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Hostels are a budget traveller’s dream. When you want to explore a new city, you’re hardly worried about the decor of your accommodation; you just want a place to crash after a day of adventures! Oh, and you want it to cost as close to $0 as possible.
Well, I hate to say it, but when you’re willing to pay as little as possible for accommodation, you may come across some very sketchy or unhygienic places in your search. Use this post to help you steer clear of skivey dives and to hone in on those budget-friendly treasures! Also, use these tips to ensure your trip goes smoothly once you DO find the right place to stay!
DO: Use HOSTELWORLD.com
Hostel world is a great website that is easy to use. Before I even look at the options, I filter my results with this method:
Rating: the overall rating needs to be relatively high. In the world of hostels, people are really just looking for somewhere safe and clean to sleep at night, so if the rating is not high…. I would be skeptical. Saying that, I look more specifically at the individual ratings for security and cleanliness when I am deciding between my final 2 or 3. If you don’t feel safe, you will not have fun.
Price: Obviously, you should filter for your price range. Note that it will show you the lowest price (i.e.: the price of a mixed dorm room will be less than a private room), so you do have to investigate further.
Map View: Once you have narrowed down the search, change your display to ‘Map.’ After all, you have travelled all this way to see THE PLACE so make sure you are within walking distance/public transportation distance from your hostel.
Hostelworld has other perks, like loads of reviews from other users and a fairly lenient cancellation policy if you book more than a week in advance.
DO: Bring your own lock
The cheapest option is typically a room full of loads of beds. Thus, you will be sleeping next to strangers! They might end up being super cool strangers, but don’t take any chances with your belongings. Most hostel rooms provide lockers, but the do not provide locks (Tip: make sure your hostel does provide lockers before you book!). Do yourself a favour and come prepared with your own lock. While you are out of the room, keep your stuff stowed and locked up. If nothing else, it will give you the peace of mind you need to fully enjoy your trip!
DO: Make ONE booking when travelling in groups
I made this mistake when travelling to Athens for one night with two friends. The website said there were X number of beds left: mixed dormitory style. So we each booked separately to save ourselves from having to pay each other back, etc. BAD DECISION!
Since we were on separate bookings, the Hostel had no idea we were together and put us each in separate mixed dormitories. The hostel was full by the time we got there and found out so there was no way to rearrange. Also, this hostel was HUGE, so my friends were not even in the same building as I was. I ended up in a dorm room with about 5 other GUYS I didn’t know. They turned out to be good people and all was fine, but I would have definitely been more comfortable in a female-only room, or at least the same room as my friends.
To avoid this situation or something similar, just book it all together and pay each other back.
DON’T: Assume they will watch your luggage for you
For example, if you arrive in the morning and you’re check-time isn’t until the afternoon, don’t assume your hostel will take your luggage for you until your room is ready. The truth is, you can ask, and they might say yes, but they more likely will say no as they don’t have a secure place to keep it.
Instead, use a website like STASHER. It shows you a map with locations, such as hotels, that will store your luggage in a locked room for the time needed for a small fee.
DON’T: Expect any extras
This is not a hotel. I repeat. THIS IS NOT A HOTEL! You will very likely not be given complimentary shampoos, lotions, or sometimes even towels. Read up on what your hostel offers (i.e.: you may have to pack your own towel, or pay to borrow one). It is a very simple way of living and very minimal, hence the CHEAP price. Come prepared! Or travel with a friend who will 😉