by Meryl Hanmer
Although the thought of staying in a dorm room with complete strangers is a daunting prospect for many, (it certainly was for me the first time I did it) hostels are now without a doubt my favourite places to stay when travelling.
Whether travelling alone or in a group, hostels give you the opportunity to meet lots of new people, enjoy a social environment and of course, save money.
However, choosing the right hostel can potentially make or break your whole trip experience; it’s important to get it right. Knowing what to look for is imperative.
It goes without saying that every traveller will want to save money and therefore try and find the cheapest possible place, but sometimes the savings of a cheaper stay are simply not worth it. Through a lot of trial and error, I have now learnt what is and what isn’t worth the savings when it comes to choosing where to stay. Security, cleanliness, location and a good atmosphere are my top priorities when trying to pick the perfect hostel.
Top of the list for me is always security; I ensure that wherever I stay has a locker in the dorm room. It is essential that the locker is big enough for me to safely store away my backpack; I never stay anywhere without big enough lockers.
Ideally, I aim to find a hostel that is within a twenty to thirty-minute walk of the town/city centre. Some city transport systems can be difficult to navigate so I always prefer to walk to where I’m going. Additionally, if you plan on going on pub crawls or nights out, it is much safer to not have to travel far late at night.
Many hostels offer communal dinners, themed games nights or pub crawls to help people to get to know each other and ultimately have a good time. Generally, I prefer to stay in a hostel with its own bar so that if I don’t necessarily want to go out I can still socialise without having to leave the hostel at all. Also, hostel bars are typically cheaper to drink in.
It goes without saying, no one wants to stay somewhere that is dirty. If I read in the reviews that a place is particularly lax when it comes to basic cleanliness, then I simply won’t stay there.
So when trying to pick a hostel to stay in, try and work out what your priorities are for a perfect stay and what is or what isn’t worth the savings for you.