Ah, hostels. The cheap accommodation that you either love or choose to tolerate for the sake of saving those pennies and being able to travel for longer. Hotels will be the preference of most people unless you’re that guy who wears those baggy trousers they got from Thailand whilst playing the ukulele thinking they’re a spiritual free spirit and not a complete prick, but again the cost for backpackers is usually too much, so the hostel wins.
Hostels do have a massive charm to them and can be a huge part of your experience as after all you’re meeting people constantly in a hostel, even if it’s just a simple hello as you walk to your bed you’re constantly meeting people. And as we know, meeting people can be what makes a bad hostel become a good one as it’ll remind you of the times you had instead of the ants that made a colony on your big toe whilst you slept. The people and the overall atmosphere can make a hostel good, but take that aspect away, what makes a hostel a good hostel?
The short answer and non-precise answer, there are many things, but let’s not be that guy and dive into the specifics of what makes a good hostel. To be specific we have separated it into 3 sections: Important Stuff, Secondary Stuff and Bonus Points, Where if you were to rate a hostel you would think of all these things when giving an overall rating excluding atmosphere points.
Location – Most hostel residents are budget travellers so staying in a hostel that isn’t in a central location and pretty far out from what they want to see can be a massive pain having to pay money to commute a distance to see stuff and back. Central locations are vital for smaller destinations but for larger cities such as Tokyo as long as you’re near a subway station then you are fine. A location doesn’t need to be in the nicest areas with hundreds to do around it, just needs to be in a decent easily accessible place.
Good Wifi – The World revolves around wifi and is an important part of our daily lives unless again you’re that baggy trousers ukulele playing prick who rants about how the internet isn’t spiritual or you happen to be Amish. The internet is how we can keep sane and be able to keep up to date with everything back home whilst being thousands of miles away. A hostel with an incredible WiFi speed and fast downloads of Netflix shows to watch on the 14-hour bus ride you’re taking gets favoured a lot, whereas a hostel with awful WiFi is very painful. It’s very annoying to have bad WiFi in a hostel especially when you’re in a more urban area where food WiFi is expected and sitting in McDonald’s for 4 hours a day just to use the internet and chill out is not desirable.
Cleanliness – Something that is generally expected when paying to stay in a place and for the most part adheres to. An unclean hostel will make you hate the hostel as cleanliness brings comfort and comfort goes a long way when hosteling. Plus who wants to be going to drop the kids off at school on a toilet that has shit all over it and is rather mouldy? General basic cleanliness should be a given but the cleanliness of objects such as chairs need to be attained as well. Objects don’t need to be as clean as they are when first assembled, at least have them looking presentable and certainly not functioning like a scrawny IT technician would after going 5 rounds with Tyson Fury.
Outlets– Rocking up to a hostel on the red-eye after a night bus, really needing to go nap and charge your electrical devices only to find that there’s only one outlet in the whole 6-bedroom that’s in an awkward location is very infuriating. Even when not coming in on the red-eye, it’s very annoying, to say the least, to be in a room with a lack of outlets. Don’t need to have them next to every bunk (amazing when they are though), enough for at least everyone in the room to charge their electrics and easily access the sockets.
Room Space– You’re sharing a room with a bunch of strangers who typically are armed with giant rucksacks and that one awful person with a suitcase the size of a child sumo wrestler, space will be limited. However, a room with a little space is great, a room with hundreds of space is fantastic, but a room with enough space to have your bag next to/at the end of your bed that’s easily accessible is good enough.
Bed Comfort – This one can be argued as to be in the important stuff section but to us, a bed is just a bed and in most cases better than sleeping outside on a park bench. Comfy beds are always preferred over a prison-like bed, but bed comfort is more than just the mattress. Does the bed squeak from any slight movement? Does it move and feel unstable? are there appropriate bedding for the location (ie it being warm and having a warm duvet, instead of a light sheet duvet whilst in the middle of an Egyptian summer)? All things that need to be considered.
Common Area/Lounge – A common area is usually found in a hostel, but for some, it’s very low-key. Not having one isn’t ideal at all as you are then stuck in the corridors if wanting to escape the room and chill out. Rarely, there isn’t an area to sit and chill but ones that are low-key and just sporadic chairs and tables here and there aren’t the best but hey, it’s better than nothing.
Reasonable Kitchen – A Gordon Ramsey Michelin star restaurant-quality kitchen with more pots and pans than your local kitchen warehouse store holds isn’t a necessity but one with enough of the quintessential items is all that is needed. Enough fridges are handy so cheap Bintangs (beer) can be chilled. Hostels can survive fine without a kitchen and it’s not a necessity but it’s preferred over spending money every night on takeout or the food you can purchase from the hostel.
Curtains Around Beds – This can easily be done in a hostel that doesn’t provide this unreal feature if on a bottom bunk by handing clothes and towels around the bed tucked in under the mattress of the bed on the top bunk, but for those top bunk people it’s typically not possible. However, having curtains around the bed gives you a sense of privacy and your own space which goes such a long way even when sharing a room with 23 other strangers regardless of what bunk you happen to be on. Plus if you prefer to sleep naked you can happily do so without the fear of waking up in the morning with the covers on the floor and finding out you’ve exposed your lady flower and breasticles or your little fireman to the world. Doesn’t mean you can freely have sexy time with someone or touch your fireman as people will steal hear you!
Lockers – For some people, this could be classed into the secondary stuff section but more hostels than what you expect don’t provide functioning lockers for your valuables, hence its location here. It’s a huge bonus when there are lockers but it’s usually not a huge issue when there aren’t as thefts are very uncommon in a hostel, but again doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions. Sleeping with your wallet and passport under your pillow is highly recommended.
TV – Yay TV! Always great getting to force everyone around you to watch the show you are interested in.
Vending Machines/Ability to buy drinks, snacks and essentials – It’s quality when a hostel provides the ability to purchase snacks when you’re having the midnight munchies and all the stores are closed, plus especially helpful when you’ve forgotten your toothpaste in the last hostel.
Board games/Video games/Stuff to self-entertain – Having an array of board games or something such as a pool table or ping pong table are great ways to have human interaction with other guests or just to kill time with your travel buddies. Video games can be a big bonus as well but are a lot rarer and filled with people hogging them playing Fifa 09 for hours like they’re 12 again.
Pool – Always quality to have a pool to freely swim in the sun and have an excuse to loudly grunt whilst rubbing sunscreen on your greasy hairy stomach from the comforts of your hostel.
Organised Tours, Trips and Experiences – A hostel that provides these enable you to see the area and all it has to offer in a more casual way than a tour but also in a more fun way as it’s filled with like-minded people and good old backpackers. Plus they tend to be at a cheaper price which is unreal and some even have free experiences which doesn’t even need to be emphasised on how fab that is!
Hostel Events – As mentioned earlier you are constantly meeting people at hostels and there’s no better way to interact and converse with people than a good old hostel event! Whether it be a BBQ, a pub crawl or a board games night, it’s the best way to get to know people as hey you signed up to go and you have that in common with everyone. Plus most involve alcohol and/or food, and who doesn’t love to drink, dance, eat and drink with cool people? Especially that drinking part!
2 replies on “What Makes A Good Hostel”
I’ve never stayed in a hostel, but if I do, I’ll take your advice to heart. 🙂
My 96 year old mother lives in a hostel. It’s called an Assisted Living Room. So there is some reticence on my part to part with my sense of private space.