– 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:
- Budget hostels
- home away from home
- Party Hostels
- lifestyle, and last but not least
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
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.