Choosing the right hostel is everything

Choosing the right hostel is everything
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For the solo traveller, the choices for accommodation can sometimes be overwhelming. I have had a lot of experience at finding great places to stay during my travel times and I have some choice tips to share. As a solo traveller, the most important thing for me is to choose a place that will allow me to easily meet and connect with other travellers. I am not the sort of person who likes to eat or go sightseeing alone and I find that it rarely comes down to that. I choose accommodation which increase my chances of meeting like-minded globetrotters.

Staying at the the biggest hostels with the most beds does not necessarily always mean that you will have the best chances of meeting people. Some large hostels are more like hotels and they can sometimes seem unfriendly and have poor common areas. Smaller hostels can have a more intimate family type feel and you can get closer to other people staying there much quicker.

By far the most important factor in your decision should be the atmosphere. Some hostels have a great vibe and seem to be filled with cool, friendly people just like you. There is often artwork painted onto the walls and friendly staff at reception who can help you with advice and information about the area you are visiting. They key to a good atmosphere in any hostel are the common areas. This could be the kitchen, dining area, rooftop, bar, restaurant, tv room or lounge. The hostel needs to make this space into an area where people want to hang out for long periods of time using wi-fi, reading, eating or just relaxing. This makes it easy for you to grab your book, go sit down nearby someone who looks interesting and then ask them where they are from or what they have planned for the day.

A rooftop terrace common area at a great hostel in Cancun, Mexico
A rooftop terrace common area at a great hostel in Cancun, Mexico

Other things which contribute to a good hostel are the services they provide, such as a free towel, laundry service or kitchen for cooking your own food. The kitchen is especially important for saving money when travelling in expensive countries. It’s also a really great place to talk to meet someone who is cooking at the same time as you! Cooking yourself is a good way to eat exactly the type of food you want and can help to maintain a healthy diet while overseas by eating familiar food.

I also always prefer to stay in dorms, the bigger the better! Not only is at cheaper to stay in a large dorm but again its a great chance to meet people. You will generally always have a chat and get to know your dorm mates. I honestly think it’s the easiest place to meet people in a hostel, or anywhere at all while travelling. Always choose a dorm when one is available. If you are a light sleeper like me you should buy earplugs and/or a face mask. With earplugs I always sleep OK in dorm beds. The best hostels provide lockers in the dorm rooms as well.

I use hostelworld.com and hostelbookers.com (who are now owned by the same company) to find hostels. They often have different options so I check both. I type in the dates for my stay and the city then filter the results by rating. Rating is everything and will go a long way to helping you find a hostel with a good atmosphere. You should always read a handful of reviews about the hostel to make sure it suits your need, though you should take all reviews with a pinch of salt. Browse through the photos and finally check on a map to make sure the hostel is in a good location close to sights, the centre of town or the common backpacker areas. The reviews will be a big help for you determine if the location is good.

Follow these simple guidelines and you should be well on your way to finding some decent accommodation and meeting a bunch of new people to explore with!

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