Ah hostels—the staple accommodation for backpackers traveling on a budget in Southeast Asia. Cheap and sociable, hostels are a great way to pinch those pennies and meet new people on the road. However, not all hostels are created equal. We’ve all heard the horror stories about dodgy hostels with noisy roomies, grubby toilets, and less than ideal locations. Fortunately, there are some key warning signs that you can look out for before you book that will alert you to the fact that a hostel may be less than ideal.
PS- Most of these tips are true for homestays, guest houses and hotels as well.
1. Visible Rubbish
This should be a no-brainer. If you can see rubbish outside the hostel, in the reception area or even in photos of the hostel online, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re in for a disgusting stay. Think about it—if the owners or staff can’t be bothered to pick up litter in the common areas, how much attention do you think they’re going to pay to bed sheets, bathrooms and the kitchen? Common sense says to steer clear of dirty hostels.
2. Surly Staff
Part of what makes for the best hostel experiences are the staff, as these are the people who should be making you feel at home and helping you out with your basic needs and/or info about your destination. If the staff are rude, grouchy, or non-existent when you walk in, you can be sure that they won’t be going out of their way to make your stay a pleasant one. Trust your instincts. If you get a bad vibe from the staff or any of the other guests, just remember that they’re the ones with the keys to your room. You have seen the movie Hostel right?
3. Location, Location, Location
Sure, you may save money by staying at a hostel that is way out of town or in a down and out neighborhood. However, the reality is that you might actually end up spending more on transportation into town, food delivery, overpriced drinks, etc. Plus, is it really worth staying in a sketchy and potentially dangerous neighborhood just to save a few bucks?
Again, another obvious thing to look for, but something that many people overlook. A good hostel should have lockers for you to store your stuff so that you don’t have to drag it around all day, secure locks on the bathroom stalls and shower doors, and a system in place where there are people on staff to make sure that outside people cannot enter the guest rooms or locker areas. Take the time to do a bit of research to save yourself a major loss later.
Ok, so having a curfew may seem like a good idea and one that is geared towards safety and comfort, but do you really want to end up out on the street just because you weren’t watching the time or got stuck in a traffic jam or wanted to hang out for that extra little bit? In addition, a curfew may be a good sign that the staff won’t be around late in the evening. If that’s the case, who will be overseeing security or on hand in case of an emergency?
6. Bars/Restaurants on Site
Again, this may seem like a good idea at first. I mean who doesn’t want easy food and drinks right at their doorstep? However, keep in mind that restaurants and especially bars often play loud music, can get quite busy and may stay open until late in the evening. If you’re a light sleeper and need your Z’s, you may want to consider a hostel within walking distance, but completely separate from the dining and drinking venues.