You might be asking yourself, how exactly do you find the best hostels? What makes a good hostel? Simply, what is it about hostels that makes them so darn cool?
Oh many things, that's for sure!
If we were to define hostels, we'd say they are an accommodation designed for travellers that love to meet people, have fun and sleep cheap.
Find out why hostel life is better than real life (8 simple reasons).
However, it's a well-known fact not all hostels are created equal. So whilst one hostel might tick all the boxes for comfort, vibe and design, another down the road might be full of bed bugs. No thanks.
That being said, there are many great hostel properties that exist and offer more than just a good night's sleep.
Read: 10 Types of Hostels to be aware of.
What's the best thing about hostel life? Possibly the very fact that each hostel is unique. Aside from the gaurantee of having a bed to sleep in, you'll never know what else might be inside the four walls.
That's why before booking your next hostel, do some research and find out if it has the following listed in this article.
How to find the Best Hostels in the World
We've collected the most important factors to consider when you're trying to find the best hostels in your chosen destination.
The hostel world is huge, so forget booking a hotel. This ultimate guide is designed around budget travel with personality. Make sure you take these things into consideration before booking hostels.
- 1. Hostel Freebies & Inclusions
- 2. No Curfew, No Worries!
- 3. Choose a Style that Suits You
- 4. Shared Kitchen
- 5. A Competitive Price
- 6. A Top Location
- 7. Safety & Security
- 8. Friendly Staff
- 9. Atmosphere & Activities
- 10. Chain or Independent Hostel?
- 11. Read the Hostel Reviews
- Summary of How to Find the Best Hostels
1. Hostel Freebies & Inclusions
Who doesn't love a good freebie?
This is what hostels are great for. Unlike hotels, hostels keep their prices low and throw in wonderful add-ons to support the budget backpacker.
Before booking a hostel, you want to check to see if there is free breakfast and free WiFi. At the very least in this day and age, WiFi should be offered for free. If it isn't clear, there's a chance that there is a daily charge for limited usage. Be aware of this!
It's easy to spend a noteable amount of money on food and data whilst travelling. Choose a great hostel that offers breakfast and WiFi for free and you're already saving.
Other amenities that are often offered free at hostels include:
- Laundry (or at least a lot cheaper)
- Walking tours + other hostel activities
- Luggage storage
- Lockers (may need your own lock)
The really awesome hostels go as far as offering communal dinners, welcome drink, daily activities and airport shuttles at no extra price.
Think about what you want to save money on and book accordingly. Not sure when to book hostels? <-- a guide to help you right here.
2. No Curfew, No Worries!
While not as common as they once were, hostel curfews do still exist! This can be a good idea in areas that aren't safe after dark, but otherwise it's just annoying.
This is when the front door to the hostel gets locked at a certain time, meaning if you arrive back after that time you may not be able to get in.
Though you can sometimes still get in with a keycard or by trying to get someone's attention, it's usually more of a hassle than it's worth. Check to make sure your hostel doesn't have a curfew and you won't have to worry about when you get back for the night.
If there is a curfew: Make sure you know the procedure to get back in and DON'T FORGET YOUR KEY!
Another thing to check is if the reception is open 24hrs a day. This not only helps those arriving during unsociable hours, but it also adds to the security of the hostel. Security cameras, staff on duty throughout the night, locked doors = a safe hostel.
3. Choose a Style that Suits You
Not all travellers are alike. While some may want to stay in a hostel where they can party all night, others may desire a quieter and more cozy atmosphere. That's why it's important to choose the correct hostel type for you!
How to find a hostel that suits you? Here are the main hostel types:
- Cheap hostel (low standards, cheapest price)
- Party hostel (activities, young crowd)
- Boutique hostel (upscale, design, luxury)
- Home-from-home hostel (family-run, small)
- Youth hostel (traditional, for groups, families)
- Lifestyle hostel (surf, co-work, hiking)
Generally, hostels with a large common area, communal kitchen and bar are more social with a possible party atmosphere.
This can be great for those who want to drink all night, but a disaster for backpackers wanting a restful night's sleep. If you want to stay somewhere with a more laid-back astmosphere, opt for a smaller home-from-home hostel with a communal area for easier bonding.
At some hostels, property owners will even hangout with you or make you a home-cooked meal, making the hostel seem more like a home than an accommodation.
Also: Make sure you have a look at the room choices. Are there just mixed dorms, or a combination of mixed & female-only in a variety of sizes? If you prefer a private room, make sure they are offered before arrive disappointed.
Additionally, if you're simply staying in hostels to save money but like solitude, opt for a simple youth hostel without so many chances for encounters and that offer private rooms. Cheap hostels are obviously the way to go if your budget is super duper tight.
4. Shared Kitchen
As stated above, a communal kitchen allows for socialising, which is great for the solo traveller and hostel-goer looking to make new friends. Additionally, having a kitchen can save you a lot of money.
Being able to cook your own meals means you set the price. When I'm backpacking, certain cheap and satisfying grocery store staples include pasta, eggs, canned veggies, potatoes and burgers.
Making a burger in your hostel will cost a fraction of what it would cost to eat at a restaurant.
Bonus: You can ask other travellers to chip in on a meal with you to save even more money. It's also a wonderful way to break the ice!
Share and learn new recipes on your travels by making sure your hostel includes a kitchen.
5. A Competitive Price
This doesn't mean book the cheapest hostel you find without doing some research. If a hostel is $10 a night but is located way out of town, doesn't include breakfast or WiFi and gets bad ratings for cleanliness and customer service, it's probably not your best option.
You will end up spending so much more than if you would if you accept that you get what you pay for. For just a few extra coins, the hostel standard can increase dramatically.
How to find cheap hostels?
We at Hostelz always display the cheapest hostel at the top of the page (when you search for hostels in your chosen destination).
Compare prices and see what's included with each hostel to figure out who's offering a great deal and who's ripping you off.
6. A Top Location
Everyone loves a good deal; however, if a hostel is cheaper than the others but is located miles away from anything you're interested in seeing, you'll end up spending what you saved on public transport and using up a lot more time of the day just getting to and fro.
Try to find a hostel that allows you to check out some of your itinerary on foot, as walking a city is the best way to save money as well as get to know it on the ground level.
Top trick: If the hostel offers a free walking tour, it's a good indicator that the location is central to top attractions.
Moreover, the more centrally located you are the more you'll save on public transportation.
This is especially helpful in countries that have very confusing systems. You don't want to get lost in South America because you can't read or speak Portuguese, for example!
Be aware of the surrounding neighbourhood
Is the hostel on a main road or tucked down a quiet street?
While a main road location isn't always a problem, sometimes it can lead to noise. If your room is facing a strip of bars, chances are you'll be listening to techno beats and drunk party goers all night.
If possible, book a hostel off the main road or ask for a room not facing the street.
7. Safety & Security
Many hostels offer numerous ways for you to stay safe during your stay. Yet, don't take this for granted, especially when choosing a cheap hostel.
The number one thing to check is if there are lockers included for your valuables. You'll most likely be sharing a room with other travellers you don't know, so locking up your passport, money and electronics is a must.
Furthermore, you should see what kind of security they have in place. Ask the questions:
- Is there a guard or staff member on duty all night?
- Do you need to show a card or enter a password to get into the building?
- Does your room have a strong, working lock?
- Is the luggage storage area kept locked? Are travellers allowed to access it unsupervised?
Safety should be your number one priority when travelling, so make sure it's the hostels as well. The team should have their guests best interests at heart. If their security is lacking, consider staying at another hostel.
8. Friendly Staff
Great staff go out of their way to make each person feel welcome. They are eager to share tips, and are always at hand when you have a question. Great staff do not roll their eyes when you approach them.
If you find a hostel where staff like to go out with guests and share a drink or dinner, you know you've found a good one.
Hostel staff know the best there is to find in a city. They know the best bars, Mexican restaurants, cafes, lesser-known sites, quirky shops. You name it!
The best part is you'll be more likely to interact with locals and learn more about the city from their point of view.
Read: How to Create an Irresistible Hostel - learn what to look out for.
9. Atmosphere & Activities
Think about what kind of ambiance you're looking for.
Do you want a bohemian vibe with bean bag chairs and travellers playing guitar?
Or would you rather have something a bit more luxurious? Perhaps you love nothing more than that community vibe?
The overall atmosphere largely depends on the type of hostel you're staying in. Party hostels are obviously more centered around socialising, whereas a small hostel with privacy-pods are ideal for book worms and older travellers that like peace and quiet.
Tune in with how you're feeling and find the best hostels that suit your mood. Here are some tips for making friends in hostels, no matter which hostel type you go for.
Any hostel that offers free events and activities is worth visiting. People come together so easily this way!
It's one of the main reason why working in a hostel is a good idea.
Many hostels give travelers a chance to experience the city for free or on the cheap through a calendar of activities. Think walking tours, dance classes, cooking classes, open mic nights, standup comedy shows and more.
Larger hostels that have their own bar often offer live music and DJ nights. Or if the premises doesn't have suitable space, they may offer food and drink deals for nearby bars and restaurants.
Hostel events often include drinking games, communal dinners, pool tournaments and movie nights.
10. Chain or Independent Hostel?
Ok so there are two types of hostels: chain and independent.
Chain hostels fall under Hostelling International (HI), Youth Hostel Association (YHA) and other companys that have many hostels across the world, such as Selina and Mad Monkey.
Independent hostels are usually family-run and one of a kind.
Both Hostelling International (HI) and independent hostels have their pros and cons. When you opt for an HI hostel, you know you're getting a at least a minimum standard of quality. This quality is a standard carried across all of the hostels included in HI. That being said, just because a hostel isn't HI-certified doesn't mean it isn't great.
Independent hostels tend to be better for travelers looking for more relaxed rules as well as a quirkier experience. They have that personal touch and are often more intimate and guest-led.
11. Read the Hostel Reviews
The best way to learn the truth about a hostel is to read reviews.
Of course, don't believe everything you read!
If someone writes that Hostel A is absolutely disgusting because there was a hair in the sink, you may want to move on to see other reviews.
Reviews are often left by those that we either extremely satisfied, or extremely upset. A red flag is when you see consistently bad reviews for a hostel.
That being said, reading reviews is a great way to see other people's experiences and learn if the hostel really is as centrally located and customer-service oriented as they claim. While there are many places to browse hostel critiques, Hostelz.com ensures genuine reviews by not allowing hostels to alter any comments left about their property. Moreover, our site sources reviews from all major hostel booking sites to give users a clearer picture of the hostel.
And when it's time to book, we source search results from multiple booking sites so you can get only the best price for your dates. It is clear which sites are fully booked, which is available and at what cost.
Summary of How to Find the Best Hostels
There you have it; 11 things to look out for when trying to find the best hostels in your chosen destination(s).
As long as you take some time to do a bit of research, you shoudn't be in for any nasty surprises.
Once you've checked what your hostel includes, don't forget to compare it to our handy packing guide - have you got everything?
What are the best experiences of hostel life?
This is easily the social atmosphere, unique design and organised activities. Not to mention freebies include breakfast, WiFi and walking tours! Just sharing a room with other travellers is a wonderful experience in itself.
How do you find hostel better than hotel in city when you are a solo traveller?
Great solo traveller hostels offer a social vibe, activities and common spaces. Read reviews and the hostel listing to see if these things are included. On Hostelz we always list the best hostel for solo travellers at the top of the page - simply search for your desired destination in the search bar.
How can I find party hostel rather than quiet hostels?
Great question! On Hostelz.com we have added little tabs on the hostel listings that highlight the best 'party hostel' option as well as 'quiet rest'. Simply search for your chosen destination and have a look which hostel is listed a a party hostel.
How to find the best hostels in Europe?
What are the best tips to live in a hostel?
First and foremost, check with the hostel if they accept long term stay. Enquire with staff if they offer work for accommodation - it's a great way to save money and live cheaply.
Which is the best hostel website?
Hostelz.com, but you already knew that, right? We list every hostel in the world, and compare prices from all of the major booking platforms including Booking.com, Hostelworld and Hostelsclub.