Planning a backpacking adventure? Wherever you’re heading in the world, the hostel you choose can really make or break your trip. Do you crave a quiet place to sleep after a day of sightseeing, or perhaps you prefer to party all night with new travel friends? Well, the good news is that there are hostels to suit all types of travellers, here’s how to find the perfect one for you.
Why stay in a hostel?
Some seek the authentic hostel experience, but if you think that’s what Hostels are all about then you’re in for some great surprises. These days they come in all shapes and sizes. Picture luxury pads with pools, peaceful yoga retreats, jungle tree-houses and high-tech inner-city digs. Still not convinced? Here are some of the top reasons to stay in a hostel:
- You’ll meet new people – hostels provide the perfect environment to meet new people from all over the world, share travel experiences, meals and nights out. If you’re travelling solo, staying in a hostel is the best way to make new travel buddies.
- Hostels are versatile – there are options to suit all tastes, from lively party hubs to small, chilled-out havens. Choose from mixed or single-gender dorm rooms with shared bathrooms to private, en-suite rooms.
- You’ll save money – hostels are usually cheaper than hotels or guesthouses, especially if you stay in dorm rooms. However, even private hostel rooms can work out cheaper than the most budget hotels.
- Awesome facilities – facilities can range from basic bathrooms, lockers and kitchens to luxury hostels with super-fast wifi, swimming pools, chill-out rooms and even cafés and spas.
- You can cook meals – many hostels will have a shared kitchen where you can cook and store your own food, which is great for keeping costs down and sharing meals with friends.
- Free travel information – make the most of your trip with free hostel maps and tour information, you can also swap destination tips with your roommates. Most hostels have helpful staff who can give you advice on the local area, such as how to get around and where to eat.
How to choose the right hostel
Wherever you’re going in the world, the easiest way to find and book hostels is online. Top booking sites like Hostelworld allow you to compare hundreds of options at the click of a button. You can also use the filter function to narrow down your search by what’s most important to you, be it price, location or facilities. Here are some of the most important things to consider when narrowing down the search for your dream hostel.
Should you book ahead?
Travel plans can change and you don’t want to lock yourself into a long stay at a hostel that doesn’t suit your needs. Booking ahead however, does make the trip much less stressful if you’re arriving late at night or are new to backpacking. If you’re worried about plans changing, most hostels have flexible cancellation policies and only charge a deposit upon booking.
Location, location, location
Choose the right hostel location for your travel plans. So, if you need to get an early start for an onward journey, find somewhere near the airport, bus or train station. It’s easy to be tempted by cheap hostels that are further away but weigh up whether it’s worth the extra travel time and expense. If you have just a couple of days to explore, it’s usually best to pay a bit more for a hostel that’s in a central location. Do a bit of research to make sure that the hostel isn’t in a rough part of town or a noisy location too.
What kind of bed do you need?
What type of sleeper are you? If you wake up at the slightest sound and like your own privacy, then a dorm room probably isn’t the best option for you. If you’re a solo woman traveller, you might feel safer in an all-female dorm, while couples are often better off in private rooms. Whichever option you choose, you’ll still have the benefit of mixing with other travellers in the hostel lounge, kitchen and common areas.
What are the check-in-and-out times?
Hostels have different check-in and check-out times, so choose one that suits your travel plans. If you’re arriving after an exhausting overnight bus trip, for example, choose a hostel with early check-in options but if you’re not leaving until late, look for an extended check-out service.
How good are the reviews?
As well as reading the hostel description, spend some time checking out recent guest reviews. This will give you the best indication of what a hostel is really like, including whether the wifi works, what the atmosphere is like and how clean the place is. Look out for red flags, such as guests mentioning bedbug bites, rude and unhelpful staff or poor security. Remember to look at the number of reviews a hostel has rather than just the overall rating too. A hostel with over a thousand 90 percent reviews is probably better than one with five 100 percent reviews.
Every hostel is unique and many cater specifically to certain types of travellers. Check the hostel description and reviews to make sure you find the hostel atmosphere you’re comfortable with. If your top priority is making friends and socialising, opt for a large party hostel but if you’re looking for a good night’s sleep, book a peaceful place filled with likeminded backpackers.
What are your must-have facilities?
Hostel facilities vary from free activities like walking tours and bar crawls to comfy co-working spaces, pools, quiet lounges and fully-equipped kitchens. When you’re searching for hostels, tick the filter boxes to include your must-have facilities. Perhaps you need fast wifi if you work on the road, or maybe you need to do some laundry or store your luggage while you go off on a tour.
How secure is the hostel?
Security is one of the most important aspects of any hostel. The best ones have 24-hour staff and security cameras, as well as free lockers and safes to store your valuables. Make sure you know exactly what security features your hostel has and ask about where the fire exits are when you check in. Be aware that some hostels may charge a fee for lockers, so double check this before you book.
Do you need breakfast?
Hostel breakfasts can vary from basic toast and coffee to full-on buffet spreads that could keep you going until dinner. Check hostel reviews to see whether breakfast is worth paying for. If there’s a kitchen, it may be more cost-effective to make your own food or go out to eat.
So, all that’s left to do now is book the perfect hostel for your travel adventure. What do you look for in a hostel?