Choosing accommodation is a big part of travelling, which can either make or break you adventure. Hostels are a great place to meet people, join activities or figure out your future travel plans. But nothing can be worse than ending up in a hostel in the middle of nowhere with no social atmosphere going on whatsoever.
This is why I usually spent quite some time in figuring out where to stay. So here are my tips on how to choose the perfect hostel.
After traveling extensively over the past couple of years, I have stayed in heaps of different hostels and I’m getting quite good at knowing on how to figure out which places are right for me. It should be said, however, that every traveller has different preferences and is looking for a different experience when traveling. So what might be a great place for me might not be the best place for you. Which will lead us to our first important step:
1. Define the main purpose of your trip
A hostel should have a good social vibe but some party Hostels can be a bit too much for some of us. So before you start doing your research, ask yourself what is the purpose of this trip.
Are you planning on spending the nights out in the clubs around and basically just chill during the day? Or more like wake up early and go on day trip every day? Or a bit of both?
2. Listen to other people’s recommendations
This is probably the easiest and most reliable option for choosing an accommodation. I’m sure you know the standard backpacker talk: Where are you from? Where have you travelled? Oh nice, I’m going to that place as well next week, do you have any recommendations?
And listen to people’s recommendations! They might tell you about a new hostel that just isn’t as popular on the common booking websites yet or has just opened.
Not all hostels for example can be booked online. Some places only accept travellers that come by in person. One of my favourite hostels was like that and I only heard about it from a fellow traveller.
3. Find the best hostel for you by filtering based on your preferences
(FYI: This post is NOT sponsored by Hostelworld. I just genuinely always use this website when I travel and I have always found the best deals on here so I really highly recommend it based on my personal experiences)
I love love love this website, because it is pretty much where I book every single one of my accommodations! Unless I would go for a hotel or something more fancy then Hostelwold is always my first choice.
I sometimes just go on their website to look at random locations and cities for fun. To be honest, if a place does not have nice hostels then I probably will not consider it has a new holiday destination. It is just a too important part of my trip to stay at a terrible place.
But enough of this, this is how I usually choose my hostel, if not through recommendations.
Know to which location you are heading
First of all of course, I need to know where my next vacation will take me. So just type in your new destination in the search box, as well as the dates that you would like to travel at and wait for all the search results to pop up.
Look at the average ratings of the hostels
I usually do this to get an idea of the quality of hostels in this particular area. The scores are always out of a 10 and listed next to the properties.
Check the overall price range of the hostels
I like to do this first to get an overview of what the average prices are in a specific region. If most hostels are around $15 and there is one that suddenly costs $25 then I would automatically exclude it from my research. So if the average price will be about $15 then I will probably just stay in a price range of around $13-17 but it will also depend on my budget to some extend.
Add your preferences and filter your results
Hostelworld has a feature, where you can add your preferences so it will only show you the places that can offer you these features. These could include such things as e.g. breakfast, swimming pool, travel desk, bar, restaurant.
Or whatever else you can want from a hostel. And then again it kind of depends. In big cities the chances of having a swimming pool in the hostel are kind of low and again in some countries having breakfast is more common than in others.
The only thing that I will usually see as a priority are security lockers. Especially if I am traveling with my laptop. I need to be able to lock away my valuables, since I don’t want to carry around my passport and credit cards with me all the time.
And then again these preferences can already give you an idea of what the hostel can be like. A bar will attract more of a party crowd or if there is no common are, then it is probably not the most social place unless you have awesome roommates.
Have a first look about who is staying at the hostel
This is a new feature for sure. But what is cool about it is that you can kind of already get an idea of what nationalities you will find at the hostel. This might maybe influence your decision on where to stay if you are deciding between two different hostels. I’m sure we all have nationalities where we think we get on with better than others.
Check how many people have already booked a specific dorm
This is a great tip for all solo travellers who are looking for other solo travellers to hang out with. Before you book your dorm room you can already see how many beds are still available aka how many beds you would be able to reserve at once. If you book early enough you can spot the solo travellers.
Say, you are looking at a six bed dorm and you would be able to book five beds. That means that one bed is already reserved and the chances that this person is a solo traveller are pretty high. If you are looking for another solo traveller in your room, then that is good technique.
Look on the map where most hostels are located
I think this feature has not been on the website for too long either but I do really like it. Click on the map button to view the hostels on the map and you can have an idea of where the backpacker area is at. If there are a lot of hostels in one area then that is usually a well located area with restaurants and bars or activities around.
If one hostel is located quite far away from the others, than this will sometimes be a less busy area and there might not be as much going on. But then again, it all depends what you are looking for. I usually exclude the hostels that are just too far off on the map because I like to stay in the more popular areas. But then, that’s just my preference.
Decide on your favourites hostels
Now, after you had a look at average prices, ratings, locations and features you will probably have a vague idea of the few hostels that you like. Or maybe if there are not that many options you might have already made your final decision on where to stay. Anyway, I would always recommend the following step as well, which is to have a look at the reviews.
Read the reviews left by other travellers
Reviews are always great to get a feeling of the general vibe of a hostel which the hostel description won’t tell you. Personally, I always keep an eye out for reviews that include something like: really social hostel, easy to meet people, great for solo travellers, offers a lot of fun activities etc.
I think it’s important to not only consider the ratings, but the reviews as well. Mostly because ratings can be misleading at times. For example people sometimes rate party hostels quite low because of the noise, even though the hostel would state that it is going to be loud until late at night and if you don’t like that you should stay somewhere else.
I’ve actually seen this happen a couple of times. But I only found out about it when I had a look at the reviews to see why people rated some places low and what they disliked.
And finally: book your hostel
So how it works, you usually pay a deposit and then the rest when you arrive at the property. You can choose between flexible and standard deposit. For the flexible one you will have to pay a euro or so extra but therefore, in case of cancellation, you will also get your deposit refunded. Whereas, for the standard one you do not get the deposit refunded when you decide to cancel.
4. And after your stay maybe leave a review as well
I’m going to be honest with you guys, I don’t leave reviews as often. Sometimes I rate the hostels and destinations but I barely ever write a comment myself. I only did it once when I had a bad experience with a hostel. I suppose I should also do it if I really like a place so that the good reviews will also stay accurate in the future for future travellers.
And that was it! My idea of how to choose the perfect hostel! This technique has been working quite well for me over the past couple of years and I am sure it will make your decision of which hostel to book a little easier as well.
How to you guys book your hostels? Is there anything that you think is really important as well which I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments
Talk to you soon x
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