Hostels are the best friends with backpacking travellers or people looking for affordable stays while travelling. On all my travels I have stayed in hostels. But booking a wrong hostel can turn into nightmares. Here are a few checks before you book. (Travellers searching hotels are also welcome to follow these basic tips)
Before you start off your bookings with hostels some info should be readily available with you. Trust me this will help you a lot.
Entry & exit mode from the city
Places of interest or your daily trips in the new city
Your commute mode for daily trips
Would you cook in hostel? (to save some money / your food preference)
Long trips and need to do your laundry on the way
Gadgets you would be carrying on the trip
Remember all points are related to each other. You have to find a perfect combination among all to be able to book a nice hostel.
Enough gyaan lets jump in
Location of the hostel is most important. Helps you have more time to explore the city with ease than wasting time commuting to and from your hostel. Drill down the area where you would want to stay which has easy access to your day trips.
Tip: Put in some extra efforts in selecting the right location
Now that your area is decided lets start searching
Where do I search hostels? Get this question from most people booking their hostels. There are multiple sites you will need to check for searching the right hostel.
Enter city or preferred area
Dates of travel
Filter by Property type > Hostels
Login in and search hostels on this site. Sometimes if you are lucky some crazy deals pop up
Alert: The site shows mad amount of notifications to lure you into booking. Things like "20 people are viewing this right now" "10 such properties are already full for your dates" Don't worry about them just keep searching and take your time
As the name says the site is dedicated to hostels. Here you can search hostels in the city. It also show distance of the city from the city center. It's a good feature. Also the reviews are fair.
Tip: Make sure to not just check the recent reviews but also check some older ones
Come to this site only to see the chosen hostel pictures. Sometime you would find out the property looks different and not as shown in pics.
Tip: Also check the location of the hostel on Google Maps. Sometimes lucrative locations are updated but in reality the hostel location is different.
Don't fully trust reviews
I don't just go with the reviews which any site gives. Foreigners tend to rate hostels on the higher side when they have areas to socialize with other travellers. Their weightage of socializing is much higher. They will ignore other aspects sometimes. I even check hostel with low rating or few number of votes. You get a gem of hostel sometimes searching such. I got one in Kyoto, Japan. This hostel had very low number of votes. Reason it did not have a big large place to socialize. Checked all and booked it for my 3 days stay in Kyoto. It was amazing. For 1400 Rs. per night they even had a jazucci.
Further drill down on shortlisted hostels
So now you have drilled down few of your preferred hostels. Let's get to business. Check for the below pointers. You will need to search or rather dig the internet for some informations.
Age: Seems ridiculous but some hostels don't allow traveller beyond a certain age. Faced this at Rome. Mailed to them and clarified. They allowed me as I had requested on mail. Do cross check before booking.
Check in and check out timings - I have been to hostels that have check in timings of 2pm/3pm. Its good option for exit but for check-in its late. Plan your day accordingly
Distance from your entry point: Check the mode of transportation available and time needed to commute to the hostel from your place of entry
Bus/Tram/Metro: I would say this was the most important point I checked before booking any hostel. I was always <200 meters from the local stop. So much it helps to commute and come back daily.
Tip: Use Google Maps to spot them
Free WiFi - You would want to keep updating your social media with updates. Check if the free WiFi is in common area or all over the place
Bed Linen- Mandatory check. Many hostels charge extra for bed linen. And no you cannot use the beds without them. It's a compulsory expense
Tip: Do carry ear plugs. Dorms are sometimes noisy
Electrical sockets: You would not want to come back at end of the day and wait over somewhere in the room to charge your devices. You will have to figure out from pics of the room if there are electric sockets on each bed.
Lockers - All hostels provide lockers. Check for the size of the lockers. I would prefer putting my whole backpack in the locker. Easy and safe.
Tip: Carry few good quality padlocks
Lockers for high value things - This check is mandatory if you're carrying expensive gadgets with you. Laptop, DSLR etc which you would want to store in the hostel. Few hostels have additional lockers near the reception area for safety. (I used them to keep my laptop and passport during my backpacking trip across Europe)
Watch videos of my backpacking trip here https://youtu.be/lfTCQzs0h14 (I am a little lazy in editing and uploading but soon all will be here) Subscribe to the channel for updates
Washrooms & Toilets: Try checking pictures uploaded by travellers for the type of washrooms/toilets the hostel provides. They can be a major turn off on your trip.
Laundry: You will need to use the laundry on you backpacking trips. Make sure you mark your itinerary and book a hostel which provides laundry.
Kitchen: Planning to cook on your backpacking trip. Do check if the hostel has a kitchen. While backpacking in Europe I cooked in few countries. Got stuff from supermarket and then it was mix and match. Saves money.
Alert: Cooking in a new country,make sure you understand how to use the equipment in the kitchen. Don't experiment on your own. Rather ask someone to help. Fines are steep if the fire alarm goes off due to your cooking.
Payments (Paisa Babu Bhaiya Paisa) - Check if any local taxes are added by the hostel at the counter. Websites write them in fine lines.
Tip: Check what mode of payment the hostel accepts. Will help you plan carrying cash if needed.
That was long list of things to check. But all will be worth the time and efforts spend. So now you have finalized on the hostel and you want to book it.
Compare and book
Check for the same hostel on multiple sites. Compare rates. This is how I did it
Search on booking.com
Book on hostelworld.com or direct on the hostels website
Booking directly on the hostels website gives you freebies sometimes. I scored free breakfast, drink coupons and a free bar hopping tour by booking directly via the hostel website.
Tip: Remember always book fully refundable beds. Plans change last minute and you don't want to waste your money. But grab the last minute deals that come across.
4 bed or 6 bed or 8 bed
Once you are on the booking page you will have options to select which dormitory you want to book. Each one will differ with the number of people staying in the room. They also have only girls dormitories.
I always choose the mixed dormitory with 8-10 persons. You get to know people across the world. Your things are safe as there will be some movement always all over the day while you are away.
That's all folks !!!!
I have been using these methods to book every single hostel for my backpacking trip. Its time consuming and lot of efforts go into it, but once you are in the new city all these efforts will make your life much easier.
Happy Travels !!!!!
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