I’ll confess that in a perfect world I would only ever stay at a hotel with an Ocean Front balcony and a King sized bed with an abundance of cloud-like pillows, but lets face it, life can’t always be dreamy, it needs to be adventurous and exciting and that’s what hostels are for me.
I was skeptical at first because the word COMMUNAL in my mind spells UNHYGIENIC, DIRTY, UNPLEASANT, GROSS, SMELLY.. you get my point. But I’m thrilled to report that if you follow a few basic steps to finding a good hostel you will limit your chances of using someone else’s unwashed cutlery.
But first, why would you even stay at a hostel when COMMUNAL spells out all those horrible words?
They’re easy on the wallet
Whether you choose the 16 bed mixed dorm, the single room or something in between they’re often so much more cost effective than a regular hotel. Especially if you’re traveling for an extended period of time, it’s really not an option to pay $200+ a night for 4 months (believe me, I wish it was)
You meet the most amazing people from all around the world
When you’re staying in a hotel room it’s just you and the room, but at a hostel even if you pick a room by yourself there’s always a communal space where you can mingle and make friends with likeminded travellers.
When you’re traveling for a long time, or even for the weekend it’s nice to have a kitchen where you can prepare your own meals/snacks. Food was one of the biggest money drainers from my holiday savings account, and unfortunately being human means that you can’t exactly skip that step and put your money towards something else. You will also find that many hostels have a breakfast setup in the morning which means you can get the day off to a flying start. Even better still, most hostels will have a bar and/or cafe for you to take advantage of.
They also have great information about the local sights that you should be checking out and they can often help organise them. And lets not forget the wifi, most likely the free wifi- every backpackers dream!!
Finding a good hostel. How do you do it?
Determine what is important to you
You need to know what you want in a hostel. If having a spa bath in your dorm room is the most important thing to you then you need to make sure it’s on your search list. And yes, I have stayed at a hostel with a spa bath (thanks Generator Hostel Dublin)
Think outside the square and learn from your experiences. I have found that what drives me up the wall is not having a separate private area to stand in after I have finished in the shower. I’m not so confident that I want to stand there with other girls getting ready, but at the same time I can’t handle trying to put on jeans when my feet are still wet and I’m trying not to drag one pant leg across the bottom of the shower bay.
Start off by using Hostel World just to get an idea of what type of hostels are on offer and then put them up against your ‘what is important’ list.
Then switch to reviews. Trip Advisor is your friend. You have to be careful because some people just like to complain for a living, but overall if the ratings are positive then you’re ok. Don’t forget to look at the pictures that are posted from real travellers rather than professionals.
The key is to remember that even though hostels are cheap, it doesn’t mean you need to go for the cheapest one out of the whole bunch. There’s usually a reason something costs as low as it does. This also goes for the room type. Make sure you read the description. I’ve been caught out by looking at the nice pictures only to find out that my room was a replica of the picture, but it was in the basement with barely any ventilation.
Ask your friends and family for recommendations. Post about it on Facebook and see what people suggest. I still check them out online to see if they’re going to be suitable for what I want, but it’s a great idea to get real feedback that you can trust.
What if things to wrong?
Things don’t always go to plan so despite thinking that you’ve picked the best hostel (or hotel for that matter) sometimes you get there and things are not what you expect. I speak from experience when I say that being unhappy with the place that you’re staying in can ruin your first impressions of a new location. One of my favourite places in this entire world is London and for the first 3 days I HATED it. It was a mixture of a a few things but the main one was the hostel I had picked. You’ve got 2 options when things don’t work out, you either put up with it or you fix it. I opted for fix it. In my case I jumped online, found a new place to stay, and I was out of there the next day. Always have a Plan B.