Perhaps the most expensive day-to-day cost you’ll incur on the road is accommodation, and for a satisfactory stay, there are some key elements to look for in a great hostel.
- Lockers - This is by far the biggest deal breaker for me. These days, hostel rooms should automatically come equipped with lockers, and if they don’t, they won’t get my business. When you’re already traveling light, you shouldn’t have to risk getting your stuff stolen from the room. It’s important to take the necessary precautions to keep your stuff safe, and lockers should come standard to helping you do just that.
- Safety – The safety of you and your belongings is of high concern so pick a hostel near a major city with lots of travelers coming through. It’s a bonus if you stay somewhere near a metro train stop so you don’t have a long walk back. In developing cities like Quito, Ecuador, you probably should look for a place where the front door locks at a certain time as those areas tend to be of high crime, and locked front doors are an extra security measure.
- Free Towels / Linens – Towels don’t always come free, but it can be a real luxury when they do. As for linens, well that is something that should always be taken care of by the hostel.
- 11am Checkout or Later – A good night’s sleep is rare on the road so the later the checkout, the better your morning will be especially on days where you’re transferring to a new city.
- Free Wifi – If you travel with your own laptop which I think it’s safe to say most of us do these days, free wifi is gold! That way you don’t have to wait around for someone to give up their spot at one of the hostel’s computers.
- Common Room / Lounge – Great place to hang out, relax, and meet other people in the hostel. It can also be a better spot to work from, if your room feels to crowded or you don’t bother anyone who is sleeping.
- 24-hour Hot Showers - Showers come standard in most hotels and hostels. You might not necessarily want a HOT shower after roasting under the sun all day, but it’s good to have the option.
- Cleanliness - Let’s make this simple. Nobody wants to stay in a place that looks/smells/feels like it hasn’t been cleaned since the day it was built, and when you enter feeling healthy and in good shape, you should leave feeling the same way. Clean hostels should be bedbug free, have freshly laundered sheets and linens, be vacuumed/mopped/swept, not smell dirty/like smoke, not have mold growing in the showers or anywhere for that matter, etc.
- Luggage Room - If you arrive before you’re allowed to check in or if you need to store your stuff before your late night flight out of town, luggage storage is convenient to unload your baggage so you only have to walk around with a daypack.
- No Curfew - Are we back to our teenage days living at mom and dad’s house? I didn’t think so. Your hostel shouldn’t have a curfew as it would put a damper on what could’ve been an awesome night, and it’s useful to have 24-hour reception should you need it for any reason.
- Air conditioning / Heat - Let’s be honest, wherever you’re staying, you want your hostel to have a comfortable temperature, right? If it’s 100 degrees outside, you’ll want to come back to a nice cool room, and if it’s 100 below, you’ll need a place to thaw out.
- Good Location – This goes hand-in-hand with safety. It can be an advantage to stay in a hostel near a city center or at least a place with a decent amount of activity going on so it doesn’t take too much time or energy to get to the places you want to go. Though street noise can be irritating, it’s fun to be in the middle of everything and have access to a variety of different things to satiate your spontaneous cravings. It’s a different story if you’re trying to get off the beaten track, in which case it’s helpful if the hostel is near transportation like bus or subway stops.
- Airport pickup – Whether for free or a fee, this is especially helpful if you’re visiting a foreign country where you’re not very familiar/comfortable with the language or other transportation options. It’s also great if you get to your destination in the wee hours of the morning and don’t feel like navigating the streets alone at night.
- Travel desk / Free guided tours – This can be a great structured introduction to the city, a convenient way to get discounts on other tours and attractions in the city, and to meet other people staying at the hostel.
- Breakfast – Free breakfast is a HUGE plus because it allows you to save money for a bigger and/or better meal later in the day.
- Credit Cards Accepted - Even though it’s always wise to carry cash, it can be helpful to use a credit card every once in a while. Especially in the case of an emergency like stolen cash, it makes the process a lot smoother when a hostel accepts credit cards.
- Bar - Much like having a common room, a bar is a great place to meet others who are staying at the same hostel, socialize, trade stories, and make friends.
Did I miss anything? What do you look for in a hostel? What are the deal breakers? What are some of the best/worst hostels you’ve ever stayed in and where?