If you're a budget traveler, you'll most likely be spending your trip staying in hostels. Hostels are one of the cheapest forms of accommodation and make it easy for you to splurge on more exciting things, like tours and alcohol.
How Much Do Hostels Cost?
For a single bed in a dorm room, the price will vary from 20 cents to around $100 around the world, but it'll be very rare for the price to come in at any higher than that. It's all dependent on the part of the world you'll be traveling in.
In Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, South Asia, Central America, and other affordable regions of the world, you can find dorm beds for next to nothing. In Laos, for example, I spent $1 on a private room in a guesthouse overlooking the Mekong. Sure, it was basic, but it was also amazing value for money! That's an exception rather than a rule, though. In these parts of the world, you can find a dorm for $5 a night, with private rooms for as little as $15 a night.
In Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe, and North America, you'll find the highest prices. In these parts of the world, dorm rooms can start at around $20 a night for a decent hostel and max out at $100 night for a private room in the flashiest hostel in town.
In-between those two extremes is everywhere else: cheaper parts of Western Europe (Spain and Portugal); the Middle East, Africa, and South America. In these parts of the world, you can expect to spend around $10-20 on a dorm room, and around $50 a night for a private room.
Are Hostel Discounts Available?
HI (Hostelling International), YHA, Australia's Nomads, and a few other hostel bookers or chains offer hostel discount cards for use at their hostels (like a hotel points account), but for the most part, don't expect any kind of deal: hostels are already extraordinarily cheap.
But if you're a savvy negotiator and a slow traveler, you should easily be able to bargain with the hostel staff for a cheaper rate. Hostels will usually give you a discount for staying long-term, so if you're planning on being in a city for a minimum of a week, it's worth not booking in advance and turning up to try to negotiate. You'll nearly always be able to talk them down through doing this.
And if you're looking to spend a significant amount of time in a place, you could try offering to work at a hostel in exchange for a free bed and food. Several of my friends have done this with great success -- they spend a few hours every morning cleaning a dorm room, and in exchange, get to keep their expenses at a real minimum.
If that doesn't appeal to you, you're in for a typical hostel experience. And what are you likely to get for your money in a hostel?
A Free Breakfast
It's common to receive a complimentary breakfast in a hostel, but this isn't necessarily as good as it sounds. In Latin America, you'll be faced with breads, juice, and instant coffee; in Europe, you'll be able to grab the same but with some decent cheese thrown in.
Honestly, the free breakfasts in hostels are uniformly terrible, and are usually served buffet style and cold. If you see the words "continental breakfast" know that there is a 99% chance that it'll be terrible.
But it's not all bad: if you don't care about have a bland meal each day, the free breakfast will allow you to save money on food, and if you're feeling particularly sneaky, you could grab some extra bread rolls to eat for lunch later in the day.
The internet is everywhere these days, and hostels are one of the few places where you can nearly always be guaranteed to get online. While hotels still like to charge for Internet, hostels will give you a free Wi-Fi connection to use for as long as you like. While connections can sometimes be slow, they're nearly always usable, even in dorm rooms.
The one exception? Hostels in Australia.
Access to Tours
The longer I've traveled, the less enthusiastic I've been about hostels, but the one thing that keeps me coming back for more? The sheer availability of activities they offer. Hostel staff will be able to tell you where the free walking tours run from, will run pub crawls, will organize social nights, will help you get to your next destination, will run day trips to nearby sites of interest.
Even when I decide I'm finished with hostels, it's this ease of travel that always has me coming crawling back for one more sleepless night.
As an example, I recently traveled to South Africa and decided to stay in hotels rather than hostels. I had plans to go on game drives, to take a tour of Lesotho, and explore more of the city. How much of that did I actually manage to do? Nothing.
In many places, tour companies will charge you a supplement to take a tour alone, which is often double the price you'd pay if you were part of a couple. If I'd been in a hostel, I would have been able to take all of those tours with a group of people and pay very little money for it.
You will always be given linen to use for the duration of your stay, so don't be one of those travelers who brings your own with you. You'll be unlikely to ever use it, anyway: most hostels forbid your use of your own sleeping bag or sheets because they could be harboring bedbugs, and hostels are actually really quite good at keeping bedbugs out (contrary to popular opinion).
While there are quite a few hostels out there who will provide you with free towels to use (or allow you to rent them for a small fee), it's just rare enough for me not to recommend you don't bother bringing your own. Private hostel rooms generally come equipped with towels if you've got your own ensuite bathroom.
This article has been edited and updated by Lauren Juliff.