Travel tip: Picking a hostel

"Hostel Dormitory" by Let99 - Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

The good, the bad and the ugly of staying in a hostel

Most of the time when I travel I stay in a hostel. The ideal hostel is cheap, cheerful, clean and centrally located. But there are horror stories out there of crumbling walls, broken beds,  bed-bugs and my personal favourite, rats. So how does one go about picking the hostel they want to stay at? Here are some hints and tips to help you.

How to choose your hostel

  1. Location – Location is an important one. The number of times I have found a great hostel only to realise its 5km out of town. Not so great. Think about where you want to stay (close to the train station or city centre for example) and start your search accordingly.
  2. Consider paying a bit more – When travelling on a budget, every penny counts. Sometimes, the few pennies or dollars you save going to one hostel over another work out for the best – very rarely I may add. But, from personal experience, sometimes paying just $1 more for a room can mean the difference between a good hostel and a horrible hostel. My worst experience was cockroaches in Nepal. Safe to say, I checked out the next day and paid a few extra dollars to stay somewhere much nicer.
  3. Internet access – Somewhat of a deal breaker for me. If the hostel doesn’t have cheap or free internet then i’m not really interested in staying there. Whilst abroad internet connection is so useful in helping you plan for the day or communicate with people back home. Bear in mind, access to the internet is highly dependent on where in the world you are also.
  4. Secure areas/lockers – Another deal breaker for me. A few times I have stayed in hostels which don’t have lockers or anywhere secure to store valuables. You don’t really want to leave your passport or ipod in a room with complete strangers or take it out with you. You think about leaving it at reception but wonder how much you can trust the staff at the front desk. It’s essential you have somewhere to keep your valuables that are safe and secure. Tip: Quite often, I travel with a small padlock. This can be very useful in hostels for securing lockers. 
  5. Check out reviews – TripAdvisor or the hostel booking website you use often have reviews of the accommodation. Read a few and look at traveller photos if there are any, to help sway your opinion.
  6. Ask fellow travellers – Quite often people move from hostel to hostel, so perhaps someone you meet in one hostel can give you a recommendation for a great hostel in another city.
  7. Sleeping arrangements – Not so important for me but there are some who prefer to stay in rooms with fewer people, or in single sex rooms. Check out the options available when making your booking.
  8. Communal area – One of the best things about staying in hostels is meeting travellers along the way. A hostel without a communal area is pretty dull and boring, so this is another dealbreaker for me.
  9. Bar – Not essential, but many hostels have bars with cheap drinks. Often this is a way to encourage you to stay in the hostel. But, if you have a 5am flight and everyone is partying until 3am its not so fun.
  10. Breakfast – Don’t expect the best breakfast in the world. Quite often, hostel breakfasts are cereal and toast. Sometimes its worth paying an extra bit more at a hostel for a good breakfast. If you are lucky, you may be able to take some nibbles for lunch so in the end, the extra money you spent is worth it.

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