Blessed are the curious for they shall have many adventures. Curiously enough, the smarter way to pick a hostel depends greatly on what you’re looking for on your adventures. From solo, couple, family travellers to backpackers, there’s likely a hostel to meet every need.

If you haven’t stayed in a hostel before, this guide will come in handy!

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How to Choose and Book a Hostel

In many ways, hostel and hotel bookings are similar. They can be booked online, pre-payment made or pay at the venue, confirmation received and you’re set for your staycay.

Hostels are for budget-friendly travellers. Important features to look out for are great value for money, basic security, comfort and friendly staff. After all, a hostel stay should be one that enhances your travel experience. It’s not a place to just bunk for the night but also an opportunity to meet fellow travellers while enjoying a more communal stay.

Simply follow this handy guide to surviving and enjoying hostel stays. From travel tips to smart savings, here is all you need to know before you book a hostel.


1. Plan Within Your Budget

girl in brown top with backpack standing against nature backdrop
Image credit: Anthony Tran | Unsplash

There are hostels for every pocket and choosing a cheaper hostel may not always the best choice for your budget holiday. It’s wise to pay a little more to enjoy the facilities you need and a better location that saves you on transport.

Easy accessibility to transport services, close to eateries, mini-marts and self-service laundromat will make your stay extra convenient. Just be aware that distance is relative. Some hostels would claim that amenities are 5 to 10 minutes away but in truth, it could be a steep uphill climb or across a few treacherous paths to get there. That’s where reading the reviews on your selected place is useful.

walking along city streets at night
Image credit: Lim Eng | Unsplash

However, when back to nature holidays find you booking accommodation that’s out of town, try to arrange for free bike rentals or shuttle services to ferry you to destinations. It will save you loads. Relying on Grab, Go-Jek or the local bus services is great provided you can arrange the return trip and have ready cash handy.


2. Read The Reviews

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Price and rating feature prominently on most online booking websites when you pick your hostel stay. In addition to checking those out, also read the reviews of your preferred hostels. What previous guests say will guide your choice and help you decide what’s best for your travels. Even better are the responses from the proprietor to negative comments from guests. An active response rate shows that such hostels are keen to address any grievances and improve the guest experience.

In fact, reading the fine print may save you further hassle. A small minority of hostels do not welcome children as they may be party hostels, unsuitable for kids. Some are located close to nature reserves where the quiet serenity of surroundings is paramount to guests.

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Not to be outdone are pet-friendly hostels with camping or cabin accommodation for pets and their owners. Where most hotels decline pets, such hostels make travelling with pets much easier.


3. Type of accommodation: Selecting Dorms Or Rooms

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Unless you are in a very tight budget, stay away from hostels that offer only small bunks beds in a dingy looking dorm. Most hostels today offer guests a choice of single or mixed dorms, and private rooms for families. Select one with smaller dorms with six to eight beds to avoid any rowdy sleeping guests. This is ideal when travelling with a group of friends where the whole dorm can be yours.

When travelling solo, reserve your choice of the lower or upper bunk bed early, should you be scared of heights or tumbling out of bed. Best to select a bed away from the dorm or bathroom door to avoid noisy door slams. Also, ensure a socket is nearby to charge your electronic items and the air-conditioning is working well for a good night’s sleep.

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Undoubtedly, sleeping in a shared dorm saves you cost and offers opportunities to meet people from around the world. Making friends means having good company at meal times and getting help during emergencies. When sharing is not your thing, find hostels that have single bedrooms for couples or doubles for small families with little ones as they offer better privacy and security.


4. Staying Safe And Secure

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Start with hostels that provide secured locker services to avoid lugging around all your valuables during your trip. After all, a locker can store all your spare clothes, toiletries, laptop, shopping and more. Travel documents and cash is best carried with your person at all times. Choose a hostel that makes guests’ security a primary concern. There should be secure access for the main door and 24-hour front desk to attend to any guest queries. Further, private rooms should have a separate lock and key for guests.

Another tip is to decline any house-keeping for your room to ensure that no one enters your room without permission. Any cleaning can be done with the guest present. Having ladies only or men only dorms also add further security to your stay.


5. Cleanliness And Hygiene

lady standing in front of mirror in tiny bathroom
Image credit: Kevin Laminto | Unsplash

Be prepared for a little mess when showers, baths and toilets are shared with other guests. When all you need is a quick shower and basic clean toilets, then, the hostel life is perfect for you. If you find that the hygiene of the premises is really unacceptable, a quick mention with the front desk should get the issue rectified.

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A good tip would be to bring your own beach pareo, sarong or scarf. It’s handy as a bedspread should the sheets be suspect and great as protection from bed bug bites and mozzies. In fact, it’s also useful as a drape over shower curtain should the existing ones be a little transparent. For Asian travellers, it’s best to be prepared for a little culture shock. One traveller expressed her bemusement when some Western guests actually walk to the showers in the nude at hostels.


6. WiFi Connection

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Need to stay connected? Put in your request early to ensure unlimited WiFi connection is available on demand and surf away. When hostels are located in more rural places and WiFi connection is unstable, get the front desk to recommend data plan packages for your use. Intent on saving money? Have the front desk recommend the nearest cafe or convenience store with free WiFi for your use. Many provide customers free internet services with any purchase.


7. Packing tips: Toiletries To Bring

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Bring your own and don’t share if you can help it. Toiletries should include all you need to stay healthy and clean, in travel size packs. Throw in a small light-weight towel and flip-flops to walk to the showers and back. Pack them all in an unattractive toiletry bag to prevent any spying eyes and thieving hands.

Where space permits, extra essentials to bring are laundry mesh bag for delicates, first-aid kit and your regular medicines and vitamins. Also useful are the universal plug adaptor, multi-charging cables and extra mini padlocks for securing any items.


8. Common Areas Are A Bonus

hostel guests in lounge with 2 men chatting in centre
Image credit: Helena Lopes | Unsplash

Love to chat with other travellers? Pick a hostel that has communal areas such as a big, roomy lounge or open rooftop terrace to meet like-minded people. Even a shared kitchen for cooking simple meals and shared dining area to eat and be merry makes your stay more memorable. Trip the light fantastic when hostels have open outdoor areas for sports, recreation and games.

9. Book Early During Peak

2 backpackers on the street - one with guitar
Image credit: Austin Distel | Unsplash

Just like hotels, booking during peak periods can cost a pretty penny. If your travel dates are confirmed, a good idea would be to book early at the popular hostels. This will save you money and the hassle to find an alternative place to stay when all the good ones are fully booked.

10. Keep Cash Handy

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Budget travellers usually have very little cash in hand. Another top tip is to carry a little extra cash as many hostels overseas require a deposit upon check-in from foreign guests. Although payment for your stay has been settled online, the required deposit is just a surety and refundable upon check-out. You’ll be pleased to have some cash for final shopping before heading home.

Smart Travels = Smart Savings

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It’s good to have an end to a journey, but it is the journey that matters in the end. Sweet endings start with getting the sweetest deals. Book your stay on Hostelworld and earn fantastic cashback up to 25% via ShopBack.

Look out for Hostelworld promotions to score further discounts. For awesome flight and train deals, check out and earn up to 6% cashback. Don’t miss out on promo code to enjoy better value on your travels.

No two hostels are alike. Do you usually stay in hostels? Tell us more about your memorable stay.

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