Too Old to Stay at a Hostel – Older Woman Solo

Too Old to Stay at a Hostel – Older Woman Solo

As a solo older woman, am I too old to stay at a hostel?  I have to admit the thought of staying at a hostel felt a little intimidating. It’s like the first day of high school.  Will the cool kids like me?
When I told my kids, both millennials, that I was going to spend a night in a hostel during my visit to San Francisco, their response was, “What the hell, mom?”
The response from my friends wasn’t any better; “Girl, you’re crazy”.  But I’ve always been curious about hostels and wondered how it would be for a solo woman over the age 50 to stay at one.

What is a Hostel?

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines hostel as an inexpensive lodging facility for usually young travelers that typically has dormitory-style sleeping arrangements and sometimes offers meals and planned activities —called also a youth hostel.
From what I can tell, most hostels have dropped the “youth” part and welcomes travelers of all ages.  Room options can range from dormitory-style to single/double private rooms.
Formosa Backpackers Hostel Taiwan
Formosa Backpackers Hostel (Taiwan)
USA Hostel - San Francisco
USA Hostel – San Francisco

The Act of Hosteling

Hosteling is the practice of staying in hostels while traveling. Since renting a hotel or some type of accommodation can take a huge chunk out of a traveler’s budget, hostels are a great way to help stretch your travel dollars while on the road.

Community Hostel - Quito Ecuador
Community hostel – Quito, Ecuador

The Hostel is a Community

Each hostel has its own personality but what all of them have in common is a real sense of community with plenty of opportunities to meet other travelers with similar interest.  The staff  supports its patrons by offering great amenities (and meals), tips on the best places to eat and recommendations on things to do around town.

@mariekedutoit instagram
Away with the fairies hostel (south africa) instagram @mariekedutoit
Pub crawl quito - Community Hostel (Quito, Ecuador)
Pub crawl quito – Community Hostel (Quito, Ecuador)
White Nest Hostel Granada
White Nest Hostel Granada

My Hostel Experience

Where did I go to book a stay at a hostel? Expedia (more about that later).  And with a big assistance from TripAdvisor, I settled on the Green Tortoise Hostel San Francisco.

the green tortoise hostel - 494 Broadway, San Francisco, CA
the green tortoise hostel – 494 Broadway, San Francisco, CA

With all of the many amenities that was advertised, it sounded better than some hotels I’ve stayed in. Lots of free stuff such as:

  • breakfast everyday
  • dinner 3 times a week
  • free wifi (everywhere – even in the rooms)
  • plenty of plugs to charge up the phone (ultra-important)
  • Laundry Room
  • coffee and tea (24 hours)
  • dry sauna

Cost for a shared room: $50 + $20 refundable key deposit

 internet cafe - (image courtesy of Green Tortoise Hostel)
internet cafe – (image courtesy of Green Tortoise Hostel)

One of my roommates, a nice young woman from Beijing was worried that I wouldn’t be able to sleep with the coming and goings of people checking in and out (there was one empty bunk above me and another one above her).  But I assured her I could sleep through a category 5 hurricane with no problem. So I wasn’t too surprised when upon waking the next morning, two more roommates had joined us.  Yeah, didn’t hear them come in.

typical shared room (image courtesy of Green Tortoise Hostel)
typical shared room (image courtesy of Green Tortoise Hostel)
At breakfast (free, delicious and bountiful), I was surprised to see there were a few folks of my age (and older) staying there. Which was nice.  I mean I was going to be fine if I didn’t see anyone my age but it was comforting to see other baby-boomers among the millennials and centennials. A community of travelers.
dining area - (image courtesy of Green Tortoise Hostel)
dining area – (image courtesy of Green Tortoise Hostel)

Hostel Booking Tips for Boomers

  • Research, research and research some more – Not all hostels are created equal. Some are more sedate, others are more like Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras.  Somewhere in between is the perfect hostel for you.
  •  You can book some hostels through Expedia but a good place to start is Hostel Worldwide.  What I love about Hostel World is that it’s a booking site and a sort of TripAdvisor/blog for hosteling. It’s also perfect in letting you know the vibe of the hostel (i.e., party central or laid back atmosphere). Each hostel is rated, includes reviews and a list of amenities.
  • Hostels have many rooming options if you are uncomfortable with the dormitory-style. Private rooms cost more and depending on the hostel can cost as much as a room at your neighborhood Marriott or Hilton.  Be sure to research the details of the room, if you are leaning towards a private room at a hostel.
Purple nest hostel  (Valencia, Spain)
Purple nest hostel  (Valencia, Spain)
  • You also want to research the surrounding neighborhood. Where can I grab a bite to eat?  What is the transportation like? Do the buses stop running at a certain time? Can I get Uber or Lyft if I plan on going out at night?
Kearny Street (leading to Green Tortoise Hostel)
Kearny Street (leading to Green Tortoise Hostel)
  • When you go out do you need to be back inside before dark before the neighborhood crazies come out?  These are some of the things you want to be aware of when looking for the perfect hostel.

I followed none of these tips!

I was very lucky because other than Tripadvisor, I did no research what-so-ever.
The vibe at the Green Tortoise hostel can best be described as friendly, eclectic with an old-school appeal; very laid back. Perfect fit for a 50-something introvert.
reception area (image courtesy of Green Tortoise Hostel)
reception area (image courtesy of Green Tortoise Hostel)
Green Tortoise (rated 9.0 – superb) is located in the North Beach Area, down the hill from Coit Tower, a couple of blocks from the Transamerica building and a stone throw away from Chinatown.  I was within walking distance of tons of shit to do! And importantly, within walking distance of Starbucks. I took advantage of the amazing public transportation options. And the cost of riding Uber was dirt cheap.
I did notice a few strip joints in the area leading me to believe that the neighborhood could be a little dicey at night.  However, I was in bed by 9 pm CST/(7 pm PST) so I can’t confirm this for sure.

Boomers don’t forget…

1.  Bring a padlock to lock your stuff.  The Green Tortoise had a storage area underneath my bunk so I could my store my backpack while checking out the sites of San Francisco. They also allowed me to store my backpack in their private safety vault where you had to be buzzed in and watched via security camera once I checked out (and still had time to kill before checking in to my hotel for the rest of my stay in SF). You will find that most hostels have somewhere to store personal items.
2.  The bathrooms (with showers included) at the Green Tortoise were private.  Thank God!  I didn’t want to relive my basic training shared shower room days at 53 years old…I’m pretty sure I looked a lot better naked back then. Some but not all hostels have private bathrooms. I did research that before booking. Oh and regardless of a shared or private bathroom, bring those shower shoes and a towel/washcloth.
Image courtesy
Image courtesy
In the morning, there’s usually a line for the bathroom so make sure you don’t cut in front of anyone….like I did. (It wasn’t on purpose).
3.  When you check in, be prepared to be given your linen for your bed.  Yes, you must make up your own bed There’s no maid service (or room service). At the Green Tortoise, you also had to strip your bed linen upon check out.
4.  If you are a light sleeper, bring ear plugs (just in case your roommate(s) snore and an eye mask for when the light is turned on unexpectedly.

(You’re welcome)

Will I be hosteling in the future?  You bet!  Am I too old to stay at a hostel?  The answer to that question is no.
Happy Hosteling!

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