Back in 6th grade French class, I remember wanting to go to Paris for three, specific things: First I wanted to see the Centre Pompidou. Then, the Catacombes. But most importantly, I wanted to stay in a youth hostel, or as I learned the phrase on my vocabulary list, "une auberge jeunesse."
Why wouldn’t an 11-year-old dream of climbing into a hostel’s bunk bed after a day of browsing old French art and even older French skulls? It would be like summer camp, but with Picasso and dead people.
Now that I actually live in Paris, of course I don’t need a hostel here, but I do book one every time I leave the city. In the process, I’ve learned a few things about finding the best deals, battling the bed bugs and meeting the most interesting people in the next bunk over.
If you too ever dreamed of traveling Europe for 15 euros a night, you’re going to want to know a few things:
Do your homework
Not all hostels are created equal. Some may have potentially life-threatening mold. Others have indoor trampolines and fresh croissants in the garden. Lucky for you, there are plenty of online resources where you can can read about other travelers’ experiences and ratings of their stay.
Hostel World, a hostel booking and reviewing website, is a great way to compare various hostels’ prices, cleanliness, safety measures and visitation rules. After finding a few options, I’d also recommend searching their addresses on Google Maps’ street view feature.
This is a great way to check the safety of the local area and view the building’s entrance options.
Realize that hostels usually don’t come with the same amenities as a hotel. This means no clean towels and none of the tiny little shampoo and conditioner bottles you can swipe off the maid’s cart.
While you can sometimes pay for extra toiletries or towel service, save the money by bringing any products you want to use — this includes your shower shoes from freshman year.
But really, don’t let the bed bugs bite
As soon as you get to your room, you’ll want to do a bed bug check. As tempting as it is it save this for later, odds are you’ll probably forget and end up spooning a critter or two.
If you see something, obviously say something. If not, maybe still say a prayer before turning out the lights. In the case that your personal items do get exposed to bed bugs, leave a negative review on Hostel World so I don’t stay there in the future.
“So how’s Trump?”
Now that all of the boring stuff is out of the way, it’s time for the best of hostel-living: the people.
Remember back during Welcome Week when all you wanted were enough friends to fill your futon? That’s a solo traveler’s life, meaning you’re about to meet a lot of people who want to meet you.
Lock up your belongings, head to the common area and get ready to meet an Australian guitar teacher who decided to spend his granddaddy’s inheritance on flights and Europe’s best fondue.
Also, get ready to talk about Trump. A lot.
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