Which are the best DU hostels
Backpacker Hostels: 9 Tips for Finding the Best!
17th July 2013
* Guest contribution by Sebastian Plagemann, who has been traveling around the world for 6 months *
There are now hostels around the world like a dime a dozen.
And even if there are now many alternatives to the hostel, it is probably still the most common type of accommodation for backpackers.
Especially in Asia, where hostels usually only cost a few euros per night, it is definitely the easiest way to find a place to sleep.
Unfortunately, in addition to many good hostels, there are almost as many (or even more) bad hostels. But how do you find the best for you?
Here are a few tips on how I approach the hostel search and what is important to me in a good hostel:
1. Research the internet beforehand!
Unsurprisingly, searching the Internet is my first stop. Sites like Hostelbookers or Hostelworld list many of the available accommodations of a place and - what is much more important in my opinion - there is the possibility to rate hostel.
This is where the wheat is separated from the chaff. So you already get a first impression of what to expect in the hostel. Anything below 80% is a reason for me to take a closer look if there are no better alternatives.
However, I do not blindly trust the reviews, because what has run into one of them may not be a problem for me. In addition, many are more inclined to document a bad experience than if everything was OK.
Hence the appeal: If everything was good, then write positive reviews too! Lasts a maximum of five minutes and will definitely help others in your situation.
2. Book only the first night!
Depending on where I am and how many hostels there are, I only book the first night and if I like, I extend my stay on site. So my travel plan remains flexible and I can change my accommodation or move on if necessary and in the worst case I only have to pay for the one night.
Most of the time, when I check in, I ask whether the hostel will be fully booked in the next few days and when I have to contact me for an extension at the latest.
While that worked relatively well for me in Asia, in the USA I switched to reserving several nights or my entire stay, as there are only a few decent hostels here, depending on the city, and they are quickly booked out. It can also be problematic to book at short notice on weekends or public holidays.
3. Check out other hostels on site!
If there are several alternatives in a city, I would always have the hostel and the rooms shown to me.
For example, I don't like former double rooms that have been converted into 6- or 8-bed rooms. It annoys me when I “live” with so many people in a confined space, because everyone has to stow their backpacks or suitcases somewhere.
For example, the sanitary facilities are not so important to me because my requirements have fallen rapidly in the last 6 months. Everyone has their points that are important to them. Think about what is important to you beforehand and then look specifically for these things in the hostel.
4. Research the location and connections to public transport!
As with buying a house or looking for an apartment, the right location is also a relevant factor for a hostel.
It is not so important to me that it is in the middle of the city center or that everything is within walking distance, but rather that it is conveniently located for public transport.
Do you get to the hostel easily from the airport, train station or bus station? Is it even possible to get there by public transport or do I have to take a taxi? These things can be found out from the comfort of your home and make it a lot easier on site.
5. Are there any common areas & activities?
Pretty much the most important thing in a hostel is the common area. Here you meet other travelers and can pass the time.
Is there enough space? Are there things like a pool table, table football or a dart board? Are there tables at which you can write a letter or a postcard? Here too, of course, the tastes are different. Experience has shown, however, that a hostel with a spacious common area is the better hostel in case of doubt.
Another point: does the hostel offer joint activities? Walking Tour? Pub crawl? Trips? It couldn't be easier to get into conversation with others, especially when you're traveling alone. And the activities are often cheaper than with the local commercial providers.
6. How is the internet situation in the hostel?
A point that is still very important to me. Almost every hostel now offers free WiFi (with the exception of Australia and New Zealand, because internet is generally expensive there).
However, there are also differences here and nothing annoys me more than poor WiFi in a hostel (especially when you have to look up something or want to book something). Some hostel networks are simply not geared towards the amount of visitors and therefore break in regularly during rush hour. From my point of view, with little capital and a little know-how, it can be avoided!
7. The little things often count!
Looking back, I can say that for me it was mostly the little things that make a good hostel.
In Vietnam, for example, there was the possibility of filling one's drinking bottle with clean water, since the tap water is not really drinkable. A socket in the locker or next to the bed with dessert? Gold value for everyone who has a tablet or laptop with them.
In one hostel there were even free earplugs to block out the snoring sleeping neighbor.
Also nice: free laundry detergent or the option to print out tickets / boarding passes.
Little things like that don't cost the hostel much, but they are the things that stay in my head and signal that the owners really understand the needs of the guests.
8. Overrated features!
Some hostels advertise things that nobody really needs or that are not really important. But it just looks better if there are 10 things in the description that you can get for free, even if you don't actually need them.
Most overrated, in my opinion, is free breakfast. It's nice if a hostel offers me something to eat in the morning, but usually a hostel breakfast is so basic that you can get it for very, very little money on the next corner. So it is nice when it is offered, but not a point on the credit side for me. Apart from the fact that breakfast times mostly collide with my sleeping times. So don't be too blinded by the advertising promises, but consider whether you want to take advantage of what is offered.
9. Size of the hostel
The bigger the hostel, the more organized it is usually. That's the positive. However, the following also applies: the larger the hostel, the more difficult it is to get to know someone and it can quickly happen that you feel alone among many.
I therefore prefer small hostels, also at the risk that the organization here sometimes goes a bit haywire.
These are the things that are important to me when looking for a hostel. Of course, not everything can be found out in advance via the Internet and everyone values different things.
However, if you check the reviews on the booking sites for these things, you will get a good impression of what to expect on site. And don't be afraid to look at the hostel and the rooms before paying for several nights. If you are denied that, this should give you pause!
What are your experiences with finding a hostel? What is important to you in a hostel? What not so? Share it with us in the comments!
Allow me to comment on a few points of your very good (practical) introduction ...
Regarding points 5 and 6:
In our guest house, in which we also live, there is no room that can be used as a communal area - but there is a wide and partially covered veranda that is accessible from all rooms. However, it is rarely used as a meeting place - mostly when we organize a small party with local friends. And I have not yet met travelers who do not bring an internet-enabled device at our house. ;-) I can also confirm the observation that (in contrast to 10 years ago, e.g.) the general availability of Internet connections, people seem to have become more “individualistic” (that is to say, “more isolated from each other”). But what I see as the most important reason for the lack of communication between guests is the generally short length of stay - I try to get people to come who take the time for their travels. :-) For example, an overnight stay, framed by actively spent days outside, is in my opinion in the rarest cases enough to develop a feeling of "at home" in a guest house and to benefit from the local knowledge and experience of the operator.
But from autumn we will have bookings for longer periods of time (4 days, 7 days, etc.) for the first time, and I see potential. :-)
This brings me straight to points 7-9:
As for 7 and 8: 100% agreement. “Small” things and services, including advice and help with problems etc., contribute significantly to the quality of the stay and should, in my opinion, be the focus - but this requires that the operator (or the staff) be in direct contact with is available to guests and is also interested in such contacts. Again, this is generally more the case with small guest houses (see point 9).
And it is also a question of business philosophy: I slept in many a good guest house, which was primarily an accommodation, where the practical things were well organized, but where there was little room for my questions and thoughts. And unfortunately I forgot these hostels over time. But there are some that I cannot forget (and in some cases still use them myself), because they were / are (for me) the best guest houses: there you can find operators who are happy to communicate and who have a lot of fun answering questions answer and convey interesting information that is not written anywhere else. Despite travel blogs, flicker, YouTube, etc., there is still a lot of interesting information on site that only comes out in a conversation ...
Also in my case: thank you for listening (or reading). ;-)
(experienced operator of a small multicultural guest house on the island of Ishigaki)
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