Youth hostels can be great and cheap places to stay whilst you are travelling, often providing good quality accommodation with agreeable prices whatever your budget. They also allow you to socialise and get travel knowledge from other travellers.
As hostels are often for budget travellers they tend to cater to a younger clientèle. But as career breakers, adventurous holidaymakers and retired travellers take extended backpacker trips, a much wider range of people use youth hostels today.
As a result, hostels have undergone something of a regeneration in recent years, and many destinations now offer a choice of boutique hostels. That said, staying in hostels is not the same as staying in a hotel. Travellers often share a living space which means hostels can present some unique challenges. Here are some of our travel tips to make sure you know what to expect to have the best hostel experience.
Whilst there are more and more upmarket hostels catering to the new generation of ‘flashpackers’ (backpackers with a little extra budget), the majority of hostels do tend to be a little more basic, offering dorm rooms with bunk beds, basic linen, pillows, kitchens and often a laundry service. Many now have internet via WiFi or communal computers. Lots of hostels also offer private room options, some with shared bathrooms or en-suites.
Guide books and online guides can be fantastic for helping you choose a hostel as many destinations have an overwhelming number of very similar looking and sounding hostels. Online reviews can be a great way of really getting an idea of how good the hostel is, the convenience of its location, and also its sociability for meeting other backpackers.
It’s a good idea to make a reservation at least a day ahead, particularly in busy seasons or on national holidays. Most hostels will take telephone or e-mail reservations and some of the biggest hostel booking search engines will allow you to place a reservation online with a small 10% booking fee. Normally the remainder is payable upon arrival, which still gives you some flexibility if you do decide to go somewhere else.
Before you check in and pay for your bed for the night it is a good idea of see that the hostel is clean and feels safe. If it isn’t up to a good enough standard then don’t be afraid to cancel your reservation and look elsewhere. If it’s a horrible hostel it’s unlikely you are going to be getting a very good night’s sleep!
Make sure you are aware of any curfews and take advantage of lockers that are available for guest use to store your valuables. Theft in hostels can be a problem so always try to take a lock with you to secure your bag or locker whilst you are out. If you are uncomfortable, wear your money belt (even whilst you are sleeping) and make sure you don’t leave your things lying around or somebody else might ‘accidentally’ adopt them.
A sleeping bag liner (available at camping shops) is very useful when you are staying in hostels, as you can be sure you won’t have problems with bed bugs or questionably clean hostel sheets. Similarly as mentioned before, combination padlocks for securing bags or lockers are essential. Earplugs are another must-bring when you are staying in a busy hostel, as there will be lots of people coming in at different times into shared bedrooms.
Youth hostel accommodation is a great place to meet other people, and many hostels will run social events to bring travellers together. Hostels also have social spaces such as lounges or computer rooms where you can get to know other people – they’re some of the best places to meet other people, make friends and share valuable travel tips!
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ERGO Customer - December 2019