Staying at a hostel for the first time can be a scary thing for some people. Many people have no idea what to expect. Especially for people from the States where the idea of a hostel means waking up without a kidney or sold into sex trafficking. But this couldn’t be more wrong.
But don’t worry brave souls, a good hostel is a wonderful place. Imagine a mix between a hotel and a dorm. Same amenities as a hotel, just with some roommates that you don’t know. A place filed with travelers with the same mentality that you have. People who were born to explore. Sometimes these hostels can be the buffer for new international friends that you realize you couldn’t live without.
When you travel you realize how grateful you are for “tiny luxuries”. It can be a fresh towel on your bed, a shower with warm water, waking up to a hearty breakfast, strong wifi, or even in some cases finding out there’s a working window in your room. All of these luxuries come in picking a good hostel. For those of you that are still figuring out how to make these selections, let me help.
There are some key factors you should look into when considering a good hostel, let’s begin with the first one:
Trust and believe, there is nothing better than getting to a hostel and feeling like you’re coming home to your friends and family after months of traveling. When you move around so much your concept of home is seriously warped. To enter a place that feels like a community is what keeps the feelings of homesick at bay. I’m about as social as social gets and I like to be surrounded by good people (Just a leo wanting to be surrounded by her pride). If this is you too then there are certain things you want to look at when booking. First, does this place have a good common area? A place for people to sit back with a drink and mingle is important if you want to meet new people. Major perks if it’s an outdoor common room (unless it’s winter in Scandinavia).
Another factor to consider is whether or not the hostel hosts events encouraging other travelers to meet. Free paella night, 1€ all you can drink sangria night, day trips, Peruvian BBQ. Keep an eye out in the reviews to see if fellow travelers mention these events. These events are typically budget friendly and fun as all hell.
If the staff is personable then that’s usually a good sign that you’re at a good place. I have stayed at places where the staff check you into your room in the morning and then drinks the night away with you once their shift ends.
But sometimes every traveler needs some time to regroup themselves and indulge in some R&R. Therefore, if you want to relax avoid places advertised as party hostels or youth hostels. Vice Versa, if you’re looking to go wild, don’t stay at a place that is geared more towards families and people looking to unwind.
After nannying for a good chunk of my early twenties there’s really nothing that can phase me when it comes to filth. You ever clean a 1 yr. old’s diaper after a veggie packed lunch? I’m internally shuddering just thinking about it. But for a lot of people cleanliness is HUGE when it comes to booking their hostel. Which makes sense right?
You want the shower to be clean, the fridge to not smell like spoiled milk and the hostel to be generally tidy. We’re backpackers, not animals. If the hostel is a dirty place, trust me you will know. People are not shy in their reviews when it comes to the cleanliness of a place.
Okay I know I know, poor wifi #firstworldproblems. But I’ve done my fair share of time in hostels where there’s barely any to no wifi. I’m all about detaching myself from the outside world. BUT when I need to pay a bill, set up a travel alert on my debit card, buy a ferry ticket to the next place, or upload a blog post, THEN wifi is pretty important to me.
There’s nothing worse than getting to a hostel and finding out that the wifi only works in the reception area. Suddenly you’re squished in a crowded area trying to get one page to load and it’s going at glacier speed because everyone else is on that one server. I even saw a place during my research that CHARGED YOU for the wifi. You gotta be kidding me, you’re telling me you’re going to charge me €30 to stay there and THEN charge me for wifi on top of that, YOU’RE FUNNNNNYYY. Even worse, when the wifi just doesn’t work at all. Womp Womp.
Location is key. Are you going to be smack dab in the middle of all the action or off in some quiet neighborhood? Depending on the vibe you’re looking for either one of those can sound appealing. But know what you’re looking for before you book. Open up Google Maps and pop in some things you want to see in this new city, are they near the hostel you’re looking at? You don’t want to spend your entire day on public transportation because your hostel is out of the way.
Nobody wants to feel unsafe at the place they’re calling home. Are there lockers big enough to fit your backpack? No lockers, not a HUGE deal, BUT is there somewhere to lock your passport? Can anybody passing on the street walk right into the hostel or do you need to enter a code to get in? I don’t need some level 5 high alert FBI security. But what I do need is peace of mind when I rest my head at the end of the day.
You want to find something that works in your budget. Something that is both comfortable and affordable. Looking to ball out, go for a more expensive hostel. Looking to pinch your pennies, stay at a cheap one. But know this. When you stay at a more expensive hostel there’s USUALLY more amenities offered. Where as a less expensive hostel is usually more basic. BUT often times, at the less expensive hostels that’s where you meet your like-minded travelers because realistically, we’re all broke. One of my favorite hostels in the WHOLEEE world cost me a whopping $8 a night. 😂
This goes back to the “tiny luxuries” I brought up earlier. Do they charge you for your bedsheets? Is breakfast included (MAJOR POINTS IF IT’S A HOMEMADE)? Is there an outlet next to your bunk? Is there a reading lamp? Do you have to make your own bed? Do they offer a walking tour or pub crawl? Is there a kitchen so you don’t have to pay for meals all the time?
Some of these I can go without, actually most of them. However, it makes for a better experience when these things are addressed.
Here are a list of my favorite hostels in some of the cities I’ve been there in case you’re heading there too!
Mostar, Bosnia – Hostel Majdas
I could rant and rave about Hostel Majdas until the end of time. It honestly broke my heart when I had to leave. I could have stayed for weeks and they would have willingly let me if I needed to. You walk in to tea and cake upon arrival, a home cooked breakfast EVERY morning and some of the nicest showers I’ve seen on the road. You are family here, like you’re staying at your Uncle Bata’s house while traveling. If you don’t go on the day tour with Bata then you haven’t experienced Bosnia.
Madrid, Spain – U Hostel
I’m a sucker for a balcony. Give me a balcony and I could care less about anything else a hostel has to offer. But U Hostel offers so much more than their airy, large rooms with sometimes YOU GUESSED IT, a balcony. They have countless activities to immerse you into Spanish culture (my personal fav was sangria & paella night) and a kick ass staff.
Berlin, Germany – Generator Berlin Mitte
THIS PLACE HAS THE BEST MATTRESS I’VE EVER SLEPT ON. SERIOUSLY. I mean, even when I’m sleeping in MY bed back home I still have dreams about the comfy mattress at Generator. They also have a bar, restaurant, a photo booth AND a ping pong table.
Cusco, Peru – Ecopackers
Ecopackers is the perfect base if you’re looking to explore Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. The hostel is in a gorgeous traditional Spanish colonial home which means that there’s a gorgeous open courtyard that fellow travelers flock to. The staff is one of the best and are EXTREMELY helpful when it comes to figuring out buses, treks, taxis, and everything else in between. They’ll even lock up your big pack for a couple of days if you plan on heading towards Machu Picchu and coming back to Cusco but don’t want to lug all your things. Free EXTENDED luggage storage? OH YES PLEASE.
Kraków, Poland – Little Havana Party Hostel
Up until staying here I had never intentionally stayed at a party hostel and was somewhat apprehensive. I had heard horror stories of people throwing up in their bunks, late night love making sessions on the top bunk and to put it lightly just all around shit shows. BUT when I come to Kraków it’s for a lot of things, but one, is to party.
So my lady and I took a chance and booked at Little Havana. When we checked in we were greeted by a spectacular staff and a complimentary shot. Oh boy. Then we got talked into a pub crawl (my first ever and one of the best nights I can barely remember). While napping to prepare for said pub crawl we received a knock on our door to a staff member with a tray of shots for us “to help us get ready”. GENIUS. The free breakfast, long board rentals, daily activities and huge common room were a perk too.
Stockholm, Sweden – City Backpackers Hostel
So many common rooms I couldn’t even count them all, this hostel is HUGE. Whoever decorated the place deserves a high five. The staff are some of the nicest I’ve ever met. It’s a short walk to the train station AND THEY OFFER A SWEDISH MEATBALL MAKING CLASS.
Zagreb, Croatia – Hostel Mali Mrak
This is one of the hostels where I felt like I was coming home to friends, the minute I walked through the door. This place is just unique, that’s the only way to put it. From the decor, to the staff, the the overall atmosphere, it’s all just unique. Probably one of the main reasons I recommend it.
Have any hostel that you’ve fallen in love with?!? Let me know in the comments so I can stay there too!