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9 Tips for Booking the Perfect Hostel

Nine travel-tested tips for booking the perfect hostel.


Hostels come in all different shapes and sizes, and the right hostel can make or break your trip, so here are nine travel-tested tips for booking the perfect hostel, whether you're a party animal, digital nomad, solo explorer, or anything in between.


Where to Book


Hostelworld.com and Booking.com are your two main options for booking hostels, both sites also list hotels, boutique stays, bed and breakfasts, apartments, and even campsites; set your filter for hostels - but note that some places will say "<Name> hotel and hostel" - these are usually more hotel than hostel, you've been warned.


Pick a Vibe (1)


When it comes to hostels, there are chill hostels and there are party hostels, and everything in-between, there are health-focused hostels, MMA hostels, dance hostels, yoga-focused hostels, and digital nomad/coworking hostels like Selina - you can usually tell what kind of hostel it is by the main picture.


party hostel vs chill hostel
Party hostel vs chill hostel

Choosing a hostel that fits your style is arguably the most important consideration when it comes to booking the right stay - have a type in mind, look at all the pictures and read reviews, a little research here will go a long way, and it will help you narrow down the many options.


Use the Filters - but don't always trust them (2)


This can be overwhelming, so use the filters in the top right corner.. 👇👇👇


a map of hostel options

Price, rating and room type are the obvious filters; but there are few things to note...


a list of hostel amenities

There are dorm rooms (mixed and female-only) and private rooms - and everything in between.


Hostel rooms are highly variable and the filters don't always tell the full story (2), you may see options like Standard Private, Deluxe Private or Premium Private - there are subtle differences for each, so double check that the room you're looking to book has the features you're looking for.. for example, air conditioning, if you're traveling to hot climates.


a list of dorm room features

If you're booking a private room, "ensuite" usually means there's a private bathroom in your room, like any hotel - this is important, because many private rooms are just that, private rooms with beds, and you still may be sharing a bathroom.


Other things you may want to look for: shared kitchens (for long-term stays), on-site bars or nightclubs, swimming pools, coworking space, libraries, movie rooms, or on-site gyms and yoga studios.


Don't Hesitate to Reach Out (3)


Some things just aren't listed online; if you're staying for an extended period of time, you may want to reach out to the hostel directly and ask them any specific questions, for example: is the coworking space 24-hours? Is it keycard access-only? Does the hostel offer free tours? Can you bring guests? It says 24-hour reception, but does that include 3am when I land? Is the hostel kid-friendly (so you can avoid it)? Do you provide discounts for long-term stays? Etc. If something's important to you, email them! (3)


Book for a Week, Stay for a Month (4)


It's easy to worry about choosing the right hostel, so here's a simple trick to help ease your mind: if you're unsure on a place but still want to lock in a reservation, make two reservations (4), one initial short-term stay (from a day to a week), and a second long-term stay (a week to a month). You'll be locked in to your initial stay no matter what, but the long-term stay is usually far enough out that you can cancel it with no penalty - on the off chance you hate it.


calendar planning


Book Direct for Discounts (5)


Many hostels offer a better price and discounts if you book directly through them; Hostelworld.com is great for finding hostels, and it's definitely the easy-button for booking, but if you're looking to stay long-term, I recommend emailing and booking directly with the hostel. Many hostels offer discounts for long-term stays that can only be provided by the hostel; plus it's a good opportunity to ask any questions you may have, as referenced in tip 3.


Location (6)


I haven't touched on this yet, since I assume you have a destination in mind and can use Google Maps as well as I can; but there's one booking tip worth noting: If you're not sure where to stay and can't decide on a hostel, book a place with multiple hostels within walking distance (6), and then go on a little hostel tour when you arrive; you can get a pretty good feel for most hostels just by walking by, or you can pop your head in, no one will care! The point is to stay flexible (see tip 4).


a city map


Hostel Hack (7)


 A little-known hostel hack - if you have to choose between a 4-person dorm and an 18-person dorm, consider the larger dorm, it sounds counter-intuitive, but most people think a 4-person dorm will be less crazy, and since most people book the smaller dorms first, the larger 10/12/16/18-person dorms are often half or fully empty.. so it's very possible you'll have more space in an 18-person dorm versus a smaller 4 or 6-person dorm (7).


There is some risk to this, especially with popular hostels - if it doesn't work out - you didn't hear it here. :P


Join the Chat (8)


This is more general travel advice, but it's good to touch on - many, if not most hostels have a hostel chat so you can quickly and easily get in touch with fellow travelers, get travel recs and make new friends (8), join the chat before you arrive if you're looking for ideas or want to fill up your social calendar.


people texting


If You Don't Love it, Leave! (9)


Lastly, it's good to remember that you're not locked in to anything; if you hate your room, or the place is dirty, or you get bad vibes, don't hesitate to make a change - yes, you may lose out on a small deposit or have to pay a cancellation fee, but that's a small price to pay compared to the alternative, being stuck in a place where you feel unsafe, uncomfortable or just bored.


Conclusion


Choosing the right hostel can have a huge impact on your travel experience, whether you're seeking nightlife or a quiet retreat, so pay close attention to hostel vibes and amenities, don't shy away from reaching out directly for specific details and discounts, and consider booking a short initial stay to assess the hostel before extending your visit.


Flexibility and communication are your best friends when it comes to booking the right stay, if you don't love it, don't be afraid to make a change.

Embrace these nine tips, and you're well on your way to finding a hostel that feels like home, or if you're lucky, something even better!


people relaxing in a hostel

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