What makes the difference between an awesome, adventurous trip and an epic fail of a holiday? The company certainly plays a big part—but there’s one thing even more important than that, and that’s the place you call your temporary home.
Travelling is exciting and eye-opening, but it can also be stressful and scary—especially if you don’t feel safe and comfortable while you’re away. Deciding what you’re going to do and see once you’re abroad may be your first thought when you start planning a trip, but the key to have everything go smoothly is picking the right place to rest.
If you’re planning on hopping the pond to travel around Europe, something you might want to consider is staying in a hostel. Here at Literally, Darling we are fond of them, and we’ve put together a list of reasons why you might want to consider staying in one on your next trip—plus tips on how to find the best home-away-from-home.
Let’s be honest: As amazing and enriching as it is, travelling can be (very) expensive, and having to pick between destinations because you can’t afford to go everywhere is never fun. Hostels are cheaper than hotels, but still offer a decent degree of comfort—not to mention they allow you to save up on other things as well, like meals. Most places have self-catering facilities where you can make your own meal; eating out is nice, but not great if you’re trying to stay on the cheap side (or if you’re tired of the local cuisine and craving something homey).
Yes, hostels may not be an ideal place for someone looking for peace and quiet. But what they lack in privacy, they make up for in décor: While hotel rooms usually feel anonymous and cold, most hostels look unique and quirky. More often than not you’ll find murals, maps on which you can sometimes pin your hometown, board games you can borrow, and bookshelves to pick up a new story to keep you company. Unlike hotels, hostels have personality—and once you get settled in and start looking around, you’ll notice the attention reserved to details, and the care behind it. And then you’ll feel at home, regardless of where you are.
Solo travellers are not necessarily loners! Just because you want to sightsee and wander on your own terms, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some company when you feel like it. Enter a must-have feature of every hostel accommodation: the common room—AKA your temporary living room. And if you’re picturing dirty couches saved from the street, you’re wrong: hostel staffers put a lot of effort into making their guests feel at home, and they’ll go out of their way to create the perfect lounging area. Here you can wind down and relax after a long day of exploring, or hunt for someone to party with. Which leads me to my next point…
The People—Part I: Other Travellers
From the hopeless wanderer who has been everywhere and has the best travel tips, to the overly excited foreigner who will infect you with their enthusiasm about literally everything (and somehow manage not to make you want to punch them in the face): in hostels you’ll meet the best drinking buddies for your holiday extravaganza, but also some amazing people you’ll go out of your way to keep in touch with. All you need to do is introduce yourself—and maybe buy the first round (but there’ll be more after that, we promise!).
The People—Part II: Staff
Hotel staff are helpful and knowledgeable. Hostel staff are helpful, knowledgeable, and fun. Many hostel owners or managers are former travellers who decided to settle down in one place and turn their passion into a profession; this means they not only know exactly what you want and need from an accommodation, but they’re also invested in making sure you have a wonderful time on the road—because they know exactly how much it matters. They will give you great advice on their city and will know exactly where to send you, and they will have the most brilliant stories from their own previous meanderings: just ask them about it and hear for yourself.
So… How Do I Pick One?
Having said all this, finding the right hostel can be difficult and confusing. Here’s a list of what to look for in a hostel, so that you can keep the stress to a minimum, and focus on having fun!
Know your priorities
Only you know what you’re looking for, so it’s up to you to make sure the hostel will be able to provide you with it. If you want to socialize, look for party hostels; if you want to sightsee, look up hostels with travel desks or that mention tours; if you have dietary requirements or are simply a picky eater, make sure you’ll have access to a kitchen.
Find out how to get there beforehand
Once you’ve found something that looks promising, look up where it is and make sure you can get there on your own. Ask for detailed directions from the staff, and make sure they know how and from where you’re travelling, so that they can advise you efficiently. Having to rely on a taxi service can be counterproductive if you’re picking a hostel to save up—nobody wants to start their trip being ripped off by a questionable driver!
Get a feeling of it
Pictures are great, but reviews are better! Keep in mind that a hostel description is designed to intrigue guests—what you need is to hear about someone else’s experience, and this is the best way to do so. Asks for recommendations whenever possible (from other travellers or the staff themselves), and when you can’t, trust Google—as well as your instinct. And don’t forget to leave one yourself after you go!
Check their social networks and websites—and use them both to learn about them, and to book your spot (whenever possible). Sites like hostelworld.com are great to find out as much as you possibly can about a place, but they do ask businesses for a commission in return. It’s a small difference when you’re booking, but it can go a long way.
Have you stayed in a hostel before? Tweet us at @litdarling or let us know in the comments!
Her talents include building piles of books to read that are taller than actual furniture, transforming money into flight tickets, getting emotionally invested in every sport she watches, and making eye-contact with the most awkward person in a room, at the most inconvenient time.
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