While spending years traveling the world, we’ve stayed in a LOT of great hostels. Sometimes we check out the trendy new ones, sometimes we try to save money and go bottom budget. Besides the obvious necessities like cleanliness and safety, here are some things that make for great hostels:
Hostel activities are the best way to make friends while traveling. It is also usually the cheapest way to do the things that you want to do anyways. These actives could be free yoga, beach bonfires, beer pong tournaments, surf lessons, language exchanges, exploring the market, or hiking adventures. Some hostels go as far as to focus their whole marketing strategy around their actives, like Volcano Boarding at Bigfoot Hostel in Leon, Nicaragua
2) Free Breakfast
Not paying for that first meal is important to long term travel. Some breakfasts are better than others but it’s nice to at least get some coffee, bread, and fruit. The best breakfasts ever were at the Casas Particulares in Cuba where we one time were served 8 different types of fruit, in addition to bread, eggs, and cheese.
3) A Bar and Restaurant
Sometimes you just want to stay in and hang out with travelers. Hostel bars are the best place to do that. They provide an international vibe that some towns lack. Sometimes the bar is the attraction itself, like Loki Hostels in South America or the Tipsy Tiger in Penang, Malaysia.
4) Chilling Areas
Comfortable places to meet new friends, use your laptop to advance your digital nomad dreams, and share stories of your adventures are a must. These areas range from bean bag chairs, to hammocks, to comfy couches or soft green grass. For places with dorms this is the area that most people will spend their time. The swimming pool at Equity Point in Marrakech wins our vote for best chillin’ area.
5) Fast WiFi
Some countries just have terrible internet all over. But sometimes the hostel gets cheap and goes for the internet package that wouldn’t load AIM in the 90’s. You. must. have. fast. Wifi. It’s so nice to be able to upload photos to Facebook or Skype your family back home in Ulakalakalakastan or wherever you’re from. Yim Yam Hostel & Garden in Bangkok wins for fastest hostel WiFi ever.
6) Knowledgeable and Friendly Staff
You want tours, you want advice, you want someone who will laugh with you at your stupid mistake of waking up early to spend all of your money on taxis to the airport one day too early (oops). The staff should make you feel at home and help you have the best time possible. By far the best staff we’ve met were at USA Hostels Ocean Beach, San Diego, California.
We know we said 5, but wasn’t 6 better?
Other things that make your stay better:
– Privacy curtains on dorm beds.
– Water refill station.
– No bed bugs. Sometimes if places look grimy it’s better to just pay the extra $1 for no bed bugs. Check out our post on how to remove bed bugs from your stuff.
– Free maps.
– Free earplugs (for the party hostels).
– Instagramable decor – you know you want to brag to your friends back home.
Sometimes in the end everything is not perfect, but sometimes those imperfections are what makes great hostels an experience. I mean, you could have stayed in a hotel and gotten a good nights sleep. But after you go out with your new hostel best friends and dance on the bar until 6am, you never think “man, I wish I would have gotten a hotel and some sleep!” Well sometimes you do, but that doesn’t make a very good story now, does it?
If you’re interested in finding some good places to stay, check out our HOSTEL REVIEWS page and get out there on your own aventura! What important in great hostels to you? We’d love your feedback!