Not only the destination itself makes a trip fun or not. You might go to a city that isn’t particularly exciting, but it’ll be an amazing experience anyway. People, of course, play the major role. But then, to meet the right people, you must be in the right place. That’s one of the reasons why picking a good hostel matters so much. Of course, you can make wonderful friends in a terrible location, but chances are way bigger if you’re staying in a lively, cozy hostel, where people have possibilities to interact, go out and explore the city. Besides, it’s simply pleasant to be in a beautiful, well-organized hostel. It doesn’t have to be perfect, luxurious and extremely comfortable, but it should be made for travelers. If a hostel knows travelers’ needs, it’s a good one. Here’s a list of tips you should remember when looking for accommodation.
Check the location carefully
The location is crucial, especially if you’re visiting a big city. Even if a centrally situated hostel is slightly more expensive than one in the suburbs, it’s usually worth adding those few dollars. Spending hours in buses or walking on the same long route each day isn’t the best way to use your precious time in a new place. If you’re considering a hostel that isn’t located in the very center of a city, at least take a look at the local transportation schedules and check whether it’s well connected or not. It’s not such a big deal to take a tram to your hostel, as long as the ride isn’t too long. Keep in mind you might want to go out in the evening, and not all neighborhoods are reachable by night trams or buses.
Don’t skip the reviews
You can be optimistic and assume all hostel owners are honest, but it’s not always the case. There are usually some details that are being overlooked, intentionally or not. That’s when reviews come in handy. Nobody can describe a place as precisely as people who have stayed there. Reviews are written by travelers for travelers, so there are no hidden agendas behind the words. Besides, the information is always up-to-date. The hostel’s website might not be mentioning about some noisy construction works in the neighborhood, simply because there weren’t any at the moment the content was written. The reviewers can also give you a real insight into the hostel’s atmosphere and describe the staff’s attitude. There’s one unpleasant fact it’s good to be aware of. Just like hotels, travel agencies and other companies, hostels also tend to buy fake reviews. It’s not hard to spot them, but you must look through the notes carefully. The fake ones are usually short, overly positive and they simply don’t sound authentic.
Cheaper options aren’t always the best
Hostels are generally visited by backpackers and other thrifty travelers. It’s okay you want to save money, but don’t take it too far. Sometimes a few dollars can make your stay much more pleasant and comfortable. If you choose a hostel located in some distant, suspicious neighborhoods just because it’s cheaper, you won’t be able to enjoy the city. It’ll be harder to experience the night-life, have a taste of the street food and visit the best sites. Eventually, you’ll spend those few bucks on bus tickets and more expensive dishes. Amenities are important too. It’s just nicer to sleep in a proper, clean bed, than a dirty couch that looks as if it was about to fall apart any second.
Make sure you won’t have to check out at an ungodly hour
Most of the hostels ask guests to check out before 11 A.M., but in some, the rules are more strict. If you need rest, avoid hostels that have a check out time at 10 A.M. or earlier. Considering you’ll need to pack your stuff, have breakfast, take a shower in the morning, etc., you’d have to wake up early, which might turn out to be slightly annoying. Sleep is a precious thing for backpackers, especially those who stay on the road for a long time. You pay for the visit, after all, so it’s nice if you can make the best out of it.
Check what’s for breakfast
It’s great when hostels serve a good breakfast. You can not only eat something in the morning, but also get some snacks for the rest of the day and keep your food budget lower. Just be aware that some hostels write on their websites they serve breakfast, but they don’t mention the meal only consists of toasts, jam and a cup of weak coffee. Try to find out what exactly they mean by breakfast (if it’s not specified on the web, take a look at the reviews, most likely some of the previous guests brought up the subject). If the meal is proper, it’s worth to pay a bit more for the hostel.
Find out whether there’s a common area
The common area is one of the most important factors influencing hostel’s atmosphere. If there isn’t one, people have no space to socialize. Good hostels always have a living room, a terrace, or a bar. Sure, if you only need a place to sleep for one night, it doesn’t matter so much, but hostels aren’t only made for sleeping. The best experiences come with people and without a common space, it’s much harder to interact with other guests.
Book it early enough
Remember that finding accommodation in a famous destination might be problematic. If you’re going to a touristy spot, be it a big city, a coastal village or anything equally popular, book in advance. Don’t wait until most of the hostels will be busy and your only options will be either very expensive or terrible. Worst case scenario, if your plans change, you can cancel the reservation, just check the cancellation policy before you book.
Understand the difference between party and mellow hostels
Hostels can be divided into two basic categories: party and non-party. You can easily understand from the property’s description which group it belongs to. Do your best to do not confuse them, because it’s going to be annoying both for you and for other guests. It’s irritating when groups of party animals end up in quiet hostels where most guests just want to sleep. The opposite situation isn’t better. Party breakers aren’t very welcome in the places full of energetic people who want to drink, chat and be loud. To make yourself and others comfortable, choose the right kind of a hostel.
Read the list of amenities
Although hostels are supposed to be simple, and most travelers don’t expect any luxuries, amenities do matter. It’s great to have a kitchen for a longer stay so that you can prepare some food by yourself instead of spending money on eating out. Some hostels have such attractions as jacuzzi, barbecue or roof terraces and they can make a stay more fun. Most importantly, though, check whether the hostel has basic amenities, like lockers or Wi-Fi. These things aren’t as obvious as you might imagine, so better make sure.
Do you have some more tips for choosing the right hostel? Let us know! And share this article with your friends, so that they too can avoid making basic mistakes.
Top Websites for Booking Hostels
For backpackers and thrifty travelers, hostels are an important part of traveling. To book them, you may use one of the booking sites. It’s simple, quick and cheap. Below you can read about the advantages and disadvantages of using these systems, things you should keep in mind while doing it, as well as several examples of useful websites for booking hostels.
Booking directly on hostels’ websites vs. through booking sites
The biggest minus of looking for hostels on booking sites is that not all properties are listed there. The sites only show hostels that have a deal with them so that you can miss out on some excellent, affordable, small places. Despite that, using these websites is very convenient and makes the whole process simpler and faster. You don’t have to use search engines and open countless websites in your browser. Instead, you get a long list of accommodations on one page. It also gives you a chance to make use out of promotional campaigns. Sometimes reserving through a hostel’s website turns out to be more expensive, because if you find the same property on a booking site, you get a discount. Another advantage of reservations systems is the fact they display reviews and ratings. When you see what other travelers said about a place, how they rated and described it, it’s easier to make a decision.
What to take under consideration
In case your plans aren’t settled, you should read about cancellation policies. They depend on the website and property, so always check them individually for each accommodation. You should also take a look at the reviews; they’re the best source of information. Don’t forget to read about the amenities hostels feature and their exact location.
If the benefits of using booking systems convinced you, have a look at these top websites for booking hostels. Each one of them has its advantages, and all are extremely useful.
HostelBookers is great for finding the cheapest options. They usually provide you with the best offers, but in case they don’t, you can ask for a refund. If you reserve a hostel with HostelBookers and within 24 hours’ notice the same bed available for a lower price somewhere else, you can send a message to the website’s staff, and they will refund double the difference. That makes the risk of overpaying much smaller and proves the company’s confidence in the quality of their services. The website has a large database; it doesn’t only include hostels, but also cheap hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and campsites. Before you decide where to stay, you can look through reviews and check ratings. HostelBookers doesn’t charge any booking fees.
One of HostelWorld’s biggest advantages is the number of listed properties. There are over 30 000 of them in 180 different countries. In addition to hostels, HostelWorld’s database also includes affordable hotels and B&Bs. A rare feature is the possibility to search for partial availability, which means you can book several nights at the same property, but in different dorms or rooms. Let’s say you want to stay for three days in London. Most websites will only show you the beds that are available for the full length of your stay, but HostelWorld will find properties that have available beds for this time, no matter if it’s the same bed for all three days. You can spend one night in an eight bed dorm and the next two in a six-bed dorm. The website used to charge booking fees, but they no longer do it.
HoztelZ is quite a unique hostel booking tool. It doesn’t have its inventory, but searches through other booking systems and compares their offers. As soon as you enter the name of a city, you’ll see a list of accommodations with ratings, descriptions, and the lowest available prices. After you choose a property, HostelZ will show you the exact prices proposed by specific booking systems. You can then pick the cheapest option and book a bed. As a comparison site, HostelZ is great for finding the lowest fares. You can also see ratings from different websites, including Hostelworld, Hostels.com, HostelBookers, and HostelsClub. This way you get lots of information in one place.
The website isn’t designed for booking hostels specifically, but all sorts of properties, both the cheap and expensive ones. Nevertheless, it works very well for hostels. You first need to choose a destination, but in the next stage of searching, you may pick the property type. Descriptions contain ratings, reviews, and information about amenities. There are lots of sales and discounts, so Booking.com gives you a chance to get an excellent deal. They don’t charge booking fees. For those who prefer to use applications than websites, Booking.com has an excellent one. You can download it and look for hostels anywhere, anytime.
Do you know some other good websites for booking hostels? Let us know! And don’t forget to share this article with your backpacking friends.