Should I stay in a hostel? Yes, if you book wisely. -Quartz

During the first half of my twenties, I almost completely avoided hostels. With the exception of a few study abroad stints with “backpackers,” as they are called in South Africa, the years of my youth that would typically be associated with dorm life coincided with the rise of ‘Airbnb.

But as I approach my 30s, to my surprise, I turn more and more to hostels. It all started when I impulsively booked a solo weekend in Copenhagen. While the flight from London was super cheap (thanks, Norwegian), I quickly realized that my accommodation options were decidedly not. Unable to afford a Scandi- or Airbnb-priced hotel on my own, I risked a female dorm in a well-rated hipster-style hostel.

Upon arrival, I found myself drinking super cheap beer (at least by Copenhagen standards), while using the super fast wifi in the hostel lounge, which could easily have passed for a trendy bar . I even made friends with some locals – who used said living room as a coworking space – who showed me around the city this weekend. To top it off, the hostel offered free yoga classes, a bike shop, and a tattoo parlor, for those who wanted to pay extra to get a tattoo. Why hadn’t I done this before?

Indeed, if you think you are too old or too picky to book a hostel, now is the time to think again. It’s a bit counter-intuitive, but hostels are having some success in the luxury travel market. Hotel groups known for their designer boutique hotels are getting into the hostel/hotel hybrid game. There is Grupo Habita’s “Downtown Beds” in Mexico City, which is built from a 17and Century Palace and its Robey Hall location in Chicago; Generator Hostels, which offers “experience and design-driven” hostels in cities across Europe; and Freehand Hotels which operates boutique hotels with hostel-style bunk beds in Miami, LA, Chicago and soon New York. Hilton is even said to be jumping on the upscale hostel trend in a bid to, you guessed it, appeal to millennials.

In addition to these new luxury vibes, hostels have a clear advantage over similarly priced Airbnbs: they’re much easier to book, and the check-in process is seamless, no matter what time you are. arrive, as they are usually staffed 24 hours. . Another little-known benefit of a nice hostel? They offer a free and attractive meeting place. Unlike lounging in a hotel lobby (where booze and snacks will be twice as expensive) or an Airbnb (which may offer a lounge, but probably not a sprawling lobby), the common area or lounge d a well-chosen hostel tends to be a great place to take a break, work or be social, if that’s your thing.

Courtesy/Hop Inn

The extremely attractive roof terrace of the Hop Inn HK.

A wonderful Hong Kong hostel I stayed in earlier this year had a rooftop terrace with $1 Tsingtao beers (which were even cheaper than those sold at 7-Eleven) where I spent many hours reading books and eating fried snacks that I had just bought below. Another hostel I visited in Bruges had a bar with a better selection of Belgian beers – and a happy hour – than any other place I visited on the trip. If it were hotels they would have been out of my price range for more than a drink or two. But since these were hostels, I could party and theoretically make friends along the way.

So how old is too old to stay in a hostel? Never, as long as you know what you’re looking for, use good judgment and book wisely. Here’s how to do just that.

Read reviews very carefully: In general, when booking a hostel, paying close attention to reviews is even more vital than with traditional hotels. I tend to only book hostels that have excellent, borderline rave reviews. I pay close attention to what previous visitors say about cleanliness, as well as the common area or bar. Remember: you probably won’t want to spend a lot of time in your dorm, so the common area is where you can read, eat, drink a beer or coffee, rest, and work on your laptop when you don’t explore. So make sure it looks attractive.

Habita Group/Undine Pröhl

The common area of ​​Grupo Habita’s “Downtown Beds” location in Mexico City.

Consider booking as a group: While hostels are great when you’re a solo traveler who doesn’t have the option of splitting a room rate with a friend, they can also be a cheaper alternative for groups or couples looking of a private room. Most hostels offer a range of rooms of different sizes, including single or double and quadruple rooms, which are usually cheaper than a hotel when booked in advance. As long as your party is OK with sleeping on bunk beds (although many hostels also offer regular beds), it’s a great way to cut down on your accommodation expenses.

Do not stay in a hostel without sheets: A key indicator of the type of hostel you sign up for is whether or not it provides linens. If not, it’s probably a simple option for hardcore backpackers, so don’t bother. On the other hand, if a review mentions that a location had nice linens, that’s a good bet. Please note: hostels usually provide guests with just one towel or charge you to borrow one. If you’re used to the relative affluence of towels, consider bringing your own. Better yet, buy one of these incredibly efficient and lightweight travel towels, so you’ll never be caught without a way to dry yourself off.

No need to be talkative: The thing about hostels that scares most people off is sharing a room with people they don’t know. It may take some getting used to, but remember, this is not summer camp. If you don’t want to chat with your housemates, you don’t have to. (I usually don’t go beyond initial banter, and dorm mates tend to respect that). Most beds have a curtain, power outlet and reading light so you can have privacy and electricity whether the lights are on or off. If you’re in a dorm, you’ll need to use the shared bathroom for privacy, so make sure your luggage is organized enough to keep your toiletries and clothes accessible throughout your stay. Earplugs and an eye mask are helpful, and better yet, a white noise app on your phone.

Security: Another reason people avoid hostels is because of security. And while it’s true that sharing a room with others naturally involves a bit more risk than being alone, hostels are usually staffed 24/7 and are rarely isolated enough to feel at home. risk. That said, for comfort reasons, I always opt for a female-only dorm, which almost all hostels offer for a slightly increased rate. As for your belongings, a small padlock or luggage lock is essential for dorm life, as most rooms offer small lockers to store your belongings when you’re away. If some of your stuff worries you more than others (your laptop, for example), you can also ask reception for a more secure storage option.

To mix together: Hostels work best when you really want to explore where you’re going, not enjoy the luxury of a hotel bed or a pool. That said, staying three nights in a hostel and one or two nights in a nice hotel is a great way to get a neat experience of a place while staying on an Airbnb-level budget. Personally, I have found the ideal length of time to stay in a hostel to be two to three nights. After that, it’s a good memory, but I’m ready for some privacy.

An earlier version of this post misidentified a photo of one of Grupo Habita’s properties.

Linda G. Ibarra