10 Things You Need to Know before Booking a Hostel

 – Today’s blog post is contributed by Matt of Hostelgeeks – 

Hostels are a fantastic way to get to know people while traveling. You can join events, get some freebies, learn to cook different cuisines, you name it. However, before actually arriving at the budget accommodation of your choice, there is some basic work to be done.


My name is Matt, and I am the guy behind hostelgeeks.com, a website to collect and award 5 Star Hostels. As you might have figured from the name, I am a Hostel Geek. I know a thing or two about hostels with over 5 years experience in the industry.

I am keen to share with you my tips for staying in Hostels in Europe. This article is specialized around European hostels as not all of the tips and tricks I mention apply to hostels worldwide.

#1 First understand what a hostel is

A hostel is a social-orientated budget accommodation offering at least one dorm to share with other travelers, a guest kitchen, and a common area. At a hostel you share your space with other people from around the world. You can find many different types of hostels (see point number 3), offers, booking websites, and so on.

As this topic itself can be overwhelming, I created a helpful guide to hostels.

#2 The Room Options: Dorm vs. Private Room vs. Apartment

A Hostel in Europe offers a minimum of one dorm which is usually the cheapest option. Over time, properties have introduced the option of private rooms, allowing for full privacy as well as the advantage of a social life within the hostel. The type of accommodation most people forget, is the apartment option that can be found in some hostels, and although it is not standard, it does exist. Hostels offer apartments in-house or next to their building and when traveling in a group, this can be an idealistic option.

#3 The different types of Hostels

Europe is loaded with hostels and you will find many unique styles on offer.


This is why you should be aware of which types of hostels are out there, of which there are 7 types, in a nutshell:

  1. Budget hostels
  2. home away from home
  3. Boutique
  4. Party Hostels
  5. traditional
  6. lifestyle, and last but not least
  7. the 5 Star Hostels

#4 Book in Advance

If you have the chance to book your hostel in advance, we highly recommend it! I always check out the hostel options in my destination right after I have booked my transport. The reason is simple: you have a bigger choice of hostels as there will be more availability. The longer you wait, the more likely is it that the awesome hostel will be sold out – don’t take that chance!

#5 Book a Hostel like a Pro

Booking platforms are an awesome resource to find great hostels around the world, no doubt. However, when it comes to booking hostels, I would recommend to check out the hostels website. Why? There are 3 main reasons.

  1. Usually there you will find the lowest rate
    We tested this quite a lot, and often you can save some money! We also noticed some hostels offer a freebie like a free drink or a free city tour, when booking directly with them.
  2. You will get a full overview of the hostels availability and rooms
    Not all booking platforms get all the availability from a hostel, so you could be missing out on that desired room!
  3. Avoid over-booking problems
    In case of an overbooking, they will not let you down as you booked directly with them!

#6 Bring your own towel and earplugs

Some hostels might charge you an extra buck or two for a towel. When bringing your own quick-drying towel, you can save some money here.


Also, bringing earplugs is usually a good idea when staying in a hostel. They are light, cheap and will avoid any frustration should you be (unfortunately) sharing with a disrespectful (or simply snoring?) traveller.

#7 Have a look for special amenities and facilities

Come on, who doesn’t love a swimming pool, a rooftop terrace, or even a combination of both? There are many budget accommodations out there offering something unique for the same price or 1-2 coins more. Have a look at the different hostels, and check if you see if there’s something special.

For instance, the Sunset Destination Hostel in Lisbon has not just a cool roof top terrace but also a swimming pool. How cool is that?!

#8 Location – does it matter?

Personally, this does not matter that much to me. However, when you are staying only two days in Paris, you don’t want to book a hostel that’s 90 minutes away from the city center. Sure that makes sense, but staying directly in the city center can be exhausting as well.


Barcelona for instance is a good example here. Staying in the old town Gothic Quarter might seem to be a good idea, but in fact it is loud, it is „not the real Barcelona as locals do“, plus – and get this: you will probably be visiting there anyway!

Therefore, I love to choose a hostel slightly outside the center. Again: Slightly! This gives you the chance to see a more local side of the city plus the prices are usually lower. This rule does not apply to every destination though!

#9 Valuables

As much as we love hostels, this is still an issue. When choosing to stay in a dorm, make sure you don’t leave your valuables lying around everywhere.


Almost every hostel on this planet have lockers, so use them! You do not have to be paranoid, but just be realistic about it. If you have your super expensive DSLR camera with you, then just put it in the locker to avoid any possible undesired problems.

#10 Last but not least: If in doubt, ask!

I am a Hostel Geek, and I would be flattered if I could help you with any hostel-related question you might have! So, drop me a tweet, a message on Facebook or Instagram and I will get back to you asap. However, there are many other resources you can consider.


Ask friends of yours, maybe they have been to your desired destination? Also, nowadays, many hostels have their own Twitter and Facebook page – if you have any questions about their hostel or destination, simply get in contact with them! This is also a great chance to get an idea of the hostels mentality before you decide to book with them.

Do you have any questions? Please, please let Matt know. He’s always happy to hear from you.

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{ 28 comments… add one }
  • Stef February 22, 2016, 10:15 pm

    Yes, a locker should be a must in every hostel! I also like the advice of looking for a place a bit away from the city center to get to know more local places. For example in Havana I didn’t stay in the Old Town. It was like 20-30 minutes walking and the best way to find cheaper food and see other places away from the tourist spots.

    • Matt February 23, 2016, 11:25 am

      Hi Stef,

      So glad you like it! Great example with Havana! The old town is certainly not the place to stay, i agree 100%! :)


  • Katarina February 22, 2016, 10:33 pm

    I didn’t know they had 5 star ranking for hostels, or that there were 7 different types. Noted!

    • Matt February 23, 2016, 11:26 am


      Japp, unique concept by Hostelgeeks. We want to create a worldwide, transparent standard, people can trust :)

  • Andrew Boland February 22, 2016, 11:29 pm

    that one in Thailand looks amazing! Wish all my hostel experiences looked like that!

    • Matt February 23, 2016, 11:28 am

      Hey Andrew,

      oh yes, that is Happynest Inspiring Hostel in Chiang Rai. Stunning hostel, and there are way more across Thailand. Amazing to see Hostels get better and better :)

    • Agness Walewinder February 24, 2016, 6:35 pm

      I love it too!

  • Kelly February 23, 2016, 4:47 am

    So many great tips. We had great experiences at the ones we stayed at when we visited Europe many years ago and yes, a locker is a must.

    • Agness Walewinder February 24, 2016, 6:35 pm

      I’m glad you liked these tips, Kelly.

  • Matt February 23, 2016, 11:28 am

    Hi Kelly,

    True, Locker is a must, a basic in fact! Glad you enjoyed the European Hostels, there are many great ones!

  • Bruno February 23, 2016, 3:49 pm

    I think hostels have risen up in quality significantly over the last years. Nowadays you can find the vibe of a hostel with the comfort and standards of a hotel.

    Those are great tips, I wouldn’t just agree with the location. I think location is key when booking accommodation!


    • Agness Walewinder February 24, 2016, 6:35 pm

      I’ve also noticed it, Bruno. Good remark.

  • Liz Peterson February 23, 2016, 4:35 pm

    It is so true that hostel experiences can vary greatly depending on your room type and their amenities. I love comparing hostels on sites like hostelworld and then booking directly once I’ve made my choice. Great post!


    • Agness Walewinder February 24, 2016, 6:34 pm

      Agree, Liz.

    • Matt March 19, 2016, 8:32 pm

      No doubt, booking platforms are a good way to compare accommodations. However, it’s time-consuming. This is why we created Hostelgeeks. It’s practically your shortcut to awesome Hostels! :)

  • Suraj KC February 24, 2016, 6:19 am

    I understood a little difference between a hotel and a hostel from this article. Thanks for sharing this tip.

  • Becky Padmore February 26, 2016, 3:41 pm

    Great tips, I’ve had some amazing times in hostels and also not so great ones always worth getting personal recommendations if you can!

    • Agness Walewinder February 28, 2016, 4:38 pm

      Great to hear that, Becky!! :)

  • Ryan Biddulph February 26, 2016, 6:38 pm

    Hi Agness and Matt,

    Nice hostels! Doing your homework helps you avoid stinkers and nail down the fabulously glam spots. I have seen some rough ones WAY back in the day but have stopped by better ones in less lean times ;) Wonderful post here. Gotta work off of that checklist.


  • Tudor Maxim-Pura Vida Hostels February 26, 2016, 9:05 pm

    Great tips, thanks for sharing!

  • KarolinaPatryk February 27, 2016, 8:08 am

    Awesome tips! Earplugs are must-have not only when you sleep in hostels! Many hotels have very thin walls, so you can hear everything what is going on in the room next door.
    And we agree that it’s always good to book your accommodation in advance :)

    • Agness Walewinder February 28, 2016, 4:38 pm

      I also agree, guys!! :)

  • Victoria@ The British Berliner February 29, 2016, 8:34 pm

    ‘Love the post Matt!

    I’ve already been through my back-packing hostel days and they were great at the time however, even though I’ve moved on budget-wise, I still enjoying patronising family-friendly hostels that are sometimes better than hotels due to the space available, the trendy art, and the young crowd.

    We have a shy tween son who, although a world traveller, struggles to find boys of his own age when we travel. In the next few weeks we’ll be going to Spain & Portugal and we’ll be staying in boutique hostels in both Lisbon & Porto.

    • Hey Victoria March 19, 2016, 8:34 pm

      Fantastic! I think Hostels can help your son to open up a little bit :)
      For Spain and Portugal, there are great hostels, as well on our website. Looking forward to your hear your thoughts about them :)

  • Linda Bibb March 1, 2016, 2:13 am

    I’ve only stayed in a hostel once or twice. Few things are as bad as losing your camera or computer to a thief, and this has usually been the reason we wouldn’t stay in a hostel. Considering the amount of electronics we carry, it’s reassuring to know that lockers and private rooms are available. Maybe it’s worth reconsidering.

  • Visiit March 3, 2016, 5:33 am

    Thanks for sharing.. Great list..

  • vira March 7, 2016, 10:37 am

    these are useful tips. strategically located is the thing I love most about most hostels.

    • Agness Walewinder March 9, 2016, 7:22 pm



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