Backpackers Hostel: How to Choose the Best Hostel
October 28, 2020
Please note that this post may contain affiliate links and any sales made through such links will reward me a small commission – at no extra cost for you.
If you’re considering booking a trip as a solo female traveler, you’re most likely going to stay at a backpackers hostel. Hostels have gotten a bad reputation over the years, especially among US travelers, but they are amazing for solo travelers. While hostels aren’t for everyone, and definitely cater towards a younger crowd, they are a great way to meet other solo travelers. I have traveled the world solo, spending nights in probably 100 different hostels over the years. Of course, not all hostels are the same. This guide will outline all of the things to look for in a backpackers hostel to help you find a place that meets your travel lifestyle.
Finding a great hostel depends on a combination of so many things, including the facilities, the staff, and the other travelers who are staying there. You may find yourself in the cleanest, nicest backpackers hostel but have an absolutely boring time. On the other hand, I’ve had wonderful hostel experiences at mediocre places because of a great social atmosphere. Finding the perfect backpackers hostel is all about finding the balance between those two.
When possible, I always prefer to stay in a female-only dorm. Sorry guys, but I find that females tend to be much more respectful. Also, to be frank, there is a much higher chance of encountering a late night couple enjoying themselves when staying in co-ed dorms. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s a whole lot less likely when you chose to stay in a female-only dorm.
If the hostel has privacy curtains, even better. If you’ve been on the road for a while, a bit of privacy is a blessing in disguise. If you’re traveling with a friend or significant other, you may want to consider a private room instead.
Is it a party hostel?
As I mentioned earlier, if you’re looking to make friends while traveling solo, you’ll want to find a social hostel. A social hostel means fun organized events and a common space to meet other travelers. However, this doesn’t mean that it needs to be a party hostel. If you’re looking for a wild travel night, with minimal sleep, a party hostel can be a ton of fun!
However, if you’ve got an early travel morning or are actually planning on getting some sleep, you may want to avoid a party hostel. This way, you aren’t listening to pounding music as you try to fall asleep.
The price of a hostel is definitely an important factor, especially when traveling on a budget. However, an extra dollar or two can go a long way. Don’t always opt for the cheapest option. Sometimes an extra few dollars can lead to a much better experience. Plus, if the backpackers hostel offers great amenities (free meals, happy hours, etc), it may end up being cheaper than the “cheapest” option.
What is included at a backpackers hostel is a big factor in my decision making process. A few things to look out for is whether or not breakfast is included. A lot of hostels include a breakfast, but I like to take it a step further and check out the review. Is breakfast a piece of toast with butter, or is there a full breakfast spread with hearty options. Meals can add up when you’re traveling on a budget, so filling up at breakfast is super important.
Some hostels also include free dinners or happy hours. These are great because they help you to save money and they are great places to meet other travelers. One of my favorite hostels, Good Morning Lisbon Hostel, offers an hour of free beer and sangria every evening.
Other popular amenities include free parking, free WiFi, and organized tours.
If you’re traveling as a solo female, your safety should always be top of mind in every decision that you make. I always look for properties that have overnight staff at the front desk, or ones that lock the doors overnight.
Another way to keep your valuables safe is to make sure that the hostel room has a locker. A small locker is great, but I always look out for rooms that have a full sized locker, where you can bring your own lock. This allows you to lock up your entire backpack, keeping all of your stuff safe while you’re out exploring.
For more tips on travel safety, I’ve created a guide on smart solo female traveler safety tips.
Another great factor to consider when choosing a hostel, is what sort of organized events the hostel has to offer. These can be in the form of either paid or free events. From cooking classes to complimentary walking tours, organized events can be a great way to get to know a city and meet other travelers. I have gone on some amazing group hikes, in addition to solo hiking adventures.
A large common area is a must for me when booking a hostel. A common area, whether it’s a living room space or a bar, is a great opportunity to meet fellow travelers. Not only can you make travel buddies this way, but I also find that other travelers are a great source for tips. A hostel common area is a great place to swap travel stories and find some good recommendations for your trip.
The location of a hostel is so important when choosing where to stay. I recommend always picking a hostel that is close to public transportation, whether that’s a train or bus line. Of course, if the main sights are within walking distance, that is even better. I also try to get a sense of the outside area surrounding the hostel as well. Is it located on a main road or down a small alley?
I’ve stayed at some pretty gross hostels over the years, and trust me it isn’t fun. Luckily, any hostel booking websites should have plenty of reviews to sift through. If there is any mention of bed bugs or gross stains, do yourself a favor and stay away.
And always pack a pair of flip flops for walking around and using the communal showers.
Strong (and free) WiFi
If you’re traveling solo, WiFi is super important. It allows you to stay connected, while planning out your trip as you go. You’d be surprised by how many hostels still charge for WiFi, so make sure to check that before booking. I always look at reviews as well, to make sure that guests aren’t complaining about super slow WiFi.
Best Hostels Around the World
There are tons of great hostels all over the world, but here are a few of my favorites:
- The Farm Hostel in Canggu, Bali
- Kos One Hostel in Canggu Bali
- Once Again Hostel in Bangkok, Thailand
- Haus Hostel in Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Journeys Hostel in Hualien, Taiwan
- Good Morning Lisbon in Lisbon, Portugal
- Hostel 7 Santi in Florence, Italy
- The Wallaby House Hostel in Zagreb, Croatia
- Ostello Bello in Bagan, Myanmar
- Greg & Tom Hostel in Krakow, Poland
- Hostel Old Town Kotor in Kotor, Montenegro
Traveling solo? Here are some other articles that you should check out: