If you’re travelling on a budget, chances are you’re going to end up staying in a hostel at some point. Although this can seem super scary at first, it’s actually a gateway to a whole new world of travelling and adventures. I’ve put together some of my top tips to make finding your perfect hostel that little bit less overwhelming!
So first things first, what is a hostel?
A hostel can be defined in loads of ways, but primarily it is cheap accomodation normally based around some aspect of communal living. Although these days a lot of hostels offer private rooms, most often you will be staying in a dorm of varying size. This can be mixed or single gender, absolute huge (20+ beds) or pretty tiny with just 3 or 4 beds. For the most part hostels are for short term accommodation, although some travellers may stay long-term whilst looking for work or housing in a new city.
What do you want out of a hostel?
When looking for and booking your perfect hostel, there’s a range of different things to think about. Here are some general examples to get you going…
- Central location or somewhere quieter?
- Party atmosphere or quiet and chill?
- Self catering kitchen or a restaurant?
- Big social life or pretty independent?
As you can see, there are loads of factors that can be considered when booking a hostel. If none of these matter to you, then simply get searching for a hostel and pick the first one within your budget! If you don’t know whether these things matter to you, read on for some pros and cons…
(+) A central location means plenty to see and do, and possibly saving money on public transport if most attractions are within walking distance.
(-) Centrally located accommodation can be priced at a premium, and it can also be louder and busier if you love your sleep!
(+) A youthful, party atmosphere means plenty of opportunity to meet new people, and easy evening entertainment.
(-) If you’re an introvert this could be slightly overwhelming, again it might not be the best option for those who value a good night’s sleep or an early night.
(+) A self-catering kitchen means saving money compared to eating out for every meal. You can also prepare whatever food you want (bit of home comfort food, anyone?) and often kitchens can be a bit of a social hub.
(-) Having access to a restaurant within the hostel means you can fully relax without having to worry about buying ingredients and cooking. Hostel restaurants can also often be heavily discounted to appeal to their customers. If you choose to eat out instead you have the chance to enjoy more local cuisine as well.
(+) A hostel with lots of activities means an easy way to meet new people and often see more of the local area. Most of the time the activities are offered at a discount so you can save some money as well.
(-) I can’t really see the downside of a hostel offering activities, although if you have lots planned or are literally just looking for a cheap place to sleep, they might not be a necessary feature to look for.
Obviously all of these features are good points to consider but at the end of the day a lot of it comes down to what your budget is! Hostels usually range from around £10- £60 per night depending on location and what extras they offer (wifi, breakfast etc) and pricing also varies for rooms. A larger mixed room tends to be more expensive than a small single sex room, so again it is important to think about what you would prioritise!
And then, how do you actually find/ book that perfect hostel?!
I always start with Google, literally a quick search for ‘(location) hostels’ and then go from there! A fab website you can use is Hostelworld, which allows you to search by availability as well as having a great ranking and review system; however hostels are also normally listed on other sites such as Kayak. When I have found a hostel I like the look of, I will usually do another search to see if I can find a website, pictures and other independent reviews. I also check they definitely have availability for my dates in the room I want. If everything looks good, it’s time to book! My biggest tip here is to, where possible, book directly through the hostels website. Often larger booking providers will take a chunk of the booking fee for themselves, meaning either you end up paying more or the hostel ends up receiving less. If the hostel is a smaller one this can mean them losing profit and potentially going out of business, we love independent hostels!
Where have I stayed?
Hlemmur Square Hostel in Reykjavik, Iceland
YHA Ambleside in the Lake District, England
Samesun Hostel in Vancouver, Canada
Traveler’s House in Portland, Oregon (in my opinion the best hostel EVER)
When this posts I will also have stayed in FIAP Jean Monnet in Paris, France
worked at YHA Broad Haven in Pembrokeshire, Wales
I’m sorry for such a boring post but I hope that some people find this useful! I know I would have liked a guide of what to look for the first time I stayed in a hostel.