer Louisiana heat. I even slept through “Rock Me Amadeus” on continuous play across multiple states – and I’m still friends with the person responsible.
So what took so long for me to try a hostel? No, it was not the movie. In reality I had not really considered a hostel stay until recently.
Hostels have been more popular in Europe than the United States but popularity has been increasing on this side of the Atlantic over the last few years. My first hostel stay was associated with a trip to Canada.
The trip was related to work, but a few of us wanted to go up the weekend before to experience the city before the work part began. We were on on own dime for the extra days and while some chose to stay in the hotel, I was looking to save a few bucks because I had a few trips scheduled closely together.
I remembered something our college band director would tell us on road trips – “The hotel is for sleeping”.
While I think he told us that to make sure we did not party too much in the hotel, this serves other meanings too.
While it is nice to have an awesome room with maid service and room service, lodging is usually a significant cost to travel.
Yet, if you’re traveling to experience the city or country that you’re visiting, you’re not spending much time in your room, right?
So with this in mind, and a willing coworker-in-crime, this was a good time to take the hostel plunge.
If things didn’t work out, it was only two nights and we’d be upgrading to a hotel afterwards.
What is the Right Hostel For You?
Hostels have a variety of setups. Some are large barracks with rows of bunks, while others may have rooms that accommodate as few as four people. The type of hostel can usually be found by viewing photos or on the booking page.
I recommend checking these two things out before booking, so you save yourself from any bad jokes.
Another thing to check out particularly for females is whether you wish to book a female only room.
A good portion of accommodations are typically co-ed, but there are rooms or floors that are reserved for females.
The hostel that I booked, Two Peas, is what is commonly referred to as a pod hostel. If you’re concerned about privacy, this is probably the best way to ease into your first hostel stay.
Pods usually have fewer beds per room, and more privacy for each bed such as curtains or other types of dividers between bunks.
A feature that I found cool at Two Peas was the room labels. Instead of room numbers, each had a name. I learned later that the names were Toronto landmarks.
My Hostel Setup
Each room contained four twin bunks.
Each was arranged to provide a some aspects of privacy and your own space.
With your feet facing the more open end, you could rest without the feeling of someone looking at you. There was also a curtain that you could draw closed.
I think it was awesome that I was assigned pod “C”.
At check in, we received a basket with a few items: a towel; remote control for the TV, key fob to access our floor and for hostel access after hours.
I didn’t think to take a picture from inside my bunk until after I’d messed the sheets up.
I did not use the TV and headset, but it was a neat feature to have in case you happen to spend more awake time in the pod than I did.
Hostel Common Areas
The secret sauce of a hostel stay is the common areas. At Peapod, there were plenty of common spaces to meet other guests.
We were out at night with other friends that were in town, but the hostel had social events each night. Two Peas did not have a bar, but one of the events was a cookout with drinks provided. The social aspect is a great benefit of hostels.
Two Peas hostel is located in a central location in Toronto. You can see the top of the CN Tower from the upstairs patio. We were able to walk to most locations but there is also a trolley stop just outside.
Hostel Restrooms - Know Before You Go
One thing I did not photograph were the restrooms. This reminds me of an important detail that I did not think about before my arrival at the hostel.
While hotels have items like toiletries in the restroom so there is no need to bring things like soap, be sure to check with your hostel when booking or before arrival.
Some, like Two Peas, had everything you need, but this is not the always the case.
Another detail about restrooms, they may be co-ed. Although there is adequate privacy, I’ll admit that I kept feeling like I was walking in the wrong door the first night and following morning.
If this is something that concerns you, be sure to check out reviews or ask about this before booking your hostel stay.
Socializing - Biggest Bonus of Hostels
I mentioned the social aspect of hostels.
Everyone was out exploring during the day and we were also exploring at night, so we did not meet everyone, but we did catch up with our pod mates, George and Lonny in pods B and D.
They were visiting from the United Kingdom and were wrapping up a two week backpacking trip across Canada. Toronto was a basecamp for their visit to Niagara Falls before heading back across the Atlantic.
Before settling down for the night we managed to talk about all of the things you’re not supposed to talk about without going off the rails (politics, diversity).
This is a story for future post(s), but I’ve found that discussions on difficult topics seem to be easier and more candid with people you may never see again. Especially those who are already seeking to expand their knowledge through their travel.
George and Lonny went to sleep before me, but black curtains protected them from the light.
How Was My Hostel Stay?
I am happy that I decided to try out the hostel experience. This was just a short stay, but everything was clean, the people I met were fun to talk to and I would not have met them in a hotel.
The experience led me to change a recently completed trip from a hotel to hostel, and I currently have a hostel booked for a week long trip.
Plus – I saved a bunch of money compared to a hotel (less than $100 USD for two nights)!
If you’re ever in Toronto and decide that a hostel is for you, check out Two Peas. Be sure to tell the manager Anthony hello!
One last thing: Yes, you can get a private room at a hostel, but I skipped that earlier.
I did this because when you factor in the higher price for a private room with the fact that you have a private room, you have paid the same price as a hotel and missed out on the social benefits provided by a hostel, so what’s the point? If you feel you really need a private room in order to ease into a hostel stay, you can still take advantage of the common areas for socializing.
Would you consider staying in a hostel? If you already have, what was your experience?