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A first-timers guide to hostels
Travel Tips

A First-Timers Guide to Hostels

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There is a complete misconception that hostels are dirty and dangerous and that is simply not the case in the hostels that I have stayed at myself. I have always felt safe, made great friends, and (touch wood) have never caught any bed bugs. Everyone is in the same boat and has a common interest in traveling. It’s a great way to exchange experiences, get great recommendations, and perfect if you’re on a tight budget. I am a solo backpacker who has traveled to Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia, and Central America all by staying in hostels. I think it’s fair to say that I’m a big fan of the hostel community and have had my fair share of experiences.

Types of hostel rooms

You also need to consider the type of hostel room that you would like. These range from your standard female dorms, 4-20 bed mixed bed dorm rooms, dorms with a shared bathroom or ensuite dorms. Depending on budget, there are dorms with a/c or on the cheaper end dorms with fans. You can also opt for your own private room. With the dorms that range from 4 beds to 20 beds, it’s usually the case that the more beds a dorm has, the cheaper the price. I have experienced a 4-bed dorm and a 20-bed dorm throughout my travels. It all depends on what type of experience you want, what type of person you are and if it fits in with your travel plans.

Choosing the right hostels for you

First of all, you need to decide on what type of hostel you would like to stay at and how much your willing to spend. These range from party hostels, flashpacker hostels, home away from home style, eco-hostels, traditional hostels, digital nomad hostels and activity hostels such as surfing/diving. I’ve experienced each one of these hostels throughout my travels. It keeps it interesting for me to mix it up depending on where I am in the world and what I plan on doing throughout my stay.

Tips for choosing the right hostel

It’s all about the location

When choosing a hostel in terms of location, I think it depends on the individual. For me, as long as it has easy access to transport links and in a decent neighborhood then it ticks my boxes. However, if your someone who likes convenience and have local attractions, restaurants, and nightclubs in the area, then this is something you need to take into account. There’s nothing worse than arriving at a new location late at night, not having a clue where everything is then having to find a way to get to your hostel.

Facilities

The number of facilities can be a deal-breaker for me if I have to decide between a hostel. These days most hostels offer free WI-FI. Personally, I would now consider it a priority when traveling to another country to keep in contact with friends and family back home. If you are on a strict budget then it is a godsend when you find a hostel with a decent kitchen. Better yet with free breakfast to help you save a little dollar! Lockers should be your top priority when choosing a hostel so make sure you take a padlock with you as you will need to provide your own. You should also consider the option of being able to leave your luggage free of charge at the hostel before check-in/check-out.

Social Scene

Particularly if your a solo traveler looking to make friends, then this is an important factor when choosing a hostel. A decent common area is a must. It’s the perfect place to hang out and socialize with other travelers. Another factor is if the hostel hosts any organized activities or social events, for example, free walking tours, themed nights, family dinners and of course, any bar crawls. This is a great way to mingle and some of the best hostels I’ve stayed at included some great activities. If not, it always helps to have a tour/travel desk that includes tours/activities of the local area that you can partake. It will make your time in a country more memorable.

Security

This should be your number one priority when choosing a hostel. As mentioned previously that hostels have had a reputation for being dangerous. However, most provide lockers where you can at least store your valuables, are staffed 24 hours or have cameras installed. Although you’re in the same boat as your fellow traveler that you are sharing a room with, remember you don’t know them so have some common sense and keep your valuables hidden. If you do feel uncomfortable, you could always get a private room or even an all-female dorm.

Check the reviews

For most people, this is common sense to check the reviews beforehand. I am unfortunately one of those people who booked a random last-minute hostel and had not checked the reviews. Due to it being the weekend and in high season a lot of the recommended hostels were fully booked. To avoid being stuck out on the streets, I booked the first hostel I saw available online without checking the reviews.

ROOKIE ERROR! There’s me thinking I scored a bargain when there was a reason it was so cheap! Luckily, I only booked one night, and very lucky not to catch bedbugs like some of the other people that stayed there. Needless to say, I have learned from my mistakes. Another lesson here is to not always pick the cheapest hostel- you get what you pay for!

Hostel Guide

Reason’s you should stay at hostels

  • They’re cheap & affordable.
  • A good way to make friends and meet like-minded travelers.
  • They can be in great locations, close to all the local activities and sightseeing tours.
  • Some of them provide organized activities that make it easier to socialize.
  • Regardless of they’re reputation, they are safe & clean.
  • Most of them have free Wifi.
  • They provide additional services such as laundry.
  • They’re great to find out more about the local culture.
  • There’s a more relaxed vibe than a standard hotel.
  • You’ll learn to travel light.

My number one resource that I turn to when backpacking is hostelworld.com . You can visibly see that ratings and reviews and it even tells you what nationalities are staying there.

So now you know what type of hostel you’d like to stay in and how to choose the right hostel for your travel plans, let’s take a look at some of the hostel’s essentials that you need to take into consideration to make your life easier throughout you’re stay.

What you need with you

  • Earplugs
  • Eye Mask
  • Padlock
  • Flip Flops
  • Microfibre Towel
  • Laundry Bag

For me, staying in hostels is the best thing about backpacking. I’ve met some of the most interesting people throughout my travels there and have made life-long friendships with people all around the globe. It’s a great way to make connections with like-minded people, yet stay on a backpacker budget so you can enjoy the experiences rather than waste your money on overpriced accommodation. Hostels have quickly overcome outdated stereotypes and myths and have fast become the first choice for the modern-day travel enthusiast.

Do you have any top tips or advice for a hostel first-timer?

Check out my blog post 10 practical planning tips for a first-time curious traveler.

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