HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST HOSTEL
How to choose the best hostel is something I spend more time on than I probably should if I’m honest but It can make such a difference. I have met a fair few people who have made the wrong choice but have simply moved to a better alternative. But for me time is super important and I always want to give myself the best chance of staying at a great hostel first time round.
HOW DO I CHOOSE THE BEST HOSTEL?
- AIR CON
- TOURS & ACTIVITIES
- INCLUDED BREAKFAST
- COSTUMER SERVICE
- CHECK-IN & OUT TIME
- REVIEWS & PHOTOS
- GENERAL FACILITIES
- PARTY HOSTEL
If you are only there for 1 or 2 nights then it’s fair to say location is of upmost importance. What do you plan to see and where do you plan to go, its important to hostel is convenient to as much as possible. Being in a convenient place to the train station, bus stop to get you on your way for your next trip is also a good way of avoiding a headache and means you aren’t having to switch trains or sit in a bus for any longer than you need to.
Also be aware of what the area is like at night, will you have far to walk and is it generally safe?
If I am travelling solo I much prefer to stay at a smaller hostel. I like the idea of entire hostel knowing one another and the doing things as a group. I have stayed in plenty of big hostels before and never thought much of it.
Security is always a priority for me such as having lockers, lockable doors both at the dorms and the main hostel door along with a receptionist or night patrol. Not every hostel I stay at ticks all of these boxes but I try and choose the best on in this respect. It’s also important to understand the area you are staying in, is it known to be safe, doesn’t it make sense to go for a hostel with a little more security? When I was in Salvador Brazil my main priority was security, I didn’t worry too much about anything else. However, on some on the trips where I had little posessions on my I could afford to skimp on the security.
Wi-Fi has become so much of our lives that It’s very rare to find a hostel which doesn’t have it. Some see it as a bad thing but like most technology you have to embrace it. I’m all for it anyway whether it be fore work or those days you are either hungover or lying in the sun. Be sure to check that the Wi-Fi is free, Australia and New Zealand are mad for charging a small fortune!
Aircon is something I simply couldn’t have done without in certain places. Buenos Aires and Medellin were two of the hottest examples. To keep the costs down some of the hostels just have the Aircon running at night which means you are tempted to sit in the comfort of your chilled bed all day!
TOURS & ACTIVITIES
Some of the best hostels I have stayed at had every tour and activity you could imagine, the best of which was probably Milhouse Hipo Hostel in Buenos Aires. There are several reasons why I prefer to book activities through the hostel as opposed to an external agent however you will need to check the price differences. Although in my experience I feel paying a little more with the hostel is beneficial, given you do your research;
Peace of mind – Signing up for something and paying over the internet to an agent you’ve never met or even heard of can be a little unnerving. Going through the hostel you are almost guaranteed the service
This is more about saving time than saving money. The amount of time I could waste buying breakfast and cooking or deciding where to go eat just isn’t worth it for me anymore. Not to mention the breakfast usually stops at a certain time so it will also get you out of bed.
CHECK-IN & OUT TIME
Do you arrive early or is your onward trip late on check out day. Generally these times don’t differentiate too much between hostels but there are a few exceptions. I arrived into La Paz at the Wild Rover around 4am and instead of waiting for the proper check in time we were shown our rooms straight away, a nights accommodation saved!
REVIEWS & PHOTOS
I could spend hours reading the reviews and trying to get a taste for the hostel. Is there a consistent message that always shows its head, positive or negative? If there is an issue that hasn’t been dealt with you are sure to hear about it over and over.
Also be sure to have a look at the photos but bear in mind they have been uploaded by the hostel, it is only naturally they upload photos that will put their accommodation in a positive light. I can’t them uploading a particular bathroom if its in complete disrepair.
FIRST HAND REVIEWS
As backpackers tend to follow a trail you will inevitably meet people who have visited the area you plan on going and its not only worth asking them what should you do in terms of activities but where they stayed and would they recommend it. Now obviously not everyone is going to have the same criteria or tastes but that’ll be for you to judge.
There is nothing worse than one bathroom shared between 100 backpackers. In which case I would be looking out for a room with an ensuite or a large fully equipped kitchen if you plan to cook regularly. You’ll get a better idea of the kitchen in the photos and reviews.
I always imagine small rooms to be the best way to meet people in the hostel the communal areas are also very effective.
Sometimes some of the small things make all the difference, that’s exactly what I found out in Soul Kitchen, St Petersburg, one of my favourite hostels. It had everything, curtains at your bed, stairs for the top bunks (not a ladder!), sockets and usbs at your bed alone with a shelf for all your bits and pieces. The more I stay in a bed with a privacy curtain the more I enjoy it
How to choose the best hostel….
- Ask around friends and travellers
- Read a broad range of reviews
- Have a look at traveller photos on their review
For some (me included) half of the fun in travelling is enjoying a drink or 2 while meeting new people. Some hostels make it so easy, setting up events, having their own bar etc. This wouldn’t be a huge priority of mine now but if I was staying at a place during Xmas or NYE it would be at the forefront of my mind – which hostel is going to offer the most fun?
Cheaper is not always better. Generally in life you get what you pay for, so just be aware there is usually a reason why one hostel is half the price as some of the others. I met plenty of people on a small budget who always took the cheap option and never seemed to learn. If your budget dictates you must stay in the cheapest of places then so be it but be aware the facilities might not match those of other hostels.
Another bit of advice is to keep your ear to the ground. Most people tend to follow the same backpacker trail and quite often you will come across people who have just come from your next destination. When I meet people in this situation, I just bring out the questions, what to do, where should I stay? You would believe the amount of places I wouldn’t have chosen to stay off had I not had a recommendation!
Hostels are improving quicker than ever, it is amazing what they can now offer but you may have to adjust your expectations depending on where in the world you are going. So have a think about what is important to you when you next travel and see if you find one that you are happy with.
But in the end It’s not always about the hostel but more so about the people within that make your stay what it is.
- Hostel or Hotel?
- How do you choose the best hostel?
- What is your favourite hostel you have ever stayed in?
Let me know in the comments below . . .