Am I too old to stay in a hostel?
This is a recurring question that is asked over and over again in Facebook Groups and travel forums by would-be travellers. Too often they imagine that hostels are full of drunken eighteen year olds who will party until the early hours, be generally disrespectful and who will go around mocking older guests.
I have been travelling for more than four years and my accomodation of choice is usually a backpacker’s hostel so I can call myself an authority on hostels and the people that tend to stay in them. I can honestly say that in all that time, I have only ever once experienced discrimination which came in the form of ageism; keep reading for the details – but because I love to meet people, hostels offer the best chance of this when you’re on the road – especially when you are travelling solo. Find out how NOT to behave in a hostel here.
Of course I sometimes get aprehensive before I check into a new hostel but that’s to be expected in any new situation. When I worry that I will stick out like a sore thumb that is only my negative voice speaking to me, it’s my past insecurities trying to bubble to the surface, but I stamp firmly on them, hoist my backpack closer to me and I hold my head up high.
I remind myself that I am capable of so much more than I was ever led to believe that I could do, and I have proved this to myself over and over when I was preparing for my life of travel and setting myself a series of challenges. (Find out how you can also do this too).
Who stays in a hostel?
Hostels attract many different people. There are business travellers who want to save their hotel expenses, students who are studying in local language schools, families, groups of friends and solo travellers and they are of all ages, race, nationality and religion.
The one thing that they all have in common is that they have chosen a hostel as opposed to a hotel, apartment or a guesthouse. A quick poll among my friends and fellow travellers shows that the main reason for choosing a hostel is to meet and to connect with other people. (Second and third reasons are for the self-catering facilities or lower prices).
You can check out rates for this hostel or others on the island of Ischia, Italy or any other places at this link
Walking into a hostel for the first time can be daunting. People will often stop what they are doing to turn and to look at you. They ARE assessing you but you must remember and understand that they are not judging you. They see a potential new friend, a possible travel companion or a dinner partner.
They may see a shoulder to cry on, somebody who can show them a new way with pasta or a safe pair of hands on a night out in a dodgy part of town.
Are you too old to stay in a hostel?
I have asked countless travellers what they think of the over 35’s staying in hostels and I usually get a bemused look. What!! There are old people staying here? Where?
It’s all about your attitude. If you are open-minded enough to choose a hostel then you don’t generally care how old or how young your fellow guests are. The older people generally have the larger collection of stories, they can offer all sorts of career advice and often double up as substitute parents or aunties and uncles if someone is feeling a little homesick or overwhelmed.
The younger people can inject sponteneity, innocence and a naiviety into the procedings, and the dynamics are ever changing as guests come and go. That is what I love about a hostel – they are fluid, interactive and interesting.
Do hostels have an age limit?
More often than not, any age limit if there is one is imposed on younger people. Children are often welcome (staying in family or private rooms rather than dormitories) but it makes sense to monitor people under the age of eighteen as there are rules regarding drinking alcohol, and safety issues around minors travelling in groups or children sleeping in dormitories with strangers.
Some hostels, but very few, actually impose an upper age limit. Some may mention in the blurb that guests are generally under the age of 30 or some people may prefer to find a quieter hostel, but in my opinion, that upper age limit should be the guest’s own choice.
I have nothing against a hotel or a guesthouse. If I am travelling with a friend a shared room will often work out cheaper, and if you are sick then a private room is a godsend: – Getting Sick in Laos
(Sidenote: I never travel without travel insurance and if you can’t afford the insurance then you probably shouldn’t be travelling. I usually buy my insurance from Alpha Insurance which is very reasonable and you don’t have to jump through too many hoops to sign up – get your quote here
And now back to that story of discrimination, ageism and one man acting like a complete pr*ck.
Remember this is just one bad occasion out of hundreds of nights in a hostel; and I never actually made it past reception!
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Somewhere in a hostel in Ao Nang, Thailand
I had been continuously sick when I had travelled around S E Asia so I would be the first to admit that I didn’t look too bright and breezy when my friend and I approached the long-haired guy at the reception desk at an interesting looking hostel in Ao Nang, Thailand; but I was on the mend and I was looking forward to meeting new people and to painting the town red.
When the receptionist, a pasty-faced long-haired guy finally bothered to look up from his mobile I asked him how much a couple of beds would be for a night or two.
‘Ladies,’ he condescendingly sneered in what may have been a South African, Australian or a New Zealand accent. ‘You might be better finding a different place to stay. This is a party hostel.’
‘Ooh good!’ I replied. ‘I’ve been horribly sick but I’m feeling a lot better now and I’m ready to party’.
‘No ladies, this is REALLY a party hostel,’ he said, obviously dying to return to whatever was more attractive that the two ever-so-slightly mature but ever-so-much-fun ladies standing hopefully in front of him.
‘Um, does illegal stuff happen here?’ I asked hesitantly, not too sure what the difference was between a party hostel and a REALLY party hostel was.
Long-haired pasty-faced guy gave up trying to be polite.
‘Listen! There is an age policy in place here. Nobody over the age of 35 can stay here’.
‘Well that’s OK then,’ I retorted. Facebook has me down as 34 so I qualify’.
I had finally recovered from my long time spell of sickness and I wanted to party so this was like a red rag to a bull.
‘What? How old do you seriously think we are?’ I continued. ‘You can’t discriminate against us based on how old you think that we are. And even if we are slightly above the age limit, can’t older people party too? We want to stay here’
I forget what long-haired guy retorted but I know that it wasn’t very pleasant and basically he told us to sling our hook.
Knowing we were not getting past this unfortunate piece of humanity any time soon we accepted defeat and we turned and walked out. Interestingly the website of this hostel in Ao Nang quotes that guests should have…
A willingness to mix with others regardless of gender or nationality
A burning desire to have fun and smile
A respectful, open personality
A strong liver to cope with our head barman!
My friend and I had all of the above – ask the staff at the Vietnam Hostel in Hanoii which really is a party hostel but who also has the nicest staff and the best welcoming, inclusive, non-discriminatory attitude to ALL of their clientele unlike long-haired, pasty-faced guy who was sat in front of us now.
Feeling a bit deflated we stood out in the dusty lane while Mr Ignorant went back to his game or more probably his porn on his mobile. Now, I write reviews for a hostel website so I decided to take a couple of photos of the front of the hostel so that I could submit a warning about the Age Gestapo on the reception desk on the site that I write for….and that is when it really got interesting!
Long-haired guy uncoiled like a serpent and shot out of the hostel screaming at me to hand over my phone (I obviously refused), whilst threatening to call the police (for taking photos in the street?) and yelling at my friend and I all sorts of obscenities whilst snaking his horrible pointy fingernails at me.
Apparently I was breaking all sorts of privacy laws by photographing him and his hostel and he kept trying to grab my phone.
Honestly, the double standards! We were considered too old and too fragile to party but the disgusting language that he was using could have sent us to an early grave.
Scared that he might actually get hold of my phone and smash it to pieces I stuffed it into my bra where I hoped that he would be afraid to delve. Giving him the finger, my friend and I whirled on our heels and insisted that he call the police if he felt the need and telling him to go f*ck himself we marched off.
The room where we were actually staying was only a couple of doors down from this so-called, amazing party hostel and we ended up staying in Ao Nang for nearly a week. Every time we passed by, Mr Miserable was all alone in his bland building and the few guests that we did spot going in and out looked like they could do with a hefty injection of fun!
Where will you stay next?
If you want a challenge, why not try a hostel somewhere near you for a weekend?
Or if you want to travel with a small group of people I highly rate Explore having travelled with them on four separate trips before I became brave enough to set out on my own.
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