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What do you look for in a hostel?

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Stayed in a brilliant hostel?? Why was it so good?
6 years ago, December 9th 2007 No: 1 Msg: #23877  
B Posts: 71
Travelblog is full of travellers who have travelled the world and stayed in countless hostels.. My brother is looking at buying a hostel and wants to know what people look for in a hostel.. What's more important, partying or quietness? Free breakfast or free internet? Organised activites or info on doing your own activities? Is it important to have lots of things to do in the hostel or is just a place to dump your stuff?? Bascially any information or opinions you have about your hostelling experience would appreciated.. Cheers for the help. Reply to this

6 years ago, December 10th 2007 No: 2 Msg: #23927  
To answer your questions...for me:
Quietness. When I'm ready to sleep, I want to do so peacefully.

Free internet. So much more important for me because I can grab something to eat on the go but it's hard to track down an internet stop and some can get pricey. Wireless is especially important since so many cafes don't allow uploading of photos. I tend to bring my laptop with as a photo back up and for uploading and posting photos to those back home so wireless is greatly appreciated.

Info on doing my own activities. I can hook up with companies if I want that kind of tour. Just have the info for me if I choose to do that. Most times, I have already something planned. I always find it very helpful when hotels provide maps. Nice to have back ups. Also nice when they have site information available for free in the lobby. You can't plan for everything (and who wants to).

More important to have somewhere to dump stuff than things to do in the hotel...you go out for those!

I also think it depends on your age. For me, I want some comforts of home including the ability to have a good night's sleep when I finally put my head on the pillow and somewhere that's clean and safe and located near the sites or transportation hubs. I'm always surprised at the number of hotels that do not have deadbolts and other security locks on the hotel room doors. I'd highly encourage that. I don't need fancy furniture or features in the hotel as long as it's clean and safe.

I think customer service is KEY. I do ratings on TripAdvisor and I always check it and other similar sites before I book anything for my travel. Bad reviews will scare me off. Reply to this

6 years ago, December 10th 2007 No: 3 Msg: #23955  
S Posts: 1
I give more priority to the security.

Reply to this

6 years ago, December 10th 2007 No: 4 Msg: #23963  
B Posts: 9,677
As a minimum; safe, clean, quiet, and with reasonable access to public transport. Lockable dorms/rooms with lockers in them are good.

Free reliable internet will definitely be a decider if I'm choosing between a handful of good hostels. Staff familiar with the surrounding area is always helpful.
Bonus if there's free breakfast and a spacious balcony. Reply to this

6 years ago, December 10th 2007 No: 5 Msg: #23971  
The best hostels I stayed in in Europe were the smallest hostels. The worst - the biggest.

I definately rate a good shower and free internet, a small communal space and useful staff that actually know the area! Nothing like a good host.

Close to public transport is great, and extra bonuses like free breakfast/dinner and laundry are ideal! I have been to hostels that do this (Aboriginal hostel in Budapest - superb!)

Putting on activities I don't think is necessary. Security wise, lockers are best.

And I echo the want for a large map perhaps in the communal area - such a good idea!

Good luck to your brother.


Reply to this

6 years ago, December 10th 2007 No: 6 Msg: #23980  
Some of my favourite hostels I encountered in Oz had many of the points brought up in the other posts (friendly, informative staff, availability of information, security, quiet and good location).

I quite like a funky atmosphere, some sort of decor on the walls that makes it feel more like a home than a generic, dull place to sleep. Even if I only spend a night there, it's nice to see that the owners put thought into the hostel to make it feel friendly. Even just a simple coat of a colour on the walls is enough to add atmosphere.

Having internet available is definitely a plus...it doesn't necessarily have to be free but competitive pricing is good, and available longer than other internet cafes is a bonus! (Cuz sometimes I need to write an email at 8pm!)

I agree with the free breakfast, but one thing not mentioned is basic kitchen facilities. I know maintaining a good kitchen can be difficult, but it is frustrating to not be able to use a knife or a plate or a sauce pan simply because the hostel didn't provide any. A good kitchen adds to the "home" feeling as well. And having a communal shelf in the kitchen with salt, pepper and cooking oil...definitely a bonus I enjoy.

And I prefer a hostel that is CLEAN!

Good luck!

Reply to this

6 years ago, December 12th 2007 No: 7 Msg: #24070  
B Posts: 5,099
Buying a hostel isn't quite the same as staying in one! - I'd look for a few different things if I was to invest in a hostel.

Don't underestimate the importance of the review sites - eg: the hostelbookers, tripadvisors - in particular local networks - like in New Zealand the Bug network. Good reviews and a mention in the guidebooks will bring a continuous stream of new visitors - even if it is 5 years since those reviews were made.

Ease of competition opening - I wouldn't open a hostel or buy one - where overnight the entire street could convert and become hostels - by the same rule - ease of expansion is important too.

Location, location ... is it near a tourist attraction or a transport hub? - some of the nicest hostels I ever stayed at were in out of the way places in New Zealand - so out of the way that the next guest wouldn't arrive for several days - and this was high season!

Depends a lot on the goals of the business - is it making a living for a family or starting a franchise and business empire? That would influence the decision or how big, where, how much to invest.


As for staying in hostels;

Free wireless internet - but that's just me! - something I can't be without.

Excluding that;

• Quiet sleeping area - not a corridor or those terrible metal bunks that squeal and scream every time someone breathes.
• Lockers - that allow me to use my lock.
• A friendly social area - some where I can meet up with the other guests - a free breakfast with set hours does wonders for getting people to meet and chat.
• Included coffee & tea - at the end of a long day sightseeing just being able to make

Cleanliness and safety are things that shouldn't have to be specified - they're basic requirements. Reply to this

6 years ago, December 16th 2007 No: 8 Msg: #24270  
A communal area is very important, especially for solo travellers like myself to meet people.

Apart from the major things mentioned by the people above, many hostels have made a big impression on me by having lots of little extras. These are not essential, but add to a memorable stay
eg

- book swap / book loan
- maps of the local area, including walking trails
- free tea/coffee
- an honesty bar/fridge for soft drinks and beer
- offers to make a packed lunch for hikers
- a hostel dog which you can take for a walk
- travel service for reconfirming flights, booking onward travel

one place I stayed at had a themed breakfast every Sunday of "Pancakes and Jazz" which was nice! Reply to this

6 years ago, December 18th 2007 No: 9 Msg: #24400  
The best hostel I stayed in while I was in Ecuador and Peru was The Secret Garden in Quito. They had...

- free clean drinking water to fill up your water bottle which cuts down your costs and the amount of waste you create
- a book swap (like LobsterCheeks said) is SO essential when in foreign countries and trying to find books in a language you can read!
- breakfast and dinner (along with beer, tea, coffee, wine, pop and a few types of mixed drinks) were served at a long, communal table which made a great atmosphere; they also made fires some nights and had ponchos for when it got chilly, it was great for meeting other travelers
- CLEAN showers and beds!
- a book that travelers wrote in telling what they did while in Quito and area, how they did it, and what they thought of it
- a laundry service
- and an awesome and friendly staff willing to take the whole hostel out for a drink once the patio closed

I like any hostel that feels like a social place between guests and between the owner/staff and guests, that really makes it feel less like you're renting a room and more like a temporary home/community. Reply to this

6 years ago, December 22nd 2007 No: 10 Msg: #24563  
I love it when hostels have
1)guestbooks...I like reading the traveling tips left by others
2)book exchanges
3)a good common room that fosters a sense of community
4)guide books for the area.
5)breakfast included is always nice
6)free coffee/tea
7)group tours to get you accquainted with the area
Reply to this

6 years ago, December 27th 2007 No: 11 Msg: #24680  
N Posts: 17
Safety and Clean are the two most things important for me. That is why many people choose NOT to stay at a hostel. If you can offer that and prices are reasonable people will come. I think this alone would make me want to stay.

I don't care for breakfast i like trying local resturants. How about instead of having free internet, charge a discount rate and offer FAST internet.

Offer multi-lingual resources, eg. have guidebooks, menus, guestbooks in different languages. It would be nice to meet other backpackers who aren't the typical English speaking "guy in dreadlocks".
- Other resources, infomation about VISA, transport to the airport/train&bus stations, money exchange, options for pre-paid cellphones (and how to get one)
- Have a HUGE BULLETIN and section it off for different topics (eg. meetups, events, local news, stuf for sale, etc)

SOUND PROOF THE ROOMS, i bet more than half of us here who have had sleepless nights cuz some love birds are doing it in the other room.

Offer a language exchange night where locals who want to learn English can come and practice with guests. The locals are also great resources in where to go, and where to eat.

Lastly, you should have a hostel that gives back to the local community. Not everyone likes to live near a business that attracts a lot of tourists, especialy if themselves don't work in the tourism industry. Even buying your food supplies from local farms or domating your beer cans to a local charity is better than nothing.

Good Luck








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6 years ago, January 4th 2008 No: 12 Msg: #25037  
Staying in a Russian hostel was the best experience of my life. The water was orange, the beds seemed like they were made out of stone, and the cleaning ladies were nosy. But it threw me in with people from Canada, Finland, France, Switzerland and Estonia; we all studied Russian so shared a common language, and bonded over ice-hockey and vodka.

I would say the most important thing in a hostel is the people whose lives will cross with yours if you stay there for a while - so, make sure your brother advertises all over the world (what better way than TravelBlog, by the way....) so that he doesn't end up with people who have travelled across the world and end up with people from the same town, state or university.

Camo keep writing, really enjoy your blogs!


J Reply to this

6 years ago, January 5th 2008 No: 13 Msg: #25080  
This issue has been on my mind lately because I've stayed in some terrible places over the last couple of weeks! The funny thing is, a perfectly clean and secure place, which should have everything going for it, can become horrible based on the other people there.

Therefore I think the most important thing in the hostel is quite possibly the staff. I can totally see why lovely, helpful, multilingual and ever cheerful people may not want to use their considerable talents working in a hostel - but the hostels I would rate most highly have all had one of these gems about the place, absolute all-stars who will try to help you with any random question you can throw at them, who keep a sense of order in the place and even have fun doing it.

Other things I like/look for:

Kitchen: Pretty much the deciding factor for me when choosing between places is "which one has a kitchen?" I cannot afford to eat out all the time, and having a shared area like a kitchen/lounge means travellers can meet up, maybe even share a meal. Very important when you're travelling solo.

Wireless! I travel with my laptop. I use it to keep in touch with friends and family, and also to store photos and update blogs. I actively choose places with free WiFi over others.

Lockers - the space under the lower bunk, divided in half, can create two good sized storage lockers. I've been in places where they were metal and places where they were wooden cupboards, but you bring your own lock and stow your bag neatly under the bed - your stuff's secure and also out of the way. (It annoys me when I'm charged to use a locker, or when the lockers are not in the room. Might as well not even have them if you're going to do that.)

Bunks: make the top bunk high enough that an ordinary sized person sleeping on the bottom bunk can sit up without hitting their head!

A smoker's area, and a prohibition on smoking ANYWHERE else in the hostel. I'm all for smokers having the right to inhale their chosen poison, but I object to having to share it with them. It makes me feel sick. Unfortunately this one needs backup from the staff - there is little point having a huge "This Hostel is a Non-Smoking Area" sign and then a rowdy group drinking and smoking right underneath it, as happened in Venice last night... ick.

Free food is always nice, but not necessary if you've got a good kitchen. Free tea and coffee 24/7 is great though.

Oh, please don't make it a licensed premises and tell the poor travellers they must spend their money in your bar if they want to drink.

Free city maps are great.

OKao had some cool ideas up there about languages swaps and stuff. If you've got a genuinely bright and homey place I think this will even happen by itself - for me, the centre of hostel life is the common room. If you've got a couple of tables and couches, a bookshelf or two, a kitchen, maybe even a DVD player and some international films people can bond over, you're going to get people meeting, having a great time, and recommending the place to others. The more recommendations you get out there, the more diverse the people staying, and the more fun to be had!

I hope your brother doesn't get scared off by all the advice, good luck to him in his hostel opening quest - and good luck to you, as his advisor and presumably guinea pig! Reply to this

6 years ago, January 7th 2008 No: 14 Msg: #25175  
B Posts: 71
Hey there everyone!

Wow a lot of different ideas here and a lot to go on. Thanks for all the info, its very useful. Don't be shy posting anything else you might think of or even just some anecdotes wont go astray. All info is usefull.

Cheers all and happy travels.. Reply to this

6 years ago, January 10th 2008 No: 15 Msg: #25326  
Hostels have to be central but relatively quiet. The place should have a cool and chilled vibe. Cleanliness and decor is important to me. I prefer hostels that cater to the 25-40 age group as opposed to the ones that cater to the "kids" 18-23.

But just as important as hostels are to budget travel....the same question can be posed for budget airlines. What (if anything except good value) do you look for in an air travel company?

what do you guys think of the 3 major budget travel airlines available in Europe? (Easy Jet, RyanAir, Virgin Atlantic)
They are all fairly cheap and do mostly the same routes, but which ones have the edge over the others?
which one would you pick if you had to make a choice?
In order to get the most efficient feedback, I created a poll comparing easy jet, Ryanair and Virgin Atlantic.
Please vote on it and help me decide which flight I should book! heres the link to vote:
Reply to this

6 years ago, January 10th 2008 No: 16 Msg: #25350  
I just finished traveling through Asia and mainly stayed in hostels when they were available. When booking a hostel I was looking for a social scene (I was a solo traveler), clean, safe, and good location. Surprisingly, the best hostel network I found was in China (my route was Yunnan Province, Chengdu, Xian, and Beijing). The WORST were in Lhasa (if you want a bad example of hostels, mainly bc they were SUPER dirty and every bathroom smelled really bad)

A list of my favorites and why:

A) Hanoi Backpackers (Hanoi, Vietnam)
-A GREAT social scene with very patient and fun owners. One of the best I found in southeast asia
-free internet (24 hours) with headphones for skype
-clean and quiet dorms
-good location in old quarter
-free coffee and tea
*take note, I was in the brand new annex when i stayed here, it was immaculate.
-security of stuff was okay, not great
-good tour agency

B) Mama Naxis (Lijiang, China)
-cheap (seriously chump change, but that's china for you)
-an amazing family style dinner that create an amazing atmosphere to meet people
-"mom and pop" feel
-clean
-free internet
-location was so-so
-Mama Naxi's is a bit of a legend in southern China and all backpackers know about it and is usually discovered through word of mouth. It just got put in the new China Lonely Planet which I am a bit bummed about. Hopefully it maintains its charm and "backpacker charm"

c) Sim's Guesthouse in Chengdu
-Sim himself is a saint and really cares for his guests
-good social network
-good information on travel/helpful travel agency (a must in china!)
-good cafe
-clean beds, showers so-so
-Just got put in new lonely planet- best review of a hostel I have ever read

d) Leo Guesthouse, Beijing
-I didn't stay here but wish I did, mainly bc it was super social, good book exchange, good travel agency,
-GREAT location!

As you can tell, my main selling point was it being social. For me, that's why I stayed in hostels. In Asia you can almost get hotels for as cheap as hostels (case in point- some hotels were cheaper than my dorm bed in Vietnam), so part of the fun of hostels is so you can meet people. I think I lucked out on security bc the places I stayed had okay security not great. oh and don't have a curfew! Curfews suck!

One of my dream ideas has been to open my own hostel and it looks like your brother is fulfilling it! My last recommendation is trying to find a place that doesn't have a major hostel yet. Lack of hostels (granted, lots of cheap gueshouses here which are nice but don't have the social aspect) most places in Laos, Kathmandu, and all over India.

Hope this helps and doesn't contradict what others have said too much! Reply to this

6 years ago, January 15th 2008 No: 17 Msg: #25509  
I am generally not fussy about the hostels. Sometimes however there is something I hate about one that would make me never want to stay there again. One of those was the one I stayed at in Rome last Saturday night. They had a lockout from 11.30AM to 2.30PM. Lousy because I had been out all Friday night and then could not sleep when I arrived at the hostel because of the lockout.

Mell Reply to this

5 years ago, February 4th 2009 No: 18 Msg: #62219  
There's almost always some party people at a hostel, although in my opinion a hostel is somewhere to sleep, eat, and quietly meet other people - if you want to party, go to a bar (apart from anything else, it's a lot easier to keep a place clean if you don't have too many parties). So I think the biggest challenge is trying to cater for varied crowds , especially if you're in a small town where there aren't too many other hostels challenging you for business. So you need to think about the layout of the place - a kitchen and good common area are must-haves, but if you do have a bar or designated drinking area, make sure it's a long way from any accommodation...we recently had a really bad experience being kept up until 3am by loud drunken guys at the hostel bar right next door to where we were sleeping.
Oh, and allowing storage of bags before check-in/after check-out, and allowing late check-ins (even if only by pre-arrangement) is really, really, really handy. It's not the backpackers fault if the one and only train to that destination gets in at 2am.
But I definately agree that the best thing is if the staff are enthusiastic, knowledgable (can suggest off-the-beaten track places to visit), and fun. Reply to this

4 years ago, November 12th 2009 No: 19 Msg: #93297  
Basically I look for cheap hostel but I like it when its quite and I'm secured. Now get ready to sleep because tomorrow will be another adventure. Reply to this

4 years ago, January 24th 2010 No: 20 Msg: #101022  
travelling is all about meeting new people. So for me
- cosy communal area where travellers can meet
- clean kitchen with enough kitchen utensils
- fee internet (or at least wi-fi)
- information board/ guide Reply to this

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