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Hostels are the go-to for budget backpackers and many others who all know a few simple hostel tips. They’re not just large dorm rooms with co-ed bathrooms down the hall and lots of people drinking. There are plenty of hostels that offer much more like private rooms, private bathrooms, quiet common rooms, and more.
For those who have never booked a hostel before then it may seem like an easy task, like picking a hotel. But there are a few extra things to look for when booking a hostel rather than a hotel. Most certainly not all are equal but luckily these hostel tips will help you find the perfect fit for you when looking for a hostel booking.
It’s important to know what to look for when booking a hostel and to know what you need aside from the hostel tips below. Though you may not know right away what you like in a hostel, like a party place or somewhere more quiet, there are a few basic hostel tips that you should know right off the bat that will give you a better idea of what you’re looking for.
First off I highly recommend and personally use HostelWorld for all of my research before I book a hostel. Just plug in where you’re staying and the dates and they’ll find what’s available. You can then compare prices, location, read reviews, and see what the hostels offer. I think it’s the best hostel finder on the web and makes a hostel search simple.
Location is always key. You can usually save some money by booking hostels further out, but the joy of hostels is that even the ones that are located in the center of things are decently priced. Many will list that they are close to the action, or at least to public transportation. Just because a hostel says this doesn’t mean they actually are. Pull up Google maps and compare the location of the hostel to the attraction you most want to see or the area where you’ll be spending most of your time in to get a better idea of what is a good location for you.
Security is of the utmost importance in hostels. You won’t get a fancy safe like you do in hotels but more often than not you do get a locker. The first thing you check to see is if the hostel has lockers available. These don’t have to be in your room, some may be located in a locker bay area or the common room. All you need is somewhere to store any of your electronics, passport, extra cash, or anything else you need to be kept safe while you’re sleeping or out for the day. It’s often safer for you to leave things locked up in your hostel locker than it is to carry them around with you all the time. For security always make sure you have a lock. I recommend a flexible lock because they can fit on lockers of multiple sizes.
Linen and Towels
In Europe it’s common for hostels to charge extra for linen, so don’t be surprised when you show up and don’t have any covers for your bed. If you’re not carrying your own linen (I don’t recommend carrying your own) then look for hostels that offer linen for free or at least have linen for rent. The same goes for towels. Many hostels have towels included, but many don’t. I carry my own quick dry towel that I also use for the beach when the hostel provides me a towel.
This can be a huge money saver. You’d be surprised with how many hostels include breakfast which is awesome because it saves you buying an extra meal every day. Keep in mind that there is a huge range of breakfasts at hostels. Some are simply just toast, peanut butter and jam with coffee and tea, others are make your own pancakes, and some are buffets with eggs, fruit, bagels, toast, coffee and tea.
This is important depending on the type of traveler that you are. You may be a solo traveler and like your alone time and will not need to prioritize a busy common room. You may be a solo traveler who likes to be around people and wish to find a hostel that always has people in the common room. Many hostels have bars or large common rooms, but that’s not always the case. Check out the reviews for each hostel and guaranteed in the first few reviews you’ll find someone who mentions what the atmosphere is like.
Depending where you are this can be a big deal. In Asia WIFI tends to be pretty reliable and can be found in almost every cafe, mall, restaurant, and more. In Europe it doesn’t seem to be quite as common, and North America is somewhere in between. Most hostels have WIFI these days, but check the comments to see if anyone has complained about it. That would be a good indication if you can rely on the hostel or not to contact family, do work, and research.
Though not needed everywhere, it’s usually the places that you need it the most that won’t have it. When traveling to hot locations always check to make sure that A/C is available. You do not just want a fan in the room that has seven other people sleeping in it blowing around the humidity and body heat. Keep in mind that many air conditioners require a key to be inserted before they turn on so your room won’t always be cool unless there is someone in there 24/7.
Hostels that have organized activities are always among the best hostels I’ve stayed at. It’s a great way to meet other people in your hostel and see more of the place you’re in. Not to mention that many of the tours or activities are free! Don’t forget to tip your guide, they often organize the outings and activities for free.
These are key hostel tips that you should consider before booking a hostel. Do your research, read reviews, and know what to expect before you go. I once stayed in a hostel in a “100-bed dorm room” which was literally a thin mattress on the floor in the middle of the common room. Luckily I knew before hand that this was the case (I opted for location over comfort) and it made for a funny story and a lesson learned.
As mentioned before I highly recommend HostelWorld as they are widely used and have up to date reviews, indicate exactly what each hostel has, include pictures, and is the best spot to find cheap hostels.
Not every hostel is perfect, but it’s a hostel, you’re not supposed to expect luxury! Do your research, use these hostel tips and you’ll be able to find a mini home away from home filled with good friends. Hostel travel is no more complicated than booking a hotel.
What’s your best/worst hostel story?
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