Traveling on a budget means that every little penny counts, and obviously the first thing you think about when planning a trip is where you’ll be able to rest your head after a long day of adventures.
So, it’s only logical that the first place you want to save your money is on accommodation. How do the professionals do it? How can they afford to travel to all these incredible places and still have money to spend on food and fun?! The answer: Hostels.
Every hostel is different but the basic idea is that it offers you a cheap bed, usually in a dorm that can have anything from 4 to 20 beds, and a shower. Some places have male and female only dorms but most are mixed dorms and some even have private rooms.
Most places will also offer some type of breakfast in the morning, maybe they’ll have a restaurant attached, a laundry service and and other amenities depending on where you are. Some hostels are funky and fun and have activities on every night whereas some are basic and offer you bread and jam for breakfast. It all depends on how much you’re ready to spend and your location.
When I was staying in Byron Bay in Australia for four days, I stayed at the Art’s Factory Lodge and they had a full kitchen area to cook your own meals, as well as a restaurant, a pool, common area with pool tables and they hosted events every night like a talent show and trivia night. Whereas when I only wanted to stay a night in Bangkok in Thailand, I picked a hostel that simply had a bed and hot shower to offer.
It really does depend on various factors like budget, location, length of stay and your needs.
Here are some questions I had before I went traveling and lived in hostels, and their answers I figured out while on the road!
How to pick the right hostel
HostelWorld.com is THE place to go to book a hostel. That’ll give you all the information about their availability, the amenities and services they have, pricing and some pictures of the area. You can find their ratings and read reviews from people that have visited as well. Don’t forget to leave a review when you leave as well for the next traveler!
Speak to people who have traveled to your destination before and use social media as a tool. There are plenty of Facebook groups for travelers on a budget and everyone is always keen to give recommendations based on where they’ve stayed.
Instagram is also a great tool for finding recommendations! Some of your favorite bloggers may have already been to that area. Use your stories to ask your friends if they or their friends have anything that might help you.
How much should I spend?
Prices will vary based on destination. Hostels are super cheap in South East Asia for example, but more expensive in places like Europe and Australia. The most we spent on a hostel in Thailand was £9 and the cheapest available are as low as £4.
Personally, I’m happier to spend between £6-10 a night because that means that you get a little extra comfort like AC at night and it’s still super cheap. Most places actually have lower prices for good rooms when you show up on the day as well. The lower you go price wise, the less comfortable the dorms get. Any more expensive then it’s not as budget as it could be especially if you’re a first time traveler still figuring out the budgeting thing.
Prices also vary based on the time of year. They tend to go up during peak travel season because there’s a high demand so you may benefit from traveling during low season to get some bargain prices.
How much in advance should I book?
You quite literally do not have to book a hostel until the same day. You could actually walk into most hostels and ask them if they have a room available for the night. This is a good way to scout different places if you’ve got the time and if you’ll be spending a bit longer in an area and want something fun. If it’s just for a night all you realistically need is a clean bed and hot shower.
What I do most of the time is to book the night before or the morning of, but it’s quite good to check in advance if they have availability for your dates.
What’s better, a 4-6 bed dorm or a 10+ bed dorm?
This totally depends on how you’re used to traveling and how comfortable you are with socializing. 4 bed dorms can be nice because they’re more intimate and you can form a little connection with your roomies if you’re lucky. But a 10+ dorm there are even more friends to make in a big group. OR both ends of the spectrum could be equally boring if you don’t meet the right people. The numbers doesn’t really matter in my opinion, as long as everyone stays in their space and everyone is friendly you’ll be fine.
If you’re being picky then some hostels also offer private rooms but then you miss out of the chance to make friends.
Hostel Etiquette: Do’s and Dont’s
Respect everyone’s personal space. Everyone is super friendly and everyone is quite trusting, so we all leave our stuff out everywhere, so be respectful of people’s belongings.
Tidy up the shower after you’re done. We’re all sharing a shower so do take all your hair and razors and personal items with you when you’re done (unless you don’t mind other people borrowing your face wash!)
A lot of people do this because it’s more sanitary but you may want to bring flip flops to wear in the showers.
If you’ve got a little kitchen do clean up after yourself and don’t leave food out that’s going to attract insects or bad smells.
Be mindful in the evenings and early mornings that people do want to sleep, so keep the noise down.
Make sure the room is empty if you’re bringing « friends » back. No one wants to have that awkward experience of hearing the beds creak and having trying to pretend you’re asleep.
How to make friends in hostels
Talk to everyone. Literally, everyone, everywhere. It’s that simple! Start a conversation with ‘Hi! How’s it going? Where are you from?’ and I guarantee you’ll be in for, at the minimum, a 10 minute conversation and at the most, the friendship of a lifetime.
Heading off on your big backpacking trip?! Tag me in your pictures so I can see your amazing hostel adventures and let me know any additional tips you pick up along the way!
Sit back, grab some Oreos, and I can’t wait to see what life has to offer us next.