Here are my 7 points to finding the right hostel. I’ve stayed in hostels in over 40 cities and only a handful have been bad choices. Some have felt like a home away from home!
Picking the right hostel is like picking the right woman. You may get it wrong sometimes, it may not live up to expectations and in some cases it my just be the completely wrong choice but then you will get it right and never look back. Since I began my travels I have seen the best and the worst when it comes to hostels but I now know exactly what to look for when it comes to making that choice.
I will go through one by one the rules I follow and the things you should look for when booking your hostel:
- Research – You may come across what you think is a brilliant hostel straight off and that may be the case but it doesn’t hurt to spend a bit of time looking around and comparing it to others. I mainly use Hostel World and Booking.com as it offers great user reviews and especially on Hostel World each hostel is rated in areas such as fun, cleanliness and location which helps you make your choice knowing what to expect when you arrive.
- Cost – Just because a hostel is the cheapest it doesn’t mean that it’s the best choice. You may find one that’s a little more expensive but offers a couple of extra amenities that will end up saving you money in the long run. I never like to pay more than £10 per night when it comes to booking a hostel, for that price I do expect basics like breakfast, lockers, clean rooms, laundry service and friendly staff. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask for! In the past I have found cheaper hostels that offer this and more so I reiterate step 1 and take some time to research.
- Food – A traveller requires two basic things and one of those is food! Saving money on food can be key to having a little extra in your budget for other things. One thing I always make sure I have is breakfast, you can sometimes then skip lunch and only need to buy one meal per day for the evening. Even if it’s a small buffet with a cup of tea or coffee, that’s enough to start the day. I stayed in a hostel in Vietnam that offered an evening meal as well as breakfast, it was a simple dish of beef noodles but certainly tasted good and allowed even more savings. Something else to look for is a kitchen, if you can buy some cheap noodles or rice to cook yourself instead of going out to restaurants then do it. A lot of these hostels will have basics like tea and coffee there for you and offer a fridge or cupboard space to store your food also.
- Common Areas – The whole idea of staying in a hostel is the social aspect, if you don’t want to speak to people just go and stay in a hotel and stay shut in your room. I have met and made some incredible friends in hostels, some I hung out with during my stay, some met up with further along my trip and some I’m still friends with now and plan to see in the future. It is without a doubt the best way to meet people whether you are by yourself or travelling with friends. I cannot stress enough how important this is and will make such a huge difference to your stay.
- Bar – A hostel with a bar is not only a great place to meet people and make new friends its also a cheap place to drink before you head out for the night or if you just want a quiet few drinks that don’t dip into the budget to much. Most hostel bars will serve local drinks that will be no more then a £1 or £2 for beers, shots and spirits. Some will even have theme nights and organised nights out that start in the hostel and can be great fun!
- Internet – Free computers and Internet is key for any traveller, you can keep in touch with friends and family or plan the next part of your trip. The majority will offer free WIFI at least and you will get hostels that have computers they share amongst the guests, some I have paid for but its cheaper than going to an Internet café.
- Lockers – Security is very important, most hostels you will be sharing dorms with up to 20 other travellers and I’m not saying items will get stolen because in over 50 hostels that has never happened to me. A locker to store your passport, expensive items and money is always handy whether it’s in the room with you or downstairs you can have the piece of mind that its safe and you do not need to worry.
These are the 7 things I look for when I book a hostel, other things like location you can consider but that can always be overlooked with transport links in most cities being modern and cheap enough for it to not be a problem. What will make your stay and give you the memories is the people that you will meet and the fun you have making new friends. Travellers don’t go to hostels to be by themselves, they go to talk to other travellers and be sociable.
To sum up, as long as you cover these 7 points you can’t go far wrong. For the prices that you will be paying do not expect luxury. Hostels know exactly what you want as the majority of them are run by travellers so all your needs will be catered for and no doubt have a great stay wherever you are.