5 Steps To Choose The Right Hostel!
Are hostels the right choice for you?
How do you choose the right hostel?
Are you even allowed in hostels if you’re a couple/older/a snorer?
This guide will walk you through the 5 Steps to choose a hostel that will help you enjoy your trip!
This article may contain affiliate links – read more about this here.
What Makes A Good Hostel – A Check List
1. Are Hostels Safe? How to Choose A Safe Hostel
Like anything, some are safe and some are less than safe. The easiest answer is search for some reviews, if people are getting robbed they will shout about it loudly on line.
The two main aspects for hostel safety are: Access keys and lockers.
Can anyone walk in of the street, or do you need an access card? Do you get a key or a swipe card to access your room? Some hostels will require a swipe to get in the door, a swipe to get the elevator, a swipe to access your floor, and a swipe to get into your room.
A big thing here is knowing your surroundings, there are always horror stories and these can be really scary. I have been staying in hostels for many years, since 2012. I will admit that on my first solo trip I did stay in a hotel, and was introduced to dorm room sleeping on the tour I took. Since then, I have been the hostel queen. I have only ever had two really negative experiences unfortunately both in Paris– I was robbed in Paris (along with everyone else on that floor) and on my first trip to Paris my bestie and I had a really … weird … dorm mate who kept inviting us out with him to his conference. The bottom line is, if someone is making you uncomfortable – go to reception, tell them, they can either move you into a different room of if the other person is being threatening or breaking big rules they can remove them from the hostel. <strong> Your safety is more important than being awkward <3 </strong>
On the whole however, I have stayed in literally dozens of hostels over the years and only had two negative experiences – hostel are designed to be safe, people generally are there for the same reasons you are – to travel, and sleep.
Probably the biggest thing for me and hostel safety is location. There is a great hostel in London, I stayed there. The hostel itself is fantastic – a receptionist has to buzz each person in, you need to swipe your card to get everywhere, and it is super clean! But it is in a really bad area of London; I was harassed on the street, followed (I hailed a taxi and got in just to get away from these guys), and have recently found out that the place I frequented for my breakfast is a well-known gang hangout.
2. What is a Good Location For A Hostel?”
This is very subjective, I prefer to be on the edge of the town centre – if that makes sense. Generally the ones that are in the true centre of the tourist zone are quite expensive, I do not mind catching public transport or walking but I draw the line at 30 minutes unless the saving is monumental.
If you do choose a hostel that is on the outskirts of town check if it is close to transport, a supermarket, at least one affordable and easy restaurant.
3. How Comfortable Can a Hostel Really Be?
You may be thinking – it’s a cheap room to sleep in, what is she on about “comfortable”?
There are three main aspects of a comfortable hostel
This is probably my biggest consideration, if a place has a reputation for bedbugs or … “discoloured”… sheets then I won’t stay there, especially for bedbugs, no time for that. The best way to figure this is to read the reviews, not just look at the photos.
2. Bed Quality
I stayed in a hostel once with rubber mattresses and nowhere to sit down – throughout the entire hostel, even in the reception area! This was fine however, we arrived after dinner and left before breakfast as we were in the middle of driving from Swansea to Edinburgh
The other end of the spectrum is the amazing City Circus in Athens – they have comfier mattresses than I have ever experienced while travelling. I reviewed it because I LOVE it, and have been staying there for years!
If breakfast is included, or they offer a buffet for less than £5 check out the reviews and get it. Because unlimited coffee in the morning is a life saver. I have stayed in places with amazing breakfasts – hot options, cereal, fruit, toast! Alternatively I have stayed in some where “full continental breakfast” translates to “processed cheese slices, composite meat slices, bread”. I was not best pleased, but that was included so I just drank my fill of coffee and held out for lunch.
Free breakfast is a must for me, because it saves me so much money!
4. How Much Does A Hostel Cost?
Usually less than a hotel room. That’s the only overall statement I can make. There are usually some SUPER cheap options wherever you are. But you have to remember that this will come at a loss of comfort, if you pay £1.25 a night you cannot expect the comfort level of a £30 a night place. Many places that charge extremely low nightly rates have *huge dorms* – and for one or two nights I could handle sleeping in a room with 23 other people but for a week or more … absolutely not, especially in summer.
Everything is relative, you will save money but that doesn’t mean it will be “cheap”. Have a look at hotel costs and adjust your expectations for hostels accordingly. A hostel in the centre of Paris, or Rome, or London, or any other super popular destination will cost a lot more than in the outskirts or one in a smaller city – and it may be out of your budget even though it is a hostel.
I stayed, for my first trip to Paris, in Le Montclair Montmatre. This is a good example of how to choose a hostel. When I looked this up, in August 2018, a night in a 6-bed dorm was £19 a night (booking for August 2019). This is in Montmatre which is full of affordable food, is a gorgeous area, really close to major train stations as well as very well connected to the metro lines. It would take you nearly an hour to walk to the Louvre from here, which we did once or twice but that was mostly because we wanted to walk around Paris! The metro is super easy to navigate, and only about £5 a day!
You have to balance the cost/benefit of this yourself – everyone’s limits and boundaries are different. For me a 30 minute walk or bus ride is fine, I don’t mind having to being my own lock for a locker, or wearing ear plugs to sleep. But for someone else any of these things may be a complete deal breaker!
Take this example of choosing the right hostel vs choosing the cheap one
Hostel 1: Central – £30 a night
No need for public transport
Comfy bed = Great Sleep
Lockers and access card
Hostel 2: Outskirts
£10 a night
Have to buy breakfast and coffee +£7.50
Public Transport +£5
No included lockers, so you have hire a locker in the lobby every day +£1
Real Life Cost = +£13.50
Big dorm rooms, added chance of excessive snoring and unidentifiable smells.
Cheaper fixtures, mattresses/beds/sofas
Potentially dodgy area – that taxi I took to get away from being followed? Cost me £10.
On the surface of it, it would seem like Hostel 2 is MUCH cheaper, £20 a night cheaper in fact!
But really, it’s only £6.50. Would you pay an extra £6.50 a day to not have to take the train, to have a nicer bed, a smaller dorm room, to have a (reasonably) unlimited breakfast? I would. But maybe you don’t eat breakfast and are training for a multi-day hike so walking 6 miles to the centre and back every day is an incentive! But this isn’t always possible, if you were to stay on the outskirts of London it could cost £15 a day to get into the centre by train, or be 16 miles each way – London is BIG.
Make sure you do a *real cost* assessment before simply choosing the cheapest place to stay – knowledge is power!
5. Atmosphere – does the hostel fit with your personality?
This answer may change every trip! I have stayed in super nice, quiet hostels. I have also stayed in famously (or maybe infamously!?) party focussed hostels. I have had so much fun in both types of places.
I lived in a quiet hostel for nearly four months in Greece, it was amazing and I made some once in a life time friends. Equally I stayed in a notorious party hostel in Rome – it was awesome but considering how I felt the day after, this was a once in a lifetime experience!
These were both intentional bookings, once upon a few years ago I accidentally booked a women only hostel in Venice. I don’t mind being in mixed dorms and don’t really go out of my way to book a female only hostel room – although if it’s cheaper I will book it! I only saw female dorms, so I figured that was all that was available – I turned up and realised it was a ladies only building! (Though I found it really funny that the receptionist was male! ) It was a great stay, and I would definitely stay there again – it just proves that you should read the whole profile before you book.
Do a bit more research than I did in Italy before you book a place so there are no surprises!
Questions About Hostels
There you have it – my five tips to help you figure out how to choose the right hostel! I get a lot of questions from people about different aspects of staying in hostels. These are some of my most commonly encounters questions – and feel free to get in touch if you have any other ones, I will answer them and add them to the list!
Are Hostels For Couples?
Absolutely, hostels are not just for people travelling alone or platonically. If you’re newlyweds perhaps you’d enjoy a private room more – don’t be that couple! However if you’re able to keep your hands of each other there is no reason you shouldn’t be welcome and enjoy your stay in the hostel dorm room!
Am I Too Old To Stay In A Hostel?
Yes, but also no.
There are some hostels which have an age limit imposed. This is usually around the 40 mark and in my experience has been hostels which focus on partying heavily and most of their clientele are 18-25 and whose main focus is to get drunk.
Away from hostels who specifically post an age limit, absolutely not! I have shared rooms with people in their 60’s, 70’s, and one lovely lady who was 92 and is my role model. You might get one close minded brat who thinks “old people” should stay in hotels – but hey that’s the nature of the close minded brat, let’s hope that travelling will help them become an open minded non-brat, because that is the nature of travel.
Am I Too Young To Stay In A Hostel?
Many hostels will have a minimum age limit for guests to stay alone in the dorm rooms, this is usually 18. Often they will have a 16+ with parent or guardian caveat, and those with younger children wanting to stay will either have to choose a family room or find another place, this can be purely a house rule or it might actually be local regulations.
Are Hostel Bunk Beds A Requirement?
Nope, while many hostels use them as it doubles the capacity of a room, many will have regular beds set out. If you have mobility restrictions and can’t climb up you can always request a bottom bunk or room with a standard bed.
However if just the thought of hostel bunk beds sends shivers down your spine, hostels also offer private rooms – in which I have never seen a bunk bed.
Do I Have to Drink If I Stay In a Hostel?
No. first of all – You never have to drink. Second of all – there are plenty of hostels that don’t dedicate themselves to booze.
Of course plenty of hostels pride themselves on being a party palace; they will have free or cheap pub crawls, maybe even a shot on arrival, or a drinks voucher for their in-house bar. But there are hostels where partying is an option not a selling point.
If you find a hostel which is perfect in every way except that it is a party hostel you CAN survive a stay there – but keep in mind it will be louder than a non-party hostel, the “quiet after” time will be 2am or non-existent, and you will likely be sharing the hostel dorm with people who have been drinking.
So if none of that is your jams then you can find a nice quiet hostel. Look for places without a built in bar, an earlier check out time, and a posted “quiet after” time in their house rules. And read the reviews – if people love to party there they will talk about it in the reviews.
Let Us Know Your Questions/Tips!
So there you have it, the five things to consider when figuring out how to choose the right hostel. Do you have a dealbreaker? What about a must have? Let us know how you choose the right hostel!