Eat. Drink. Sleep. Repeat.
On a worn out futon in a hostel in Vang Vieng, Laos a gaggle of painfully hungover 20 somethings sprawl while sipping soft drinks and watching reruns of Family Guy and The Simpsons.
When the sun starts to go down and rumours of the night’s party start to circulate, they will pull themselves off the cushions, grab a burger from a street cart and flag down a tuk tuk. An evening of drinking rum and coke from plastic sandcastle buckets at a backpacker bar or passing a bottle of whiskey around a bonfire awaits.
In the early hours of the morning, as the rooster crows to the humid dawn and the local farmers are just about to awake and start their chores, the backpackers stagger noisily into their bunks and fall asleep. When they awake late the next afternoon, the cycle starts again.
The Party Hostel Scene Is a Strange One
On the one hand, it can be a lot of fun and a great place to meet other young travellers from around the world. I’ve had plenty of crazy drunken nights in party hostels around the world that I will remember fondly. I think staying in a party hostel occasionally can be an absolute blast if you are outgoing and social and just want to have a few nights of fun with new friends from all over the world.
It’s also a great place for single travellers to meet each other and hook up. Everyone is in a fun-loving mood and you’re probably never going to see each other again after you leave, so the “why not?” attitude is common. (Just find another spot to fool around other than the shared dorm…. nobody wants to hear that.)
On the other hand, it can be a trap that many travellers fall into for a few days too long. It’s easy to get sucked into the rhythm of the perpetual party. There’s always something happening every night and the pull of the social scene sucks you in. It’s always someone’s first or last night at the hostel. Before you know it you have spent 5 days in Buenos Aires or Bangkok without even seeing any of the sights.
Perhaps if you simply wanted to do nothing but get hammered, it would have been cheaper just to have a few friends over and play drinking games in your living room rather than flying halfway around the world? I’m sure you came to Australia, Argentina or Austria to do more than just suck vodka shots out of an Irish girl’s belly button (although that does sound fun…).
“Shall I Put it On Your Tab?”
As well as possibly pulling you down the rabbit hole of the Endless Party, some types of party hostels are designed to get as much money as possible from you in a number of different ways. Not allowed to bring your own alcohol? You’ll just end up drinking at the hostel bar. While you’re there, you may as well order some food. Wanna head out and check out the nightlife? The hostel offers a pub crawl. What are your plans for tomorrow? Why not book one of the hostel’s tours? Where are you headed next? They also sell bus tickets! Had such an amazing time here? Why not buy the t-shirt so you can let everyone know?
It’s much easier to simply purchase all of these things from your barstool – after all when you have an aching hungover headache who wants to walk around town and compare prices of different tours or buses? It’s all very easy to stay within the fun, comfortable, English speaking bubble of the hostel itself. Many young backpackers are adamant that they are not “tourists” and they scoff at anyone who stays at an all-inclusive resort… but sometimes party hostels can be just a cheaper version of those same resorts.
If you’re not careful, you end up with an experience of your destination that is heavily influenced by the big party hostel chain where you are staying. Nicaragua, brought to you by Bigfoot. Amsterdam, brought to you by The Flying Pig. Buenos Aires, brought to you by Milhouse.
Should I Avoid Party Hostels Completely?
I’m not saying that you should never stay in a party hostel on your travels. They can be a lot of fun for a couple of nights at a time. However, you might want to mix it up by staying in other types of accommodation during your trip – such as locally owned guesthouses and quieter types of hostels.
You’ll get a more rounded experience at your destination, you’ll have some chilled out nights where you can relax and your liver will thank you. You’ll also be more likely to head out during the day and go sightseeing or enjoy other activities.
Of course, there is no right way to travel and you should absolutely take my advice with a pinch of salt. It’s just something to consider before you decide where you want to stay.
My favourite is when I find a quiet and chilled out hostel that is located close to a notorious party hostel so I can enjoy the best of both worlds. For example in Leon, Nicaragua we stayed at a hostel just across the street from the famous Bigfoot. Our hostel was silent and peaceful, the perfect place to sleep and get writing work done. Whenever we felt the urge to join in on the party scene, we simply went across the street for a few hours.
What do you think about party hostels? Let us know in the comments below.