Not all hostels are created equal. You could stay in a lovely hostel with great facilities but end up bored to death. Or you could stay in a real dump and still enjoy it because the people are fun.
To look for hostels, check out sites like Hostelworld, Hostelz and HostelBookers. Look at user reviews, images, ratings and comments, and check which amenities are available. Also, consider the following before going hosteling.
Choose your location
Before you start looking for hostels, decide what sort of location you’re looking for. Do you need to be close to the center of the city or bus/train stations? Are you keen on being close to nightclubs and bars, even though you might hear loud music playing all night?
Decide what sort of sleeping arrangement you’re prepared to accept. Are you OK with sleeping in a big mixed dorm or do you want a male- or female-only dorm? Are you prepared to pay for a private room?
Not all hostels offer free Wi-Fi and/or computers, but they certainly make life a lot easier. You’re not using your own data and can get up to date with all your communications.
Your own locker
It’s crazy, but some hostels don’t offer lockers or charge you for using them. These days, lockers should be a standard security feature, seeing as theft is becoming more and more of an issue. This is obviously of the utmost importance if you are traveling with electronic equipment.
The best hostels are ones where you have the opportunity to interact with other guests. After all, the social aspect of hosteling is key, and it’s great to meet people from around the world with similar goals to yours: to travel and see the world.
Sometimes, a hostel will have a bar around which guests can gather and have fun. Otherwise, there should be a big communal area for travelers to hang around in and socialize with other guests. If you’re traveling on your own, a communal area is really a must, and the best hostels have brilliant communal spaces.
Don’t always choose the cheapest option
Most of us are on a budget and it’s easy to assume that going with the cheapest hostel option is your best decision. But beware: Some of the very cheap hostels out there aren’t clean, have dirty showers, thin pillows and uncomfortable beds.
Check the reviews and consider spending a few extra dollars for a cleaner place to lay your head. You’ll feel a lot more energetic and far less irritated if you do.
Make sure you get breakfast
Look for a hostel that offers a substantial breakfast that will keep you going until your next meal. Lots of places offer meager breakfasts like toast and coffee, often starting and ending at an ungodly hour.
Places that offer breakfast from 8 a.m. usually go on for longer so that you can catch up on some shut-eye. At breakfast, you should be able to prepare some snacks to keep you going for the rest of the day, significantly cutting down on your food budget.
Note check-in and checkout times
Many hostels set a checkout time before 10 a.m. That’s pretty hard on someone who’s probably sleep-deprived. Look for a hostel that has a checkout time set for 11 a.m. or even noon. That’ll allow you to sleep a bit longer and feel more rested for the travels to come.
And when it comes to check-in times, most hostels set it for 2 p.m. or later. Look for flexible check-in times so that you’re not struggling to get somewhere in a hurry.
Check on the showers
When making an inquiry at a hostel, check what kind of showers they have. If they’re the push-button kind, move on. This kind of shower can be really aggravating and they usually have terrible water pressure. That means the water could turn off in the middle of you washing your hair.
Just say no to these kinds of showers. And on the subject of showers, don’t forget to wear flip-flops. That way, you’ll have a lower risk of catching fungal infections on your feet.
Good staff can make or break any business, and a hostel is no exception. When you’re hosteling, you want to be welcomed by friendly, inviting people who make you feel at home. Helpful, knowledgeable employees make staying at a hostel a great experience.
Does the hostel you’re looking at organize activities for its guests? The really good ones know that organized activities can mean the difference between a mediocre stay and a fantastic one. Some hostels offer group barbecues, pub crawls, walking tours and many other activities that get guests together.