How to Pick a Good Hostel

HK Austin, a hostel in Austin, Texas
Good hostels are always hard to come by. Hostels have more to do with the people staying there than the physical place. I’ve stayed in dumps where I had fun, because of the people there, and been to amazing, beautiful hostels that bored me to death.

While hosteling is about the people, staying in a place that knows a traveler’s needs is always better because it enhances the travel experience. When trying to pick a good hostel, here is my advice on what to consider:

Cheaper is not better

Budget travelers have a natural inclination to go with the cheapest thing around. However, don’t try to save a buck just to save a buck. Super cheap hostels are often unclean, the beds uncomfortable, the showers dirty, and the pillows thinner than a supermodel. Pay an extra dollar or two for nicer and cleaner digs. Your body will thank you.

Get breakfast

One thing I hate about hosteling in Europe is that breakfast is often toast, eggs, and coffee. And it begins at 7 am (and ends early too)! I’m not sure who the travelers are that they know, but I’ve never known any to wake up that early, even for a good breakfast. Look for a place with a decent breakfast (i.e., more than toast) or at least one that begins and ends when people are actually awake (breakfasts that start around 8:00 usually go late). Breakfast is also a great way to load up on snacks for the rest of the day, thereby cutting down your food budget.

Check out late

Never stay at a hostel with a checkout time before 10am. The best hostels have 11am checkout times, and the really good ones let you checkout at noon. Sleep is valuable on the road, because you’ll rarely get enough of it. Hostels with late checkout times understand this and are often more relaxed and chiller environments. There’s just something wrong about a hostel asking you to be packed and out so early in the morning.

On the flip side of this, I like hostels that have flexible check-ins. Many don’t let you check-in before 2pm, but I like the ones that say “OK, the bed is ready. Come in now!”

Push-button showers

Just say no to push-button showers! They are annoying and often have no water pressure. You don’t want the water to turn off mid-soaping. My rule of thumb is that if a hostel has a push-button shower, I don’t stay there.

A hostel bathroom

Lockers

It’s surprising, but I’ve actually been in hostels that don’t have lockers or that charge you for them. In this day and age, lockers should be standard. You should never pay for security. This is a deal-breaker for me, especially since I travel with electronics.

Free Internet

While the Internet isn’t a must for all travelers, a hostel with free Wi-Fi and computer terminals makes life a lot easier.

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