Finding the right hostel can be crucial when you are abroad.
There are many factors which can make or break a hostel and prevent it from being included on your favorites list. I know this from personal experience, trial and error.
Sleeping Through the Night-
Are you a light sleeper? If so, you won’t want to book a room with 16 beds in it unless you are okay with wearing earplugs every night. Hostels are noisy and people snore, that’s just the way it is. You can usually find private hostel rooms if you need.
How Much Further?-
Always double-check the location of your hostel on a map before booking. A hostel may say it’s only a quarter-mile from the city center, but what do they define as the city center? In Dublin, we faced a 45-minute walk to our hostel every day because they classified the city center as being O’Connell Street Spire, whereas I consider the River Liffey to be the center of the city. This meant that we were not necessarily in the best neighborhood and we were constantly looking over our shoulders as we walked to our hostel after a day of exploring, often times with someone escorting us back for safety.
Goodbye, All My Hard Earned Money!-
What is a hostel worth to you? I try not to spend more than $20 a night on a room. There are factors worth considering though which may make it worth a tiny bit more, such as if breakfast is included or if they offer free shuttle services, provide tour booking, or have amenities like a swimming pool. In Prague, we paid only $4 a night for our hostel, the Prague Plus. It wasn’t very close to the center of the city, but it did have a pool, sauna, was easy to access with the tram, and hey- it was $4!
Sometimes you can find the coolest hostels to stay at. The Castle Rock Hostel in Edinburgh is one of my favorites, is next door to the castle, and is decorated in the most quirky castle decor you can imagine. I’ve also stayed at a hostel which was converted from a church and maintained all the stain glass windows. Have you ever pottied beside a stained glass Jesus? I have!
Do the rooms include private showers or community showers? How many are per room or per floor? Are they mixed-gender bathrooms? Are you going to have to pee with a man in the next stall? I personally prefer when there is an area full of private restrooms, simply because en-suite usually means one toilet and one shower per room. This can be a hassle when there are eight women in the room all wanting to look gorgeous for the night.
The Sex of the Room-
What sex is the room you are looking at? A lot of hostels have mixed gender rooms and these are easy to accidentally book. When you are on hostelword.com, you will sometimes see men’s rooms and women’s’ rooms listed separately, with mixed rooms as an option, however, some hostels only offer mixed rooms, so keep this in mind when booking. Mixed rooms are typically a few dollars cheaper per night, so if you are looking to save a few dollars, this can be a good option. You can read more about my experience in mixed-gender rooms here.
How is the Atmosphere?-
I have found that the hostels which aren’t chains and aren’t huge will have the best atmosphere. The Zeppelin Hostel in Ljubljana being a prime example of a wonderful, friendly, and atmospheric place to rest. Maxing out around 20 to 30 guests, the Zeppelin creates a friendly environment in which everyone knows everyone and you can easily make a room full of friends and travel buddies.
In my experience, larger hostels such as the Generator and the Plus tend to be less atmospheric, more cliquey, and much harder to make friends in.
Other Helpful Things to Look For-
Is wi-fi available? Is there a kitchen? Do they offer luggage storage? What is the proximity to food and transit? And of course, read the reviews! You can find out a lot of helpful info from travelers who have loved or been burned by hostels!