What to look for in a hostel when traveling abroad
So you’re on Hostelworld.com ready to book your hostel with a few friends. You’ve easily narrowed down your choices by price and ranking, but are wondering how to sort through the over 200 hostels still available in your city of destination. Well I’ve come up a list of necessary requirements that will make your stay a lot more pleasurable, and as a matter of fact, if the hostel doesn’t meet all of these requirements I won’t even consider it. From my hostel experiences both good and bad, here’s what to look for in a hostel.
Hostelworld.com has a great ranking feature which includes location (I usually say anything above an 80% is good). Take it one step further, and using Google maps, figure out where in the city you will be located. If you’re 20 miles outside the city and most of the major attractions, you’ll be paying a lot extra for transportation to and from the city center.
Seriously. Not all hostels will provide sheets free of charge, and some will even charge you up to $5 a night. Make sure a pillow case, sheet, and blanket are all included for the duration of your stay. I attempted to go for a night without blankets on one of my travels, but sleeping in the fetal position while shivering all night made for a sorry day of sightseeing the next day. If you don’t like sleeping in someone else’s sheets, try a Cocoon.
Some hostels will provide you with a full size locker for your luggage, and some just something to put your travel documents in. Either one is fine as long as you have somewhere to lock up your passport and any other identification you brought with you. It’s not a big deal if your dirty underwear gets stolen, but it is a big deal if your passport is taken and you are stuck waiting for the U.S. embassy to reissue you one. Try not to have to pay extra for a locker.
You’ll definitely want to shower at least once while you’re traveling, and while travel size bottles of soap and shampoo won’t take up much space in your carry on bag, a bath towel will. Check to see if a towel comes included with your room, although in my experience so far, it probably won’t. Figure out how much a towel will cost, and to save money, reuse the towel for multiple showers, letting it dry over a bed post.
5. A Friendly Staff
A good staff can make your travel experience that much better. They have probably lived in the city your visiting for a while (even if they haven’t, they still probably know more than you), and are a great resource for information. First and foremost, ask for a map, then have one of the staff, if they are willing, write down bus routes, subway stops, major attractions, and good places to eat.
You may want to eat out for breakfast every once-in-a-while, but a good way to save money while traveling is to eat at the hostel. At just about every hostel I’ve been to, the standard has been cereal, toast, juice, and coffee, and it has done the job just fine. Not to mention it’s nice to be able to get up and eat a meal without having to search for a restaurant. Some hostels will even give you a voucher to get breakfast at a local café. Whether you plan on eating it or not, a good hostel will always provide breakfast.
Here are a few things that aren’t necessary but you may want to consider:
If you are going to be traveling for a week you may need to do a load. If you’re really desperate to get your clothes clean, you can always use plain old soap and water and wash them in a sink. While I didn’t see it as much in Europe, it’s very common in Asia. After washing them, you’ll just need to find a place to let them air dry.
This should be self explanatory but there may be a hostel somewhere that doesn’t have showers.
9. For women – a hair dryer
Most hostels probably won’t have one, but if they do, it’s a great way to save space in your luggage for more clothes. If you end up bringing your own hair dryer, don’t forget to bring a voltage converter.
10. No curfew
You never know when you might stay out late one night, and I can’t think of too many things worse than being locked out of your hostel.
A few closing notes – always bring a small lock and key with you. While the hostel may provide a locker, it may not provide a lock. And finally, this is how 90% of college kids travel, so make some friends and enjoy the experience.
If you have any other questions or comments please feel free to leave them below and I’ll get back to you!