Cheap flights, internet access to travel information, constantly improving global travel networks – it has never been easier to travel. We can truly say that travel has been democratized in recent years, becoming almost a must.
But just because you need to keep your Instagram profile up and impress the lads at home (or not) doesn’t mean you should blow a hole in your budget when trying to travel for cheap. One of the main expenses in travelling is accommodation. There is AirBnB and Couchsurfing but sometimes, when you’re on the go and need a quick fix, hostels can still be your best choice. Here are some of the main tips I keep in mind whenever I stay in hostels.
Do your research
Now, there are plenty of website listing hostels around the world. Some of them show up on booking.com but most often the cheapest ones are only on hostelworld.com and hostelbookers.com. It might pay to check all three websites to find a hostel that will suit your needs and budget.
A few things to keep in mind when looking at hostels. First, try to sort the results so that they show both ‘best reviewed’ and ‘cheapest’ on top. These are generally peer-reviewed hostels that will give you the most bang for your buck. One thing you should really not forget, though, is to check the location on a map before booking. Just because a hostel is described as central doesn’t mean that that location will always suit your needs. You might be in a city to visit a specific place, or arriving late/leaving early and thus needing a hostel near the bus station/airport/train station. Hostels abound in Asia and Europe so you’ll have plenty of great hostels; you can afford to be picky about the location.
Second, you don’t always need to go for the cheapest room. That is especially true if you are travelling with a friend. Twin rooms are often cheaper than two dorm rooms. If you’re planning on being on the piss with your best friend on Reeperbahn or Kao San Rd, don’t be an arse: pay a dollar more and create your own ecosystem of stinky drunkenness rather than spoiling the whole dorm’s experience.
Make sure to read some reviews – read positive, negative and middling reviews, as this will help you get a feel of the place. Is it a party hostel or a quiet one? It will also help you balance raving reviews versus terrible reviews. There are a lot of people who review in bad faith, but some horrible experiences (red flags like theft or gross conditions) should be kept in mind.
As always, hostel rooms and dorms usually don’t have much space and the more things you have, the more things you might lose or get stolen. Pack light. Make sure you put locks on your bags and use the lockers provided.
If you are a light sleeper, make sure you pack an eyemask as well as earplugs to help you sleep in the dorms.
Always bring a quick-dry towel; not all hostels will have one for you. Same goes for your hygiene products – bring small bottles of everything you need.
I feel like these cheeky fuckers need their own section. Hostels see a lot of traffic and sadly, bedbugs do exist. They are the worst and can really ruin a holiday. They are persistent and extremely hard to get rid of.
A good thing to know is that bed bugs can also be found in hotels. Before you claim your bed, make sure to always check the bedsheet for small spots of blood. If you see any, evacuate the room now.
Just because you don’t see any doesn’t mean there aren’t bedbugs where you are staying. Make sure to always keep your bags far from the beds and, if there is a metal shelf or locker in the dorm, this is where your bag should go as the tiny arachnids do not like to climb on metal. Make sure to always keep your bags closed when you are not using them in order to avoid their being colonised.
What to do if you notice bites on you the next day? Bed bug bites are seldom single, and can usually appear in a line. They might appear on the day or up to a week later. You will have to take all of your things and wash them in boiling hot water and then, preferably, put them in a freezer. Just washing your things won’t kill the bugs. Go full-on Ripley and burn/freeze the monsters. Do so the moment you notice anything or you’ll be stuck with an even worse problem and you surely don’t want to bring them home.
Use the receptionist to the fullest
Receptionists in hostels are true gold mines. They usually know a lot about the city you are in and can help you with a lot of things. You know you are in a great hostel the moment you enter and notice it has a great and welcoming receptionist. Being friendly with the receptionist is sure to pay off and you can ask for lots of information and help from them.
Don’t be shy – it’s their job! The receptionist is sure to know – or be able to find out – about any activities going on in the city, and can probably help you book the more obscure/difficult-to-find activities.
And there you have it – if you follow our guidelines, you should have no issues in finding a decent hostel and keeping your stuff safe, secure and bug-free on your travels!