I think the title of this post may have been one of the first things I typed into google when I first began to stay in hostels. I was on an exchange year in France at this point, and had already done a bit of travel. However, dire warnings of unsanitary conditions and lecherous travellers from my mother had seen me stay in single rooms of bed and breakfasts and hotels thus far. But as you can imagine, there was no way my student budget would hold up to this long term.
Thus I ventured into the world of hostel travel.
Firstly and most importantly, decide on your bottom line. By this I mean, what are you willing to sacrifice for the sake of your budget? Amongst my friends at my host university, there was often talk of “the time I went to Greece and spent 7 euro on a hostel”, and other such saving tips. However I for one see such prices listed, and the first thing to cross my mind is what the hell is wrong with this place?? Quite honestly, if a place can charge so little per night for accommodation, I don’t think I want to stay there.
Now before you accuse me of being a princess, let me explain. After a long day of travelling, I value nothing more than a hot shower in a clean(ish) bathroom and a decent place to lay my head for the night. Now, my standards are not so high. As long as I don’t find hairs that are not mine on the shower walls, and so long as I am not itching in my sleep; I’m satisfied.
Furthermore, when I travel alone, security is tantamount. I will always choice places close to the general hub and within easy access on public transport.
Now on to the practical advice. The first thing I do when I go to book a hostel, is check and compare the reviews. To do this I search the name of my destination, and then look at the highest ranking places. Hostel World, Hostel Bookers, Booking, and Trip Advisor are my usual haunts. I look at the hostels with the highest rankings and then I quickly skim through the reviews.
Don’t bother reading them word for word, I usually look to where the majority of the reviews fall and see what the general consensus is. Then I look at the worst reviews and do the same. I tend to take bad reviews with a grain of salt, as I have seen reviewers give a hostel a low rating (less than 5/10) and then comment with things such as “Nice facilities, enjoyed our stay. However, we found the room badly lit”. Such things would not concern me, whilst tales of dirty bathrooms and lack of security certainly would.
Once I’ve singled out 3-4 hostels based on their reviews, I go through and cull based on location. First off, the hostel must be in close proximity to a main transport line, and preferably close to the centre as well. As I previously said, I often travel alone and thus do not want to lug my suitcase
full of shoes for a long way. This is also a safety issue as when I return to my hostel at the end of the day, I don’t want to have to walk a long way by myself. You’ll find that the hostels with the highest reviews tend to be centrally located and well positioned in relation to airports, train, and bus terminals.
Click image for source
One of the biggest things to do when checking out location, is to input the distance you’ll have to walk (from the train station to the hostel, for example) into Google Maps. A hostel may market itself as only being 10 minutes away from the central station, only for it to mean 10 minutes drive. Which is a 30 minute walk. Uphill. All in all, it’s the last thing you want to find out when you arrive in at midnight on your
Due to a careful selection process, and a bit of luck, I have never had a terrible hostel experience. There was however, one time where I encountered a hostel in Naples that looked so terrifying from outside, that I could have run away screaming. But that is a story for another day. Whilst I have stayed in a variety of hostels ranging from homely and comforting, to a nightclub with beds, they have all been good experiences. Or at the very least, an interesting story to tell back home.
I am not so naive to think I will never have a bad experience, however I think there are certain steps you can take when choosing a hostel that will make your stay all the more comfortable, and reduce the possibility of any nasty shocks in the form of nighttime itching.
So, now that you’ve heard my hostel criteria, what’s your bottom line for accommodation?