For some people hostels have a bad reputation: they’re not clean, they’re noisy, only young people go there, it’s not comfortable to stay there… You know how it goes. But hostels can be a great -and cheap- way to get accommodation in a place. Also, hostels are great places to meet fellow travelers like you.
We made a list of tips to enjoy a hostel more. Read these and start packing your belongings, you’ll want to experience it too!
Booking online is the easiest thing to do. You can try sites like booking.com or hostels.com. We’d also recommend using hostelz.com where you can compare prices from different sites (including the ones we already mentioned). Also, if you already decided where you want to stay check if you can book directly with the hostel. Sometimes you can get an even better price by booking with them.
2. Read the reviews
Reviews are your best friends when you’re booking online. There are some sites (like Booking.com) that hide the negative reviews and you have to really go into the reviews section to read negative comments. It has happened to me that I find a cheap hostel so cheap it becomes suspicious. Most of the times, if you read the negative reviews you find that it’s super dirty, that it is too noisy or so. Also, if the hostel has a Facebook page, go to the reviews section. You’ll find useful information there.
Always remember reviews depend on people. Some awesome places can be hell if you’ve got a negative attitude. Some awful places can be awesome if you’re positive about it.
3. Not all hostels are party hostels
For some reason, many people think hostels are for party people. That can partly be true but it depends on the hostel you choose. Big hostels tend to be more lively, they have more people, and hence, might be more prone to have party people. To choose a more quiet location, you can search for a smaller hostel. It might be tricky to know the size of a place, but you can look for the reviews (as said before) and search for the “quiet” adjective in them. Also, for those introverts out there, staying at a smaller hostel can make meeting new people easier.
4. Check the cancellation policies
Some of the policies are there when you book, some others not or are in very small letters, a classic! Read if you’ll have to pay a fee or if you’ll get charged something if you cancel. In some places, you can cancel with no problem, but others charge at least one night of your reservation. This is especially important if you’re on a budget.
5. Location is important
Check if there’s a metro or bus station near it, that way you can use public transportation to get there (and also to explore the place!). As always, planning is key. Have a quick check in your map on how to get to the hostel. Some places have precise instructions on how to get there: which bus to take or what metro station to get off. If you have questions, get in touch with the hostel so they can help you. Most of the places are happy to help you.
6. Check if they accept cards
It has happened to me twice that I made a reservation online and once I get to a place, they don’t accept cards! I don’t like this at all but I must confess that both the places clearly said they didn’t accept cards and I didn’t read it. I wish we could live in a world where everything could be paid with cards but sadly, we’re not. Although it can be super inconvenient, you don’t want to be stranded in a hostel and lose a train or flight because you didn’t have the cash to pay. What’s better, try to pay when you arrive at the hostel so you get that payment out of your way.
7. Hostels can be noisy: embrace it or get ready for it!
A lot of travelers come and go at hostels. That’s part of the great things about staying in one, they’re full of interesting people! But at some point you have to sleep, I mean… that’s the main reason you’re booking a hostel. If you’re sharing a room, prepare yourself. It might be a good idea to get a sleeping face mask and some earplugs.
8. Think about others
Don’t be that person that packs her belongings at 5 am in the morning with the lights on. Remember you’re sharing this place with others. Even if you’re not sharing a room and you got a private one, there are common areas that you have to respect. Clean after yourself, don’t talk too loud if you hear everybody is sleeping, be respectful.
9. Bottom bunks rule!
If you’re staying in a dorm, there will be bunk beds there. I remember being little and always wanting to get the top bunk. Well, my recommendation today would be to get the one in the bottom. It’s way easier to get in and out. Also, in many hostels, the electric outlets are closer to them. Staying at the bottom bunk might be useful if you want to pee during the night?.
10. Bring your own towel, shampoo, and flip flops
I know, these things are awful and take up space in the luggage. But think that hostels are not hotels. Most of them don’t have these items available for you. Flip flops are useful because a lot of people walk in and out of the showers and you can’t exactly know if you can get something from them, so be prepared.
11. Bring your own lock
It’s very common for hostels to have their own lockers (in the rooms or outside) so you can put your belongings there. Some of them offer the lockers with locks but others don’t, so that’s when a spare lock comes in handy. This is a very easy way to keep your belongings safe. But keep in mind, if you’re super worried about losing something valuable -that’s not completely necessary for your trip-, better not bring it in the first place.
You might trust people and think nothing could happen but always be aware of where your stuff is. Even if it’s leaving your wallet on your bet while you go to the bathroom. There are many people coming and going to hostels so you never know what kind of people you’ll find.
13. Ask for recommendations to the hostel personnel
The hostel personnel is most of the times made up of locals so they will know what to recommend. Ask for everything you need, even if it’s about where to do laundry or where’s the closest ATM. People that work in hostels are used to travelers so they’ve got very good advice every time. Also, don’t ask where to go, ask where do they go to get more authentic recommendations.
14. Check for bed bugs
Last but not least and really important to enjoy a hostel experience! If you’ve never experienced bed bugs, well, you’re very lucky and I’m jealous. These little critters are the worst. Before getting into any bed check for traces of those awful creatures. Since they’re super small they might be difficult to spot but you can always look for their poop (I know, gross). The excrement looks like dark black or brown spots and they’re visible if the bed is infested with bed bugs. Also, if the next day there are little bloodstains in your sheets, you might’ve been bitten by them. Avoid them at all costs!
I hope you enjoy your hostel experience. What other tips would you give to us? Tell us in the comments!