Staying in a hostel can be rough sometimes, but for backpackers it’s often your best option. Hostels are cheap and a convenient way to meet people. However, the wrong hostel could ruin your trip. Here are my tips on choosing one that suits your needs.
1.) Don’t Book the Cheapest Hostel
Unless it also happens to be the best one! But don’t sacrifice on location, comfort, and friendly staff to save a few bucks as it will definitely impact your trip. Nobody wants to be far from the action in an isolated hostel with no friends. Likewise, you don’t want to be in a noisy, party hostel if you know that’s not your thing. While traveling on a budget, the difference between $10 and $7 a night can seem like a lot, but make sacrifices elsewhere in your budget if you need to.
2.) Use the Map Function
Speaking of location, don’t assume you’re in a good one just because the hostel is located in the city you want. Use the map function on Hostelworld to see exactly where it is. I like to make sure I’m near other hostels as these areas are generally safe, and it’s nice to be nearby other travelers. That said, if you don’t like noise, you also want to make sure you’re not on the same street as all of the bars. In addition, make sure you’re near the attractions that are most important to you.
3.) Read the Reviews
This seems simple enough, but I’ve had travel buddies who have booked places solely based on the star ratings on Hostelworld. Problem is, the star ratings include all reviews and there are so many things that can happen over time, like a change in management. When you actually read the 5 or so most recent reviews, you might find that the 7 star hostel is now better than the 9 star one.
4.) Know Your Priorities
For me, these change based on my mood. But I generally avoid party hostels at all costs. I like to get a good night’s sleep. But I also like a social environment so I can meet other people. You can have both if you look hard enough! It’s usually pretty easy to tell from the reviews if it’s a party hostel. But to ensure that there’s a social scene beyond that make sure that there’s a common area/bar/TV room. If there are organized activities, like BBQ nights or games, that’s also a good sign.
5.) Ensure Basic Needs Are Met
Almost every hostel has working showers, free linens, free Wi-Fi, and basic security features. But some don’t! Double check that everything you need is there. I’ve been to (seemingly nice) hostels where there were no locks on the doors nor any lockers provided. It’s a bit difficult to sleep when you have to keep one eye open.
6.) Decide Whether the Free Breakfast is Worth It
Some backpackers won’t consider a hostel without a free breakfast. However, most hostels that serve free breakfast only give you toast and cereal. Not very nutritious or filling. It might be free, but in most places you can just buy your own groceries for a few bucks extra and live off them for your entire stay anyway. So it may not be the best deciding factor when you’re torn between hostels.
7.) Look for Extra Amenities
Once your basic hostel needs are met, keep your eyes peeled for fun amenities. No, you’re not at a luxury hotel, but you’d be surprised by some of the fancy “flashpacker” hostels out there. I’ve stayed at hostels with nice pools, free dinners, free laundry, and other cool perks. Check out some of the coolest hostels in the world.