Trawling through hostel review sites is no small challenge, but a necessity for anyone about to embark on their travels. Follow these tips and they just might help you find your perfect hostel, saving you time and trouble.
- Who are you, and what do you want? Know your priorities. There’s no shame in refusing to sacrifice the things that you know will make or break your stay. Can’t bear the thought of mixed gender bathrooms? Desperate for a room with a view? There’s almost always a hostel for everybody and if you look hard enough, there’s bound to be one to suit you. Having said this, don’t set yourself a list of impossibly tough criteria – it will take the fun out of finding somewhere exciting to stay.
- Beware, the empty promises! “It’s got a quaint kitchen!” they said. “It’s got character!” they said. Be aware that some people’s definition of ‘quaint’ in reality translates as ‘a broken sink in the corner and plates made of bamboo’. It’s fun to find a hostel with a genuine identity, and many hostel owners spend a lot of time and money making their hostel a unique experience and a memorable part of your trip. However, it’s worth investigating and checking that they haven’t sacrificed the basics in order to get that individuality.
- Location, location, location… Not all the best hostels are situated smack in the middle of town and you can save a fortune by considering somewhere off the beaten path. Not only are these hostels cheaper, but they often have better facilities as the owners make more effort because they can’t use the location as a selling point. However, it’s important to strike the balance just right – near town but in the rough part of the suburbs and you’ll be treating each journey in and out of town like a scene from Taken, but too far away and you may as well have stayed in a different city.
- People can be so mean! Some people have no sense of proportion, so it’s worth checking the ‘liked’ and ‘disliked’ comments. A review which gives only a 50% rating could immediately turn you off a place, but read on and you’ll find that what some people put as a dislike could be along the lines of: ‘the beds were not symmetrical and that really messed with my feng shui’, or ‘the milk was not as frothy as I like in my morning latte’. Usually there are legitimate complaints, but what makes a hostel a nightmare for some people could have absolutely no effect on your own experience.
- Go back to basics. Every traveller is different, but there are certain features which everybody loves. Beyond clean bathrooms and bedrooms, the number one thing that will make your stay better is (drumroll please…) Wi-Fi! Yes, the good old internet is still probably the most lusted after thing in a hostel. Look out for the warning signs though: ‘shaky outside of reception’ and ‘slow and unreliable’ are signs that all the hostel can offer is a rusty little router sitting in a dusty corner of the reception.