For as long as I know, my mom’s common refrain to my fussiness has been “you should go and stay in a hostel.” A hostel – in the traditional sense – is where you make do with little, study on and off, wash your own clothes, eat crappy/decent food but end up with friends and memories for a lifetime. Backpacker hostels, on the other hand, are supposed to be fun and a place where you get to meet fellow travellers.
So when I started reading about backpacking hostels being set up in different parts of India, I really wanted to see how similar or different they were.
There are a couple of hostel chains in India– Zostel, which has been expanding rapidly, and Vedanta Wake Up! (whose properties look really good). Besides, there are a clutch of standalone hostels – Stops, Moustache in Delhi and Jaipur, Social Rehab in Bengaluru and plenty of others (the number is just growing).
Backpacking hostels are of course cheaper on the pocket, but that’s not where the allure lies. It’s not even the dorm beds that remind you of your childhood. But the person outside who is playing the guitar, or another one who is painting the wall or even more people who are just sharing their travel plans or little details about their lives. Then there are books, a wall or two where travellers write their messages before they leave, and in some instances some shared activities.
But it’s not all good. I recently stayed at Social Rehab in Bengaluru. It was pretty much everything I have said above. But there were also the obvious cons – lack of hygiene and cleanliness. I’m hoping that’s not the case with all hostels. But does that dissuade me from trying out more? Not really (I have my fingers crossed over the cleanliness thing though).
People who are setting up hostels like Rishab Gupta and Aadil Muscatwala of Vedanta Wake Up! say that before there was a glaring gap in the Indian travel ecosystem – travellers either had to shell out big bucks or compromise on amenities. The solution to this was backpacker hostels, who charge somewhere between Rs 500-700 for dorm rooms. But travellers come for the experience and not low rates, they add.
Whom did I encounter while I was staying at Social Rehab? Plenty of foreigners. That makes sense as they are more used to the idea of hostels. But more Indians are getting on board and not just from mainstream cities but even tier-II cities, says Pavan Nanda, one of the co-founders of Zostel.
Are they a good bet? They are great for a day or two but I also met people who had been staying there for months. Be it a day, few days or more, next time you might want to try out the hostel experience – it will not only save you a few bucks but you might end up making some friends too.