Whenever you’re traveling and want to save money, staying in a hostel is probably your best option, yet there is always that underlying fear of bed bugs or that movie Hostel becoming a reality. But there are many ways to avoid bad hostels and make your stay enjoyable. Based on my past experiences in hostels, I have created a guide to picking a great hostel and some tips to making your stay a fun experience.
- Don’t use a sketchy website! Try to use Hostels.com or HostelWorld.com. Both sites are pretty reliable when it comes to finding a hostel. Reviewers will write about their stay and grade the hostel on cleanliness, safety, value, atmosphere, staff, and location. Be sure to always read the reviews and to look at the hostel’s grade! This is perhaps the best way to make sure you don’t end up in a bad hostel. And on another slightly relevant note: DON’T FORGET YOUR SHOWER SHOES! Some hostels will sell them to you for about $3-5, but it’s probably best if you just go to Old Navy and buy some before you leave home.
- Look up the security in the hostel. Many hostels have security cameras throughout the building, use keys to get into the rooms, and only allow guests to go inside. The most important thing to ask is if there is a member of the staff at the front desk full-time. If the answer is no, it will probably be best to look for another hostel.
- BREAKFAST! This is also a great thing to look up when reading online reviews. Depending on the hostel, breakfast is often included in the price. Ok, not everybody eats breakfast, but breakfast is another good way to save money. Beware, the breakfasts are never haute cuisine or gourmet (think cereal, milk and fruit), but they typically will let you take some food for you to snack on throughout the day. If you’re sightseeing, you will be walking a lot, and you will get hungry. Don’t get greedy about this. Travelers and staff understand that you want to save money, but there comes a point when it is downright abusive.
- Towels! Many of you travelers will quickly learn about the beauty of cheap airlines, like Ryan Air and Easy Jet. The only problem is their luggage policy. You are only allowed one carry-on or personal item, like a small purse. These airlines also have a weight and size limit for carry-on items, and they are extremely strict about it. So before you leave, try to save some space and ask if the hostel provides towels or rents them. They typically only ask for a deposit.
- Location, location, location! Look up where your hostel is. Is it close to the airport, downtown, public transportation, or any sites or attractions you want to see? You also will want to look up if the hostel is in a dangerous neighborhood. Once again, reviews are pretty great at providing this information.
- Buy a lock! So most hostels offers lockers as a security feature, which is great for your passport, computer, camera, or anything you deem valuable. Most of these lockers don’t come with a lock, and you probably are better off with one of your own, so go buy one and travel with it.
- Check out the activities in your hostel and look at the bulletin board! This is a great resource to help plan your trip. Many hostels have tons of information on free walking tours, interesting places to go visit, pub-crawls, etc. Most hostels provide fun activities or social events at the bar. Yes, most hostels have bars. These social events are a great way to meet fellow travelers.
- Talk to your fellow travelers. A lot of them have been traveling for years. They can give you many tips on hostels in other cities, places to go visit, and have interesting stories. When I was in Florence, I went out to dinner with the people from my hostel and it was fun! Hostels are a great way to meet people, be sure to take advantage of that.
- Hang out with the staff. The staff is just as interesting as the guests. The staff is almost always friendly, and wants to get to know you. There have been many times when I have gone sight seeing or hung out with the staff outside of the hostel. They are also a great source of information about nearby sights and attractions.
- Buy some earplugs. This will probably be your best investment! Keep in mind that you are not renting a room, but a bed. The room you will be staying in might a room full of strangers, depending on how much you’re willing to pay and what you’re looking for. You will almost always deal with snorers, loud people, and guests coming back from a late night.
- Check if the hostel has a kitchen, and if it’s open to guests. Hostels typically allow guests to use the kitchen to cook. They have all of the supplies there for you; you just have to provide the food and clean up the mess.
- Finally, enjoy your stay and be safe!
Tags: Carinna Arvizo, FSP, hostel, LSA, study abroad, travel