How to Pick A Good Hostel?
If you are going travelling, then it is likely that you will want to find the very best place to stay (within your budget of course). For backpackers or budget travel this is where the humble hostel comes into its own.
Hostels are low cost and in some cases can be the perfect social hub of your trip, especially if you are a solo traveller. However, just like other accommodation, when it comes to hostels there are those that offer you an amazing place to sleep and there are also those that could be the ideal setting for a horror story.
So how can you tell the difference? I have put together our top tips for finding the right hostel for you, based on some of my experiences; all to make sure that you have the best base for your trip of a lifetime!
Remember cheaper isn’t always better
Whilst the idea of a hostel is to save as much money as possible on your accommodation, it is important to remember that cheaper isn’t always the best option. Of course there are bargains to be found, but be wary of hostels that are super cheap. Often this means uncomfortable beds, low hygiene standards (especially bed bugs!) and absolutely no facilities at all! I’d recommend looking at http://www.hostelbookers.com/ and http://www.hostelworld.com searching for your dates/location and filtering the results by rating. Both websites give a rating out of 100% based upon user reviews, I’d suggest you look at price/reviews and also consider the size of the dorm, as they can vary, one hostel in Sydney which I visited in 2008 used to have a 32 bed dorm called ‘The Church’ for a low price of A$20, it wasn’t quite what I was after so I settled for a 6-bed dorm for A$30. From what I overheard in the social areas during my stay – this was a wise move!
Alongside the price point for a hostel make sure that the location fits your plans, I made the mistake of picking a hostel that was in a bad location that led to a bit more travel on local buses and trains than I really needed to.
Check out their breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day; especially when you are traveling and might not have the funds to splash out on huge meals throughout the rest of the day. Many hostels offer complimentary breakfasts which can simply be cereal and toast options however, there are also those that not only provide a decent sized breakfast and allow you to eat later in the morning too. In the USA I stayed in LA and San Francisco at the USA Hostels brand and they had a free make your own pancakes breakfast, I unfortunately didn’t up early enough to take advantage of this…. I guess the old saying ‘the early bird catches the worm’ is appropriate here.
Travelling alone can be a good method of meeting new people take advantage of any social interactions with fellow travellers (this means put down the smartphones and tablets!). A good hostel will often have a social area that you can sit in and quell those feelings of solitude! You may be lucky enough to find a hostel with their own bar or cafe, these will not only offer a place to find cheap drinks or meals but these are more likely to have on site activities too! Join in on the activities, they can range from walks, to pub-crawls and BBQ’s.
You cannot beat helpful, friendly and knowledgeable staff. This is especially true when you are staying in an area that you know little about. A great hostel will employ people who not only know about the area you are staying in and can guide you towards the things that you are looking for but will do it all with a smile.
If you are looking to stay in a hostel for a long-term many generally employ backpackers to assist with cleaning the dorms, bathrooms and manning the reception in exchange for complimentary accommodation or meals. If you do, consider this please check the status of your visa and local employment laws to ensure that this is being performed legally. In Australia for example you cannot work at a hostel (even in exchange for meals or accommodation) unless you have a working visa.
There you have it, some of my top tips for finding the right hostel for your trip. Get out there, get social and travel the world. You never know what you might discover! Contact me via twitter or leave a comment below if you need further advice or some hostel suggestions.