The Complete Guide To Staying In Hostels

Reading station – What to know before going to a hostel

From budget hostels to party hostels, to hostels providing secure all-female dormitories, there’s always plenty of choice for travelers searching for cheap accommodation. More affordable than hotels and with an abundance situated in the hearts of cities, staying in hostels is a great way to travel whilst making plenty of new friends along the way.

Facilities

Free wifi/ computer access

Most modern hostels offer free wifi regardless, but you will also find that some have free or discounted computer access – perfect for longer stays where you want to stay in contact with the people back home or update your Instagram.

Lockers

Another thing that the majority of good hostels offer is the chance to use a locker. Again, these may cost a small sum to use, but would more than likely be worth it in the long run – especially when most travelers’ number one concern about hostels is the safety of their belongings.

Functioning kitchen, bathroom, lounge

Similar to hotel rooms, hostels offer all the typical functions that you would expect, with the minor difference being that they may feature shared facilities rather than private.

You will have your basic needs met with the kitchen or at least a small space of which to store and prepare food, a communal toilet (although private suites are sometimes available), and a lounge/ space to chill out.

The latter is one of the best places to meet people and socialize, befriending people from all over the world.

Dormitory

Perhaps the biggest difference between commercial hotels and hostels is the bedroom, as hostels tend to feature shared accommodation – although private rooms can be available for a larger sum. You will either share a bunk bed or have your single bed, and should never be expected to share with anyone else.

If you book with a friend or significant other you may find options for double beds or rooms away from the main dorms, but on a typical basis expect to wake up with some stranger sleeping on the bed opposite.

Laundry facilities

Bigger hostels may offer laundry facilities, which are especially suited for stays more than several weeks long. For a small price, you will get access to detergent, a working washing machine, a dryer, and sometimes even fabric softener. 

Bar

More and more hostels are implementing bars to their features, turning the accommodation from simply a place to rest your head to more of a place to socialize and make friends.

Drinks may be slightly more expensive than those at a local bar in the town but are perfect for those days when you’d happily just sit back and relax in the hostel.

Breakfast

Most hostels offer breakfast for free or a small charge in the mornings, which you can use to bulk-eat and fill yourself up for the day ahead.

Things to consider

Safety measures

Safety measures are one of the most important things you can think about when choosing a hostel. Whilst commercial standards to apply to hostels in more developed countries, it’s not impossible for smaller, less managed hostels to skimp out on features such as smoke detectors and clear fire exists.

When booking a hostel your safety should be your priority – over price, comfort, and sometimes even location. 

Booking ahead

Booking a hostel bed way ahead of landing in a country is often the best method as hostels tend to sell out quicker than hotels, with limited space and high demand.

However, if you plan on staying in the same place for several weeks or months at a time then it may pay off to wander the towns and get to know the area, picking and choosing hostels at will.

Reviews

Before booking any hostel, it’s important to scour the reviews for anything that looks dodgy. Always check before booking that the reviews are up to standard, and if more than an eighth of customers have left negative reviews, it’s probably best to reconsider your options.

Check-in times

It’s no use to stay in a hostel with strict check-in times that don’t fit your schedule, or even worse – times with very limited windows where reception is only able to assist with checking in and out for one or two hours a day.

Hidden costs

In regards to the above point, always read the fine print to make sure you won’t get charged for arriving late, or finding you have to pay for heating, wifi, or other unspecified bills.

Access

Will you need an entrance code to get into the building? A key? These are all things to bear in mind and take notice of, and jotting down the hostel address and any numbers is always useful.

Keeping property safe

In case of there being no locker (or despite), it’s always a good idea to store your valuables in a daysack stashed in your pillow as you sleep, to make sure that any greedy hands don’t try to steal your cash or identity.

It’s important to never leave documents such as your passport unattended, and it’s advisable to have photocopies of all important documentation.

Basic etiquette

If you make a mess in the kitchen, clean up. If you bring someone back, don’t get with them in the center bed. Basic social norms relate even to hostels, and it’s always a good idea to not be the one everyone hates for blasting out the radio at 7 am.

Where to book

With hundreds of thousands of options of websites to book hostels, it’s hard to know which are the best in regards of price, safety, location, and overall suitability.

Some of the easiest and most convenient top sites to check out when booking a hostel are Hostelworld, Booking, and Hostelbookers. It may also be worth checking out travel websites such as Lonely Planet, reviews by travel bloggers, and subsequent guidebooks and magazines.

What to pack

Earplugs

Remember that point about basic etiquette and not getting it on with someone in the middle of the dormitory room? Even if the strangers you room share with are all absolute angels, you’re bound to find one that snores like an elephant or that has alarms set for God knows what time.

Flip flops

Especially in the case of communal bathrooms, flip flops are great to just walk about in when you don’t want wet socks or to wear bulky trainers 24/7.

Padlocks

For lockers or just general storage, investing in some strong, sturdy padlocks is another thing you will be grateful to have brought when you find your travel companion’s locker got broken into in the middle of the night.

Torch

For power cuts or just for when you want to move about without leaving the main light on and annoying everyone, torches can be invaluable. Especially if you’re someone that reads late into the night or gets up a lot for snack breaks.

A sarong

With endless purposes from being a towel to a bedsheet, to simply just a fun accessory to wear around, sarongs are one of the most underrated things you could possibly pack. 

A pack of cards

Whilst your endless stories and much-loved Instagram photos may just be enough to hold a conversation with a bunch of random people, a pack of cards is one thing that somehow surpasses all language barriers and the awkwardness that comes with informality.

A great way to bring strangers together – although maybe avoid Cards Against Humanity the first night.