TOP 5: BOOKING YOUR HOSTEL
We just love hostels so much that we wanted to re-post our recommendations for picking a hostel and what to look for in its own blog so our viewers have easy access to this information! If you want more details about hostels and the realities to staying in them, read our blog The Truth About Hostels here.
5 things to look for when booking your hostel:
1. A decent rating: although sometimes that rating might not be your experience, you still want to stay somewhere and take the chance where most people have had a decent experience. Actually read the reviews and what people are complaining about. “Had flat pillows” “Not enough hot water” “No fridge in room” – these aren’t adequate complaints for a hostel. It’s cheap for a reason, somethings you have to settle with. Real complaints are “Rude staff” “Bed bugs” “Awful location” “Scary location” “Far from Transit” – those are real complaints that you want to pay attention to.
2. Location, Location, Location: the one thing hostels have going for them that makes them desirable, is usually location. You are on a budget, you can’t afford to be paying high taxi costs, to get around. You need to either have walking access, or direct access to transit to get around to make the budget cost worth it. CHECK on a map where it is before hand, and figure out – can I get there by taking 1 train, or 3? Can we walk to the main attractions? Is there FOOD in the area???
3. Free WIFI and free Computer access: it is pretty rare these days to come across a place without free WIFI, but another helpful thing is a hostel with free computer access. When we were in Eastern Europe, we were booking things the day before we left some days. In order to do this you need great WIFI and sometimes access to a computer that your smart phone or iPad just cannot do properly.
4. Lockers: I like to believe that all hostelers are trust worthy and wouldn’t dream of stealing someone’s stuff, passports or money… but this isn’t the case. We’ve been lucky to never have our stuff stolen – except for the time our power converter went missing and then somehow ended up on top of our bag a day later… But you want to stay in a place that has lockers, and thus, you also want to make sure you bring your own lock. All hostel dorm rooms, besides Warsaw, had lockers that were big enough to put ALL of your stuff in, including your giant backpack. To be honest, this is just a piece of mind thing. You don’t want to constantly be walking around with your electronics, passports, and all your cash. You want to be safe. To be safe, on a budget, in a dorm room, it must have a locker.
5. Breakfast: This isn’t a must for everyone, but it is a must for us, well, for me. Trevor can get away with just having coffee in the morning, but we’ve learned through 5 years of travelling together, Kristen needs her breakfast, and Trevor needs his coffee. It is a huge convenience to wake up, grab some breakfast (in most places, bagels or fruit, in some places eggs and sausage – Miss you Greg and Tom!), and go for the day. One of the biggest reasons I think this matters is because in North America, we are big breakfast people. Cereal, toast, eggs, fruit, yogurt, etc. We love our breakfast – in Europe, Central America and South East Asia (from what we’ve heard) … this just isn’t the case. Breakfast in Europe is an espresso coffee and maybe a croissant – that costs $7. And these places are extremely hard to find. Breakfast just isn’t the same in other countries, so finding a hostel with free breakfast is a major bonus and will save you and your travel partner(s) from bickering throughout the day. Kristen needs food. Trevor needs coffee. And then we start our day.
Other things to look for:
You’ve been backpacking for 20 days, you’ve ran out of underwear – maybe it’s time to look for a hostel with laundry services, or at least near one. Some have laundry services where it’s a coin machine, or a variation of, and you pay yourself. Some, you give them your laundry and they do it and charge you a cost. Check on the reviews, or when booking to see if this is an option, or if it is near an outside laundromat.
Private curtains! Some hostels have private curtains for each individual bed in a bunk. We love curtains! I’ve read that not all hostel owners agree on having curtains as it can create an isolating experience. I do not agree at all. Imagine three days in a row, you have bunk mates who are taking the first bus or train out of the city and need to get ready at 5am and were not courteous enough to pack their bag the night before, so they turn the lights on… yeah, you want that curtain. I don’t think curtains limit the social experience at all, that’s what a common room is for, that’s what the kitchen is for, and there’s nothing like a “closed” sign to tell your bunk mates “I know it’s 9pm, but I’m exhausted so please be quite.” Love curtains.
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