Let’s face it; any traveler who has spent some nights in hostels will tell you that there are definitely bad ones out there. Hostels get sort of a bad reputation in the U.S., although the reputation stems from some place entirely different than any hostel I have ever stayed at. The truth is, hostels are a great option for affordable accommodation that offers so much that a hotel can’t bring to you. You just have to narrow down your search for the best hostels.
However, to make the most out of your hostel experience, you need to know what to look for in order to stay at the best hostels. A good hostel is a different experience for everyone, however, I think we all look for the same things in comfort and hospitality. Meeting tons of new friends from all over the world is just a bonus. Without further ado, here are five ways you can narrow down your hostel search to only the good ones:
1. Good WiFi in your bunk room
A lot of hostels will “encourage being social” and only supply WiFi in the common area. I believe this is just their way of saving a little bit of money on a more narrowed WiFi zone. It will pay off to have WiFi when you are faced with stiff international data charges trying to look up your plans for the next day in bed at night.
2. Inviting social area
This is kind of a catch-all tip. It’s a bit difficult to catch a vibe of a hostel if you are making a reservation online, but you will know as soon as you walk in what kind of atmosphere you are getting yourself into. Are there people socializing or are all the other hostel-stayers just on their laptops? Are there even people in the common room? What about the staff? Do they come off as ‘want to be your friend’-type people or truly just employees of the hostel? These are all things to consider before you confirm your reservation.
3. Electrical outlets by your bed and lockers
This one seems a little ridiculous, but trust me, it will make your life ten times easier while traveling to have all your devices fully charged. Most bunk rooms have electrical outlets. However, the proximity to your bed will give you peace of mind while charging them overnight. To go right along with that, lockers that can actually lock will also put your mind at ease while you are out and about. I’ve slept with my passport and wallet in my pocket before just to be safe in hostels without lockers.
4. FREE BREAKFAST
If there is one single “bonus” that I look for in every hostel before making a reservation, it is free breakfast. As a budget backpacker, I cannot stress enough how much an included breakfast will save the wallet. Often, I would eat enough for breakfast to keep me sated through lunch and onto dinner. That is two potential meals per day that could be included in your accommodation price. That’s huge!
In less expensive countries, sometimes you can find a bed in a hostel for as little as $5 with breakfast included! They are practically paying you to stay in their hostel at that point.
5. Centrally located within a city
Not kidding, when on hostel portals such as Hostelworld, every single hostel will claim that they are “centrally located”. I’ve fallen for this trick too many times. I will end up two miles from city center or even further where I have to take public transportation to the center. Now, I am smarter about it. I will find the hostel on Google Maps before making a reservation just to make sure it actually is centrally located between all attractions a city has to offer.
The greatest part about hostels is that most of them are in very good locations in relation to a popular tourist city’s center. It is quite remarkable how they can manage it. There is no reason not to make sure you are within a comfortable walking distance to the center. Avoid unnecessary transportation costs and save even more money!
Where to make a reservation?
There are plenty of portals on the web to look for hostel accommodation, however, the one I use almost exclusively is Hostelworld. I find it easy to use with the best selection and lowest prices shown.
Why stay in a hostel?
Besides being a cheaper option as opposed to a hotel, a hostel can also save you money in other ways. While in a hostel, you will meet like-minded budget travelers who take every opportunity to save a few bucks. It is almost certain that you will be presented with new outside-the-box money saving techniques catered to each city you visit. In addition, you might just end up making new friends or even new travel partners.
These are five of the most important keys I look into when choosing a hostel to stay in. I generally only book one night’s stay at a time. This makes it easier to find a new hostel if I don’t like the one I originally chose. I hope this has been informative to you and cannot wait for you to get a taste of hostel life!
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