Whether you’re looking to meet fellow travelers like you or just save some money on a weekend excursion, hostels are a ubiquitous part of the study abroad experience. Many hostels have had a poor reputation in the past as being unsafe or unclean. Recently, however, there has been a race to the top in the quality of hostels. Chains and independent operators alike are going the extra mile for a cheap, comfortable, and enjoyable stay. Here are some things to keep in mind for when you’re booking, and for when you arrive at your destination:
When booking a hostel:
- Think about the kind of environment you want. More than other forms of lodging, hostels are a sort of mini-community. Many have themes, and even those that don’t still have a general atmosphere that they want to maintain. Are you looking for a party, or some peace and quiet? Traditional, or avant-garde? Rustic and familial, or sleek and contemporary? There is more to a hostel than the location and price.
- Look for official recommendations. Booking websites like HostelWorld and HostelBookers will typically bump highly rated hostels to the top of your searches, and other websites may have an official recommendation from the website itself. Booking agencies won’t put their brand name next to a sub-par hostel, and will typically follow up with you if you happen to have a negative experience.
- See what amenities are included. Is there free breakfast? Free wifi? Does the hostel provide lockers? How about a lock and key for them? Are linens and towels included? Every hostel is different in what it offers. Some come with all the bells and whistles, while others are more spare in what they offer.
During your stay,
- Let the staff show you around. Hostel workers tend to either be locals or other fellow travelers, and are generally young adults. They’ll know the ins and outs of whatever city you’re in. Want to know where the nightlife is or where to get the best meal? The person at the front desk might give you the name of their favorite spot. Hostels also usually run tours—often for free!
- Bring what you need for a good night’s sleep. Odds are high that you’ll be in a room with several other people who probably have different sleeping habits than you do. Earplugs and an eye mask are good to have, just to make sure that you get a good night’s rest.
- Be social! What separates hostels from other forms of lodging like hotels and motels is the social dimension. Where else can you meet a bunch of young travelers and swap stories from all across the globe? Introduce yourself to the people in your room. If you have down time, spend it in a common area and talk to people who come in. You might meet someone who shares your taste in music who can show you a nightclub you might both enjoy, or maybe someone you can tour the city with in the morning. Hostels give you an instant community in the time that you stay there. Make the most of it.
International Affairs Major
UMW in France
EuroScholars Semester Abroad at University of Geneva, Switzerland
International Undergraduate Research in Estonia and Belguim