Let me guess… You’re looking to travel around the world on a budget but you’ve heard a lot of bad things from friends and family about staying in hostels…. They’ve probably said things like, ‘they’re dirty, full of bed bugs, the hostellers take drugs and your stuff will get stolen’ and on the flip side, they’ve probably never stayed in a hostel either. Whilst this is something that can happen in a hostel, it’s pretty unlikely. I’ve only had one extremely traumatic experience of being in a hostel in Key West, Florida and I did have my laptop stolen in Dublin, but in saying that, losing my laptop probably could have been avoided.
Now let me say this: I am a MASSIVE fan of hostels! I love them because nearly all my experiences have been good ones. I’ve met some of the coolest people in the world and we’ve had some pretty wild discussions. Just the other day, I met a sociologist PhD from a major university in California. We discussed how architecture influences music and how that ultimately affects social change! I also met a met a lawyer who’s uncle runs the local fruit and veg shop in the village down the street from where I live. And a few years back, I met a really cool Canadian biologist whilst in Adelaide which made for a very interesting discussion over dinner. So, what I’m trying to say is… if you are able to choose the right hostel, you’re gonna have a super positive experience!
If you’re still reading, I’ve probably piqued your interest in what I lovingly call #HostelLYFE. Great! Here are some of the things that I do to make sure I get the best possible hostel for my personality.
To weed out hostel overload, I actually use Hostelworld.com. They have a map feature where I am able to zoom in on an area. From there, I go straight to the ratings. Yep. I make sure that the top rated hostels are at the top of the list and then, I look at the reviews.
I read both the five star and one star reviews. Basically, what I am looking for here is to see if the star ratings are justified and matches what their concerns are. Like, you can’t put much into a one star rating from a guy who stupidly lost his wallet because he misplaced it. It was kinda his own fault, unless it was stolen which then the rating is justified… But, I also make sure that the five star ratings are justified, too. Like, I want to make sure that one review wasn’t written by the hostel manager’s best mate’s sister’s workmate – you see where I’m going? To be fair, I actually find it quite a lot of fun to see what people are complaining about these days and probably why I do my hostel search this way.
I make sure to compare the photos with the reviews. This kinda helps me figure out if this place is actually legit. A lot of places stage photo ops with professional photographers – and that’s ok… but, I kinda think it’s funny to see the same person making a sandwich in the kitchen and the next image is the same guy playing guitar in the share room.
When that part of the process is done, I look for the perks. Some hostels offer cool stuff like free drinks, walking tours, breakfasts and transport to the airport! Also, some places like the Castle Rock Hostel in Edinburgh actually have a music room! Seriously! It was awesome and a cool place to hang out.
Another cool hostel I stayed in Paris is called St Christophers’s and it has a pub downstairs which was a lot of fun! It was packed to the max every night and allowed me to be social! St Christopher’s also a pretty respected chain hostel, so I pretty much already knew what to expect by staying there.
And, here are some personal hostel tips: I actually don’t stay in hostels in the USA anymore. My Hostelling experiences in America weren’t that great for me because Americans don’t really do hostels well. The American culture is quite solidarity so hostels just don’t work…. but over in Europe – OMG. Amazing! I have stayed in loads of hostels all over Ireland where some were fantastic and yes, I wont lie… others were smelly. I would have to say that my favourite hostelling experiences are in a tie:
I had one fabulous experience with a boutique hostel in Paris called Hotel Oops! Honest to God, my bathroom suite was facing the Eiffel Tower! I was able to open the doors and sit on the toilet with the most romantic view of Paris! My second favourite hostel experience was in in Edinburgh. I literally lived in a coffin for a week. Well, ok.. if you’re clausterphobic, it’s not for you but for me staying at CODE was AWESOME. I had my own little private space and it was super quiet. Like at CODE, you’d never realise that six people were in the room!
And, one last thing… you also want to consider if you want a more hotel like hostel or self-catering hostel. I love having a kitchen on hand so it’s all about your preference. And, be vigilant – read reviews because hostels can change quickly. If you are returning to a hostel a few months or years later, read the reviews again because you don’t want to be disappointed if the quality of the hostel has gone down.
Now… onto the Hostel Checklist:
An Aussie girl gone walkabout in the great big world!