youth hostel in Europe (Photo: Hostelz official website )
Hostels are great! They’re a way to get immersed in travelling culture--meet backpackers, mingle with the community, and get clean, cheap accommodation instead of booking a fancy hotel.
But hostels are not always easy to choose. They’re like watermelons; you’ve got to try to pick the right one.
There are two main types of accommodation in a hostel:
• Private rooms
These are just like hotel rooms. They can sleep 1, 2, 3, or up to 4 people. They're usually less expensive than a 4-5 star hotel room, and are closer to a 2-3 star hotel price. If you ask me, they're not the best way to stay in a hostel!
The core of hostel life. Dorms usually host between 4 and 16 beds, usually bunk beds. Some are mixed gender and some are male or female only. For me, that’s how you get the best of staying in a hostel. Very cheap accommodation and a real adventure!
How to book
There are two well-known websites that give you everything you need: hostelworld.com and hostelbookers.com. They are both full of resources so pick whichever you prefer.
Finding the right hostel for you
There are five main criteria on the websites that you need to look at when trying to find your perfect hostel.
1. The overall score
That’s your main filter. When you open any of the hostel websites, make sure to filter the search results to a rating of above 70 percent.
And don’t forget to check the number of reviews! If a hostel gets 90 percent but only has 5 or 6 reviews, then they’re probably fake. Make sure to only pick hostels with at least 500 reviews!
Your budget should be your second main criterion. How much are you willing to pay for a hostel room or bed in a dorm? In Europe, don't pay more than $20 for a dorm (aim for less, but this is the max). But I suggest putting your filter up to $25 and filtering more later.
Security is a very important aspect for any hostel traveller. To assess the security of a hostel, there are two things to check. Firstly, the security rating on the hostel page itself, and secondly the reviews and comments of the users (more on that later).
Also, it’s 2017--make sure the hostel has lockers; it's a basic security need (you will find this info on the facilities page).
Location is very, very important. Make sure to stay in the city centre. If you check the prices, you will find that hostels on the outskirts of the city are much cheaper, but believe me, you will pay much more for transportation. Stay in the city centre and save money by walking more!
If you don’t know how to find out if the hostel is close to the city centre, put the hostel’s address into Google maps and find the directions to the main city square.
Make sure that the hostel provides the facilities that are musts for you!
For me, the list would be:
• Free wifi
• Hot water
• A common room
• A kitchen/coffee machine/ vending machine
• Free linens
General tip: Make sure to read the “latest” reviews carefully, and take a note of the most repeated reviews. But don't be over-cautious—remember, nowhere is perfect.
And finally, hostels are a lot of fun, so enjoy the experience!