No doubt you're contemplating when to book hostels for your upcoming backpacking trip. This is one of the most commonly asked questions that people have when they start planning their adventure - you're not alone!
We hear it asked again and again in emails to us, as well as in various travel forums. It's difficult to give a simple absolute answer, but we'll do our best to share our advice based on our years of hostel travel experience.
Of course it depends a lot on your personality. Perhaps you're an avid planner, or you prefer to just wing it and let the wind carry you. No matter your style, you'll find it covered in this article.
It's likely that every new traveller will have similar burning questions:
- Should I book hostels before I travel?
- Is it better to book hostels in advance?
Yes and no. It's certainly situation, country and time-of-year dependent.
Come on, let us talk you through it so you no longer need to worry about it and can discover why hostel life is better than real life.
When to Book Hostels... for the Pre-Planners
Alrighty, let's kick start by helping out those of you that love to plan every last detail before you can hit that relax button. We understand you!
We're going to assume that if you're a pre-planner, you already have your trip itinerary in place.
In which case, it's probably best to go ahead and book your hostels as soon as you have your final plan alive and kicking. If you book your hostels at least 1-2 months in advance, you'll almost always be able to find available beds at even the best top rated hostels.
(By "top rated", we mean hostels that have a high Hostelz.com Combined Score, since those tend to be the most popular hostels).
You find our comprehensive guide to all best hostels in the world here.
What if you can't book that far in advance?
Even in the high season (typically during the hottest, driest months of the country), you can usually still find available beds at most of the top rated hostels if you're booking at least a week in advance. Occasionally some popular but small hostels might start filling up.
Yet in most cases, many hostels will still have some available beds a week before, especially during weekdays. Weekends are more popular, especially in a party hostel that offers live music, for example.
When to Book Hostels... for the Spontaneous Souls
What if you don't want to plan your trip in advance, and want to keep your options open for wherever your travel adventure takes you?
Never fear, you can make that work, too!
What we recommend is that you at least book your first hostel at your arrival city well in advance. Because let's face it, arriving somewhere new at (potentially) an unreasonable hour after travelling for a long time is exhausting. Add having to find a hostel in to the mix and that's a recipe for a bad mood.
Avoid it - book your first hostel in advance!
And then as you continue your trip, consider booking your next hostel at least 2-3 days in advance. Either that or check the hostels in your next destination and get an idea of what's available.
It will most likely be easier to book hostels last minute in a small, not-so-popular town than it would be to book hostels in Europe cities such as Paris, for example. So "should I book hostels in advance in Europe?" Probably.
Can I book hostels on the day?
We're often asked 'can you book hostels last minute', and the answer is, in many cases, yes.
Great tip: Download as well the Hostelworld App. You can compare prices on Hostelz, and use the app for your final reservation.
However, there are a few disadvantages:
the difference between booking a few days in advance and turning up on the day will be room you end up in. You're more likely to end up in a bigger dorm, for example. This is important to think about if you find it difficult to sleep when it's noisy, or you're a female solo traveller that doesn't enjoy mixed dorms.
The Top Hostels will be gone
The top hostels are sold out easily 2-3 in advance, for sure. This goes especially for high season like August in Barcelona or May/June in Bali. This means, if you want to stay super spontaneous, this comes at the price of missing out the super-cool fun hostels.
When is the best time to book hostels?
Once you've arrive in a city, it's a good idea to get a sense of the place (and hostel!) and see if you feel like staying longer than the one day.
You may decide quickly that you don't like the city. Or you love it and want to stay longer, but would prefer a different hostel.
Worst case, you may find that the hostel you want is full for a couple days and you may need to adjust your plans a bit and stay in your current hostel for a little longer. Either that or head of to new places and then come back at a later date.
But that's all part of the adventure of spontaneous travel right? If you're willing to compromise, spontaneous souls can make it work.
Where to Book Hostels? It matters
The most popular hostel website to make your final reservation are:
Great tip: Download as well the Hostelworld App
However, you should always compare hostels BEFORE making your final reservation. And there are several reasons for this.
- compare prices for ALL hostels
- get 100% of the availability
By using Hostelz.com, you'll always be able to find even that last available bed at the very best hostel, at the very best price!
If you stick with any booking platform, chances are high that you miss on the availability of some hostels. Meaning, you cannot make a reservation although this hostel might be available on a different platform.
Remember! Hostels typically only put a portion of their beds in each of the booking systems.
So although a hostel may be "sold out" on one booking site, it will likely have a few beds left on another booking site. So in order to know for definite whether your favourite hostel is completely booked up, you'd need to check all major booking platforms. Time consuming, right?
Not only that, but each platform will have different prices on their availability.
However, luckily for you Hostelz.com is the only site that searches all of the hostel booking websites for you, so you don't have to.
Here's a guide to the 10 types of hostels listed on this site. It's designed to help you save time finding your perfect hostel type.
So no longer do you need to question how to book hostels; Hostelz is the one and only website you need. It's free to use, and doesn't require a credit card for creating a membership.
Take Note of Holidays and Festivals
Whether you're planning on travelling to New Zealand, Costa Rica, Chiang Mai or the United States, it's important to always be aware of local holidays, festivals, and special events.
These obviously change considering the country, culture and time of year. If you're coming from Western Europe and travelling to the East, chances are the local customs and celebrations will be very different to what you're used to.
If you're planning to attend Oktoberfest in Munich, the Holi Festival in India, or La Tomatina near Valencia, that changes everything. For huge, popular events such as these you may need to book a hostel as much as 6-12 months in advance. Yikes!
Holidays such as New Year's Eve can mean full hostels in many countries all over the world.
Unless you are specifically travelling to this place to join in on the festivities, we suggest changing your travel dates if possible. Otherwise, you risk getting caught up in mass gatherings, public transport closures and higher crime rates.
So watch out for holidays and events of all kinds, and consider booking farther in advance if there's something on the calendar when you plan to be in town.
Top tip: Contact the hostel via their email address (found in hostel listings on this site) and enquire about holidays happening during your stay.
Beware of Weekends
People on vacation often forget about weekends. Mondays no longer count and there's no need to look forward to Friday!
After-all, when you're on vacation a weekend feels pretty much the same as a weekday. But don't forget that people who live in the region you're visiting are more likely to make their trips on the weekend.
So pay attention to the calendar, and book a little further in advance for Friday and Saturday night accommodations. This is especially important if you're looking to book a party hostel - most of the social events happen at the weekend.
Private Rooms are a Different Story
The above advice was based on the assumption that you're booking dorm beds.
If you're looking for a private room at the hostel, be aware that hostels usually only have a limited number of private rooms. That makes sense, because...
- Hostels focus on social, inclusive atmosphere unlike hotels
- They can make a lot more money off of a room full of dorm beds
Even larger hostels sometimes only have a few private rooms, if any. So if you prefer booking last minute but are set on getting a private room, it might not always work in your favour.
Be aware that you'll need to book further in advance if you want to gaurantee a private room at your chosen hostel.
We are collecting the best hostels with private rooms in many major cities around the world.
As an example, check out
- best hostels in Madrid with Private Rooms
- best hostels in Lisbon with Private Rooms
- best hostels in London with Private Rooms
Is it Cheaper to Book Hostels in Advance?
Booking hostels in advance has its advantages, and getting a cheaper deal can be one of them. Yet this is not guaranteed. For instance, it can sometimes be cheaper to book last minute as the hostel would rather sell the last few beds at a reduced rate than not at all. However, this first of a big gamble. And 2nd, the great top-hostels will not do this.
Meaning, even if you find a last-minute better deal, chances are high you will end up at a mediocre hostel at best.
Once again, we suggest always using Hostelz when it comes to finding the cheapest rate for your dates. We compare all of the booking platforms so you have an overview of prices in one easy click.
How much are hostels?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to that question. It really depends on many factors such as:
- The hostel destination (country, city, location)
- Hostel type (party, poshtel, budget)
- Which room you choose (dorm versus private)
- Time of year (busy or quiet season)
Take these things into consideration, do your research and compare general prices of countries. For example, the cheapest hostels in Europe will still be more expensive than hostels in Thailand.
Can you Book Hostels too Early?
Who hasn't daydreamed about future plans for next year? Or started planning the next big trip before the current one has even ended. It happens to the best of us. Sounds like you may have contracted itchy-feet syndrome.
However, we have some bad news for you; it is possible to book hostels too early.
Simply put, most hostels will not let you book their accommodation more than a year in advance. So with that in mind, you won't find them listed on booking systems for dates +12 months from now.
Yet, if your trip is less than 12 months away and you're sure of your plans, then it's not too early to start making bookings if you would like. No one is stopping you, even the booking system!
Can we make a suggestion? Don't bother booking hostels more than 6 months in advance unless you will DEFINITELY be travelling there, say for a wedding or something more set-in-stone. You never know what might change in that time, and unless you're super organised, it's easy to forget you've already booked and further down the line will create duplicate bookings. This equals money and time lost.
Summary: When to Book Hostels
We hope this guide on when to book hostels was helpful and gave you a bit of an insight.
As you can see, it really depends on a lot of things as to when is the right time to book hostels. Ultimately, only you can decide for yourself what feels right!
Before you go anywhere, have a look at our packing guide and make sure you haven't forgotten to pack something important.
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