How to choose a great hostel

At first glance, the likes of hostelworld.com appear to offer all the information you will need to choose the right hostel/hostels for your trip. Unfortunately however, the choice isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

Between fake reviews and misleading pictures, mistakes can easily be made. And serious hostel reservation mistakes can easily ruin an otherwise great trip. Should you be on the lookout for a great hostel, here are six key factors to consider.

Reviews

Reviews are incredibly important when it comes to choosing the best hostels but they can also be misleading. Though most reviews are genuine comments left by genuine guests, many reviews are also written by hostel owners.

Because of this, the rating that a hostel receives is rarely a reliable indication of the quality on offer. Instead, you should look through the individual reviews left. Those who have been left by genuine guests are usually pretty easy to spot.

Location

If you are only going to be staying in a city for one or two nights, few things are as important as location. After all, short stays rarely involve very much time being spent indoors. And if you want to see as much of a city as possible in a short period of time, it pays to keep your daily commute to a minimum.

The best hostels aren’t always the best located hostels. They usually don’t have to be as they will get guests either way. But if you’re short on time, location should be number one on your list of priorities.

Busy?

Many backpackers don’t realize that sites such as hostelworld.com can often be used to figure out how busy a particular hostel is. Many hostels list how many beds/dorms they have. And when you combine this information with how many beds are currently available, all you need to do is a little bit of subtraction.

Such information can be used to ensure that you avoid empty hostels when traveling solo. On the other hand, such information can also be used to get a room to yourself for the price of a dormitory bed.

Lockers

High school lockers

Lockers should be a legal requirement of any hostel. Unfortunately however, many hostels don’t have them. There are also a few that do, but charge for the privilege. If you value your belongings, such hostels are usually best avoided.

Very few backpackers steal from other travelers. The odds of somebody stealing your stuff is therefore pretty low. But do you really want to gamble with your camera and/or netbook?

Breakfast

Fitzrovia Kitchen, Fitzrovia, London

A hostel with a great breakfast can save you quite a bit of money. It can save you even more if you make the most of it with a little bit of take away. Though just about every hostel offers its guests a free breakfast, the quality on offer seriously varies.

Note that continental breakfast can mean a lot of different things. Look for specific mention of items other than coffee and toast. And don’t forget to check the start and end time. Many hostels finish breakfast before ten am. This is obviously a problem if you like to sleep in.

Check out Times

Finally, the check out time at hostels varies significantly. Many people forget to check this and it’s a serious mistake to make. You need your beauty sleep if you are going to enjoy the sites. Some hostels allow you to sleep in until twelve, others require that you’re out the door by ten. If you have any interest in partying during your trip, keep your stays at the latter to a minimum.

Mike Johnson is a travel enthusiast who has travelled to different countries like New Zealand, India, Middle East, South Africa besides exploring his home country Australia. He currently writes for www.onemilebeach.com.au.

  • homepage photograph credit – K Chen

Author: Muzi Mohale

Hi there, am your host and I blog about the tourism industry in South Africa. You’re also welcome to contribute your expert content on matters affecting the industry. You can reach me on muzi[at]tourismedition.com

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