During our travels we have stayed at countless hostels – some bad, some good and some awesome. But what is it that makes an awesome hostel? Of course your fellow travellers have an impact. But we’ve found that every hostel could be great if they all included our top 10 things that every hostel should have listed below. Some of these points are interesting and others are pretty basic, but on our travels we have encountered several hostels that don’t even have something as basic as a bin in the bedroom for your late night makeup wipes!
One of our favourite travel brands, Hostelgeeks, has developed a pretty cool way to rate hostels in each city. It's called the 5 star rating and all hostels are rated on the following criteria - 1. Sustainable and Eco-friendly, 2. Superb Design, 3. Unique, 4. Social Vibes, 5. Top Rated Staff. Funnily enough, many of these are similar to our top 10 suggestions for hostels, and we're pretty sure that if every hostel in every city around the world listened to both Hostelgeeks and ourselves, no traveller would ever stay in an awful hostel again!
Check out our suggestions and see what you think:
1. Good communal space to meet other travellers
Number 1 on our priority list for a great hostel is a good communal area in the centre of the hostel so you can meet other travellers and hear about their stories/tips for your next adventure. We found that several of our favourite hostels had a good communal area, such as Funky Monkey in Kuta, Bali or our all-time favourite hostel Capsule Hostel in Seminyak, Bali. Funky Monkey had a great pool area and offered free pancakes in the communal kitchen all day every day – you could just help yourselves. Capsule Hostel has one massive long table in the middle of all the rooms so everyone has to sit together to eat/drink. It really makes you engage with other people in the hostel and we actually made some lifelong friends in this hostel – not to mention we stayed there a total of 5 times during our 7 weeks in Indonesia. They also played great music to get you in the mood to go out.
Most hostels in Europe had kitchens which was great because it was so expensive to eat in restaurants that we chose to cook our own meals most of the time to save money. The hostels we stayed in in Australia also had kitchens which meant we could get back to eating more healthily after Asia. If a hostel didn’t have a kitchen, the next best thing was if they had a restaurant because it meant you could have a quick breakfast in your PJ’s before going out for the day. And of course if it had a kitchen it needed a bar too so you could start with a few drinks at the hostel before going out out.
3. Clean, comfy beds
Clean goes without saying really - The last thing you want is to curl up in your bed hostel thinking about all the other people who have slept there. And you certainly don’t want to imagine what else they got up to in there! So it’s important that you check the bedding has been changed since the last person slept in it. It could be pretty obvious if it’s not clean so don’t be afraid to ask at reception for clean bed linen. Comfy beds is a bit more of a luxury, and you will find that most hostels don’t have particularly comfy beds as they will be trying to keep things cheap. We have been lucky enough to stay in a few hostels with very comfy beds such as Hanoi Rocks in Hanoi, Vietnam and Wolfpack Hostel in Dalat, Vietnam, as well as Capsule Hostel obviously!
4. Clean toilets and showers with hair dryers
Clean toilets are equally as important as clean bed linen – how are you supposed to get clean in a dirty shower? Ideally toilets and showers should be cleaned at least once a day. Bear in mind that in Asia, a shower might look dirty but that’s just where it’s old and run down and no amount of scrubbing will help its appearance. Disappointingly, some of the dirtiest hostels we’ve stayed in were actually in Australia. We’re not going to name names, but just be aware that even in Western countries, hostels are not always what you would expect as a normal level of cleanliness. For us ladies it’s also nice if they include a hairdryer as not everyone can fit this into their backpack. Natalie went nearly 5 months without blow drying or straightening her hair on this trip!
5. Free Wifi
It’s surprising how many hostel across Europe and Australia charge you to use the Wifi. We think this is completely unacceptable. Many travellers will rely on good Wifi to book their next flight/hostel/activity and we were shocked to learn that some hostels charge travellers for this. Wifi should be free to all customers and guest and there should not be a daily limit on how much data you can use. Travellers need to do research – simple.
6. Free, decent breakfast
In an ideal world, all hostels would include breakfast in the price of a night’s stay. We’ve had some great breakfasts at a few hostels such as Stay Okay in Amsterdam, Kex Hostel in Iceland and Czech Inn in Prague – all free and all provided a variety of cereals, continental and cooked breakfasts to fill you up for the day ahead. Sadly some hostels think that providing toast with jam or peanut butter is enough to say that they offer a “free breakfast” but in our opinion it does not. When booking hostels on the Hostel World app, we always tried to book places that said they offered free breakfast as it helped us to save money, especially if they didn’t have a kitchen to cook in.
7. Friendly, helpful staff
If you get on well with the hostel staff – particularly if you are staying there for a while – your whole stay will be more enjoyable. We’ve met some incredibly friendly and helpful hostel staff members on our travels. Those that stand out are the lovely ladies at Mojzo Inn in Nha Trang, Wolfpack Hostel in Dalat (they cooked an authentic Vietnamese dinner every evening for the whole hostel) and of course the lovely Theo and Michelle who run Capsule Hostel in Seminyak, Bali. Grumpy staff members means they’re not willing to help you, and when you’re in a new city/country, you need their help to get the most out of your stay.
8. Plenty of hooks in bedrooms and bathrooms and at least one bin in every bedroom
This may sound like a strange one but if any of you have stayed in as many hostels as us, you will understand that there is nothing more frustrating than unpacking a few of your clothes only to have nowhere to hang them up. Especially when you’ve just come back from the beach and you need somewhere for your bikini/swimmers to dry. Sometimes we’ve had to settle for hanging them over the steps of the bunkbed or over the edge of the bed. It’s a solution but it would be so much easier if hostels realised that several people will want to hang their clothes up at the same time. We’ve also had a few times when bathrooms haven’t had any hooks and there’s nowhere to put your towel whilst you shower!
9. Several charging plugs near the bed
This is a must for every hostel! When you come in from a day out seeing the city, you want to be able to charge your camera, have a look on Facebook and use your laptop all at the same time. This is why having at least two charing points near each individual bed is so important. It's very frustrating not being able to sit in bed and watch the videos you've recorded that day whilst everything is charging. If the plug sockets are far away from the bed, a hostel really goes down in our estimations.
10. Somewhere to leave your luggage for free
This is kind of a "nice to have". We would still think a hostel was awesome if it had all of the above but it would be a bonus if we could leave our backpacks at the hostel somewhere whilst we wait for our flight/taxi/tuk tuk or while we wait to check in. Several times we’ve arrived at hostels earlier than the check in time and have had to wait around with our luggage to check into our room. Having somewhere we could put our luggage would have been very useful at times. A few places in Europe that we stayed charged us to use a locker to put our luggage in whilst we waited for our flight or to check in. Not good.
If you're looking for more information on staying in hostels, how to book them, what to look for when choosing your hostel, check out Hostelgeeks and their great guides on everything to do with hostels.