With the Internet, it’s so easy to look and book for accomodations for your trips. However it can be a double edge sword: with the rising number of hostels going online and hostel review sites up, it can get quite hard to pick which one you’ll book with.
These are the things I consider when picking a hostel:
- Location, location, location
For me, it’s important that the hostel is near a train station, or if not, a bus station. Aside from being accessible, you can save a lot by taking public transport instead of being a sissy and spending your precious (shopping) money on taxis. Plus points if the hostel is right in front of an Airport shuttle bus stop.
Sometimes I book a bed in a dorm to save money, sometimes I splurge and take a single room. If I’m being cheap, my first concern with dorms is whether it’s a co-ed or single sex. I love men, and all, but they stink — literally. Not saying all girls smell like roses after a long day of wandering around a city (and I hate the smell of roses), but at least they’re more concious about hygene than men. Sorry guys!
- To party, or not to party?
There are party hostels and there are non-party hostels. I’m not a party person so I usually go for the non-party variety. But sometimes I can’t help but wonder if I’ll discover a hidden partyphile within me.
I can tolerate shared toilet and baths. A swimming pool would be nice (yes, there are hostels with swimming pools and manages to remain cheap). Towels are very much welcomed. Luggage storage is a must.
- Internet hubs/Wi-fi
I don’t have to explain this, do I?
- Ratings and reviews
While it’s great to see a staggering amount of stars a hostel get, I still zero-in on the low ratings and bitter reviews left by customers. Of course, an experience in one place is purely subjective and can be affected by other stimuli not necessarily within the hostel walls. Still, reading negative reviews makes the place seem more real. Besides, if a place has more 1’s than 5’s, I guess that’s an indication NOT to pick it, right? Then again, you could always be wrong. But you wouldn’t find out until you get there. And that’s what makes it fun. Or not.
The best way is, I guess, is to ask recommendations from friends who has travelled in the area or members of travel forums like BootsnAll.com
There are other services that hostels offer such as a tour/travel arrangements, common room with TVs and console games, kitchen facilities, shuttles to town, and yes, even bar hops. Most of the hostels in one area offers almost the same facilities and services, but sometimes, one has a service or facility the other does not offer. Just check which ones would apply to you and your needs.
In the end, my advice is this: Hostels are not hotels. The price difference makes that clear. You can have high expectations from the website presentation and customer ratings, but bear in mind that you also get what you pay for. It *is* possible to get exceptional service and great facilities, but don’t expect a 5-star accomodation.