A few weeks ago I wrote a post about solo travel. The first point I raised was about accommodation and said that staying in hostels was the best way to meet people. Shortly after posting, a friend of mine raised some concerns about security of your valuables, cleanliness and personal safety. In this guide I'll cover these points as well as some other. I'll focus on the hostel experiences I had in Southeast Asia as that's where I spent most of last year and early 2015.
Hostels are the go-to form of accommodation for budget travellers. You can find dorm rooms for less than the price of a beer in England. Don't let the low prices fool you, I've stayed in hostels that were spotless, have excellent wifi and that service excellent food.
Sunshine Bedz was one of my favourite hostels. Others were:
Peacock Hostel – Koh Lanta, Thailand
Born Free Hostel – Bangkok, Thailand
Mushroom Point – Otres Beach, Cambodia
Sac Lo – Hoi An, Vietnam (bit more of a guest house feel)
Be aware of high and low seasons, especially in the south Thai islands. Prices will double, at a minimum. Booking a hostel around the time of The Full Moon party will require that you book a minimum number of 2 or more days and prices will be inflated.
Safety and security
For the ladies, you can find hostels with female only dorms. Most hostels offer lockers for your valuables and your bags along with security cameras or you can ask to leave them at reception. The number of beds in a dormitory(dorm) can range from 4 up to 24. Staying a room with this many 'strangers' can be daunting but it's nothing to be too concerned about. Your roommates will be the ones that you'll be eating and drinking with and probably see them again later in your travels.
In the big cities with guests arriving and leave at all hours of the day, 24 hour reception.
The social and communal areas are so important when it comes to choosing a hostel. Especially when travelling on your own. I've changed hostels simply on the basis that there was no social atmosphere.
For those people talking well into the night or first thing in the morning, muttering to themselves in their sleep and snoring loudly…. pack earplugs. Someone told me of a manage-a-trois that had to be broken up in their dorm. If you do want to 'get busy', get a room! A private one!
I was fortunate enough not to have encountered any bed bugs on my travels but I have heard some horror stories. From the sounds of things, I think I'd rather sleep in a bathroom with a swat toilet than wake up to bed bugs.
Truth be told, you never know when this is going to happen. If you haven't booked a hostel before arriving you can ask to take a look around before you commit to staying. This will give you a small insight into the cleanliness. If this does happen you'll need to wash everything – yourself, your clothes and your backpacks.
No one wants to wake up next to a half eaten tray of Pad Thai and a bottle of Beer Lao. Hostels will have signs saying that food and drinks are strictly forbidden. I would adhere to this, for your own sake and that of your room mates. Otherwise you are guaranteed to attract creepy crawlies.
I've always used Hostelworld to reserve a bed. Never had any problems. You've also got Hostelbookers, Booking.com and Agoda.
If there is a hostel you'd like to stay in but shows as fully booked online, it's still worth taking a look. They might still be beds available due to no-shows and some beds are closed to online bookings. If you have pre-booked, always check the location and more importantly find out how much it will cost you from your drop off point to the hostel.
Hostel or Hostel?
What's your advice for staying in Hostels?