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  • Writer's pictureMariko

The Case For Hostels

There are a whole lot of hostels out there. Party hostels, grimy hostels, hostels that are practically hotels. When I first started traveling, I was anxious about staying in hostels. Sleeping in a room full of strangers was too vulnerable for my liking, especially when traveling solo.


By now I’ve stayed at my fair share of hostels, both by myself and with friends. There are definitely seedy hostels out there, but there are a lot of clean, safe and unique ones too. Hostels are a great way for a budget traveler to stay close to the city center, meet fellow travelers, and save a lot of money.


When looking for hostel accommodations, my first stop is always Hostelworld.com. The website does a great job at ranking each hotel on accessibility, cleanliness, safety and more. However, all the top-notch hostels out there, it can be overwhelming to choose the one that is best for you.


What I consider when booking a hostel:

1. What kind of room am I looking for?

This varies depending on who I am traveling with. If I am with friends, I often go for a dorm room. Having at least one other person I know in the room puts me at ease, plus it saves both of us a ton of money. I still try to go for the smallest dorm room as possible. The more people in your room, the more times during the night you will wake up to someone coming home after a long night out. To maximize sleep, try and go for a dorm of 4-6 people.


If I am solo, I do a toss-up between female-only dorm rooms and private rooms. This varies depending on price of the room and my budget for the trip. While dorm rooms range from $14-24/night, private rooms are usually around $50-70. I generally opt for private rooms the night before a big flight. This ensures I get a good night of sleep and gives me space to spread out and repack my suitcase. A $50-70 private hostel room is definitely better price wise than a hotel (especially one in a city center) and still gives me the opportunity to meet people my age.


2. Is it close to public transport?

Taxi fares add up. Quick. I always Google map the hostel to see how close it is to public transportation. Bonus points if the hostel provides a shuttle to and from the airport.


3. What amenities does it have?

The amenities I prioritize depends on where I am in the trip. If I am in the middle of my travels, I make sure there is a laundry facility at the hostel. If I am low on cash, I choose a place that includes breakfast in the cost of the room. I also check to see if the hostel offers free towels. Packing a towel takes up very valuable luggage space. Some hostels offer a towel rental for 1 or 2 euro, but I often try and opt for places that have the towel included. Most hostels these days have good Wi-Fi, but I double check to make sure the place I am looking at has it.

What I look for every time is whether or not the hostel has in room lockers and luggage storage. I cannot be more serious about room lockers. I have friends whose things have been stolen from their private, locked hostel rooms. Buy a luggage lock (these usually are the only ones that fit the lockers) and make sure you always bring it with you when you stay at hostels.

Luggage storage is when the hostel has a secure room where you can leave your luggage before or after your official hostel check in/check out time. This is a little risky, because often there isn’t an official identification system, but so far, I have had no problems. This way you can explore the city without carrying around all your luggage. Make sure to check to see if the hostel charges for luggage storage.


4. What kind of experience do I want to have?

Each hostel has a gimmick. Do I want to stay at a place that offers a nightly bar crawl? A bar on site? Do I want to stay at a really unique hostel that has a rooftop pool or an indoor garden? Or will I hardly be at the hostel and all I need is a bed and peace and quiet? Make sure you choose a hostel vibe that fits what you are looking for. You can find this from reading some of the reviews on HostelWorld.com


When you check in

1. Bring cash

When you book the hostel, you pay a down payment. Make sure you have cash or a country-compatible credit card to pay the difference when you check in.

2. Talk to the folks at check in!

The people who run the check in are your most valuable resource. They are extremely knowledgeable about the things to do in the city and can always point you in the right direction. They can also inform you about hostel activities such as movie nights, bar crawls, or walking tours. They are also a great resource if you need an emergency translation or someone to order a taxi for you.


3. Get to know your fellow travelers

Each hostel has a central hub where you can meet the people you are staying with. Make sure to check out this lobby, bar, dining hall what have you to make some new friends!


Packing List

- Cash for laundry, towel rentals, the remainder of your hostel payment

- Passport (you must present this when you check in)

- Flip Flops for the shower

- Shampoo/Conditioner (typically not provided)

- Luggage lock

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