Hostels are known among travelers as being an inexpensive, entertaining place to not only sleep, but to also meet new people. I have found that choosing the right hostel can make or break your experience in a new city and searching for hostels can be very overwhelming. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to choose the best hostel for you.
Step 1 – Set your budget
There is an awesome filter feature on Hostelworld that allows you to filter hostels based on your budget. It is important to remember that expensive ones are not always better and vice versa. Also, sometimes paying an extra euro or two is worth it for the cleaner showers or free breakfast. Remember that prices can differ greatly between cities; I’ve paid €8/night for an amazing hostel in Sofia, Bulgaria and I’ve paid €25/night for an average hostel in Paris, France.
Step 2 – Know your priorities
Each traveler has different needs and wants. That’s why there are so many different types of hostels available. Do you want a party hostel or a quiet place you can relax? Would you rather have the cleanest hostel in the city or the hostel with the best location? It’ll be easier to choose a hostel if you know what you are looking for out of your experience. There are five factors to think about that will help you choose the hostel that will fit your needs and wants.
How important is it for you to be close to the city center or to the bus/train station? Would you rather be close to all of the bars and night clubs even though you might hear music blasting until early morning? Do you mind hearing music blasting until early morning if that means your get to be close to all of the bars and nightclubs?
Are you staying in the hostel to make new friends or just for a place to sleep? Does it matter if there is a bar in the common area? If you’re looking for a hostel that doubles as a house party, a built-in bar is a must-have (check out Matador Network’s article on the top party hostels.) If connecting with new people is a priority, I suggest staying in a smaller hostel with a more intimate atmosphere.
Are you a germaphobe who needs a squeaky clean living space? How much can you tolerate little things like hair in the drain, dust on the floor, or smells of sweaty travelers? Take note of the cleanliness rating of the hostel.
Will you be traveling with anything very valuable, such as a computer or a lot of cash? How important is it for you to have your own locker or for there to be 24-hour reception watching the door?
Do you care which kind of room is available? Are you ok with sleeping in a 12-person mixed dorm, do you want a female or male only dorm, or would you rather splurge for a 2 person private room?
If you’re traveling with a friend, it might be helpful for you both rank the factors from 1-5 in order of importance to help you choose a hostel that is good for the both of you.
Step 3 – Look at the ratings
Sometimes ratings can give you a very good idea of what a hostel can offer, but other times this isn’t the case. It’s important to look at the number of reviews for each hostel. If a hostel has 97% rating but only has 5 reviews compared to a hostel with 91% rating with 1000 reviews, that usually says quite a lot about each place! Again, each city differs on the popularity so I usually look at how many reviews each hostel in the area has and then compare the numbers. I recommend trying to book hostels that have above an 80% rating.
Step 4 – Read the fine print
Before you book your hostel make sure you read the fine print. Some hostels have certain hours for check-in and check-out. If you are uncertain of your arrival time it is always best to email them before and make the hostel aware of this. I have heard from too many travelers that they arrive to the hostel a couple hours after they had originally scheduled and the hostel gave their bed away because they didn’t know that if they didn’t show up on time, the hostel had the right to do this. It is also helpful to look at what exactly is included in the price you’re paying (i.e. luggage storage, towels & linens, breakfast, a welcome drink, etc) and if there is a curfew.
Step 5 – Narrowing down your choices
Sometimes it will be very clear as to which hostel you should choose, but if you go to a large city like Rome or London the options are endless. After I have narrowed down my options to two or three top choices, I usually do a side-by-side comparison, and at this point, price and location are usually the factors that help me make my final decision– but yours may be different!
Step 6 – Making the reservation
When you are finally ready to book your hostel you should always look at the hostel’s actual website first. If their site has an option of booking on there, go ahead and book through there as they usually don’t charge a booking fee. If their website doesn’t have that option, don’t worry, you can just book directly on Hostelworld, Hostelbookers, or WeHostels (a mobile app).
Hostels are always an interesting experience. You might read reviews that say “it was AMAZING!” or “best time of my life!”, but remember that each person has a different experience, so it’s important to not set your expectations too high. If you don’t like your hostel that is okay! You may only be there a couple nights and you’ll most likely only be there to sleep. If you’re a light sleeper remember to bring your earplugs!
Do you have a favorite hostel? Let us know in the comments!