Gone are the days when one had to book hotel rooms without knowing any details from suave travel agents. There are now a plethora of options and even a plethora of aggregators for all the options. From Homestays, hotels, and hostels, there are many places for all pockets to choose from. While staying at hostels is not a new concept, for many Indians, it still continues to be one. There are still perceptions, that these hostels are only for students or for backpackers. Well, my solo trips to Europe have completely busted any former perceptions I had of hostels.
With the changing times, hostels have caught on to the changing needs and have upgraded. No longer do you hear horror stories of bathrooms that smell or claustrophic rooms that give you sleepless nights. Hostels have organized themselves to cater to all sorts of travelers now. There are the budget travelers who don’t mind sharing a room or the bunk beds. The business travelers who are weary of dreary hotels and can enjoy the peace of a private room within the hostel, yet enjoy the jovial and warm vibe of the hostel, the leisure traveler who wants to stay long and enjoy facilities of a good kitchen and laundry at a reasonable price, the luxury traveler who wants to experience a hostel stay at a chic location, the solo traveler who looks to find company, and the party crowd. I have stayed in several hostels across Europe now and here are the points you should consider if you want to stay in one.
- Privacy: If you are looking for more privacy, you could look for rooms within the hostel too. These are usually at standard hotel rates in the vicinity but you get the atmosphere of the hostel and a good location. If you are traveling on budget, there are hostels which will provide you with curtains for every bed which trust me is important when travelers come in and out at night in dorms. There could even be attached bathrooms to the dorms if you prefer. For women, check out places that have exclusive female dorms for added comfort and security if you prefer.
- Location: After having stayed at several hostels, I realize that the location is not quite as important as the other factors. Most hostels are conveniently located to forms of public transport and it is fairly simple to get around. So, your hostel could be in a cosy neighborhood but a short train ride away from the hordes of tourists and it could just be better
- Self Catering: Most hostels provide self catering facilities and you can cook and eat your own food at the hostel. Well, you may not cook a full fledged meal, but it is nice to have a cup of coffee, maggi or a quick pasta at the hostel itself. As a vegetarian it was good to have the facility available. And of course, you can save plenty if you cook especially in expensive countries.
- Quiet hostels vs party hostels: Most hostels come in either of the two categories. If you are the sort who prefers to have a good nights sleep, then don’t book a place at a party hostel! Party hostels usually have a bar that is open for long, game rooms and common areas where travelers can enjoy a drink and socialize.
- Restrictions: You may want to be sure that the hostel has no restrictions for you or your group. Sometimes people over a certain age, children, pets and families are not welcomed by certain hostels. So be sure it suits you.
- Hostel chains – There are several hostel chains across Europe such as St. Christophers Inns, Generator, Stay Okay, Plus hostels etc. These are typically the large hostels, but you can be sure that they are quite professional and you will not face any problems. I have stayed at Christopher’s inn at Paris and the Berlin Plus, both of which were large and catered to my every need. However, there are several cosy old hostels usually with the best locations which are great too. For example, the Hostel Ruthensteiner at Vienna was the best hostel I have ever stayed at I reckon. I daresay, I have liked the smaller hostels better as you can meet more people in a smaller more personal setting rather than a hotel like lobby.
- Other factors such as cleanliness, good staff, price, good wifi, enough plug points are hygiene and you can glean how good the hostel is from reviews and pictures
- Read up the reviews: Read the reviews on Hostelworld.com before you book. Most reviews are authentic and provide you a good perspective on if the hostel is something you want.
So, if you haven’t stayed in a hostel before, do give it a try!