I’ve been traveling for almost eight years now, which means, I’ve used a lot of different accommodation options along the way.
I’ve stayed in hotels, apartments, camping, boats, couchsurfed, you name it. But one accommodation type I tend to use more than the others are hostels. If you’ve never stayed at a hostel, think of them as cheaper versions of hotels.
Many of them have fewer amenities than hotels (hence why they are cheaper), but many also offer all the same amenities hotels have but at a fraction of the price.
Where Do I Find Them?
I’d say I’ve booked about 90% of my hostels with them given how easy it is to not only search hostels there, but also narrow them down with the right filters.
Another thing I like about Booking and Hostelworld is how extensive their listing is, including more than 36,000 properties in over 170 countries.
Two surprising moments for me were when I searched for hotels at both Cuba and Iran, on different trips.
In Cuba, they show you Hostels, Casas Particulares, and Apartments, which are excellent options for American travelers who wish to travel Cuba legally. These options don’t appear on many other hotel booking sites.
In Iran, on the other hand, I didn’t expect to find a hostel there, so I started looking for hotels instead. None showed up on other sites. With little hope, I checked Hostelworld, and to my surprise, there were a few hostels listed!
Seriously, these days you can find a hostel pretty much anywhere in the world.
What I Love About Hostels
I’ve experienced it all; from amazing hostels I wish I could stay in longer, to shitty hostels I wished I never picked. (I’ve gotten better at picking them now!)
There are so many types of hostels to choose from and each of them appeals a different kind of traveler – or different mood – which is one of the reasons why I love them.
Also, their price… I can find a place to sleep for a fraction of the price of a hotel, and in many cases, with similar quality and amenities.
Also, many hostels are excellent places to meet new people. Some can simply join you on a day trip to help each other save money while others become life-long friends or even end up married! (I’ve seen that)
One great example is when I traveled all of South America overland, from Ushuaia, Argentina, to Cartagena, Colombia. I met two American travelers who were staying in the same dorm room. We clicked, and since we had a similar route, we continued traveling together.
We quickly found a lot of things to do in Argentina together and beyond that. We decided to travel to more countries together.
A week after, we met five British travelers at another hostel, and again, we got along so well and had a similar route, that all eight of us continued together.
That was in 2015. Today, we are still friends.
Choosing Hostels. I Filter my Needs
Throughout the years, I’ve managed to get better at selecting them based on what I really want at the time – be it a party hostel, socialize with other travelers, or just relax, among other things.
On their site or app, I do the typical search with the city, dates, and number of travelers. Then, once the results pop up, I start filtering them based on what I want.
Usually, my filter requirements are:
- Price– Costing up to $X.XX
- Facilities– Free Wifi is a must for me. Other facilities are optional.
- Rating– Usually I go with 8.0 to 10.0
- Room– This one I rarely check, unless I’m specifically looking for a private room.
With my filters in place, then I start looking over the remaining options. But, there’s a bit more filtering to do, this time on the map.
Check the Map
Location, location, location! This is one of the main criteria I use to pick a hostel.
Depending on the city you’re visiting, Hostelworld may have another filter with “popular place.” If it’s available, I may pick a few popular places I’d like to have nearby. But, I usually just use the map.
With my filters on, I go to the map and see the location of all the hostels that match my criteria. Then, I start clicking on them based on how central are they or how close they are to where I want to stay at.
If you don’t know where in the city you should stay, I recommend doing a quick Google search with “best places to stay in [destination]” and reading a few of the results.
See which area is being mentioned the most by people, or which one is described as the best one for what you’re looking for.
Then, when I have a few hostel options on that are I wish to stay, I start reading a few reviews.
Read Reviews for the Atmosphere
One thing you can’t filter is the hostel atmosphere. What is the atmosphere? Is it nice enough, friendly, active, easy to socialize, etc? Usually, the higher the atmosphere the more social and travel-friendly it is.
But, the atmosphere is not exclusive to being social. It can also refer to how comfortable and pleasant the place is.
You’ll also see ratings for value for your money, security, location, staff, cleanliness, and a few more.
Is the location high enough too? That means I’m picking a hotel located in a good place.
Additionally, you can check on the reviews whether they have lockers in dorm rooms, how are the showers, whether the A/C works well, are beds comfortable, and so on. Other travelers reviews are the most valuable feedback you can get online.
Does the Wifi REALLY Work?
Another important thing I check on the reviews is if the wifi really works. Many hostels have free wifi, but they either don’t work properly or are too slow.
As a blogger, I need decent wifi to work on the road, so if I see a few reviews that mention the wifi didn’t work or was too slow, I skip that hostel and pick a different one.
But, you don’t need to be a blogger to need decent wifi. These days, almost everyone loves staying connected and sharing their travel experiences on social media while on the road.
Once I find a hostel that ticks all the boxes, I go ahead and book it! I pick the room type I want, write my payment info, and pay the deposit – roughly 15% at HostelWorld. Normally, the rest is paid at the hostel during check-in.
Booking.com, on the other hand, allows you to book without payment on most of its listings.
Both Booking and Hostelworld also offer free cancelation up to a specific date, so if plans change or you find a better, cheaper place, you can change/cancel it and won’t lose any money.
So, whether you’re planning a road trip past Ontario, California, or a relaxing week in the Galapagos, I recommend checking out Booking.com and Hostelworld to find the best budget-friendly accommodation for your trip!
Have you stayed in a hostel? How was your experience?
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