It is rare to hear hostels referred to as youth hostels anymore as they’ve evolved and most tend to cater to a wide age range of budget travellers. There are days I think I am too old to stay in a hostel and then I find one filled with community, good food, and good people and am reminded that they’re more than just a cheap place to crash.
Most hostels focus on bringing travellers together and have a variety of activities, events or amenities to accomplish this. They can have everything from karaoke to food tours to community meals. For the solo traveller, hostels are a fantastic way to meet other people and to get suggestions and tips on the area you’re travelling in, and in some cases to make lifelong friends from around the world. They’re typically in some of the best locations, central to many tourist activities where some of the most expensive hotels are located. For the person travelling for a longer period of time, hostels also typically include kitchen facilities which allow you to cook and store your own food, and their bars often offer amazing drink specials saving you even more money.
– Do not book the cheapest hostel you see available. Read the reviews before deciding on a place to place to stay!
– I do not suggest anything larger than a 6 bed dorm, but preferably 4. Pay the extra money for the quiet and cleanliness. Trust me on this. I’d say 12 bed dorms should be reserved for prisons, but I think even prisoners deserve more quiet and privacy than these overcrowded dorms allow.
– Consider a private room in the hostel if your budget permits. You can take advantage of the facilities while maintaining your privacy, quiet, and cleanliness.
– If travelling with friends, a hostel may not be your cheapest option. In Amsterdam I was able to get a beautiful 4 star central hotel on Hotwire for less than the cost of 2 dorm beds. Barcelona had similar results. Don’t assume hostels are always cheap, especially in Europe.
– Make sure to inquire on things that are important to you before booking (hot showers, drinking water, wifi, clean washrooms absence of bed bugs are a few that I prefer)
– If any review reports bed bugs, no matter how outdated, avoid that hostel! The management may respond to the review stating the bed bugs have been eradicated but when you wake up covered in bites with a full bed bug waddling across your chest as occurred in Bocas Del Toro, Panama, you’ll wish you’d have trusted the reviews.
– Participate in the activities, beyond the drinking at the bar (but that is fun too). We had a lot more fun in the free salsa class than the trio of girls watching us with judgmental faces sitting st the bar in Holbox, Mexico.
– Many hostels offer free accommodation in exchange for volunteering around the hostel. There is nothing that could have me clean hostel bathrooms on my holiday, but especially not for a $15/night dorm bed. Do the math on the value of this arrangement before signing up. As mentioned, hostels are great for community, but you may be better off meeting friends at the bar than cleaning their post bar vomit off the hostel toilet seats.
– And on that note… hostel bathrooms are the one main reason I don’t exclusively stay in hostels. I’m all for community, great locations, and saving money but shared bathrooms can get pretty disgusting, pretty fast which is why following my earlier tips (read reviews, as few beds as possible) will minimize the likelihood of contracting a new strain of Hepatitis or whatever else these places grow.
– Some hostels offer an ensuite option. Sharing a washroom with the 3 people in your dorm is a lot nicer than every person in the hallway. Take this option if it is available.
– Sex in the hostel dorm is a no no. This is why most offer a private room option.
– If you need to get up early, you get one chance with the alarm, no snoozing. Setting an alarm for 4:30 am and snoozing until 6 am is absolutely inappropriate
– If you are waking up early, have everything laid out and ready to go for a quiet and quick exit from the room. Do not turn on the lights while others are sleeping.
– Likewise if you are planning to come back from a late night. Have everything ready to go to bed and do not turn on the lights while others are sleeping.
– Clean up after yourself and be kind to the volunteers and staff who run the hostel. They do not get paid enough to be treated like service staff.
– Don’t steal food from others’ in the kitchen. Unless your phone gets wet and you need some rice for a quick dry out or if it is left in the free bin.