Where you stay and choosing the best hostel is so important. It can sometimes determine whether or not you like a city. For example, the first time I went to Barcelona, I stayed at a party hostel. A group of men would not leave me alone and kept asking for hugs. They wanted to go with me everywhere I went and I couldn’t avoid them. I ended up hating Barcelona because they were constantly annoying me.
Traveling has become a lot easier than it used to be back in the days. We have options like hotels, Airbnbs, hostels, couch surfing, etc. There’s so many options within each type of accommodation too. I personally spend hours figuring out where to stay because it can totally make or break a destination for me. I’ve heard horror stories of people stealing, staying in dirty places, rats or bed bugs, and so on! The last thing you want to worry about when traveling is disliking the place you’re staying at.
Where you stay should be a safe place that you enjoy coming back to after a long day of sightseeing. I put together the top things to look for when figuring out how to choose a hostel. Some people don’t have a strong opinion about where they stay, but I’ve felt these components have allowed me to stay in the best hostels.
Table of Contents
Some people don’t care about whether or not the place is clean, but I’m pretty bougie and if a place is dirty, I feel dirty. I’ve stayed at places that had blood stains on the sheets (um, gross), dirty showers and toilets, broken windows, and so on. I’ve also heard stories of people staying in hostels that had rats… not okay!! When you’re on Hostelworld or any other booking website, there should be an average score of how clean the hostel is. I only book hostels that have an average score of 9 or above for cleanliness.
The location of your hostel is extremely important. It could be an amazing hostel, but if it takes you a long time or costly transportation to get to the attractions, you might be wasting your time. Under the hostel description, it generally goes into detail about the location of the hostel. After I read the description of the location, I also look at the reviews and see what people say about the location and what the location’s average score is.
Hostel vibe is so important!!! Depending on what kind of travel you are doing, the hostel vibe is crucial! If you are looking to party, but you accidentally book a quiet hostel… you will not be thrilled. Or if you are looking for a quiet/chill vibe, but you book a party hostel… you will also not be thrilled. Get the picture? The hostel description generally gives you an idea of what type of hostel it’s going to be. If it talks about nightly bar crawls and outings, it’s most likely a party hostel. If it talks about quiet hours and things like that, it’s probably a chill hostel.
I generally look at hostels that offer a mixture of both. I like hostels that offer activities for guests such as walking tours, free drinks, pub crawls, organized tours, and so on. But I also like my sleep and don’t want to wake up to my bunk mate having sex (yes that happens). Since I am a solo traveler, its VERY important for me to find a hostel with a good outgoing atmosphere. The same information applies to any size group though. It really matters what kind of vibe you’re looking for. I also look at the reviews and see what the average score of the atmosphere is. If people say it’s really hard to meet people, I tend to not go with that hostel.
If you’re staying at a hostel, it’s probably because you’re not trying to break your bank account so looking for a hostel that is reasonably priced is important! Look and compare the prices between your top choices. Some hostels offer free breakfast or free drinks. That contributes to the cost. Make sure to look at what kind of breakfast it is. If you choose a place that is more expensive than others only because it offers breakfast, but the breakfast is only cereal, you might want to skip that hostel option.
Weigh out your options and see which hostel is the most cost effective. After you decide on a hostel, you can look up the hostel’s personal website and see what their rates are. Sometimes it’s a little cheaper to book it on their personal website. This also helps the hostel so Hostelworld doesn’t take a percentage of your booking. However, if you’re unsure of your plans, it’s best to book on Hostelworld and pay the extra fee where you can cancel your reservation.
There are several different types of styles and sizes of rooms. Depending on what type of vibe or price range you’re looking at, I generally only book rooms that have 6 people or 4 people in it. I think I’ve only stayed at maybe 2 places that were 6+ people in one room. I personally don’t like to stay in a room with more than 6 people because more people = less sleep, more clutter, etc. Sometimes booking a room with 4 people can be a coin toss. As a solo traveler, I like to make friends with my roommates. There have been a few times where I’ve stayed in a room where they were all best friends and doing their own thing. That is completely unpredictable and is a bet I’m willing to take. It’s definitely easier to meet people when there’s more people in the dorm room though.
When booking a room, there are several different options to choose from. Determine whether or not you want a room with a bathroom (an ensuite). This is a hard one. I’ve gone back and forth on it. Sometimes it’s nice having a bathroom connected to your room, but sometimes it’s a pain in the butt because you have that one person who hogs the bathroom. If you choose a room that has a shared bathroom, the bathroom generally has multiple toilets and showers so it’s easier to get ready/share the bathroom. If you decide to choose an ensuite room, you can always use the shared bathroom if your bathroom is being used.
Some rooms offer air conditioning, some offer fans, some offer lockers, some offer bed curtains. There’s a lot of different options that each room offers so decide what’s important to you, and book based of your preference.
Sex of the dorms
This kind of goes with the room type. Another room type that is important to take into consideration is the sex of the roommates. For example, there are options like female only dorms, or male only dorms, or mixed dorms. I’m torn between this one and I’ve heard mixed reviews. I’ll give you my personal take on this though.
A bunch of my female hostel-mates talked about this a few times and each time we’ve talked about it, the men were totally surprised that they smelled LOL. Generally speaking, men tend to smell more and snore louder. Generally speaking, females tend to have more stuff. Of course this is not always true, and of course it can be flipped around, but this is what GENERALLY happens. I usually book female only dorms because I don’t want to have to go to the bathroom each time I have to change. I am more open and comfortable being naked/changing in front of other female strangers. If there isn’t a female only dorm, I’ll book a mixed dorm. I’ve had positive and negative experiences for both. It’s a personal preference!
Some hostels have different amenities than others. Make sure to read the description and see what type of amenities the hostel offers. For example, I generally look for places that have a kitchen. Since I am traveling on a budget, I try to cook some of my meals when traveling so finding a place that has a kitchen is an essential for me. If you are almost out of clothes and need to do laundry, you can look for a hostel that offers laundry service (or go to a laundromat). If you want a place that has WiFi, then make sure you book a place that offers WiFi. There’s a lot of different amenities that hostels offer so make sure it matches up with your needs.
I am a review-reader type of gal. I love reading reviews and hearing personal stories about their experience somewhere. After I read the hostel description and look at the average rating for each thing, I look at the reviews! Sometimes there can be a high average rating, but the reviews are years or months old. Things might have changed since then like new management. It’s also nice to read the reviews because sometimes people offer tips on booking rooms or tips on maximizing your experience there. Also, if you read a review that was recent and their review just had bed bugs… you probably don’t want to stay there, regardless of the high ratings.
Just remember that everyone’s personal experience varies from another. People’s reviews and experiences can also be affected by the people that are staying there. Please take that into consideration when reading the reviews. I’ve stayed at hostels where so many reviewers commented on how amazing the atmosphere was, but it was the complete opposite for me. One time, I booked a hostel that was extremely far away from everything just because the reviews said the atmosphere was the best. When I got there, there was barely anyone staying there and the atmosphere was non-existent. So it truly depends on who else is staying there.
I also only stay at hostels that have an average overall rating of a 9 or above. I’m sure hostels that are rated below 9 are fine, but from my personal experience, the best hostels I’ve stayed at were always rated 9+.
Still not sure?
If you’re still not sure where to stay, feel free to reach out to me! I can help you look for the best hostel to stay at. If I’ve already stayed at your destination, look at where I’ve stayed at and read my review on it. I’m honest about where to stay and if I truly liked it.
Also, check out my top things to not forget when staying in a hostel! It’s crucial you don’t forget these things… you’ll be thanking me later.
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