How to Not Regret Your Hostel Choice
By Rachel Vander Pol
Money isn’t the only stress when traveling on a budget. Among others, finding a cheap place to sleep is among the biggest stresses of budget travel. If you know what you look for, hostel living can be stress free, allowing your only concern to be where you can find the cheapest pint.
If you’re traveling with little money, staying in hostels is most likely near the top of your list for ways to save money. However, make sure you don’t regret your decision and follow these simple guidelines:
The first list contains “must haves” which means that if each of your hostels has these qualities, you’ll be a happy camper. The second list includes “nice to haves” which mean even as a budget traveler, you can still have small luxuries.
- Look at reviews. Fellow travelers are honest, and they’ll definitely let you know if the bathrooms weren’t clean, or the bar downstairs was too loud. However, remember that you’re looking at a hostel, not a five-star hotel, and sometimes some reviewers forget that and give a bad mark for the bed not being plush enough. Read the reviews carefully, but look for what’s important to you — whether that’s plush beds, or sparkling bathrooms.
- Don’t trust places with a 100% review rate. I learned this one the hard way–I stayed in a Bates Motel-like guesthouse that seemingly was great with 17 reviews and a 100% rating. As mentioned above, travelers are honest and tend to be a bit nit-picky. There’s something fishy if guests have nothing to complain about.
- Check the security rating. Protecting your stuff is of utmost importance. You don’t want any of your travel budget going towards replacing your stolen belongings half way through your trip. When on a booking site, make sure the security rating is at least 90%. Check for locked luggage storage as well as that will ensure your stuff is safe when you’re not around.
- Check to see it’s near a train or bus stop. If you’re on a budget, you’re most likely not going to be renting a car or hiring a taxi, instead you will be relying on public transport. If this is the case, you want to check the location of the nearest bus and transit station. Ideally you’ll find a place that’s on the main bus or train line so you won’t have to transfer, but that’s not always possible. Make sure it says in the description that the hostel is within walking distance from the stop. Hostel owners are usually pretty good at making sure that’s a selling point. And remember a “10 minute walk” can be quite long when you’re lugging bags, so try to find a place with a five minute walk or less. If you are renting a car, check to make sure the hostel has free parking, off street preferred.
- Choose the room size you’re comfortable with. It’s tempting to pick the largest room for the cheapest price, but before you book, make sure you really want to be in a 24-bed mixed room on a Friday night in Dublin. I recommend not going higher than 8 people, but it’s really personal preference. Remember, you’ll hear every sound each of those people makes during the night — more is not always merrier in this instance.
- Don’t choose ensuite. Most people like the idea of having their bathroom in their room, and I would agree if you know everyone in your room intimately. However, having a bathroom shared with six or seven strangers can provide for some interesting sounds, smells, and awkward situations. Stick with the shared bathroom to save yourself a sleepless night when someone is throwing up in the bathroom in your room.
Nice to Haves:
- Free breakfast. Breakfast can be a loose term in some hostels. Some include tea, coffee, and toast with orange marmalde, while others include cereal, hard boiled eggs, yogurt bar, etc. Regardless, it’s always nice to have a little free sustenance before you start your day!
- Free wi-fi in the rooms. Most hostels offer free wi-fi these days, but it’s usually contained to the common rooms or kitchens. However, if you want a little time to veg on your bed catching up on your favorite shows, wi-fi in the rooms can be a treat.
- No curfew. Even if you don’t burn the midnight oil in the pubs, you never know when you may have the urge to stay out late, and not having to worry about getting in on time like you’re still living with your parents is always a plus.
Traveling on a budget is definitely possible and staying in hostels is a great way to save your hard earned pennies. Using these tips will ensure you have amazing experiences, both inside and outside the hostel.
Rachel Vander Pol is a freelance wanderer who writes to capture her experiences. She loves food, fashion, and frolicking, although not necessarily in that order. Her work can be found at http://www.ASojournersNarrative.com and http://www.RVPWritingandDesign.com. The world is your oyster. Now go find it.
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