How to Find the Perfect Hostel
You will need to take a few things into consideration when finding the perfect hostel for you. You may be looking for a social atmosphere so you can make friends, or maybe you’d rather stay somewhere quiet where you can get a good night’s sleep. Once you have figured out what you’re looking for in your accommodation, then it’s time to do some research.
Research is the single most important thing when looking for a place to stay. A lot of travelers get sucked into the first place that looks nice, but you NEED to check out the reviews. A few key things to look for is a high star rating, plenty of reviews, a detailed description of the hostel, and more than a few photos. That doesn’t mean that hostels without all of these things are going to be a dump, but it means you will always have a good idea of what you’re booking prior to showing up.
The most popular websites for booking hostels are Hostelworld.com, Hostels.com, and Booking.com. Our favorite is Hostelworld due to their detailed reviews section and easy-to-use app. So you’ve started researching hostels - now what?
Let’s start with your location. Using hostelworld, you can either search hostels using their map so you can focus in on one specific area, or you can see all hostels in a city in a list format. Personally, we like to use the list format. You can usually compromise on location for the perfect hostel. But if you do happen to have your heart set on a specific street or area, then the map feature is a great search tool.
You’ll want to think about what kind of area you want to stay in. Do you want to stay in a tourist area? A party area with close bars? A quiet area? Once you have narrowed in on the location you want to search for hostels in, it’s important to evaluate what kind of budget you have for yourself.
Your budget should be important to pay attention to, but shouldn’t restrict your decision completely. You may find the perfect hostel for only a few more dollars per night than a crappy hostel in a bad neighborhood. If that’s the case, then spend the few extra dollars. Hostelworld is convenient because it allows you to sort the hostels from cheapest to most expensive. It’s a good idea to take a look at the hostels within your budget range, and then once you narrow it down to a few affordable hostels, take a look at the star level and reviews.
The star level is an important feature on Hostelworld. Each hostel has a star rating from 1-5. A good rule of thumb is to look for hostels with a 4+ rating. The overall stars are a good representation of what a hostel will be like, because each traveler who leaves a review will give it their own individual star level. You can also sort the hostels by their rating if you’re more concerned with rating over budget.
Read through reviews
Reviews are one of the most important things to take into consideration when hostel shopping. If you think you’ve found the perfect hostel with a great location, within your budget range, and a good star level, you still need to look through reviews. If a hostel is genuinely a great place to stay, reviewers will make it known. You can usually find out other necessary information through the reviews, like if a traveler got bed bugs from the hostel, or if the staff members were rude to them. You can also get an idea on the social setting of the hostel. You will always know if you’re staying in a party hostel through the review section because travelers will rave about the music, drinks, and people.
The review process on Hostelworld is one of the reasons why it’s our top pick for hostel booking websites. When completing a review, travelers will have to give seven categories a rating from 1 to 10, which calculates the hostel’s star level. The categories are value for money, security, location, staff, atmosphere, cleanliness, and facilities. For some hostels, you will have to sacrifice certain categories for others. For example, the staff rating may be below average, but the other categories may have a high rating, so you just have to determine what’s most important during your stay.
Each hostel lists what kind of facilities they offer. These facilities usually include free wifi, towels, security lockers, and hot showers. If you’re lucky, your hostel may include an airport transfer, restaurant, free breakfast, air conditioning, and more. If you’re trying to decide on a hostel and have a few good options, then always take a look at the facilities section to compare what each hostel offers. You may find that one offers free breakfast while the others don’t, so that should make your decision easier.
It’s also very important to find a hostel with a common room listed on their facilities. If a hostel doesn’t have a common room, then it’s more than likely that the dorm rooms will become a common room for the hostel guests to hang out in. That may mean a noisy, bright room late at night when you’re trying to get some sleep. Common rooms are also a great social place to make friends in, but if a hostel has a bar that’s a huge social benefit. Travelers are generally friendly people but once they get a few drinks in them, you’ll have an abundance of best friends in no time!
If you do happen to find yourself in a hostel that is less than ideal, then you’re not required to stay. You might lose your deposit, but most deposits are only a few dollars which isn’t much in the grand scheme of things. Many times hostels can appear to have a social atmosphere when looking at photos and reviews online, but upon arrival you may find that it’s a ghost town. If this happens, then you have a few options. You can either take a wander around, take a look at some new hostels, and move to one of the more social ones. Or, if you’re looking for a party but also looking to get a good night’s sleep, then show up at a party hostel during happy hour. You are bound to make friends in no time if you start some conversations, so you can get the best of both worlds.
Most hostels also offer the ability to book a private room if you’re looking for a social atmosphere but still determined to have your own space to relax in if needed. Private rooms are always going to be a higher price than the dorm rooms, but offer many benefits. You won’t have to worry about the security of your things, because you’ll be the only person with access to your bedroom besides the hostel staff. You also are guaranteed to get a better sleep than in a dorm room. Private rooms are usually double the cost of booking a dorm room. If you are traveling with your significant other, however, private rooms would be the same price as if you were both to book separate dorm room beds, as you can split the cost of the room. It’s a nice alternative to the sometimes overcrowded dorms, so keep it in mind if you’re a light sleeper!
While backpacking, your plans could change at the drop of a hat. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t have a definite plan for traveling, then you might not want to book all of your hostels ahead of time. In that case, you can usually show up to your location and take a walk around the busy tourist area and stop at a few hostels to compare prices. You might even find that you get a better price on a bed than booking online since hostels will want to fill up their dorms as much as possible. Keep in mind that by doing this, you won’t be able to check reviews or the hostel’s rating beforehand. If you find yourself traveling a country during high tourist season, however, then you’ll want to book accomodation ahead of time so you don’t find yourself without a place to stay upon arrival.
If you’re interested in other options besides staying in hostels, there are plenty of other inexpensive ways to get accommodation. Couchsurfing and Airbnb are two other great ways to stay in an area if you’re on a budget. Couchsurfing is completely free, while you may find Airbnb’s at a similar or higher cost than hostels but will still be far less expensive than hostels.
Couchsurfing.com is a great way to meet new people while saving money during your trip. It’s not the most ideal for comfort as you’re staying in another person’s home whom you have only just met, but if you’re up for an adventure then try it out! You simply have to create a profile, list where you’re planning on traveling to, and then start searching. Not only is Couchsurfing a free place to stay, but it’s a great way to see a new area of a city, get to know the locals, and possibly get a free meal if you’re lucky.
You have to be flexible when Couchsurfing because you never know what kind of bed you’ll end up with. You might end up sleeping on a couch, futon, air mattress, or in a spare bedroom. Hosts get bombarded with requests from travelers, so we would suggest applying for more than one. Similar to booking a hostel, the Couchsurfing hosts can get reviewed by their guests, so it’s always a good idea to check these out before staying with someone.
One of the up-and-coming websites for accommodation is Airbnb.com. Airbnb is a site where you can rent either a shared room, private room, or entire house or apartment from a host. Most Airbnb’s are less expensive than hotels, but usually slightly higher in cost than hostels. It’s a great option for budget travelers if you’re looking for a little more privacy and a place to call home during your stay.
Airbnb’s are becoming increasingly more popular as a form of accommodation, as many travelers love the idea of having a kitchen, private bedroom and bathroom all to themselves. It’s a great option if you’re traveling with friends because you can share the cost. For example, a beautiful 2 bedroom skyrise apartment in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia may cost $36 per night. It has the ability to host 4 guests at a time, so if the costs were split between friends, each guest would pay only $8 each night. For that particular Airbnb, you even have a full kitchen, 2 bathrooms, and access to the apartment building’s pool.
You can choose to search using filters such as room type, price range, size, and amenities. Like hostel websites and Couchsurfing, the hosts receive reviews from their guests and are displayed directly on the Airbnb so you will always know exactly what you’re getting. The only downfall to traveling using Airbnb is that you won’t meet other backpackers as easily as in hostels. If you’re already traveling with friends and sharing the Airbnb, however, it’s a great alternative to keep in mind
Besides flights, accommodation is almost always the thing you spend the most money on while abroad. If you use our tips to find a good hostel, Airbnb, or Couchsurfing host, you will significantly cut back on your travel expenses. These accommodation options will allow you to travel for way longer than you had planned, and you won’t have to cringe while looking at your bank account.