The answer to all of the above is a big fat NO!
I always counter travel overspending with questions as to whether or not the purchase will bring me closer to the real culture and history of the place I’m touring. For example, will this five star Four Seasons help me meet the locals and get in touch with their personal perspectives on life? That’s another HUGE NO!
If getting in touch with the destination you’re visiting and you want to travel right, then I suggest to make it a habit of asking yourself those questions - besides, they can often save you money.
Hostels are not creepy, “the locals are going to steal me and melt away my eyeballs” type of places like in the movies. Hostels are the absolutely PERFECT places to feel comfortable and to stave off potential loneliness while traveling. It’s so ridiculously easy to meet temporary travel buddies or even make lifelong friends while staying in hostels. You can go hostel to hostel in each destination of Europe for example and have an amazing time with absolutely nothing planned ahead of time - all you have to do is be sociable and hang out in the common rooms or inner-hostel pubs. There are always interesting travelers from all around the world that are willing to have a good time and are even more willing to invite anyone and everyone to join in - because they are usually traveling to meet interesting people too. While staying in hostels can still separate you from the locals a bit, (especially if you continually travel city to city in that sort of a “clique”) they are still great places to begin your travels, specifically while you’re still collecting your bearings.
Like hotels, you will want to read the reviews and make sure you’re choosing a decent facility. Because, while hostels are very popular for travelers, some have health issues (bedbugs, lack of cleanliness or unsafe structural issues). Hostels can also be very inexpensive though - extremely inexpensive if you compare prices to those of most hotels. For example, here are some prices (converted to USD) for a one night hostel stay: London $15, Mexico City $10, New York City $28, Tokyo $22, La Paz $6, Singapore $12, Paris $28, Buenos Aires $9, Istanbul $8, Panama City $10, Melbourne $25, Rome $15, Cape Town $12. (prices are based on a few factors - rounded averages of low-level results, upon a midweek search of a one month advanced booking duration on hostelworld.com)
A relatively safe option is couch surfing, which is completely free! Couch surfing is a unique service that connects you with people around the world who wish to meet others without having to travel outside of their homes to do so. Staying on a strangers couch probably sounds like an ominous possibility, but with CouchSurfing.com’s verification and review process, it’s quite safe and easy to use. Besides a free place to stay, it’s not unusual to receive free meals, gain tour guides or drinking buddies. From my personal experience, couch hosts are usually openminded people who used to travel, but for one reason or another can not right now. They typically have the best stories and are the most interesting and kind individuals to spend time with. Couch surfing is a fantastic way to get in touch with the locals, as you’ll be staying with one!
(Photo by Andrea Lhotakova)