The Inn Crowd: Five Tips For Staying in Hostels
2017 is the first year I’ve proper stayed in hostels. I had always been residing in hotels if I was travelling, but the lure of a low price tag has me never looking back. The quality of hostels and more importantly, their occupants, can vary greatly. But there are a few things that can help better your own experience. I’ve enjoyed the places that I’ve seen and here a few of the things that I’ve learned over the last little while which may be of use:
1. Do your research
Most of the time hostels represent the cheapest option for staying in a city. But not always. Airbnb can be cheaper if you’re travelling with a friend/ partner, or looking for a last minute option. When I’m travelling I generally try to book my accommodation straight after I book my flights, for peace of mind. Places like Hotels.com and Airbnb (dependant on the listing) will have free cancellation. So if plans change, there’s no real harm done.
There are quite a few different booking sites available, but hostels will be extra happy if you can book direct through them. They pay a commission with engines. Otherwise, I like to use Hotels.com for research. The prices on that site seem to be the lowest (occasional secret pricing). And you can get credit back after booking ten nights. You can use cashback on most booking sites but sometimes it means it won’t be valid for getting credit, such as in the case of Hotels.com!
My secondary hostel researching tool is Hostelling International. I joined the YHA back in Australia and can take advantage of the slightly lower member prices. The range isn’t the best but the venues that make up the network are usually very good in quality. And I do check Airbnb to get a sense of what options that might give. I do find most booking engines end up dishing out the same prices (or having a price match guarantee).
2. Choosing your home
Features I’m looking for when booking a hostel, you only get one after all, is: location, price, amenities and the bed itself. And location again. In some cases its worth finding a hostel central in town. In other cases it’s not a pain to use public transport if that means a better option.
User reviews both within the booking engine and Tripadvisor help to filter the options. There’s generally plenty of options you can choose from in most major cities. The reviews will also provide some guidance, for example bringing your own towel or padlock or simply being prepared for a noisy night.
3. Be prepared
It’s good to know what you need to have packed. For the most part I always carry a few things such as my: microfibre fast-dry towel, a padlock and the usual toiletries. But in some cases hostels will provide the above (sometimes at a cost) but it’s best not to assume or rely on them. The other thing every backpacker needs to pack is earplugs! With the volume (mind the pun) of people in any given dorm room, there’s bound to be a snorer. I do think that is a necessity and that people shouldn’t act too surprised when there is some night noises. It’s part of the backpacking life.
Some of the other things worth taking are: jandals/ flip flops (for communal bathroom), tissues (in case of a bathroom running out) and a book with night light. People sleep at all different times of the day so sometimes having something to occupy your time is super important. As a courtesy I do aim to park myself in the common spaces if I am staying up whilst other people are looking to sleep.
4. Have a plan
I don’t aim to spend too much time in hostels, but when I do, I like to make the most of my time and their resources. A lot of hostels will have a supply of pamphlets for tourist ideas. The staff themselves are sometimes quite happy to give out suggestions as well. I find the final hours of the day are perfect for plotting my itinerary for the next day or so. My hostel is Nice went a step further and provided a few itineraries which was fantastic for having something to do. The same hostel also loaned out beach rugs and picnic baskets which was a sweet touch.
5. Smile and be social!
Part of the appeal of the hostel life for me is meeting new people who share the same lust for travel. But that’s proved harder than I thought. A lot of dorms rooms have been silent, conversation-less affairs. The fantasy of intermingling is trickier with people out and about, running to their own body clocks. But a simple start is exchanging a smile of a few words with your fellow temporary roommates.
A little ice-breaker is all it takes at least to lighten the mood. One very good suggestion from one of my travel buddies was joining the hostel’s pub crawls/ other events. And at the very least, show common courtesy. People don’t like being woken up in the early hours nor endure smells/ loud phone calls, seeing your crack, etc.
Bonus: Favourite hostels so far: