Choosing the right hostel is a truly make or break aspect of traveling – but with such a massive range of choices out there, it can be hard to know what you should be looking for. Here are some top tips to make sure you pick the right place.
1. Choose from adverts with pictures
Similar to hunting for a room to rent, it’s usually a bad sign if there are few or very poor quality photos attached to the advert. Both show a lack of attention to detail or professionalism from the staff or owners, and extremely poor quality photos (i.e. very low resolution, pointing at the floor, or just generally sloppy) can suggest a badly maintained or very downmarket hostel awaits you. Obviously, hostel owners don’t need to be Annie Liebowitz, but photos should be a) available and b) clear, so you aren’t traveling into the unknown.
2. Pay attention to the reviews
Every hostel will have a mix of reviews – in every aspect of life one person’s junk is another’s treasure, so one person’s motel 1 will be another’s Hilton. However, this doesn’t mean reviews are worthless. Firstly, make sure you look at hotels that have a large number of reviews combined with a high rating – this reduces the chances of the reviews being fake, and also basic maths means that the rating is likely to be a truer reflection of how the hostel is the more reviews there are. Finally, especially if you’re traveling as a female, check the less favorable reviews for signs that the hostel or surrounding neighborhood is unpleasant or inaccessible after dark.
3. Do your research on the location
The worst mistake you can make (speaking as someone who has definitely made this mistake) is to look at a hostel and think, that looks cheap and cheerful – I’ll take it’ only to arrive and find that it’s miles away not only from the city center but also from any public transport links, and furthermore seems to be a favorite haunt of some unsavory types. Even the most beautiful cities in the world have their undesirable areas, but no hostel is in the world is going to market themselves as ‘the one in the dodgy bit’. Whether you’re a ‘plan every last detail before you go’ kind of traveler or you’re planning to work out your next accommodation on the train there, research the location before you start choosing your hostel – there will be plenty of travel information out there telling you what you need to know.
There is no fool proof way to completely eliminate the risk of picking a dud hostel to stay in, but if you follow these three tips then even if you don’t end up in the accommodation of your dreams, you should avoid a complete disaster.