But for first-time hostel-ers these following tips may serve you well when it comes to choosing your digs:
- Do your research: not all hostel (like hotels) are created equally. Make sure to make the most of the millions of reviews you have at your fingertips on the big wide web, as well as asking for the recommendations of anyone that you know who has travelled.
- Check out student travel sites: although I recommend booking hostels yourself for the best deals, checking out which hostels travel agents such as STA list on their website is a good place to start. These agents are only going to list the more reputable stays, so you know that you'll be avoiding any cockroach infested beds in the middle of the sleaziest district in town.
- When in doubt, stick with the chains: I've had fantastic experiences with little known hostels which I've booked on the spur of the moment, but I've also had some less than great stays booked much in the same vain. If you want to take chance out of the equation stick to some of the well-known chains; not only do you know that you'll receive the same quality everywhere you stay, but you'll generally score great discounts when booking for multiple locations. Some personal favourites are YHA hostels in the United Kingdom and St Christopher's hostels which are spread around Europe.
Making the most of your hostel experience:
- Know what you need: I can't stress how important this is! Some hostels cover the basics, but others will ask that you supply your own towels or sheets. Make sure you know before you go, or else face paying ridiculous fees at check in just so you can hire something to dry yourself off with.
- Don't waste a buffet breakfast: some hostels, such as the St Christopher's chain, offer magnificent buffet breakfasts as part of your booking (included in your room fee). Not only should you fill up in the morning, but you should come prepared with doggy bags, to join the ranks of everyone else who are buttering up bread for sandwiches and pocketing several pieces of fruit and slices of cake to tide them through mid-morning and lunch. It's one of the best ways to save some money on the road.
- Say hi to everyone: some people are naturally shyer than others, but making the simple effort to say 'hello' to everyone who walks into your dorm will open up the conversation and give you the chance to meet people from all over the world. By the end of the trip you'll be able to proudly brag about having friends from every continent on Earth, and if you're travelling alone it also gives you the chance to have people to buddy up with for the day.
Any hints of your own? Let me know in the comments section below!