12/24/2012 07:17 am ET Updated Feb 23, 2013

Why You Should Stay In A Hostel

Because of movies like Hostel and the social stigma of associating with such college kid-infested places, sometimes hostels and backpacker lodges get a less-than-ideal reputation for being crowded, dirty and unsafe. In today's world, however, this is rarely ever the case. In my experience, hostels are generally clean, inviting, hospitable and full of friendly staff members and guests. After staying in a handful of hostels, I actually find that I prefer them to hotels because they are safe and comfortable places to stay without a hefty price tag. When traveling on a budget, this can be a wonderful way to meet people and save money on accommodation.

As a student and solo traveler, I often need to find ways to make friends and meet others. Usually, striking up conversations and being approachable is enough, but sometimes language barriers and other cultural differences make even the most friendly interactions difficult. Because of their open lobbies and friendly atmosphere, hostels are a fantastic place to meet others. Some feature restaurants or bars where guests can go to grab a bite to eat and socialize. Hostels are designed to be social places, so if you hang out in the common areas, you're sure to make new friends who are traveling as well.

Hostels are also much less expensive than hotels. For budget travelers, this can help you save lots of money while still serving as a comparable alternative. If you don't want to share a room with anyone, some hostels have a private room option, giving guests private accommodation quite similar to a hotel. Many hostels cost as little as a few dollars per night, usually about the price of a decent meal or a couple of souvenirs. Even if you don't consider yourself a budget traveler, you can use the money you saved by staying in a hostel on other things, like attractions or a fancy dinner. Most of the time, hostels are a fantastic value for your money, and since travel costs are constantly rising, this can definitely be a desirable feature.

In terms of safety, all of the hostels I have seen have staff on-hand 24 hours per day, stationed right by the front door. They are there so that guests have everything they need at all times, and they also ensure that the hostels are kept safe and free of non-guests and bad elements. Most hostels require a key to enter a lot of the areas, ensuring that only registered guests have access to the facilities. There are lockers available for your belongings to ensure that they do not get stolen or broken, and some places have a room designated for luggage so you can explore without having to lug around all of your things.

Because many students, young people and budget travelers occupy hostels, they often provide maps and information packets with suggestions for free attractions, discounts and inexpensive local places to eat and hang out. This can be very useful information for people who are looking to experience a city but not spend a fortune. There are also usually resources for finding great local activities like pub crawls and free tours, which are wonderful ways to meet other travelers and experience a destination first-hand.

Undoubtedly, my favorite aspect of staying in hostels is the culture. Most travelers who are staying in hostels are people keen on making new friends, and many of them are solo travelers. The stories I've heard in hostel common rooms vary greatly, from people who are traveling for the first time to people who have been traveling for years on end. I have met people from all over the world just by saying hello to people hanging out in the lobby. It has amazing and inspiring to be around such a diverse variety of people. Residing among such a varied community brings a wonderful feeling, and one that comes naturally at hostels because of the constant flow of guests. Although not every hostel is the same, each one has its own personality, and they all attract a plethora of enthusiastic travelers eager to share their stories and make new memories around the world.