Travel Myths Busted: Part 2 – Popular Hostels are the Best!

Wanderlust Travel Blog of the Week

The amazing Black Cat hostel in Asuncion, Paraguay

In the second part of this series of travel myths busted, Don’t Stop Living aims to dispel any of those travel facts and opinions you often hear. This one is a particularly annoying one for me and you may disagree but I insist that the most popular hostels are NOT the best, not in ANY WAY. Here’s why…


A shithole! – My room in Tasman Backpackers in Devonport, Tasmania

In my time travelling, I have slept in hostels, hotels, guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, huts, homestays, tents, flats, houses, airports, bus stations, train stations, boats, planes, trains, cars, taxis. You name it, I’ve probably stayed in it. At the start I used to stick to hotels and well known hostels but then I realised they cost much more and their customer service levels are always lacking as they are money orientated rather than customer focused. So these days, I try to stay in the unpopular hostels, and 95% of the time, they are better than the popular ones.

An amazing view – Staying off the beaten track in the Milan Hotel in Kaiping, China

A few examples:

In Sydney, the Hostelling International Hostels and the Wake Up Hostel are very popular, famous, lively and busy. They come up first on web searches, they come up first in conversations, they even come up first on websites such as hostelbookers and hostel world  And for that exact reason, when I stayed in Sydney for the first time, I decided against booking any of the top hostels and this was an inspired choice. I stayed at the Chilli Blue Hostel which is where I met future travelling buddy and flatmate Daniel Evans and enjoyed manys a good night out with. A couple of years later I actually ended up staying at the popular Wake Up hostel and didn’t like it. Smaller, unknown hostels are friendlier, more fun and also more relaxing.

A crazy time staying at the amazing ‘unpopular’ Chilli Blue Hostel in Sydney

I have so many cases of this on my travels it is untrue, another prime example was in Paraguay when I resisted staying in ANY of the hostels listed in my Lonely Planet Book and instead opted for the quiet, cosy Black Cat Hostel in central Asuncion. Highly recommended!

With Ornella, owner of the quality Colonial House Hostel in Quito, ECUADOR

SO here are Don’t Stop Living’s 10 reasons to avoid the Popular Hostels:

1. They cost more. Smaller family run and local hostels are often cheaper.

2. They are usually full of more dickheads (often these are those who just travel to get drunk, wake you up at all hours, leave a mess in the toilets and even shit on the floor.

3. The risk of theft is higher (and if it’s a big hostel – how do you know who stole your stuff?)

4. The customer service level is lower (family run and local hostels remain the best for this)

5. They put their own reviews on Hostel World and Hostelbookers (come on you don’t believe all that shit about 5 stars do you? Anyone could write that – anyone that cares that is – and normally those who work there care more…). I’ve stayed in over 200 hostels and never written a review except on my own website!

6. The tours they organise are likely to be dearer as they are a leader in it and know the tricks of the trade, whereas a small cosy hostel might be crying out for your money, and in some instances even the staff take you on a local tour (happened to me in Quito and in Soweto – you wouldn’t get the staff in a popular hostel taking you round the city).

7. If they are popular they will be busy, this means no place to have a quiet moment (and let’s be honest most travellers need one!).

8. Queuing to check in and check out. (not to mention a queue for the shower!).

9. Less likely to be able to book a few extra nights if you want as they could be full.

10. You will probably NOT meet the hostel owner. (To me it is important to meet the owner of the hostel and get a real feel for the place, their city and their life – I just love doing this!).

Another top quality less known hostel – Fully House in Seoul, SOUTH KOREA

I could actually go on, as the best hostels in my experience are those cosy, hidden, unknown ones, often with only a few dorm rooms. Next time you’re on the road – give up on the popular places – book a random quiet hostel and see what it’s like!

A Video From the Excellent Colonial House Hostel in Quito, ECUADOR:


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