How to choose your hostel
Hostels can be a whole lotta fun, but choose wisely!
Hostels are arguably the most common, cheapest, and easiest option for accommodation whilst abroad, and although they may not make your travelling adventures luxurious, they definitely make it more of an experience.
They’re a great way to meet some wonderful characters and find out about different activities and things going on. However, the pocket-friendly price and promise of a good atmosphere doesn’t mean they’re automatically going to be perfect. If you turn up at a hostel and it is not what you expected, it can affect how much you enjoy a city and stress you out, when all you want to be doing is having fun. It can be worrying if you arrive at your lodgings and you don’t feel comfortable or safe, but this can be prevented if you make sure you are properly prepared beforehand.
This summer, a friend and I were in this very situation in Brussels. We loved the city but the second we realised where we were staying, we knew we couldn’t stay there. An elderly couple warned us about the area, telling us to hold our bags in front of us and to cover up our legs. The doors of the hostel were locked and when we were let in we noticed we were the only people staying there. The atmosphere was cold and some of the staff stared at us from a distance, making us feel really uncomfortable. Alarms bells started to ring in our heads and we immediately got a taxi into the centre of Brussels. We managed to find an old hotel which gave us discounted rooms due to our sob story. The first thing we did was ring laterooms.com and asked them to book a cheap hotel in the city centre for the next evening. This turned out really well as we got to stay in a gorgeous hotel at a reasonable price.
...and how to avoid them
What happened to us can be avoided as it was entirely our own fault. We didn’t research our hostel enough, which is fundamentally the most important thing to do.
When searching for reviews of your hostels look at a variety of trusted sites. TripAdvisor is good for customer reviews, as is Hostelworld. Try and look for reviews that provide photos so you can get a better idea of where you’re booking. Also, read the reviews from those that seem the most like-minded as you—for example, if you’re a girl get a female’s opinion. Particularly take notice of categories such as safety and security, as well as curfews and the facilities that will be available.
Always Google map the location of the hostel. You want it to be central: this is key for safety and security and means you don’t have to walk for ages to get home. Sort out directions from the train station or airport to your hostel before you leave—make sure you keep a hard copy with you for when you need to ask for directions and are struggling with the language barriers!
When booking your hostel online make sure you’re on a secure website. It should display full contact details: look for a mobile number, email, address, full name, etc. Also check that the website address always starts with ‘https://’, particularly on the payment page. This proves the page is encrypted and hasn’t been interfered with. There should also be a small padlock image displayed somewhere on the browser (NOT just the website page).
Staying in hostels can be a great experience, but to avoid any last-minute panics, make sure you’ve done your research!
- Image 1: illustriousbean / Flickr
- Banner image: nest hostels valencia / Flickr