It can be hard to find hostels right for your needs.
Finding hostels right for you is one of the most important – and commonly overlooked – aspects of your holiday. A beautiful, accommodating spot can be the cherry on top of your trip, and a sub-par one can crap all over it. In this post, we are going to discuss the ins and outs of some tried and true hostel-choosing methods.
Though it may sound extremely obvious, you would be shocked by how many people don’t bother to take the time to do even minimal research when looking for a place to stay. Like, yeesh. What, is this your first rodeo?
While you read, keep in mind that each personality type is looking for a different experience when they are traveling.
Some people are just trying to party ‘round the clock, others are hoping to relax and snooze past noon, while others still are looking for a very local, authentic, cultural experience.
The hippie on the bus who told you, “Hey, man… Bob’s Reggae and Hemp House is the closest thing on this planet to the astral plane” might not be the most reliable fountain of factual information. Don’t simply take his word for it – feed your curiosity with something more substantial.
Hostelworld is an insanely awesome platform for booking and researching hostels. It’s kind of the bee’s knees – hosting the largest and most reliable database of any of the sites out there. As if that wasn’t enough, the folks that run it are generally rad people. Major plus.
Now, just because it’s awesome doesn’t mean that the battle has been won… yet. You need to know how to navigate this landscape and understand what you’re looking at before you spend any of that vacation fund.
First things first, let’s talk about the hostel description. Make sure you read this (No freaking duh), as it summarizes all of the sweet deets about the place you are considering. It’s basically the Cliffsnotes version of the hostel’s biography.
It’s written by the hostel itself (well, employees, not the actual building), so it should give you an impression of their ethos, how the business considers guests, and which category of traveler that would have the best time there.
Also, please don’t neglect the location shown on the map. Far too many people book places without considering this, which is a recipe for disappointment. There is no way to fudge the location, so this is the most reliable way to see whether that hostel with the heart-stopping description is strategically lodged in between the best bars in town or, to your horror, 15 grueling miles from the nearest conveniences and attractions.
Lastly, the aspect that might be the most important is the hostel’s review section. Written by a plethora of different types of travelers, you can sift through personal experiences and find out whether the place is a paradise or a prison.
Below is my relatively informed opinion of what you can expect from different tiers of reviews…
Less than 70% – Ooof. This place generally won’t be worth your hard-earned savings. Amenities will be scarce, cleanliness won’t be a priority, and management likely doesn’t take much interest in making necessary improvements.
70%-79% – Ehhh. Decent hostel with some facilities, okay-ish staff, and possibly a good location (again, don’t forget to check the map). Often, these hostels are just in need of slight changes to make your stay awesome but aren’t managed well enough to recognize or implement them.
80%-85% – These hostels are normally a fine pick for anyone on a budget. Your pick might be in a good location, and it probably has useful, fairly tidy facilities. However, there will be the occasional stain on the sheet or hair in the drain that upsets travelers. This points to the fact that the hostel is not doing quite enough to give you the most out of your stay, and is therefore probably lacking in the management department.
86%-91% – Hostels that have anything above 86% is an accomplishment. It is NOT easy to get reviews this high. You can expect clean, modern facilities, with a friendly staff, convenient location, and management that is attentive and willing to help you with any issues that you might have. Small issues may bother the occasional guest staying here, though nothing that would straight up spoil your stay.
92%-100% – These hostels are the white buffalo, the crème de la crème. *Kisses fingers like a pizza chef from a children’s movie* Achieving a consistent average above 92% is borderline impossible, and it requires a combination of amazing facilities, exceptional staff, great management, and a location that is smack dab in the middle of hot spot central. These hostels will not disappoint. Even still, you have to make sure that the hostel you are booking will suit your desires. A laid-back, lights-out-by-9 hostel rated 96% simply won’t meet your needs and expectations if you are looking to slam buckets of alcohol and party like you’re 21 again. Same goes if you’re midway through a savage hangover and want to lay down, quietly read Game of Thrones, and nurse your pounding migraine – the 99%-rated rager-friendly hostel may be your worst bet yet.
I hesitate to recommend this site, as it has been plagued with lawsuits, phony reviews, misleading property descriptions, and heaps of other issues. Google “Fake Trip Advisor reviews” and a laundry list of articles will come up about all of the above, along with even more scandalous garbage. Despite that, though, this can still be used in conjunction with other resources. For the obvious reasons, be wary of relying solely on Trip Advisor. It’s more of a supplementary resource than a main one. This is not coming from the perspective of a disgruntled business owner – all of my places are ranked in the top 3 on Trip Advisor. *Brushes shoulders off* Regardless, we have had to battle them multiple times over fake negative reviews, so I am still not a huge fan of what they do.
Google, of course
While it seems too obvious to mention, Google is actually a fantastic resource when it comes to researching places and reading unbiased reviews about locations you are considering. For example, just type in “Slumber Party Hostel Reviews.” (Obvious plug is obvious.)
A quick search will give you a general understanding of the quality of the business from several different sources in a few seconds flat. It spans a number of resources and gives you a convenient little snapshot. Some travelers who were in your exact shoes, wearing the same bulging backpack and adventure-ready grin, likely left a comment or two. And if you’re down to scroll for a moment, you will run into some independent reviews from experienced travel bloggers who have stayed at the hostel, leaving no stone unturned. These pros can smell the difference between an 86% and an 87% from a half-mile away.
When in doubt, just ask travelers
Probably the most failsafe way to get some reliable advice is to ask your fellow travelers how to find hostels. If you are at a hostel you dig, and the people around you are digging it just as much, it’s logical to assume that you have similar standards. Strike up a conversation and ask them where they stay in each city.
Give a vacationer an opportunity to talk, and they will unload on you about a raging night they had in some five-star hostel somewhere. Conversely, they could just as easily warn you about a different hostel that left them wishing they would have put a little more time into shopping for spots. This is a foolproof way to get a recommendation, and it’s also a shoehorn into making friends and finding travel buddies. Who knows, you might just meet your next travel buddy!
At the end of the day, where you choose to crash is ultimately up to you and your needs as a traveler. Use these nifty tips and you should be in the clear. Keep your ears open, do your research, and ask questions every chance you get. There’s no sense in leaving your shelter to chance. Get educated and take your holiday to the next level!