Want to stay in hostels but don’t know which one to pick? Here’s a checklist for you! Last Updated: August 22, 2022

Me in Dubrovnik hostel
#hostellife right here 😛

You are someone who wants to experience the backpacker life and stay in some really cool hostels, I get it. But not all hostels may be ‘your type’. 

This article will give you a good breakdown of what you should be looking for while picking the right hostel for you.

Whether this is your first time staying in hostels or you have just begun your backpacking journey and are not sure how to go about picking a good hostel for yourself, I have got you covered!

You either have ‘WOW I want to come back to this place’ moments or ‘oh yeah it was alright’ moments. Hostels should always evoke the former reaction and this is why it is important to pay for a GREAT hostel of your choice. 

I am listing down 10 things that should be a part of your checklist while selecting a decent hostel. 

Before I get started on this, I do want to mention that I have not been a very big fan of party hostels so personally, I have always tried to avoid those kinds of hostels on my travels. 

The list below is quite a generic list of a hostel checklist.

1. Check reviews online

I swear by this. Be it anything, when I am on the road I always always make sure to check reviews before booking anything. This majorly goes for the accommodation I choose to stay in. 

Websites like Hostelworld and Booking.com come in handy while searching for good hostels. 
My personal preference is to go for hostels that have 50+ reviews and ratings of 8.5+.

Hostel review
Example of a hostel review on hostelworld.com
2. Location

You don’t want to book a hostel that is an hour away from all the attractions. The hostel cost might be super cheap but you will end up spending more on internal transport. 

This happened to me recently while I was in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Honestly, the hostel was amazing and QUITE reasonable. It was also very close to the bus terminal but very far from the city centre so I had to take a local bus to get there. 

I booked that hostel for 3 nights and ended up taking the bus on all days which added unnecessary costs.
Lesson: Always look for hostels that are in the city centre or within walking distance from the city centre.

Location should be central
The location should be central
3. Price point

Don’t always go for the price! You may find tons of cheap hostels online but please remember, not all cheap hostels are good and not all good hostels are cheap. 

The prices for some hostels may be lower because of several reasons – far away from the centre, not a lot of positive reviews, too many competitors around, new hostel etc. 

I have stayed in some really good hostels that have been cheaper than others but I have had to comprise on something or the other. Eg: I comprised on the location in the Dubrovnik hostel. 

Of course, price is important if you are travelling on a budget but don’t let that be your ONLY deciding factor while selecting a hostel.

Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash
Price is NOT the only deciding factor
4. Breakfast included

I usually like to stay in hostels that have breakfast included and don’t mind paying a couple of bucks more for it. This saves me a lot of time figuring out the first meal of my day right after waking up. 

As a vegetarian, I have seldom had problems with the breakfast spread because most hostels usually have bread, butter, jam, fruits, milk, cereal, tea and coffee which is more than enough to start off my day. 

Sometimes, the hostel breakfast might not be the best which is when you may need to do a grocery run or eat at a cafe or maybe just skip the meal(of course I don’t recommend that but just saying). 

So how do you know if you will like the breakfast in a particular hostel? A simple way is to check for breakfast photos online on the booking websites. A lot of hostels upload photos of their breakfast spread so people can get more clarity. You can also email the hostel asking for breakfast options before locking on the place.

Hostel breakfast
Hostel breakfast can turn out to be really good!
5. FREE walking tours

Almost all hostels offer free walking tours, especially in Europe. The word FREE may sound very appealing but it is always recommended to pay a small tip to your guide after the tour is over. 

It is not mandatory, you can leave without paying anything and get yourself a free tour indeed! But that’s not what people usually do. Based on your budget, you can pay the guide anywhere between EUR 5 – EUR 10. That is the base. Many people pay higher amounts too.  

I have mentioned the currency in Euros above because that’s where free walking tours are extremely popular and common. 

Personally, I love this concept. It is convenient, not heavy on the pocket and you also get to meet your fellow hostellers(new friends and potential travel buddies yay!)

To know if a hostel offers walking tours, you can check this information online – on booking websites, the hostel website or their social media as they usually mention it there.

Photo by Luke Porter on Unsplash
Who doesn’t like FREE walking tours?
6. Friendly staff

Most hostels are started by young people and are also run by a bunch of volunteers and young full-time staff. 

This is very different from running a hotel where there is professional training given to the staff for months!

That being said, the hostel’s reputation depends a lot on the volunteers and the permanent staff. 

The vibe of most hotels is quite chill, laid back and friendly. The staff plays a big role in creating such a vibe. 

People don’t stay in hostels just because it is cheap. They stay for the entire experience – interacting with new people, going on free tours, staying comfortably but on a budget, knowing the local culture of a place and basically having a great time overall!

The working staff at any hostel should be well informed about the place where the hostel is located – do’s, dont’s, things to do, places to eat etc. 

They should be well trained in terms of check-in and check procedures as well so the guests have a seamless experience overall. 

And most importantly, they should be friendly and approachable!

One such hostel that comes to my mind fulfilling these criteria is the Old Town Hostel, Kotor, Montenegro. I was sort of stranded in a forest in Kotor and had to spend a night up in the mountainous forest. The staff at the hostel was so helpful and patient with my family and friends who were stressed as they couldn’t contact me that whole day and night. You can check them out on hostelworld.com

Online reviews will give you a fair idea of how the staff of a hostel is so make sure to always check reviews!

Friendly hostel staff
I could be a friendly host 😛
7. Cleanliness

This is another point you should consider before picking your hostel. You don’t want to be waking up in the middle of the night with bed bugs, do you?

Having a clean bathroom (shared or private) is as important as keeping the beds clean. 

Some hostels can be messy but could be because of several reasons – rooms might be small, people staying in the dorm might be messy and like to have their things all over the place etc. But keeping the hostel clean overall is essential. 

For me, two hostels stood out in this regard from my recent 3-month solo trip in Europe:

Oda Hostel, Kosovo

Zeus is Loose Hostel, Thessaloniki 

Check them out on Hostelworld.com

Cleanliness is key
8. Room size

Hostel rooms can be 4-bed, 6-bed, 8-bed or even 10-bed dorms. You can also opt for private rooms if you are two people travelling together.

But if you are a solo traveller on a shoestring budget, staying in dorms would be your best bet. 

Dorms can also be mixed (girls & boys in the same dorm) or girls only or boys only. You should go for the one you are most comfortable with!

Before selecting a hostel, you can check for the dorm room size on hostelworld.com.

You don’t want to stay in a cramped dorm with limited space for you and your belongings. Just because it is cheap, doesn’t mean you have an uncomfortable stay!

You can also check photos of dorms online to see how they look. 

Rooms should be spacious enough for you to move around freely and have enough space for your luggage.
Pro tip: I prefer dorms with bathrooms attached. Some dorms have bathrooms outside the dorm and they are shared with all other dorm people which can be chaotic, especially in the mornings.

Cramped room is a big NO-NO
Cramped room is a big no-no
9. Free lockers

While travelling (especially solo), the most important things to take care of are your passport, wallet and other essential travel documents. 

Many hostels offer lockers inside the dorm. Some are also attached to your bed. 

Hostels can charge you to use those lockers sometimes but try going for the ones that have lockers included in the dorm price. This is something that should not be chargeable in my opinion. It is a basic necessity for international travellers and should be offered free of cost.

Photo by Autumn_ schroe on Unsplash
Hostel lockers are a must
10. Hostel vibe

This is a broad pointer but depending on your personality you can gauge what vibe to look for in the hostel. 

Like I said earlier in this article that party hostels are not really my type. So while searching for good hostels, I check photos and read the hostel description to see if this is something I will like. 

A lot of hostels clearly mention what type of vibe they have – whether it is a party or whether it is a peaceful vibe.

If you are a social animal and love listening to loud music till the wee hours,  then a party hostel would be more suited for you. 

Hostel vibe
What’s your vibe – party or chill?

That’s my two cents on your most awaited hostel experience! 

If you have any questions, feel free to hit me up in the comments below. 

I would also love to hear about your hostel experiences if you have had any. Tell me all about it in the comments 😀

Leave a Reply

Meet Aahuti

Hi, I am Aahuti Sejpal. You will probably see me on Instagram posting about travel and vegetarian food or in restaurants trying new (and sometimes weird) food items or simply ...

Read More