>  Advice   >  Backpacking for older travellers

Long blonde hair and a cute Swedish accent may help you pick up members of the opposite sex but it’s not a requirement for hostel entry. Neither is a freshly minted 18+ ID. Hostels are often called ‘youth hostels’ but in reality they’re popular with travellers of all ages who value clean, simple accommodation at an affordable price. Nearly all of them offer private rooms and a host of free extras like tour discounts and complimentary wi-fi. With a new wave of trendy hostels hitting the market around the world there’s never been a better time to revisit your halcyon backpacking days.  Here’s how you do it, no thongs for the shower required.

How to find the best hostels

Don’t be swayed by a fancy website or the cheapest price.  Research all of the available options at your destination, paying particular attention to each hostel’s location. Is it handy to public transport?  How safe is the area after dark? Staying in a nice part of town is more important than saving a few extra bucks when you’re older. Running from muggers gets harder as the years go by.

Ditch the dorm room

Sharing sleeping quarters with a bunch of strangers can be one of the less appealing aspects of staying at a hostel. Sure, you may have done it when you were younger. However, unless you’re on a miniscule budget, you should skip the dorm in favour of a private room this time around. Trust me, shared rooms smell just as bad now as they did back then.

Choose your hostel room

All private rooms are a big step up from a dorm but not all of them have private facilities.  Believe it or not this is a good thing. If you’re on a tight budget and don’t mind nipping down the hall for a shower, staying in a private room with shared facilities offers terrific value. This is especially true for early risers who can beat the rush.  Expect to save around $10, enough for a decent cup of coffee and a slice of cake every day of your holiday.

What to bring to a hostel

Some hostels provide bath towels but very few provide in-room amenities like cute little bottles of sweet smelling goo.  Bring the basics just in case – travel towel, soap, body lotion, shampoo.

Sleeping at a hostel

Even the best hostels can be noisy.  Earplugs help to ensure a good night’s rest.  So does a room away from the dorms.

Backpacking for families

Don’t rule out staying at a ‘flashpackers’ just because you’re travelling with kids, families are welcome at most hostels. Some websites even have a dedicated family section. Large broods can commandeer an entire 6 or 8 share dorm and give the communal kitchen a workout. Being able to cook your own meals offers huge savings when you’re travelling with kids.

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Cooking at a hostel

Self-catering can be surprisingly fun when you’re staying at a hostel.  Head out to explore a local market then use what you’ve bought to cook up a storm in the communal hostel kitchen.

Making friends at a hostel

Don’t be shy when it comes to striking up a conversation, especially if you’re travelling solo.  Only weirdos huddle in a corner by themselves. If you’re not sure how to get started, ask for a recommendation on what’s good to check out around town. Pretty much everyone loves offering an opinion. Not only will you meet people, you’ll score some great travel tips and perhaps be inspired to try something different.

Hostel freebies

Most hostels offer guests at least a couple of freebies – wi-fi is considered standard and the majority offer airport pickup – but some hostels serve up a veritable freebie-fest like a guest BBQ and a free popsicle nightFree activities are a great way to meet people and save money at the same time.

Disclosure: The writer is too old for dorm accommodation these days but is a fan of hostels with private rooms. 

If you are heading overseas for your hostel stay, you might also find our airport stopover tips, overseas safety advice, travel planning tips, and advice for avoiding scams helpful.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.