20 unusual ways to save money: Stay in hostels on vacation

I'm getting a little tired of hearing people talk about how it's too expensive to travel. Lots of times, travel is cheap as long as you don't chase luxury. If you're really interested in seeing more of the world, then there are still plenty of ways to do it sensibly. One of the prime ways to visit a foreign place cheaply is to get yourself out of the chain-hotel ghetto. Sorry, Marriott, and Hilton, but for people who really want to experience, say, Budapest or Paris, there is a more realistic way to make that dream come true.

At the top of the list of cost-cutting is hostels. Americans overlook hostels. That's probably because compared to the rest of the world, we don't have very many of them, or we perceive them as flophouses for losers and addicts. In fact, though, in just about every Western culture but America's, there's a cultural expectation that young people take a little time off in their 20s and see the world.

A conservative estimate is that there are some 20,000 hostels worldwide. Assuming that each one has about 75 people staying there a night (another conservative estimate, since many house hundreds of travelers of every age), that means some 1.5 million people are staying in a hostel tonight. It's actually not as purgatorial as it sounds. In fact, in many ways, it's a preferable way to learn about other people and the world. At a hostel, your budget may dip, but your standards don't have to. Here's why.