Studying abroad and need a place to stay for your travels? Don’t worry; you can find cheap lodging without your trip turning into a scene from that creepy movie Hostel. You can have a great and safe experience in a hostel (and remain alive) if you do some research before booking it.
Your first step should be to bookmark this page: www.hostelworld.com.
Hostelworld lets you search for hostels, bed and breakfasts, hotels, apartments and campsites all over the world. Low-cost hotels do exist, but more than likely, you’ll be staying in a hostel on your breaks abroad. However, before you decide on one there are some questions you should consider first.
1) What is the hostel’s rating? There’s no better judge of what a hostel is like than the people who have already stayed there. Read the reviews given by past visitors and pay attention to reports on safety and cleanliness; you definitely don’t want to go home with bedbugs. However, don’t let reviews about loud or rude visitors turn you off from a good hostel — unfortunately, loud college students are going to be in any hostel you find, and there are more important factors to consider.
2) Where is the hostel located? Is getting from the airport or train station to the hostel pretty easy to figure out? Is the hostel in a central area with lots of things to do, or at least near a cheap form of public transportation? While one hostel may be a lot cheaper than another due to its location, an hour commute to the city center that would be better spent exploring might not be worth the bargain.
3) Are there lockers available? Not everybody in your hostel room will be trustworthy. If you have your passport or other valuables with you, you won’t want to leave those lying around. Sometimes hostels will have lockers but no locks, so be sure to bring one with you if you’re concerned about the safety of your belongings.
4) Does the hostel provide sheets and towels? Some hostels will have free linens available, but others require you to pay to rent them or bring your own. If you’re going to be traveling with a low-cost airline and need to pack light, bringing your own linens could be a burden.
5) Does the hostel offer free breakfast? It’s not a necessity, but can greatly help a small travel budget.
6) Does the hostel have free Wi-Fi/computer access? While not a life or death situation for some travelers, internet access can be helpful for researching last-minute travel plans (or a good place to get gelato in town).
7) What kind of atmosphere does the hostel have? Deciding what you want from your hostel experience can greatly help your search. Do you want a place with a bar and a common room full of students to meet and party with, or do you want a simple, quiet place to relax after a long day of sightseeing?
8) Is there a lockout? Some hostels have a lockout period, typically from around 10:00 a.m. to around 2:00 p.m., where visitors are required to leave their rooms so that they can be cleaned. If you’re a morning person who likes to start sightseeing early this shouldn’t be a problem, but for those of you who like to sleep in, lockouts can be a huge inconvenience.
9) What are the reception desk’s hours? If your flight or train gets in late, make sure the reception will still be open to check you in. On that note, if you’re planning on staying out late exploring the city, check if the hostel has a curfew. The last thing you want is to be stranded outside a locked hostel in a foreign city at 3 a.m.!
10) How does the payment work? Does the hostel take credit cards, or do you need to pay in cash when you arrive? Is there a city tourist tax in addition to the charge per night? Figure out payment details before you go so you save yourself from any surprises upon arrival. Also, note that on hostelworld.com the prices are shown according to per person, per night—not the cost of the entire room per night.
Good luck, collegiettes!
Hostel bar (photo): TripAdvisor, http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g187895-d1072842-Reviews-Plus_Florence-Florence_Tuscany.html
Hostel room (photo): LateRooms, http://www.laterooms.com/en/hotel-pictures/221607_villa-saint-exupery-beach-nice.aspx