Hostels are a standard among budget travelers. They are often inexpensive, located in city centers, and can provide great resources for sightseeing. Hostel’s often have a communal atmosphere that makes it easy to meet fellow travelers.
I love staying in hostels, but I’ve certainly made my fair share of mistakes when booking them. I’ve booked hostels for the wrong dates and the wrong number of people. In Berlin I accidentally booked a hostel 15km from the city center! It was a learning experience and actually ended up being great. Sometimes I get caught up in a good deal and click yes before reading the fine print.
For me, traveling on a budget means almost always staying in hostels. And I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. Here is my ultimate guide to hostels including what to look for and what to avoid.
How Far Is The City Center?
I’ve often gotten excited about a great hostel price only to find that its a 30 minute train ride from the things I want to see. If you are happy to use public transit than go for it and save the money. Otherwise, maybe consider the accommodation that costs a few more dollars with a little more convenience. Sometimes it pays to be in a central location when you’re only visiting for a short time.
Is There Free Breakfast?
Free breakfast is a great way to save money on groceries while traveling. It’s also a great chance to meet people. I’ve made many travel buddies at hostel breakfasts. There’s nothing like a bowl of cornflakes and a coffee to get a conversation started!
Does Bedding Cost Extra?
Some hostels ask for an additional fee to use sheets and towels. Before booking the cheapest hostel or the one with the best view, see if you have to pay a premium for anything you might need. Some hostels offer amenities like laundry service for free, while others do not.
How Many Beds Are In Each Room?
This is an important one. It makes a huge difference to be in a 4 bed dorm compared to a 20 bed dorm. Do you value your quiet time? Opt for a dorm with less people. It might cost a bit more but you’ll definitely get more sleep!
What’s Important To You?
Do you like to read? Choose a hostel that has a free book exchange. Do you love cooking your own meals? Make sure your hostel has a kitchen with adequate space for storage and cooking.
Everyone appreciates different things while traveling. If you prioritize sleep, don’t choose a hostel known for partying. Pick one that meets your needs so that you can enjoy yourself.
The Hostel’s Recent Reviews Are No Good (Or There Aren’t Any)
Sometimes Hostelworld lists newer hostels with only 5 or 6 ratings. I would skip these, as you never know what you’re getting into until you arrive. Instead, pick a hostel that has at least 100 reviews.
Even if the hostel has been awarded 5/5 stars, make sure the recent ones are good as well. Things can change, bedbugs can arrive, or the hostel can have new management. You never know!
The Hostel Has No Lockers
I understand if a hostel has no locks. I can bring my own. But no lockers? This one is a must. I don’t want to carry my laptop and expensive fancy camera (that I’m very proud of!) wherever I go. Knowing I can lock up my valuables and not have to carry them with me 24/7 gives me peace of mind.
There Are Reviews That Mention Bedbugs
This one is very self-explanatory. If you take away anything from this guide to hostels, know this: If any review mentions bedbugs, stay far away! Once you have bedbugs in your belongings, they are very tiresome and time-consuming to get rid of.
There Is An Internet Limit Per Guest
Of all the things to avoid when booking a hostel, this is by far the most annoying. When you check in and the receptionist hands you a paper and wifi code that gives 3 minutes of wifi before you have to pay, it sucks! Choose a hostel that has free unlimited internet in all rooms.
While hostels are great opportunities to meet fellow travelers, don’t feel like you need to stay in them. Your choice of accommodation is up to you. When you need alone time, comfort or convenience, choose a hotel or AirBnB. When you want companionship, choose a hostel.
Looking for more budget travel tips? Click here!
I hope this guide to hostels will help you choose the best hostels during your future travels.
What do you look for when choosing accommodation?