Here, we are looking at your first hostel…
It’s not as bad as you think. I remember talking to my friend Alexis laughing at her because I couldn’t believe she was staying in a hostel. I felt so scared for her! and I had so many questions. So i decided to re-visit this conversation and share my knowledge with you all. I also decided this would bring me to starting my “Hostel Series” which I review hostels and share photos. I am telling you all, that you’d be surprised at some of the places I stayed.
I think every traveler should try staying at a hostel at least once in their lifetime. Even if you have a luxury-hotel budget, hostels are a cool and unique experience that can result in some amazing memories. I for one have made, memories that will last a lifetime. I’ve met loads of backers that were not on a tight budget, but actually chose to stay in hostels because they prefer it and honestly, you end up having more fun in my opinion. And you read that right, they prefer hostels to luxury hotels and apartments.
No- hostels are not glamorous. And yes, you may have to say goodbye to privacy. But hostels truly are of one of a kind experience and are absolutely worth a try. **That being said, many people have had awful experiences so just be sure to do your double checking.
There are a few things any first-timer should know before staying in a hostel. Here is a basic guide to staying in a hostel for the first time:
WHY STAY IN A HOSTEL?
The hostel experience is one that is completely different from any other type of accommodation. I will say again and again, hostels are the best way to meet people while traveling. This is ideal for solo travellers- as a hostel is a space where other solo travellers congregate, so you will meet like-minded people from all over the world. Hostels are definitely the most social form of accommodation. You are literally living with other travellers, sharing showers, essentially a university lifestyle on the go.
BENEFITS OF STAYING IN A HOSTEL:
- It’s cheap. Obviously, hostels are much cheaper than hotels and most other forms of accommodation. This makes your travel reduce in overall fee, keep in mind sometimes you pay for what you get for. This makes hostels the perfect place for budget and/or long-term travellers. Depending on the location, a hostel bed will cost anywhere from $10-$80 a night, give or take.
- Travel Longer. You can easily travel for longer periods of time when you stay in hostels. You know those people that just seem to be traveling constantly, and you wonder how the hell they can afford that lifestyle? Well, unless they are rolling in cash or are a travel influencer collaborating with hotels and tourism boards, they are most likely staying in a bunch of hostels (AKA MEEEEE). But, I just love hostels and its not only for singles you can bring families to there is many kinds of options in terms of ‘bed setting’.
- You can wait until last minute to book. I remember being in Cinque Terre, and moving onto Venice I had no clue where to stay. I decided I would use Hostelworld, as a way to find a quick overnight place. If your super last minute (not me) you can book in the morning for the afternoon. The only problem is, sometimes if you’re going to a popular city the option for ‘girls only’ may be booked quick. That being said, there will always be room.
- NOTE: hostels in major tourist cities do sometimes book up during peak season. Try to book at least a few days in advanced if you are visiting during this time.
- Activities. Most hostels offer activities to bring the guests together and create a sense of community. Hostels may offer free walking tours of the city, day trips to nearby areas, pub crawls, etc. Usually, these activities are either free or super cheap, so it is a great way to see the area and make friends who are also staying in the same hostel.
- Meeting People: It is way easier to make friends in a hostel than any other type of accommodation. This is my all time favourite part! You end up meeting people who become your family for the short time your there together (see below) the photo on me and two girls who adventured around Zadar, Croatia.
HOW TO CHOOSE A HOSTEL:
Most major tourist destinations will have tons of hostels to choose from. That being said, it can be overwhelming to choose which hostel to stay at. Below you will find my top tips for choosing a hostel.
- Read the reviews. This is the first thing I do when choosing a hostel. I will usually check out the reviews on Hostel World, Google Maps, and Booking. My biggest thing when it comes to a hostel is cleanliness, security, and location. One review I look for in particular is those from Black women/ Women of colour. If those factors got low ratings, I will avoid that hostel all together. Even, if I wasn’t Black I wouldn’t want to stay somewhere where people are treated based on their race/ethnicity.
- Location, location, baby. Location is always one of the first things I look at when booking a hostel. I prefer to be as centrally located as possible, especially when I am traveling solo. Make sure you have a general sense of the area you’re staying in. It’s best for first timers to pick a place that is within walking distance or close to transportation.
- What type of room do you want to stay in? Do you want a female only dorm? Bed curtains for privacy? Single beds? A private room? How many other people are you comfortable sharing your room with? Knowing what type of sleeping situation you want is a major part of choosing a hostel. I typically went with 6 Mixed-Bed or 6 all Female, depending on what my mood was at the time of booking.
- What type of experience are you looking for? Do you want a social party or one that is quiet? Mad Monkey hostels are known for parties, that being said I stayed in one Hostel in Pai that was super small (10 beds) and it was the best partying experience I ever got.
WHERE TO BOOK A HOSTEL
- The hostel website: Third-party apps get a percentage, so I strongly recommend booking your hostel directly through the hostel’s website, if one exists. *Travel Tip* It is usually cheaper on the website of the hostel to book with.
- Hostel World: Although I think it’s best to book directly through the hostel’s website, I always look at Hostel World first just to see an overview of my options. I also use this app to read reviews right away which has been very helpful for me. Hostel world is a great tool to use to compare reviews, location, and pricing among the hostels in the area. I typically used this form on my first backpacking journey.
- Hostel Bookers: An alternative to Hostel World. Check out both websites to compare prices, and check out different hostel options.
- Booking.com: Booking isn’t just for hotels – you can also find hostels here!
- Airbnb: Yes, you can find hostels on Airbnb! Sometimes it may be someone’s apartment that they have converted into a small hostel. You can use my code to receive up to 75$ CAD off your first stay and $20 CAD to use towards an experience worth 75$ or more!
GETTING SLEEP IN A HOSTEL
Well, you CAN get sleep. But, if you are a light sleeper I recommend booking a private room. OR investing in some really good head phones. Shop my Amazon store for all your back-packing needs.
Top Bunk vs Bottom
This really depends, I’ve done both. Typically, I like the bottom and when there is no curtains available I hang my towel/ the hostel towel up and create this barricade which allows me to have privacy to change/ read or journal at night.
If sleep is a priority for you, do not, I repeat, DO NOT book a party hostel. Party hostels are usually easy to point out, based on reviews, pictures (if there are a ton of pictures with giant groups of people, wearing pub crawl t-shirts, and shot gunning beers or doing shots, then yeah, odds are it is a party hostel.) A lot of party hostels will have written on their website, “If you a good night’s sleep is your priority, then this is not the hostel for you.” Etc. Here is a perfect example of a party hostel-it is pretty obvious.
Bring earplugs. These are a life saver for light sleepers.
It’s also a good idea to wear an eye mask if you are sensitive to light. Lights can commonly go off in some dorms so this keeps you sound asleep.
MEETING PEOPLE IN A HOSTEL
Making friends is super easy in a hostel. However, you do have to put yourself out there a little bit. For all my shy/introverted readers, this may mean getting out of your shell a little. The common room in a hostel is the best place to meet fellow travelers. If there is a group of people talking, just go up to them and say “Hey what’s up, my name is _____.”. Eventually, you end up meeting friends that you can go and travel with.
Another great way to meet people in a hostel is to go on a pub crawl or event the hostel is hosting. This way you meet people who are staying in your dorm/ the hostel.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW:
- Shower shoes are a must. You will be sharing a bathroom with a bunch of strangers. Always have a shower shoe to avoid foot fungus and other things.
- Search reviews: For my sisters, try to search for reviews from Black women/ women of colour. This will help you gauge the environment.
- Laundry: Almost all hostels offer laundry services or you can find a nearby place that can do it for it and some places even deliver.
- Some hostels require a small rental fee for towels. Research this on the hostel website before you arrive, just so you won’t have any surprises.
- Many hostels will accept cash-only payment. Make sure to have cash on you when you arrive (most will accept payment at various times)
- Peak seasons will always be more expensive. Try avoid visiting certain places during their peak seasons (Google search)
Hostels can be the most amazing experience! Just remember to try and have the most fun while staying there.