Hostels are a brilliant solution for cash-strapped travellers, but for many first-timers they can still be a nerve-wracking experience. So to put to rest those first-time jitters, I’ve endeavoured to answer your 8 most common questions about hostels!
1. What are hostels?
Hostels are a little like hotels, except instead of having your own, private room you instead share a dormitory with a number of other guests. Usually incredibly cheap, this has made hostels a popular budget-option among frequent travellers! Depending on the particular hostel, your number of roommates could range anywhere from three to thirty. Female/male only dorms are sometimes an option too, as our slightly more expensive private rooms in some cases.
2. How much do hostels cost?
The price of hostels vary somewhat widely. In London for example you can find hostels from as little as £15 per night, to as much as £80 per night. The price usually depends on the sort of facilities on offer, but from my experience a good hostel will rarely cost you about £25 a night, if that!
3. Are hostels noisy/dirty?
I’ve got admit that before I started using them, I always believed hostels to be seedy, dirty places full of drunk students! But like most preconceptions this thankfully did turn out to be utter bollocks. I’ve stayed in a couple of hostels so far and always found them to be clean, cosy and extremely friendly places!
But at the same time, while this is the case for the majority of places there are still the exceptions. Hostels that are on the insanely cheap end of the scale can sometimes be a rather less pleasant experience. It’s just really a matter of being sensible and doing your research beforehand – a topic I’ll return to later.
4. What about my valuables?
A good hostel will always have somewhere safe to lock away your valuables. This may be your own locker, a lock and chain to secure bags or in some instances a hostel safe where you can ask staff to keep your laptop, camera or other precious items.
Bring a sturdy, chunky lock (I’ve quickly learnt that those puny mini-ones do nothing on hostel lockers!) and always be aware of your belongings. The fact you’ve made fast friends with the lad on the bunk below you is great, but it doesn’t mean you should trust him with your unsupervised iPhone!
5. What facilities can I expect?
Once again this is highly dependant on your nightly price tag, but on average you can expect to find some kind of bar or communal area, wifi access, possibly some basic cooking/laundry facilities and a shared bathroom. Much like dorm-rooms, these bathrooms can be mixed or same-sex, which is worth checking beforehand if this thought makes you uncomfortable. Swankier establishments may even boast gardens, games rooms and the possibility of a paid breakfast. There was even a water-feature at the last place I stayed! How cool is that?
6. Where can I find hostels?
Hostels can typically be found dotted around major cities but are also very easy to find online. Websites like Hostel World cater specifically to those seeking hostel accommodation, but big websites like Booking.com also feature many hostel listings alongside their regular bookings!
7. What are the signs of a good hostel?
There are three key questions to ask yourself when searching for a decent hostel:
- Do they have house rules? Is there a curfew on how late you can return to the hostel? Does the on site bar close at a sensible time? Do they ask you to respect other guests by keeping the noise down? A hostel that imposes fair rules and restrictions on its guests is a place that takes pride in its quality of service.
- Is there somewhere safe to store your valuables? ANY good hostel should provide you’ve with an adequate solution for protecting your valuables from thieving hands! If it doesn’t, avoid it. It’s that simple.
And most importantly:
3. Are the reviews positive? Researching the experiences of other travellers is the best possible way to sort the good from the bad in the hostel world. Don’t just take the hostel’s word that their service and facilities are ‘excellent’. Wait to hear it from their customers first!
8. What can I do if I don’t like my hostel?
Much like realising you don’t like your hotel, once there you’re unfortunately kind of stuck. If you have a specific complaint – eg. dirty facilities or rude staff – you may (just possibly) have grounds for a partial or full refund. But otherwise, if you’ve simply changed your mind there’s little you can do.
To avoid this happening I’d urge you to always make sure to thoroughly research your accommodation before booking it. And if this is your first time at a hostel, maybe consider booking just three or four days there to begin with. This way if you end up hating the whole hostel-experience you don’t have to stay for the long-term. And if you do enjoy it you can always extend your booking later!
So with the questions done and dusted let’s round things up with my top tips for staying in a hostel!:
- Bring your own towel. Most hostels don’t provide free towels, and you usually have to pay to rent one of theirs.
- Shower flip-flops are a good idea. Not all showers are sparkly clean, and you don’t want to bring home a holiday verruca!
- Use the torch on your phone to find your way around in the dark rather than a big flashlight, and definitely DON’T turn on the lights! People who casually sweep round the room with massive floodlights when you’re sleeping are the worst. Don’t be that person.
- Wear headphones to play games/watch media. This should really go without saying, but there’s always one person who ignores this rule.
- Bring some good earplugs and a eyemask for a decent nights kip.
- Hostels are a fantastic place to meet other travellers! You should always exercise the same caution you would if meeting strangers when out and about, but they can still be a superb place for swapping stories and making new friends.
- If leaving early the next morning, do any packing the night before. The sound of zipping and rustling plastic bags is incredibly noisy in a silent dorm, and will disturb those sleeping. Be considerate. You share this space with others.
Do you have your own tips for staying in a hostel? If so do share them in the comments below!
And if you’re off on your adventures this year, why not check out my Favourite Travel Moments of 2016!
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