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What Is A Hostel And How Do I Choose One?

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Choosing a hostel, especially if you have never stayed in one before, can be an overwhelming task. Many people are not even sure what a hostel is exactly, so how are they supposed to pick one? There are various things travelers should think about before booking a hostel, and with these tips, you will be better able to make the correct choice.

What’s A Hostel?

I’ll start off by asking you to push any images you have from the movie “Hostel” out of your head right now. Put simply, a hostel is a budget-friendly alternative to pricier accommodations where you often share a room with someone you’ve never met. That being said, many modern hostels also offer single and double rooms. They tend to be simpler than a hotel, with less luxurious amenities, and have a more social vibe. That being said, every hostel has a different vibe and includes unique amenities. In fact, I’ve stayed in hostels with rooftop pools, swanky bars and private balconies.

So, how do you choose what’s right for you? Here are some tips.

What’s Your Personality?

Are you a party animal or more of the low key type? Do you love to socialize and meet new people or do you prefer to keep to yourself? These are questions you need to ask yourself when faced with the task of choosing a hostel. Hostels that have adjoining clubs or in-house bars are more likely to be party venues; think less sleep and more socializing. Moreover, hostels with common areas, game rooms, kitchens and shared bathrooms make for a more friendly and social environment. Does your hostel allow you to take guests back or enforce a curfew? While to some people these things may not matter, to others they might. You may also want to check out which hostels plan activities for guests, such as pub crawls, tapas outings and walking tours, as these make for a cheap and fun way to explore a city.

Think About Your Trip Itinerary

Make a list of what sites you want to see and think about how you are most likely going to be spending your days. Now, look at a map and do a Google search to see what neighborhoods you will be spending the most time in. For convenience sake, you will probably want to choose a hostel in this area. Moreover, see how close a hostel is to public transportation, such as trains and buses, so that if you wanted to take a day trip to another area you can. Many times, hostels that are centrally located will cost more, but when you think about the time and money you will be saving on transportation, it may be worth it.

How Much Extra Money Are You Willing to Spend?

While hotels almost always include all amenities in the price, do not expect this with a hostel. You are paying a lot less for a hostel than a hotel, so don’t expect all of the fancy extras. Certain things, such as towels, linens, airport pickup, laundry, breakfast, luggage storage, hot showers, Internet and lockers, may be an extra fee. Moreover, a hostel with a kitchen can save you money by allowing you to cook your own meals instead of having to eat out all the time. Browse around to see which hostels include the amenities that are most important to you.

Safety First

No matter what kind of traveler you are, safety should be an important factor. Is the hostel in a seedy neighborhood? Are there lockers available to secure your important belongings, such as your passport, ID and credit cards? Is there someone at the desk 24/7 watching over the building? These are all details you may want to look into before choosing a hostel. Many hostels will enforce a rule that does not allow guests to bring non-guests back to the accommodation for safety reasons. Moreover, some hostels will actually have you memorize a code, have a key for the main door or ring a bell to be allowed in, all of which add to the safety level of the property.

Read Reviews

There are many websites that can help make choosing a hostel easy by laying out accommodation details and information on one page. These websites often include reviews, as well, from people who have stayed at the hostel before. By reading reviews, you can gain insight into how friendly the staff are, how clean the rooms are, if a location is central and the general atmosphere. Some websites to visit include hostelz.com, hostelworld.com, and hostelbookers.com. Note, when making a booking on HostelBookers, you can often get rates that are cheaper than booking through the hostel website directly.

What tactics do you use when choosing a hostel?

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4 Comments

  1. Dana @ Time Travel Plans on February 6, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    I have yet to stay at a hostel, but I’ve never ruled them out as an option. Bathrooms are really important to me when choosing a place to stay – like, really important. Lol. A lot of times I find that there aren’t enough good pics of hostel bathrooms which discourages me from booking. Whenever I make it to Scandinavia, I will definitely stay in a hostel since it’s so expensive there. They have some pretty nice ones too from what I’ve found.

    • jess2716 on February 7, 2013 at 12:52 am

      Yes, bathrooms can sometimes by iffy. But I’ve also stayed at some surprisingly clean and luxurious hostels. Just gotta check the reviews on Hostelbookers and Hostelz.com and such 🙂

  2. Stephanie on September 7, 2013 at 5:26 am

    I will be staying in my first hostel in NYC in November. =] It’ll be my first trip, and I will be going alone. I’ve been saving so many of your posts to show my parents to let them know that I’ve done my research, and I won’t die. I’m going the week after my twenty-first birthday. I’m extremely excited about going, and I love your blog. I’m going to be showing my dad your advice tomorrow.

    Thank you!

    • jess2716 on September 7, 2013 at 10:28 am

      @Stephanie- Thank you for your sweet comment 🙂 You’re going to have a blast! Also, let me know when you’re here I actually am based in NYC when I’m not traveling.

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