Doesn’t the title sound super pretentious? 😄
Well, after having spent many, many nights in many, many different hostels, I count myself as quite the expert when it comes to choosing a good one. So before you go and slam the idea of hostels entirely because of one bad experience, or one poor review from someone, read on to find out what you should consider before making a choice.
Now, I’m not going to say ‘choose this’ or ‘choose that’, but I am going to tell you about some of the options out there, and you can choose what you like. Like I always say, what works for me may not work for you, right? 🙂
The first thing I look at is the rating. I usually go through websites like HostelWorld and HostelBookers, sort the hostels by rating, and then walk over to the first few and book a bed in the first one that has a vacancy. So far, I’ve found the ratings to be pretty solid and have usually ended up in good hostels, without having to consider the other parameters. When a rating is really good (like 95%+, and has some great reviews), it’s bound to be really good overall.
I like to choose hostels that are just slightly off the centre. Ideally a 7-10 minute walk away. You get the peace and quiet you need for a good night’s sleep, but you’re never more than a few minutes away from the action.
Dorm Capacity AND Size
I’ve slept in dorms ranging in capacity from 4 beds to 16 beds. I prefer smaller ones myself- they’re more intimate and you get to really talk to people and make friends, and they’re much less noisy. By size, I mean the actual physical size of the room. In Wroclaw, I was in Hostel Wratislavia in an 8 bed dorm which was large and comfortable and had some furniture other than the beds! The upholstery was almost luxurious, and for about 10 Euros a night, it was incredible.
In London, on the other hand, 2o Pounds (NOT Euros) got me an 8 bed dorm in Clink261 where the beds were almost overlapping. We had to literally climb over suitcases to go from one end of the room to the other. Not good!!
Bunks or no bunks. This sounds random (I never took this aspect seriously when I started out) but when I finally slept on a non-bunk bed in a hostel I was like !! There is SUCH a difference, trust me. Bunks are fine, top or bottom- up to you. But when you sleep on your own bed all by yourself, it is almost magical.
Oh, and having a separate night lamp and charging point with every bunk/bed wins SO many points, it’s not even a joke.
Breakfast, free wifi, ensuite or shared bathrooms and showers, kitchen facilities, towels and bed linen, activities offered… Hostels offer all kinds of facilities, and sometimes it’s worth taking a look. I prefer ones with shared toilets. Ensuites may be more comfortable, but they’re also infinitely likelier to be filthier than the ones in common area. Most hostels give you bed linen for free and you can rent a towel for a very small fee.
Then there was one hostel I stayed at (my first one actually, in Metz) that didn’t have free wifi. At first I thought the guy was joking. But anyhow, there was a computer you could use for free in the breakfast area. Some hostels offer free dinner (Hostel Mostel, I’m looking at you and I love you). Some have cooking classes, jam sessions, hiking trips etc etc etc.. One thing that stuck with me was hostels that served free tea, coffee and hot chocolate all day, particularly the ones that let you use milk also. It’s a small gesture, but it is HUGELY appreciated.
Breakfast is usually basic- cereal and bread with spreads, but some really take an effort. Hostel Mostel in Sofia had the most lavish spread I’ve seen, even including some hotels I’ve stayed at!!
I’ve never had my stuff stolen, nor have I heard of that from anyone else, but with the security issue it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Even if I’m not so bothered with having lockers (I never carried my laptop or any other valuables I needed to leave behind in the room), I do very much prefer staying in places that have rooms rooms that are electronically locked so only the key-card holders can enter.
Lockout and Curfew
I don’t think I even need to talk about this. Imagine being in a party city like Budapest and having to come back to bed by 10pm. Shudder. (Not speaking for myself here, I was always in bed by then. Zzzzzz… But you know what I mean!)
This is one of THE most important criteria for me. A hostel with nice friendly common areas is so much better in every way. You can sit there with a coffee (or beer, if that’s your thing) and chit chat with people from around the world. You can relax in a corner with a book from their library after a long day of sightseeing. Much better than having to go sit in your little dorm bed because it’s too early to sleep and you’re too tired to go out.
But then again, the baast fraands I made were in 2 of the hostels that were the most severely lacking in this area. One I met at the reception, and the other in a dorm. So, really… Who can tell… 😛
This is a very small issue. Most hostels are competitively priced, a couple of Euros up and down. There are, of course, times when one particular hostel is much more expensive than the rest. But unless there is a great difference n the ratings, I’ll go with the 92% rated 10 Euro hostel over the 99% rated 35 Euro hostel. Makes sense, right?
Having laid my head in over 20 hostels throughout much of Europe in 2013, I think I know which one was my favourite. When I was headed to Ljubljana, the obvious hostel choice was Hostel Celica. I had already looked at the website earlier and loved the concept (it is a converted prison, and for a slightly higher price, you can actually sleep in an ex-prison cell!!), and someone else had told me about it as well. But then, when I looked through the details, I realised it didn’t seem so worth it. So I decided to choose the next one on the list, and I am so, SO thankful it turned out as awesome as it did!! Not a single regret for choosing a random homely hostel over such an iconic one.
Vila Veselova… What a fantastic hostel!! More in detail in a later post (many, many hostel reviews coming up soon!)
Do you want me to tell you anything else about hostels? Let me know in the comments and I’ll post a Part 2!