The first time I ever stayed at a party hostel, I was 20 years old and in love with everything about it. I was at the age where I could drink all night, go to bed at 6 AM, and still be ready to go and explore the city by noon. I could sleep through anything, including the bumping beats from the nightclub directly below the appropriately-named Infinity Party Hostel.
Three years later at the ripe, old age of 23, I am writing this antisocially from the Tipsy Tiger in Malaysia. Toto’s Africa is currently blaring downstairs as I try to find some sort of balance between work and travel. I’ll admit, the song is pretty tempting, but after a night out last night, who even knows if I have it in me to drink a second consecutive night. I rolled into the hostel at Penang last night at 9:02 PM, just missing the cutoff for the two free drinks all guests are given to start the night off.
After a few days spent with my family in Singapore, I wanted to at least force myself to make an attempt to socialize on the first “real” night of this backpacking trip.
“There a party tonight?” I asked the long-haired Aussie bartender/receptionist//whatever.
“Aww yeah mate there’s a party every night I’ve blacked out three nights in a row now. Know what? I’ll give you your free drinks anyway, just come down to the bar when you’re ready.”
What have I gotten myself into…
Regardless, I forced myself into going out that night and didn’t have a terrible time. Party hostels can be the ultimate hit-or-miss. My first few solo backpacking trips, party hostels seemed like the only option. How else would I make friends and have a good time?
I’ve stayed in them across Europe, Central America, South America, and South East Asia and all have a few things in common.
Just kidding. Sort of.
They can be the best time of your life or the worst time of your life. Here are the pros and cons of staying at a party hostel.
Friends are practically given to you
This is definitely the biggest appeal of party hostels. If you’re traveling solo, like I usually do, then there’s no easier target to make friends than drunk, friendly people. It’s not hard to make friends at quiet hostels, but the type to stay at party hostels are definitely more outgoing and more inclined to start socializing with random people.
Free drinks are pretty common
No better way to get the party started than giving out free drinks. Some places I stayed at in Laos would literally leave bottles of whiskey out for hours at a time to get the party going. If a Vietnamese hostel didn’t have free beer every night, then it just can’t even be an option. I hardly paid for alcohol in South East Asia.
They already know the best spots to go out
Usually, the people working at party hostels are fun-loving locals or longer-tenured travelers. Working at a hostel usually requires a good knowledge of the city, or if you’re a volunteer, you just have to be willing to stay there for a month or longer. Finding the best nightlife is a struggle because there is really no good way to know what a bar is going to be like before you go there for yourself.
You usually get good deals or free drinks at the bars also
In any given city, there’s the normal nightlife then there’s the backpacker nightlife. A lot of backpacker bars rely mostly on hordes of drunk backpackers coming in on a hostel pub crawl so they’ll give away as much free alcohol as it takes to get you to come spend money there. The bars themselves might not be the best, but if the main goal is to get drunk, then there’s nothing wrong with that.
Sleep? Wishful thinking.
You’d be lucky to get more than four hours at any given night at a party hostel. Last night, groups of loud drunk people came in separately in like 30-minute intervals until I finally managed to fall asleep at 4 AM. Sometimes you are that drunk person, so it’s all fair in the end. On the bright side, everyone’s usually quite hungover the following day so you can all take afternoon naps together in silence.
Hostel sex… Urghh..
I actually didn’t experience this until my fourth big backpacking trip, or maybe I was just ignorant to it beforehand. If there’s one thing drunk people like doing, it’s other drunk people. Shame and morals all go out the window when there’s a hot, young, foreign thang sleeping just a few feet away from you. In the bathrooms, common rooms, couches, and dorm beds, there is bound to be at least some fondling going on.
They usually skimp out on other aspects
The focus of a party hostel is obviously on partying. Most people that come to stay at party hostels come to party. If there’s one thing drunk people are good at, it’s sleeping anywhere and snoring loudly. Unlike “boutique” hostels, party hostels don’t usually care how comfy their beds are, how fluffy your pillows are, or how clean the bathrooms are. They’ll throw a bag of bread and some jam on the counter and advertise free breakfast online.
Comfort, cleanliness, and luxury aren’t exactly what people come for, so why bother? Can’t really blame them.
Sometimes the bars they take you to suck
A lot of backpackers don’t care about what a bar is like as long as the party seems to be there. On the little “bar crawl” the hostel staff took us on last night, every bar was empty aside from us. Yes, it was a Sunday and yes, it was Chinese New Year, but we passed some clubs that actually had people in them. We went to none of them, instead going to completely empty ones where they are probably paid to bring us there.
It’s not a big deal if you just want to get drunk, but sometimes you’re better off trying to find the hot spots all on your own.
Have you ever stayed at a party hostel? What do you think about them?