The 411 on Hostels

guide to hostels

Have you ever stayed in a hostel? If you have, then you know they’re your hidden travel weapon. If you haven’t, then you probably have some serious misconceptions about them.

Most people think of hostels as cramped, smelly, and generally icky flop houses for gap year travelers and party animals. While there are definitely hostels that fit this definition (hint: don’t book those), there are also some really amazing spots that add flavor to your vacation experience.

We’re here to help you learn more about hostels and become empowered to find those hidden gems! This is your hostel guide for all travel situations, whether you’re heading to Cuba or hopping over to Thailand.

Keep reading for our inside info and remember to drop us a line today for a custom travel insurance quote!

Location, Location, Location

The first thing you want to consider when scoping out hostels is their location. The difficulty of this depends on where you’re traveling. Major cities like Paris, Rio, LA, and others will have a LOT of options to pick from. Smaller cities? Not so much.

Consider factors like: what neighborhood is the hostel in? What attractions or landmarks are nearby? How busy is it? What is the age of the typical traveler staying there?

Some of these are easier to answer than others. Your choices may be limited in small cities. Thankfully, there are websites that let you search by filters and have listings for just about every hostel out there. We’re big fans of Hostels.com, Hostel Bookers and Hostelsclub.

Amenities and Features

Not all hostels are created equal. Amenities and features vary widely, even between hostels in the same city! This is a big part of what separates “flop” hostels from their statelier counterparts. So, a good rule of thumb is to consider what type of amenities you want before booking anything.

Amenities and features to consider include:

  • private vs. shared rooms
  • private vs. shared bathrooms
  • single sex vs. mixed sex dorms
  • laundry room
  • kitchen
  • WiFi
  • lockers (this is a MUST)
  • pet friendly vs. pet free
  • is breakfast included
  • and many more.

These are just the most common, but think about your specific travel needs. Are you a light sleeper? Then you’re going to want to look for hostels with private rooms. Are you allergic to pet dander? Then you’re going to want a pet-free hostel.

Regardless of which amenities matter most to you, you should make sure to go beyond a hostel’s listing and read third-party reviews. Speaking of which…

Read Reviews

We can’t overstate this one enough. Make sure to check reviews for hostels the same way you’d check reviews for any other product or service you’re purchasing. Nothing will ruin your trip quicker than bringing your family to a party hostel or bringing your party to a family hostel.

Today’s savvy and educated consumer (aka you!) has a ton of resources for checking out reviews. There are Yelp, TripAdvisor, and other big-ticket sites. Those are fine, but there are also niche review sites that offer a bit more insight into the world of hostels.

We’re fans of Hostel Critic, which is an independent review network dedicated to providing unbiased information on hostels. They’re sort of the holy grail of hostel reviews. There’s also Hostel World, which is another great niche resource.

Regardless of which review site you use, make sure to research, research, research. Your work now will pay dividends later when you and your friends or family are having a great vacation experience.

And that’s the 411 on hostels. You now know what to look for whether you want something simple and easy or an upscale, luxury hostel experience. What’s your next step? Making sure you have the best travel insurance on the market, of course! Check us out today for all your travel insurance needs!

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