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Not only have I stayed in hostels around Europe, but I stay in one during SDCC. Honestly, it’s mostly because it’s a HECK of a lot cheaper. I’ve had people offer to share a hotel room with me but it always ends us being more expensive than a hostel and I’d then have to share a bed or crash on the floor. I’ll take my own bed any day! All this applies to both my time in San Diego, as well as my time in Europe so feel free to use these tips just about anywhere.
Check Out the Hostel Location
Location, location, location. It’s always the most important factor in choosing where to stay. You want to be central to your area and have good routes to public transport as well. When I stayed at Comics Guesthouse in Rome, it was the best centrally located hostel I could find. It was close to a metro stop and just about as central to what I wanted to see as I could get budget wise. It also wasn’t super far from the bus route that I had a pass for. It was a little North, however, it wound up working out just fine.
How Must is the Hostel?
An obvious one, but good to look at how much it will cost. If it’s super important to be close to the Eiffel Tower (or other landmark) then do it. But if you want cheaper and are willing to walk/take transport, than save yourself a few bucks and go a little further away.
Always Be Safe
Of course location comes secondary to safety. Even if it’s close to what you want to see, it’s no good if it’s in a sketchy area. When I was in Paris I made sure to pick something not in the red light district. A friend had told me how she had felt unsafe there so I stayed clear of it.
Going back to my stay in Paris, although it was safe, it wasn’t all that clean. For the full run down you can check out my post on that hostel. The short version is they would run out of toilet paper on a pretty frequent basis and the bathrooms and showers were never very clean. On the other hand I have had some excellently clean hostels such as the YHA Stratford-upon-Avon hostel. This really varies from hostel to hostel so always make sure to check the feedback on this.
Linen & Towels
While I’ve never been to a hostel that didn’t offer linen it is something to always check. I’ve been charged a small amount for linen, but most of the time it is free. As far as towels, I know some people bring their own. I think if you’re going on a long trip that maybe worth it. When I went to Europe last summer I didn’t bring one. Mostly cause I wanted the room in my bag. But also because I was staying in locations for a few days at a time and when you only have to pay a small fee I think it’s worth it.
Always check facilities! These are things like WiFi, free breakfast, lockers, laundry facilities, luggage storage, and such. I’ve listed the things I feel are important to me, but do check over the full list of the hostel you’re looking at to see what they offer. Everyone is different, so it’s best to check with your friends or family that you’re traveling with to see if they have any feedback. That may influence where you stay as well.
One of my favorite hostels I’ve ever stayed at was the YHA Oxford. It had a kitchen area that you could get pizza, a drink, and other food at night. When you return from a long day of touring around the last thing you want to do is find some place to eat. So this built-in restaurant was perfect! The menu was limited, but it was good enough. And the food was pretty good as well! If you don’t find a place that will have food in the evenings (most have breakfast), then make sure there’s local eateries.
This is becoming more popular from what I’ve seen, hostels planning activities for the guests. I think it’s fantastic! Especially if you’re traveling alone, this is a great way to meet people traveling just like you! While I was in London the YHA hostel has a huge list of activities they planned such as a visit to the Shard, walking tours, and pub crawls. I’ve sure this varies by location and hostel, but something to look into.
Last but not least is references. References can come in different forms. You can check websites like Hostel World for their ratings as well as user feedback and reviews. You can also search for blog posts about hostels to get first hand accounts of hostels. With blogs you’re also likely to get more detailed feedback. Just be aware that the blogger may have gotten compensation for writing the article. When I approach places for compensation, I always note that I will remain honest to my readers even if the stay was free.