During my month-long trip to Europe, my friend and I booked hostels to stay in (never hotels because we were too poor - so poor that we resorted to sleeping in the airport a bunch of times). We booked our hostels through Hostel World, a popular website with lots of reviews and cheap lodging. Of course, we also double-checked our choices on Trip Advisor, just in case.

Staying in hostels might seem creepy or scary (thanks to this little gem) but it's a great way to save money. Let's face it, when you're travelling (for leisure), you're not spending the bulk of your time in your hotel room! You're out and about, seeing the sights, taking photos, embracing new cultures; it makes perfect sense to settle for the minimal - all you really need is somewhere to sleep and somewhere to shower. So if you're young and flexible and are willing to step outside of your comfort zone a little, I recommend going through the hostel experience. I mean, hostels are great for a young crowd. Most only allow travelers from age 18 to 30 so you won't have any old people complaining to you to quiet down and you won't have babies crying at night to wake you up. Many also offer free breakfast (score!) and internet (yay!).

If you are a girl travelling alone and you are worried, keep in mind that many hostels offer female only accommodations (though they might be more expensive). My friend and I eased ourselves into the hostel experience by booking a girls only rooms (the Astor Museum Inn in London, Camden Place Hostel in Dublin, and St. Christopher's Inn in Paris). When we returned back to the UK the second time around, we booked a co-ed room (built for 10 people) and though we were prepared to be a little uncomfortable, we found that it was perfectly fine. None of our fellow travelling boys were creepy at all and everyone had a healthy attitude about sharing a space. In fact, we met a few Brazilian boys, one of whom was a photographer or director or did something with cameras. They were also on holiday, so we bonded over what our favorite sights were so far and the like.
One thing to note is that most hostels offer a locker system. The bulk of the places we stayed at had two wire basket drawers under each of the bunk beds (obviously one for each person occupying a bed, see photo). The drawers slid out from under the bed, and when you slid them back in, there was a convenient space for a lock. So bring a lock with you! I've read a few blogs recommending that you bring a few different-sized locks when staying in hostels, but I brought my regular gym lock and it worked fine everywhere we stayed.

If you want to read a few funny (and semi-horrifying) hostel experiences, check out the rest of the post after the jump!

So in Paris, we stayed at a really lovely hostel. It was clean, modern looking, the lobby was set up next to a bar, overall, we were impressed. However, we were staying in a huge room built for 10 girls and a few of the occupants of the room had been staying at the hostel for a while. This meant that they had food in their lockers and in some of the communal space (like a table in the middle of the room and a few bookshelves). The first day we were staying there (as soon as we'd put our bags down), someone noticed a mouse run across the floor! AHH!!! Then, my friend found a mouse (perhaps the same one) in her bed! HER BED! Thankfully, each of our beds was built into the walls and had a curtain (for privacy) and a personal light. Needless to say, I slept with my light on and left music playing on my netbook (at low volume for courtesy's sake, of course) to keep the mouse from wanting to come into my bunk.

My second story happened when we'd come back to London for the final part of our trip. We decided we were brave enough to stay in a co-ed room. The majority of the occupants of the room were boys, one of whom was an Irish boy (complete with accent) in his early 20s who had been in the UK for about a month. He was a larger boy (trying to be polite here) who didn't seem to do much. He slept all day, went out at night, and came back to the hostel past 2am most of the time. One night, I woke up around 3am because I heard a bunch of shuffling and then what sounded like marbles clinking together. Confused, I sat up a little and looked around the room. Turned out that the larger Irish boy was eating Skittles or M&Ms (or the UK/European equivalent) in his bed! I was surprised there weren't mice running around this hostel as well.

Other than that, there wasn't anything too traumatizing about our hostel stays. It was a good experience.