Staying in a hostel is certainly an economical way to travel, but its about far more than the money. On any given night, you’ll find fellow travelers from around the world sharing a meal, playing a game of cards, or swapping stories about life on the road. It’s the camaraderie that makes hostels such an attractive option, and you can find them in every corner of the globe.
But that doesn’t mean they’re all great. Some are pretty basic, and others downright disgusting. You want to find one that’s not only cheap but maintains an acceptable level of hygiene, personal space, and common gathering areas. If your adventure includes staying in hostels, here’s what you’re going to want to look for:
Many hostels offer breakfast, but that can vary wildly from a limp piece of toast to fresh fruit and pancakes. Find out what the first meal of the day actually includes, and ask about serving times. It’s not much of a perk if the plates are whisked away before you’re climbing out of bed.
They’re never going to be as clean as at home, and you can blame your roommates as much as the staff. Still, any grossness should be recent and not caked into the tiles. If you’ve arrived without booking ahead, check the bathrooms and water pressure before committing.
These are a non-starter and you shouldn’t stay in a hostel that doesn’t provide you with a secure space to stow your belongings. They should also be provided at no charge, so be suspicious of ones that ask extra for security because you’ll likely find a lot of other hidden charges once you arrive (for example internet).
Room to Relax
When you’re planning your day, or coming back from an outing, you need a place to sit that doesn’t include perching on the edge of your bunk. One of the main reasons to stay in a hostel is the chance to talk to other people, and that’s not going to happen if they don’t provide a comfortable and suitably large common area.
You don’t have to participate if you don’t want to, but sometimes it’s nice to be asked. Pub crawls, BBQs and pot luck suppers can be entertaining and give solo travelers the chance to talk to other people without having to make those awkward first moves.
Staying in an out-of-the-way backwater because the bunks are cheaper is never going to have a happy ending. You’ll spend your savings on bus fare and won’t bother doing half of what you intended to because getting there is just too big a hassle. Stay as close to your intended destination as possible and don’t whine about the extra cost. It’s totally worth it.
Feeding yourself on a budget just isn’t possible if you don’t have access to a kitchen to make at least some of your own meals. Ask what’s available, and what kinds of implements and equipment are provided to guests.
Read the Reviews
The best way to choose a good hostel is to read the reviews. Not just the star rating, the actual reviews. Anything under a couple of sentences can be ignored because they’ll either be uninformative or placed by guests who were given an incentive by the hostel to post a good review. Look for the ones that demonstrate that the person actually stayed there, thought about it, and has something useful to share with others.
The best hostel is the one that’s right for you. You can party or you can sleep, but you can’t do both. If you want some quiet downtime, don’t stay at a hostel that caters to students on spring break. And if you want to party, leave the folk who want to be left in peace alone. If you can’t figure out whether a hostel is quiet or rocking, just ask. Both sides of the party divide will thank you.
As a final word, travel sheets were made for hostels. They’re small, light, and provide an impervious shield against bed bugs, critters and other people’s abandoned follicles. They’re an absolute must-have, and you can get your 100% silk, machine-washable and temperature regulating travel sheet right here from Brave Era.