10 Things to Consider When Booking a Hostel for Women
How do you choose a hostel for your next trip? Whether you’re a female solo traveler, or just looking for ways to select your next hostel, this article is for you. Firstly, wow! Hostels have come so far! When I first started planning my #adultgapyear, I feared I was too old and “bougie” for the hostel world. I worried I would be the only mid-30s person in the room and vowed to stay in as many private (or at least female dorms) as possible. But after a few stays, I quickly realized that hostels, and budget accommodations in general, have upped their game. Many offer luxuries I only dreamt of, especially in Europe, for modest expense. I found hostels in Copenhagen that offered weekly yoga, indoor swimming pools, movie theaters and a full kitchen for daily use. I stayed in hostels in Vietnam with free walking tours and free beers at happy hour. But not all hostels are created equal. Hostels are more than just a physical place to rest your head; they are an atmosphere – a vibe. Here are 10 things to consider when booking a hostel to make the most of your stay and enjoy your trip!
1. Read reviews.
This one seems obvious, but read current reviews, from the same demographic as yourself and especially from the same country (or other Western countries). If you are American female, it is important to read reviews from other Western travelers, especially other females – their standard for accommodations will be more in line with yours. It’s important to read recent reviews. If a hostel hasn’t had a review in weeks, months or years, this should be an alarm. Pay attention to robot reviews. I was looking for accommodation in Hong Kong and keep coming across the same 3 names in all the reviews. I quickly realized they were all false padding to increase overall ratings. Don’t be fooled. Generally speaking, I don't stay anywhere with less than 8/10 rating on Hostelworld and with at least 50 reviews on either Hostelworld or Booking.com
2. Consider Location
No matter where you travel, location is important. If you are traveling on a budget, you should be mindful of the public transit nearby, making sure you are within walking distance. If you are planning to walk most places, you should make sure you are in close proximity to the top attractions in the city and restaurants or shopping centers for your meals. Reviews are often the most helpful regarding this but take the time to Google map it as well. As a solo female traveler, I look for well-populated areas, not business districts that I know will be deserted come nightfall.
3. Storage Lockers
Not all hostel storage is created equal. I have stayed in places with NO personal storage options or places with a locker so small that only your essential valuables could be stored. Pay attention to the storage lockers when booking a hostel. Hostelworld or Booking.com’s pictures of the space should provide some help and reviews will offer more. You might not find it necessary to store your large suitcase, but you will definitely want a locker large enough for your valuables, with the ability to be locked. Remember, bring a lock for it! 😊
Some hostels offer both sheets and towels for free. Most offer at least the bedding for free. However, it is more common than not for a hostel to charge extra for a towel (or not provide one at all). Take note of this when looking at your budget accommodations. If a place offers a towel for $1 rent and it’s $3/night cheaper than one that offers free towels, this could save you money. If you carry your own towel with you, you might not need to consider this.
5. Age Restrictions
Some hostels have age restrictions. I usually prefer this, as it limits children staying in a mixed dormitory or people over 40 per se. I once stayed in a capsule hotel (a fancy word for a hostel) in Singapore that considered any child over 8 years old an adult and as such they were able to stay in the mixed dorms. I didn’t know this beforehand and one night realized we had a 10–12-year-old boy staying with us. As a solo female traveler, I was not comfortable given that he was exposed to who knows who in the room, including many men. He also woke up at 3 am crying, so sometimes age restrictions are a good thing. These are things to pay attention to. It may not bother you, but being aware is better than not. Some hostels are designed as party hostels and limit the age to 18-25, so it’s important to also make sure you aren’t excluded yourself. 😊
6. Stay Restrictions
Some hostels have time duration restrictions. I find this a good thing as well because it limits the number of people you may encounter that are in long-term budget accommodation. As a traveler, I want to meet more people like me, not necessarily people who are working in the city and living in cheap hostels; their hours vary from travelers and they usually have much more “stuff” in the room, taking up more space than regular visitors. Pay attention if your hostel offers long-term stays.
7. Common Spaces
Are you hoping to meet people while in a hostel? What does the common area look like? Does the hostel offer ways to group travelers together – happy hours? Game nights? Language classes? Pay attention to the common areas. Pictures are your greatest resource, though wide lenses are often used. Most dormitories are small, so you will likely want to sit and chill in the common areas, even for just a coffee in the morning or a beer at night. Make sure the hostel offers places for their guests to chill.
8. Privacy Curtains
While privacy curtains are not always available, they are becoming more and more common. Currently, it ranks as one of my highest priorities in a hostel. I prefer to have a little privacy when sleeping, especially as a woman in a mixed-dorm hostel. Privacy curtains also allow me to keep things on my bed (though you should still exercise caution on valuable belongings, making sure to keep them under lock and key when you are gone).
9. Kitchen or Breakfast Provided
If you are on a tight budget, selecting a hostel that offers breakfast may be a good choice. Or sometimes even better, a hostel that offers a full kitchen for guest use. If a hostel offers a kitchen, they usually have the basics of kitchen equipment for cooking and offer fridge and counter storage for your grocery items. If you are planning to cook while traveling, make sure your hostel offers a fully equipped kitchen.
Note: Most hostel breakfasts consist of toast & jams, cold cereal, tea or coffee and perhaps some fruit. Don’t expect a full continental or English breakfast. You may find more value selecting a hostel that offers a bigger breakfast, even if it's a few dollars more a night if it means cutting down on your food budget. Also pay attention to when breakfast is offered. You don't want to miss it each day because they end at 9 am!
10. Hostel Offerings
If you are traveling solo, this may be another important consideration when selecting a hostel. Do they offer or encourage ways to meet other people? Maybe a rooftop bar or pool table; maybe free beers at happy hour or bar crawls. Depending on your preferences, this can make or break your hostel experience. Some hostels, especially in Europe and SE Asia are geared toward party hostels – they offer nightly pub crawls or extensive happy hours. This usually means later and louder nights. If you aren’t interested in these offerings, take note and choose a different hostel. If you are interested in activities around the city, take note of hostels that offer walking tours or help booking area attractions. If you are in a country that doesn’t speak the same language as you, having a hostel that offers a travel desk may be a helpful benefit in your stay.
Once you select your stay, be sure to ask your hostel for tips! They are usually the best at offering budget attractions, transportation tips and restaurant recommendations. Many of them offer a guide or group app to talk with other guests, so ask about that as well! Hope these tips help make it easier to book your next hostel. Where are you off to next?
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