The word “hostel” doesn’t automatically bring a good picture to mind. Aren’t those supposed to be for millennial hipsters, hoping to save a buck and resist the corporate world? Maybe, but they can also be a great, inexpensive way to travel and just do something different for a change. Instead of writing off every hostel as a no-go for you, try one out. Who knows? It may be your new favourite way to travel. Just be sure to follow these tips on how to pick a good hostel for your next trip.
Don’t pick the cheapest
Sure, if might be tempting to go with the cheapest option you find. After all, eight pounds a night sounds too good to be true! But remember the old adage: If something sounds too good to be true… it probably is. Instead of sleeping on a 400-year-old corn-shuck mattress (okay, so it may not be that bad, but it might feel like it at 2:00 AM), pay a little more and get something comfortable. After all, who wants to travel with a sore back?
Find a good location
Some hostels can look great in their photos, but end up being in a pretty strange area of town. For some people, this isn’t a problem. For others, it can be uncomfortable or even downright scary in an unfamiliar city. On the other side of the spectrum, some hostels are only expensive because they’re so close to major attractions. Find a balance that’s good for you, your travel style, and your budget.
Make sure it is secure
Since you’ll be staying in a dorm with people you don’t know, you’ll need a good place to stash your stuff. Try to pick a hostel that has lockers. Many hostels offer them for free, and other rent them for a small price. If lockers aren’t an option, it might be good to skip that particular hostel altogether.
Don’t go with nasty showers
Really, you can’t expect too much for the showers. So be prepared to significantly lower your expectations. Hotel-level cleanliness is probably not going to happen. Do, however, look for showers that have hot water, have a knob instead of a push-button, and have a door or curtain for privacy.
Don’t sacrifice important features to save money
Sometimes it pays to spend a little bit more to include important features. Don’t discount the importance of having a 24-hour desk to help you with visitor advice, such as a cheap place to eat nearby. Having a common room or lounge to relax in is a huge benefit and having access to a kitchen can save you most of the cost of one or two meals per day.
Check in/out times
Never stay at a hostel with an early check-out time. The best hostels have midday checkout times and let’s be honest, sleep is essential when you’re travelling long term because you’ll rarely get enough of it. Hostels with late checkout times understand this and are often more relaxed environments. What can also be just as annoying are hostels that do not let you check-in until after 3 pm, so look out for hostels with flexible check-in/out times.
Avoid the party scene
Unless you really want to party it up with your hostel mates, find a place to stay that’s about sleeping and not partying. You can usually tell by the website how much late-night revelry to expect.
A bar is a pretty good indication of some level of merrymaking, while the layout and party appeal of the hostel is a good sign that you might not get much sleep in the earlier hours of the night. And by earlier hours, I mean anything before 1 am. To find out what sort of place, a specific hostel is, read the online reviews! Which takes me to my next point.
Before you book, log on to Trip Advisor or another similar site and check out the reviews. Don’t just scan the stats—actually read the reviews. This will help you see if the hostel is the sort of place you want to stay. Is it nice? Is it as advertised? Does it have the kind of crowd you want to share a room with? You can get a good feel for where you’re going if you stalk it online for a bit before choosing.
There you have it! Stick to these tips, and you’ll be able to find a hostel that fits your needs and preferences. Don’t be afraid to try something new and different—after all, that’s what travel is all about, right? Enjoy and happy travels!