Hostel tips: How to choose a good hostel

Sleeping in bunk beds with about eleven other (snoring) travellers… Some people don’t like this at all, but I am someone who would choose such a crowded hostel over an all inclusive resort any day. And I mean: any day. Sleeping in a hostel just brings out the ultimate traveller in me and it’s perfect for meeting fellow travellers!

There are a gazillion hostels out there, and it just takes some exploring and a little bit of experience to pick out the right one. So are you a first-time hostel traveller or would you like some hostel tips to find the best value for money? Keep reading!

Mistake: travelling to a new place without a hostel booking

When I travelled for the first time (5 month Asia trip), I booked my first hostel in Kathmandu, Nepal. After a week or so, I travelled to Pokhara to do some hiking in the Himalaya. I decided to just “go with the flow” and to not book a hostel in advance.

This is not really a smart idea.

Why not?

Every driver, whether it’s a taxi or a tuktuk, wants to take you to “the best hostel out there”, which happens to be owned by his brother/father/nephew/uncle etc. You get my point. They get paid to bring travellers / tourists to these places.

Luckily I met a girl on the way there, who told me in which hostel she was staying. We arrived separately, as she was on a different bus, but I told the taxi driver that I wanted to go to that particular hostel as well. Fortunately it was a very nice hostel.

So, book a hostel in advance, or not?

I’d say: yes, book your hostel in advance. But one day in advance is enough (in Asia and Central & South America at least, I heard different stories about f.e. Australia). Travelling equals freedom, so don’t tie yourself to pre-booked hostels. Maybe you meet awesome people and want to travel with them? Or maybe there’s an event or festival you didn’t know about, and you want to stay one more day to experience it?

Hostel tip: book your hostel one day in advance.

Location is everything

When you arrive in a new place, you at least want to be in or near the city center. Maybe you find a cheaper hostel a little farther away, but if you need transportation to the center every single time, you’ll spend the money anyway. That’s why it’s so important to look at the location of the hostel. If you don’t use an app or website with a map feature, go on Google Maps and find the hostel there. Also look at the distance. Something can look far away on the map, but it might only be a 10 minute walk.

Tip: don’t believe right away if the hostel description says it’s for example “only 600m. from the city center”. We did this while booking our snowboarding holiday. In the end they meant 600m as the crow flies, so we ended up walking about 25 minutes through ice and snow to get dinner every night.

hostel tips : blanco beach bar koh Phi phi

Prime location. This is the view from our hostel on Koh Phi Phi : Blanco Beach Bar.

How to get the best value for money hostel?

There’s one simple answer for this. Reviews. I use the app Hostelworld, which is extremely easy to use. You can see every hostel which is still available on your travel dates, including a description, an overall rating, in-depth reviews, pictures and important information regarding payment and check-in. Found your hostel? Booking is so easy when you have entered your credit card info (very secure, no worries). Just one click. So yes, I highly recommend this app.

Go. Go download it. (I don’t get paid to say this, I’m just really happy his app exists).

Hostel Tip: actually read a couple of (the most recent) reviews and don’t just look at the rating. Because some people just complain about everything (“I didn’t like it that there was no shampoo and body wash in the shower”. Seriously? Take your own!).

Hostel features: where to look at?

Don’t just look at the price of the hostel, also look at what you get for that price. I always check out the same things:

Breakfast >> Many hostels have breakfast included. This might cost a little bit (a dollar or so) more a night than a hostel which doesn’t offer this service, but it’ll save you money in the long run. Also look at the quality of the breakfast, usually it’s mentioned in the reviews / comments.

Common area >> If you want to meet other travellers, a common area is definitely a big plus. If you plan on going out on your own, it might not be a deal breaker if there’s no common area. So pay attention to this while booking your hostel.

Curfew >> I’m not a party traveller, but if you are, go for a hostel with no curfew. Otherwise you’ll end up locked out of the hostel when you get back from partying all night.

Pick up service >> When I travel to a new country from home, and I arrive late in the afternoon or even at night, I arrange a pick up service from the hostel. So to me it’s very important this pick up service is available. This costs extra by the way: it’s never included in the price. But I don’t mind paying a bit of money to get from the airport to the hostel safely at night.

>> Also read: Carry-on essentials for long haul flights <<

Hostel tip: See if the accommodation has breakfast included and a common sitting area.

Hostel tips : Granada Nicaragua

Common area of De Boca En Boca hostel in Granada, Nicaragua

Absolute deal breakers

To me, there are a couple of absolute deal breakers. These are:

  • Cleanliness not in order. I just want a clean hostel. Period.
  • Bed bugs. Horrible, but this happens everywhere, even in the best rated hostels. So look at the recent reviews if there’s an outbreak. If so: skip it!
  • No lockers. I need a locker to store valuables like my passport, some money and my GoPro.

I hope these hostel tips make it a bit easier to find a good and cheap accommodation with the best value for money. Any hostel tips I missed? Let me (& other travellers / readers) know in the comments down below.

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