Will Hostels Ever Catch On In America?

Ask an average American if he or she would stay at a hostel and you’ll probably get a puzzled look. If Americans even have a clue what hostels are, they probably associate them with young budget travelers looking to party. On top of that, they probably think hostels only exist in Europe.

But the reality is, there are approximately 350 hostels in the United States, and they are geared toward people with varying ages and interests. The number might seem surprising, but it still pales in comparison to the more than 51,000 hotels across the country.

Budget accommodations seem like a no-brainer. So what’s holding the United States back from becoming populated with hostels? Lots of things, the biggest of which is simple: demand. Americans and visitors travel differently in the Land of Opportunity. Unlike Europe, where close cities and sophisticated rail lines provide the perfect incubator for backpacking culture, major cities tend to be more spread out in the United States. It’s no coincidence that most hostels are found on the Eastern Seaboard and in central and southern California, where hopping from place-to-place is more economically viable.

Still, there is an up-and-coming type of hostel that might work in the United States. “Boutique hostels” offer the same cheap, often dormitory-style accommodations, but in a design- and tech-savvy environment. These types of places are generally geared to millennials, who desire amenities like free WiFi and on-site nightlife over free cable and luxurious rooms. And to ward off any stigma, marketers don’t usually put the word “hostel” in their name.

So what do you think? Can hostels make it in America, or are the impediments too big? Weigh in below.

Boardwalk Violinist Challenges Ocean City Noise Ban

Musicians are as essential to the American boardwalk experience as saltwater taffy. But in Ocean City, Maryland, there’s a battle going on between boardwalk performers and the city, which wants to put limitations on noise.

Last summer, city leaders threatened anyone who played music that was audible within 30 feet of the boardwalk with fines and jail time. But violinist Bill Hassey Jr., who has entertained boardwalk visitors in Ocean City for nearly 20 years, wasn’t having it. He got a local civil rights organization involved, and together they took the case to court.

A judge granted a preliminary injunction stating that Ocean City’s rule imposes a burden on free speech. Although the battle is far from over, musicians were able to get back on the boardwalk mid-way through the summer.

“One of my fellow buskers here mentioned to me that in the last week the boardwalk has come alive again,” Hassey Jr. told WAMU.org. “There’s music coming from the shops, there’s music on the boardwalk from buskers, and people have a kick in their step and a smile on their face that they didn’t have a week ago.”

Ocean City Mayor Rich Meehan told the court the noise law was meant to regulate noise coming from boardwalk shops more than musicians. But really, there are plenty of places along the 3-mile boardwalk that are quiet enough for visitors who want some peace and quiet. Besides, any visitor within earshot understands that music–whether it’s blaring from a shop or coming from a solo busker–is just part of the sights and sounds of summer on the boardwalk.

What’s next, banning teenagers? Cause they certainly are noisy, too.

Tourism Board Wants ‘Breaking Bad’ Cast To Go On ‘A Trip To Belize’

If you watched the latest episode of “Breaking Bad,” you know that taking “a trip to Belize” is a one-way voyage you don’t want to go on. Apparently the Belize Tourism Board was watching, and decided to make the most of the unflattering mention. In order to ensure the world doesn’t associate the country solely with “sleeping with the fishes,” they sent an invitation to “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan and eight members of the cast:

Dear Cast of Breaking Bad,

Despite what Saul meant when he suggested that Walt send Hank “on a trip to Belize,” we were flattered to be included on your program last Sunday. Many of us are big fans of the show and can’t wait to see what happens over the last six episodes. While we hope that some of our favorite characters don’t get “sent on a trip to Belize” in the show, we do hope you will take us upon the following offer – we’d like to send all of you on an ACTUAL trip to our country after the season is over.

We figure you will all need a little time to relax after a riveting season and, if you ask us, there’s no better place to relax than Belize. It’s really the least we can do for the entertainment you have provided us with over the last six years. So allow us an opportunity to entertain you – we have the Blue Hole for Walt, purple fish for Marie, geology for Hank, great music and friendly people for Jesse, delicious breakfast cuisine for Walt Jr., several nice locations to swim for Skylar, colorful clothing for Saul, and the list goes on.

We look forward to hearing back from you. Best of luck with the remainder of this season.

Belize Tourism Board

Gotta love that there are “purple fish for Marie,” but really, who wouldn’t enjoy the chance to see the Blue Hole? I think we can all agree that a trip to Belize wouldn’t be so bad.

The Best Vacation Spots For Smokers

Smokers might have a hard time finding anywhere to light up these days in the United States, but across the world smoking doesn’t always come with a stigma. As big tobacco companies find new frontiers, Asia is the hottest market. This is especially true in Indonesia, where awareness on health hazards is low and advertisement push to make young people brand loyal (see the documentary above for more on that).

In New York City, a pack of cigarettes will set consumers back almost $15. In other places in the world, however, cigarettes come at a fraction of the price-at least at first look. The cost of a pack of cigarettes in Indonesia is only $0.64 — a price that also would buy about 44 servings of rice. Yikes.Some of the cheapest places in the world to find smokes include:

  1. Indonesia: $0.64 a pack
  2. Turkey: $0.77 a pack
  3. South Africa: $0.87 a pack
  4. Malaysia: $1.00 a pack
  5. Panama: $1.20 a pack

Of course, cost might not be much of a factor for smoking jetsetters. Instead, finding a country that is generally accepting of this “bad habit” might be a more viable option (you know, somewhere that you can smoke in a bar without getting the stink eye).

Here are the top countries by annual per capita consumption of cigarettes:

  1. Serbia: 2,861 cigarettes per adult per year
  2. Bulgaria: 2,822 cigarettes per adult per year
  3. Greece: 2,795 cigarettes per adult per year
  4. Russia: 2,786 cigarettes per adult per year
  5. Moldova: 2,479 cigarettes per adult per year (and lots of wine, too!)

And in case you’re curious, the United States clocks in at position 51, with an estimated 1,028 cigarettes per adult per year.

Will people start traveling to certain destinations in search of cheap cigarettes and like-minded smokers? Probably not. But it is interesting to know where big tobacco companies still have — or are forging new — strongholds across the world.

Townspeople Reenact An Early Civil War Battle… On Twitter

There are a number of Civil War commemorations happening this year, most notably Gettysburg’s big 150th anniversary. But even if making it out to watch a reenactment of a battle isn’t in the cards, there is still an option to get in on the action. Tonight and tomorrow, more than 30 people will be “live-tweeting” William Quantrill’s 1863 raid on Lawrence, Kansas — one of the bloodiest events in Kansas history that left nearly 200 people dead and much of the town burned. Tweeters have created accounts for figures integral to the battle — townspeople, Union soldiers and proslavery leader William Quantrill — that will be used to recreate the act of terrorism minute-by-minute. Follow the hashtag #QR1863 to be transported to another time and place. I guess you can call it Twitter time travel!