Money and time wise, economically it makes sense to travel at night. You save money on booking a hostel, and you’re sleeping during a time where you’re physically inactive anyways. In practice though, it just doesn’t seem to work out.
Night travel gets you into a city WAY too early (usually around 6 AM) meaning that you can’t actually check into your hostel (there is something so unsatisfying about leaving your bad in the hostel lockup).
You also probably didn’t sleep well on your bus/plane/train so you’re groggy. Even as a self diagnosed narcoleptic who can sleep pretty much anywhere at any time of day, once I’ve had that first doze off on my mode of transportation I’m pretty much awake for the rest of the ride, day OR night.
If you actually do muster up the motivation to start exploring, you get immediately frustrated when you can’t find things, and even when you do manage to successfully navigate a map through the fog of exhaustion and find your way, you aren’t conscious enough to appreciate the things that you find.
Arriving mid day means you get to check into your hostel, wash the bus/train/plane off you, and settle into your new home for the next X number of days. You have time to chill in the hostel common room where you’ll talk to other travellers. You’ll have some time to learn from those who have been touring the city already for a few days before you head off into it on your own.
Wandering around a city you don’t know with little to no advice (trust me, I’ve tried doing the research BEFORE getting into a city online or in guidebooks, and word of mouth has won over in good advice about 100 to 1) is just not as effective. Not that I don’t mind a good wander, but a good wander is usually a lot more enjoyable after a good nights sleep and with some idea of the lay of the land (from a helpful receptionist).
What do you think? Is there a way to travel at night that works for you? What are your experiences?