How to Choose a Hostel
One of our featured travel writers Sally Taylor organised a 3-month round the world adventure, taking in Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia along the way. Here she shares her top 5 tips for choosing a good hostel to stay in.
While I think part of the travel experience is to not have absolutely everything planned, it’s definitely comforting to know that some of the accommodation will be booked in advance. For some parts of the trip – Christmas and New Year’s Eve in particular - we decided we’d be happier knowing we had somewhere to sleep sorted!
Booking these big holiday dates in advance is likely to save a bit of cash too. Having done a fair bit of European before now, researching and booking hostels is no longer the daunting experience it once was. But if you are feeling overwhelmed by a wall of information and rambling Trip Advisor reviews, here a few tips on how to choose where to stay!
1. What are Your Priorities?
Firstly, think about what your top priorities are for a hostel and also what your budget is. Would you be happy to pay a couple of pounds extra for somewhere slightly better facilities or higher on hygiene? Many booking websites allow you to decide what you rank results by, so having your “must haves” sorted will save you searching.
2. What Experience Are You Looking For?
Secondly, think about what kind of experience you want. Are you really only looking for a base, somewhere to crash and get some shut-eye after a long day of sightseeing? Or do you want a place with lots of life and atmosphere to meet fellow travelers, or with a real party vibe? Would you rather be in a private room (often a little more expensive) or a dorm? If the latter, check how big the dorm is. A 6 or 8 bed dorm will likely be a very different experience to one with 20 or even 30!
3. Check Reviews
Many hostels will give a suggestion of the kind of place they are in their descriptions, but also check out reviews from previous guests. And be aware – sometimes people’s views can skew hostel’s ratings online. I’ve seen a few that people have marked down because of a “lack of atmosphere”, but in some cases, that’s fine for the kind of place I need.
Another important thing to consider is location. Where is the best area to stay in? This again depends on a few different things. If you want everything in walking distance (which can save you money on public transport) make sure you check out where the place is in relation to your personal must-sees. A little research will also tell you the best areas for nightlife, if bars and clubs are what you’re after.
5. Logistics & Added Bonuses
Finally, make sure you think about the logistics. Travelling is a bit like joining the dots! How will you get from A to B? A being Airport (or train station, or ferry terminal), and B being Bed! Many hostels offer free transfers but these may well be one-way only, so it’s always worth checking how much money, and how much hassle, it’ll be to get there yourself.
When you get home, pass on your advice! There’s no better feeling than being able to tell people the best place or parts of a location to stay in, or whereabouts you’ll find the best rooftop bars etc.
By Sally Taylor