Travel Tuesdays: To hostel or not to hostel?

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Every year millions of students take trips abroad, staying in either Airbnb’s, hostels or hotels. But which one should you choose, and what should you look for if you take the hostel route? This article will hopefully help you make some educated decisions when it comes to choosing your lodgings, and getting the best accommodation for your trip!

Sunset on the Gili Trawangan Islands, Bali – Wonderland Hostel

Depending on your budget and your preference for partying/social, you may decide that a hotel or Airbnb would be a good way to relax over a long trip. Obviously, the luxury of a hotel usually comes at a higher cost. If you’re on a student budget you might struggle to justify the price tag.

Hostels are a cheap social alternative, but sometimes carry a negative stigma. Whether it’s broken air conditioning or cockroaches circulating around the hostel-owned café… These horror stories can be enough to put you off hostels completely – staying in expensive and familiar chain-managed hotels suddenly becomes a lot more attractive. One bad apple spoils the bunch. Luckily there is a solution!

For those who want peace of mind before staying somewhere they can easily search online on one of the many hostel comparison websites. My personal favourites are Hostelworld or HostelBookers. These sites include extensive reviews by fellow travellers and display both budget and luxe hostels at different price ranges. There tends to be availability at hostels almost all the time too, unless a local big event or festival is taking place.

So, things to consider if you’re considering a hostel stay:

Location

It is recommended that you stay somewhere with easy access to local attractions, and in a safe, central location with lots of other travellers nearby. You want to feel as safe as possible in a foreign country. From first-hand experience, a sleepless night in a remote Koh Tao hotel with no locks on the doors is not something I’d like to relive!

If you’re staying in a more remote place, an affordable hotel can sometimes feel like the better option. You often know what you’re getting, but if you want to meet new people to explore this place with, a hostel is a great option. The FCO has a helpful guide that you can use to inform your decisions about a countries’ local laws and customs, as well as some tips to stay safe abroad.

Also females travelling along can sometimes be at greater risk depending on where they’re travelling, so if you’re a solo female traveller or are nervous about travelling as a group of girls, this is a must read! Similarly, Hostelworld’s blog has great advice on which hostels they would recommend to female solo travellers! It can be done, so don’t rule it out but it is best to do your research!

Arcadia Hostel in Kampot, Cambodia

Security

Many hotels offer a safe to keep valuables in. Of course, hotels wouldn’t be in business if belongings were constantly stolen, but it does happen. Avoid leaving things lying around in your room. Use the safes provided. Also be sure to not keep all of your money together, and guard your passport with your life!

For hostels, you should look for ones with secure lockers. These are often secured using a padlock, so be sure to pack one as many hostels don’t provide them for free. Take a padlock with a code so that you can’t lose the key! Information like this is included on the Hostelworld website, so you always know what will be available to you once you arrive.

As well as insuring yourself, insuring your personal belongings is a must. If you have contents insurance at home, check if that covers you whilst overseas, and if not get yourself and belongings insured before you set off on your travels!

Reviews

Reviews will tell you a lot about a place. It’s unlikely that you would stay in a hotel with sub-par reviews, so the same goes for hostels. Check for hostels with a decent number of reviews too – one solitary 5-star might not be a good representation of what it’s really like… Additionally, reviews often say who is leaving a review; a female solo traveller who is 25, or a group of lads who are 18 and on their gap year. This can be a really helpful tool to get a feel of who else is going there, and whether it is right for you.

Also a quick read of hostels’ reviews often confirms whether or not there really is WI-FI and working air conditioning. I’d highly recommend finding hostels with both of these things (obviously air conditioning might not be so necessary if you’re in a cooler climate). You’ll also be able to see how people rated the atmosphere and cleanliness, so check those out, too! Boutique Airbnb room in Rome shown below.

Lucky House Hotel, Near Termini Station, Rome

Busting the myth

The reality is that if you’re on a long trip where you’ll want to explore and socialise, hostels are the best option since they’re more affordable in the long run and allow you to meet new people. They’re safe and provide extensive knowledge and all of the anemities you could need. You’ll be out exploring with new people, so splashing out on a hostel with a pool might not always be worth it. However, a month or two into your trip you may want to treat yourself to one night in a hotel or a private room. Authentic Riad buried in the Souks of Marrakech seen here.

Riad Hadda Chambre Halima, Marrakech

Overall the hostel wins outright for me. Of course it depends on the type of trip you’re taking – a hostel might not go down too well on a romantic getaway. But overall, hostels, when chosen carefully, are a great way to meet fellow travellers and sometimes friends for life! And if you want a little luxury, you can always save up a bit of budget for a nice hotel stay on your final night!