1. Location, location, location Location is always the big one, when you’re searching for the right hostel. There’s nothing worse than arriving to a city and ONLY then realizing that your hostel is in some far outskirts of where you actually wanted to be.
2. Public transportation It can also be a huge headache when you realize your hostel is 30+ minutes walking from the closest train or bus stop. For all of you backpackers who are traveling mostly by foot, make sure there’s public transportation near your hostel.
3. Past reviews This one is an obvious one, and most of us will voluntarily look at the star-based rating, but that’s not exactly a true tell of what the facilities are like. It’s often that a hostel was under old management and things went down hill from there, but the ratings never changed. I’ve also heard of some hostel websites ‘playing’ with their ratings, to improve the sales of certain properties (but not here at HostelsClub.com!).
4. Hidden fees Some hostels like to charge for every little thing. Typically you will find a hostel charge you for the use of a towel or a lock, or to store your luggage, but the worst ones will charge you for your sheets and your internet (which I cover next).
5. Internet More and more hostels are opening up and offering free WIFI for their patrons, but there are still tons that will charge you for the use of it. Others will word their ads a certain way to make it sound as though they offer you free internet, but a lot of times these connections ARE free, but they’re for usage on their community computers only – and trust me, it’s a pain to find this out too late, and even worse when you realize there are only two public computers available for use in a 200-bed hostel.
6. Check-in/check out times Most hostels abide by similar check-in and check out time frames like hotels, but there are a few here and there that require ridiculously early check outs and inconveniently early check-ins. On the other side of things, there are a lot that will not let you check-in after basic hours.
7. 24 hours, hours Some hostels don’t like to man the desk at all hours of the night. If you’re planning on staying out late, it’s important to check and that your hostel has 24-hour access.
8. Daily lockout On the other side of wacky hours and unmanned desks, a few rare hostels impose a daily lockout, which is for ‘cleaning and other maintenance purposes.’ If you don’t want to be kicked out of your hostel at 10:30 AM, then you may want to find one with better hours.
9. Patrons Vs. bathrooms If you’re traveling on a tight budget, you’re likely to choose the largest room that holds the most amount of beds, but sometimes you can stay for really cheap in a 18-30 bed dorm, but then find out there’s ONLY ONE BATHROOM. So the moral is, try to figure out if it will be a war for the washroom, like that of David Vs. Goliath, or not.
10. The devil’s in the details This should be a no-brainer, and sort of a ‘moral of the story’ of this article, but you should always read all of the details for each and every hostel you book. Some hostels want you to do a certain thing when arriving or they want you to email them ahead of time, or even some have strange policies that you might do better knowing ahead of time.
By Brandon Elijah Scott. Follow Brandon on his Eye & Pen blog.