As a young traveller, hostels are the place to stay when wandering through the world. If you haven’t tried it, do not judge it.
There are the obvious cons of staying in hostels compared to hotels (sharing a room with strangers and the security risks that may come with), but smart travellers have nothing to fear. The benefits far outweigh the costs.
I have always booked my hostels through Hostel World. I know that there are other trustworthy sites – even Booking.com is now promoting hostels – but I trust Hostel World.
For those who have never stayed in a hostel before, or have had bad hostel experiences, here is what I always look for;
1. User ratings vs. number of reviews. This applies to almost anything in life, but a 100% rating with only one review is useless. I will never stay at a hostel with a review less than 80% and, depending on the location, I may need a 90% or above to book.
The total number of reviews is going to vary between locations, but in general I think that anything over 300 reviews will give you a good idea of the hostel’s conditions.
2. Reviews and Pictures. Always read the reviews themselves. Just because a hostel has a great rating doesn’t mean that it’s what you’re looking for. For example, I don’t love party hostels, so although a hostel may be wonderful if you’re going to sleep all day and drink all night, it wouldn’t be suitable for me.
Pictures will give you a good sense of the hostel. I’m a bit of a snob, so if a hostel doesn’t look trendy and clean, I don’t want to stay there.
3. Location. This is a bit of a given, but before I book a hostel I research what part of the city I’d like to stay in. Typically an easy Google search, doing this will let you make sure your hostel is in a good location (centre of the city, close to attractions, close to local transportation, etc.). A hostel may be really nice, but if it’s five miles from the city I wouldn’t book it.
4. Lockers. Security is important, so a hostel without suitable locker space is out of the question for me. You normally can’t fit an entire suitcase into any hostel locker, but it should be big enough to fit your carry-on bag and valuables. Side note: pay attention to whether or not locks are provided. I like to bring my own just in case.
5. Social Opportunities. Although I don’t typically stay out until 6AM, I do like to have a drink and meet new people. Check out the hostel’s description and user reviews to make sure that the hostel you’re booking facilitates social activities. Does it have a bar for people to gather in? Does it offer pub crawls? These are important factors, especially if you’re a solo traveller.*
Of course, there are always nice-to-haves that you may specifically require based on your trip (outlets for each bunk are amazing, laundry facilities are great if you’re doing a long trip), but they are not exactly necessary.
I hope that this guide may be helpful, or at least interesting for my followers who are not interested in staying in a hostel themselves.
For anyone feeling intimidated by hostel life or travelling alone, watch out for my upcoming article on making friends as a solo traveller!