Posted by Heather on September 9th, 2009 to
It's hard to find a hostel without private rooms these days, with hotel-quality accommodation at a fraction of the price. But as a solo traveller, private rooms sometimes seem like the realm of couples and friends alone. But after weeks and weeks of dorms, a private room is a nice, worthwhile splurge. Here are a few tips for figuring out the time and place for a sweet, glorious upgrade.
1. Hold out until you really need it
You never really know when the mood will strike, but don't cave too easily, especially if you're on a tight budget. One day down the line you might get a cold and want to spend two days in bed with no one else around, or you might meet a certain, delightful Spaniard who tickles your fancy and you may want to tickle theirs, or you might run into problems with the bank and want a quiet spot to spend a day on the phone, begging. There are many scenarios that call for a little alone time so don't go blowing an upgrade just because you feel like walking around naked for a bit.
2. Keep an eye on prices
Sometimes a double room is simply twice the price of a dorm bed. Other times it's inflated for no obvious reason, sometimes a single is just a few bucks more than a dorm. Rooms with ensuites are more expensive, as are those with other amenities like TVs or air conditioning. Prices may shoot up on weekends, holidays or if there's a big event in town. Even if you're fine with a dorm, keep an eye on private room prices to get a feel for how it all goes down. If you're travelling in low season, even better.
3. Go rural
City hostels generally charge more for private rooms than more remote hostels simply because they can. It's something to do with supply and demand that I don't care to think about. Trust me. If you're in London and want a private room, I send my kind regards to your credit card. Hold on 'til you're out of the city and get the same deal for much cheaper.
4. Don't you dare ask me where I'm from
If you're sick and tired of the 'where are you from' rigmarole (admit it, it can get tiresome) and want to remove yourself from the uber-social atmosphere of dorm life, it might be a good time to splurge. I find you meet far fewer people when you stay in a private room, either because there's simply no one to say "hey, nice pyjamas" to, or because you're more likely to hunker down and avoid the world when you get the opportunity. Maybe that's just me...
5. Steer clear of dollars, euros and pounds
If you're heading anywhere where your currency exchanges favourably, you might get more bang for your buck with a private room than you would in somewhere like, say, the cruel, sterling world of Britain. In Southeast Asia, private rooms can go for the price of a pack of M&Ms (I just had some for breakfast) so it's a no-lose situation. If you're in Europe, head east to make the jump, preferably to non-Euro countries.
6. When there's nothing to do
The best way to absorb the cost of an upgrade is to skip out on other expenses. So go for a private room when there's not much else to do and you're not going to be shelling out for museums, attractions, drinks and dining out. Consider a private room an attraction in itself. If you want to spend a couple days parked on a beach, your expenses will be lower than if you're going on a museum-crawl followed by a cafe-crawl in Paris. Make a point of preparing your own food, though understand that if you get a room with a TV, it's damn near impossible not to order in pizza and watch reruns of X Factor. Not that I'd know...
7. Make the most of it
When you do upgrade, and it really is worth it from time to time, make the most of your fleeting moments of privacy. Empty out your backpack, cover every inch of floor with your stuff. Re-organize, clear out the stuff you're not using, do laundry, shake out the crumbs, fold things nicely for once (I channelled your mom for a second there), and let everything - you, your brain, your body, your stuff - breathe.
Enjoy it, then get back in a dorm.