5 Things to Look for When Booking a Hostel

booking a hostel

There are many ways to cut costs while travelling to make it more budget friendly. The easiest and most popular is accommodation. The answer: hostels. While not to everyone’s taste, hostels are a great resource for the solo and budget conscious traveller. With beds from as little as $8 per night depending on where in the world you are you can save that money for more important things (i.e. the bar). Booking a hostel is the go-to way to get a roof over the head of a budget-conscious traveller.

But there’s more to these places than just a cheap bed. Hostels can be a great travellers resource. I’ve written before about the benefits of hostel life but we’ve also all heard of hostel nightmares. So how do you know what to look for and which one to pick? Check out my tips below for everything I look for when booking a hostel!

Common Room

My favourite thing about hostels is how easy it is to meet other people. Especially as a solo traveller, hostels are the perfect way to make new friends and meet like-minded people from around the world. I’ve met people in dorm rooms and common rooms that I keep in regular contact with now and will for a long time.

It’s impossible not to meet people in hostels but it’s great when you stay in a place that really makes it a priority. The main thing I look for is a common area. Does the hostel have a courtyard or rooftop area with lounges for hanging out in? These are perfect places to meet people over breakfast, playing cards or sitting up and chatting into the night. Another great one is a bar. Often hostels will put on themed nights in their attached bar, like a beer pong tournament for example, and it will be easy to meet someone who needs a teammate too.

booking a hostel
Photo: iStock

Check Reviews

Don’t just check the blurb; have a look at the reviews when booking a hostel and see what other guests have had to say. I look for reviews talking about the atmosphere and friendliness of the people. If they’re all positive then book it! Another thing to look for is cleanliness. No one wants to stay in a dirty shack! Unless that’s what you’re looking for of course….

In saying that, keep in mind what’s important to you. I prioritise a communal atmosphere that encourages and makes it easy to meet others and chat. So I will take a hostel that does that well even if the mattress is a bit uncomfortable or something. For you it might be the opposite.

Also, remember there are things that the hostel can’t control. Numerous times I’ve seen negative reviews of a hostel for things like dorm mates having sex, or snoring too loudly. Unfortunately a hostel can’t stop your roommates from snoring! It can happen anywhere, so try not to hold things against a hostel if they are out of the hostel’s control.

Location

You’ll be able to find hostels throughout most cities you visit but it’s important that the one you choose is close to the things you want to see and do there. If it’s difficult to tick off those things on your bucket list then you aren’t going to enjoy it as much.

Sure, the hostels in the city centre are a few dollars more expensive. But it will probably be worth paying those extra $4 per night if it means 30 minutes less on public transport. On that note, check what transport options are around. In big cities with terrific transport systems it may be easy and cheap to stay on the outskirts. Are you booking a hostel in a city with little options other than tuk-tuks and taxis? Don’t be stingy, do yourself a favour, and stick to the city centre.

Extras

With backpacking and budget travel exploding in popularity many hostels are now offering extras to the point where they rival some hotels. Free wifi is now almost a given at any hostel. But it’s also worth checking out other facilities. Kitchens are handy for the long term traveller that needs to cook to save some cash, while laundry rooms are a Godsend when it’s been one month since your last wash.

They can also be a great resource for getting to know a city. Check if your hostel runs walking tours of the area. Or simply ask the staff for their recommendations. They answer these questions everyday and will know all the best places to go. They may also run a bar crawl or something similar, which is always a great way to meet new people. These days, hostels aren’t just a cheap place to stay, but are great for almost everything!

Is it the best option?

Lastly, is a hostel really your best option? Sometimes, particularly in Western areas like Europe and Australia, hostels can be almost as expensive as a hotel. In these cases it may be worth looking elsewhere. Try Couchsurfing for free accommodation with a local. If you’re lucky they may even be willing to take you out and show you around. Even Airbnb has some great single room deals. The point is, ask yourself what is important to you and figure out the best way to find that in your accommodation.

Follow these tips and more often than not you will find somewhere perfect for you. Keep in mind the things that make you comfortable and look for them. But also remember these places are cheap for a reason; don’t go in expecting 5-star luxury. All in all by sticking to these tips when booking a hostel you will have a wonderful time!

The best place to find quality, well-reviewed hostels is definitely Hostelworld. Click the link to find your next incredible destination!

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