Travel

Budget Accommodation: Hostels

Jobs fill your pocket, but adventures fill your soul.

Jamie Lyn Beatty

Accommodation is one of the biggest costs a traveller has because you need to have somewhere to sleep each night. Reducing this cost will help you save money while travelling and will allow you to have more freedom to spend money on experiences, food, and leisure.

To me, budget accommodation means a comfortable and clean place to stay that includes amenities. In my opinion, the secret of budget accommodation lies (no pun intended) in staying at hostels. Let me say that again: hostels.

The Gardens at The Luna Hostel: Phuket, Thailand.

Whenever I mention that I stay in hostels while travelling I get negative responses. A lot of people I know associate hostels with dirty and noisy establishments for young travellers. This could not be farther from the truth. While staying at hostels, I have encountered beautiful and tidy places to stay and I have met the most interesting people.

I have met teenage first-time travellers taking a gap year in Spain. I have met digital nomads that are running their companies abroad in France. I have met growing families vacationing in Belgium as well as couples in their 50s and 60s who are exploring the world during their retirement. Hostels are for everyone. Although the majority of hostels cater to younger generations, this also means that hostels offer more comfort and amenities than some hotels because, let’s be honest, as a Millennial, we expect more value for money.

Common Area & Balcony at Aforetime Beach House: Koh Samui, Thailand.

Usually hostels offer dormitory style rooms with a shared washroom, however they also offer single, double, private and family rooms with ensuites, which are perfect for solo travellers, couples, and families. Hostels also have so many amenities! To name a few, they offer WiFi, lockers for your valuables, curtains for your bed, pools to relax, free breakfast, and bars to meet people. They even organize tours and group activities so you can make the most of your stay as well as socialize with people from all over the world.

If you have never stayed in a hostel, let me be the first to tell you that they are the best places to stay. Not only do you not need to pay a fortune for comfortable and clean accommodation with amenities, you also get to meet the most friendly travellers, get the scoop on hidden gems within a city/country, and learn about the best restaurant for traditional food. But how do you find a hostel to fit your travelling needs? Let me tell you the steps I take when booking a hostel.

Reception, Tan Hostel x Café, Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand.

5 STEPS I TAKE TO BOOK A HOSTEL

1. Intention, Investigation, & Location

  • Intention:
    • I try to set an intention while travelling, which helps me dictate what city I will explore and where I will reside.
    • For example, if my intention is to work, I will try to find a hostel with WiFi, an inspiring workspace, and large windows.
    • On the contrary, if my intention is to make friends/have fun I look for a large common area with many places to sit and a large kitchen to interact with others.
  • Investigation:
    • After having made an intention, I research what city speaks to that intention and I try my best to investigate.
    • I research what activities, sites, and restaurants I can visit during my stay.
  • Location:
    • I will then choose a location that speaks to my intention and relates back to my investigation.
    • The location of my hostel always has to be close to transportation, relatively central to all of the activities and sites I researched, and close to supermarkets and good restaurants.

2. Hostelworld

  • I always begin my hostel search using the website Hostelworld because I have found it offers cheaper prices than its competitors.
    • Hostelworld is a global hostel-focussed online booking platform.
    • You can easily book accommodation online using your credit card; booking a hostel it’s as easy as online shopping!
    • Hostelworld usually only charges you a percentage of your total booking cost on your credit card, then upon arrival at the destination you will be asked to pay the balance in full either by cash or by credit card.
  • I recently discovered the site Hostel Bookers and I am looking forward to using it in the near future, because their prices are a little cheaper when compared to Hostelworld and their reviews as well as customer service is competitive.
  • I have also booked hostel stays on Booking, however I have found that their prices are more expensive when compared to the above competitors .

3. Price

  • As a budget traveller, price is very important to me because it allows me to allocate more money for other aspects of travel I find more valuable such as activities.
  • All booking sites that I mentioned above have a “filter”, where you can modify the price you can spend on accommodation.
    • Besides filtering by price, you can also filter by facilities (WiFi, free breakfast, Parking, etc.), room type, and ratings.
  • Using filters allows me to find exactly what I’m looking for and most importantly, shows me the accommodations I can afford without the temptation to overspend.
Screenshot of the “Price” Filter on Hostelworld.

4. Ratings & Reviews

  • After I find 2 or 3 Hostels that coincide with my intention, a good location, and that fits into my budget, I then look at the ratings and read the reviews.
  • Ratings:
    • Hostelworld and Booking both use a rating out of 10 and Hostel Bookers uses a percentage rating system.
    • I always look for an 8/10 (80%) to 10/10 (100%) rating.
    • Pro-Tip 1: To be honest, I have been disappointed in my hostel stays when I have booked hostels under an 8/10 rating, so I never stray away from this rule when booking hostel accommodation on Hostelworld.
  • Reviews:
    • I read at least 10-20 reviews when I am considering between 2-3 hostels to book
    • I like to read both positive and negative reviews to see what travellers liked best and what they did not enjoy.
    • I use filters to help me organize positive and negative reviews. Most booking sites have a button where you can filter reviews by the following categories:
      • Top rated
      • Lowest rated
      • Newest rated
      • Oldest rated
    • Positive reviews:
      • Usually what hostel-goers write in positive reviews is similar to what the hostel boasts about in its property description at the top of the booking page, so I tend to take those reviews with a grain of salt.
      • What I look for in positive reviews are things to do with the traveller’s experience. For example:
        • The host/hostel staff went above and beyond to make guests feel comfortable.
        • Staff organized activities for travellers .
        • Staff recommended lesser known sites to visit and local restaurants with traditional eats.
        • If breakfast was marketed as “continental” did travellers find it to be more than they expected (i.e. eggs, fresh fruit, and juice included).
        • Transport to a ferry/airport was surprisingly included in the hostel stay at no extra charge.
    • Negative reviews:
      • Always read the negative reviews.
      • Use the filter I mentioned earlier to do this.
      • It’s always nice to hear about all the good things an accommodation has to offer by both the establishment itself and its guests, however the truth, like most things in life, hides in the negative reviews. So read them, reflect upon them, and then decide if what they critique is worth it to you or not.
    • Pro-Tip 3: If I am deciding between 2 accommodations I will always choose the hostel with the most reviews and the highest rating. For example, if one hostel has an 8/10 rating and 800 mixed/positive reviews and another hostel has an 8/10 rating and only 7 mixed/positive reviews I will choose the former.
      • I have been disappointed every time I booked a hostel with minimal positive/mixed reviews because I have learned the hard way that more reviews means more people have stayed at a hostel and that’s always a good sign.
      • Like any recommendation you get from friends and family, the more people talk about a hostel, a place, or a restaurant the more likely it is to be reputable.

5. Photos and Vibe

  • Always look at the photos but be cautious, everything is not always as it seems.
    • Just like any other social media platform, images on a booking site can be edited, filtered, or just simply an older photo of what the hostel used to look like
    • In this digital age we are so enchanted by the way things look, instead of how they are, so that’s why looking at photos is my final step because we need to be more weary of photos (especially when they’re uploaded by the host) and to trust the reviews more than the photos.
  • “Vibe” is defined as a person’s emotional state or the atmosphere of a place as communicated to and felt by others.
    • What I do look for in photos or in the reviews I read is the vibe; the emotions I get from reading the reviews and hostel description
    • I ask myself if the vibe I am getting from the hostel truly reflects my intention that started my travel plans in the first place.
    • When the aura of a hostel coincides with my vision I know my stay will be a purposeful and memorable.

My Top 5 Favourite Hostels

1. The Luna Hostel Phuket Airport: Phuket, Thailand

  • Only a 10 minute walk from the Phuket Airport, this hostel is perfect for getting a good night’s rest before an early flight or for resting at night after a long journey.
  • Your stay includes a free continental breakfast along with your choice of eggs (scrambled or fried), juice, and fresh fruit as well as a 24-hour coffee, tea, water and biscuit station.
  • The Luna also has comfortable beds with a weighted duvet as well as shared washrooms equipped with toiletries and hairdryers.
  • The stunning garden-like grounds and cosy common area are ideal to do work, to hangout, and to relax.

2. Fin Hostel Kata Beach: Phuket, Thailand

  • This hostel is a 5 minute walk to Kata Beach, a 10 minute walk to Karon Beach and a 30 min walk to the stunning Kata Noi Beach. Tuk Tuks and taxis are also readily available for transport on the main road.
  • Good authentic Thai food is not hard to find as the Kata Night Market is right outside of the hostel and there is a fruit stand just in front of the hostel.
  • Fin offers a great common area with a wide selection of movies along with a communal kitchen equipped with a stovetop, microwave, toaster, kettle, fridge, sink, dishes, and cutlery to cook your own meals.
  • The private rooms have an ensuite with toiletries, a balcony, a mini fridge, daily replacement of water bottles, and a daily cleaning service.
  • The private rooms have a balcony and a great deal of space, which I found ideal for working out and stretching.

3. KaBa Hostel: Ghent, Belgium

  • This hostel has a dreamy common area with a cosy atmosphere called “the green garden” and an artsy lounge equipped with large wooden tables with fast WiFi.
  • The common area is fitted with a full kitchen where you are sure to create some fantastic meals and meet many travellers.
  • It is in the perfect location as it is situated to the historical city centre and is a short bike ride away to the modern city core.

4.Perfect Hostel: Paris, France

  • Perfect Hotel and Hostel is located in the perfect area (no pun intended lol) as it is in the district of Montmartre; just a short walk to Sacre Coeur, Moulin Rouge, and the Opera.
  • You can choose from dormitory and private accommodations with ensuites and shared facilities as this hostel/hotel caters to families, small groups and couples.
  • The authentic Parisienne breakfast is a plus: warm croissants or pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant), baguettes, a cappuccino and orange juice. 

5. Tan Hostel x Café: Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand

  • Tan is located in an ideal area. It is a hidden gem as most travellers stay in the busy Krabi Town.
  • Tan is ideal because it is across the street from a Baan Chiangmai Food Centre and Night Market with authentic Thai cuisine, it is a 5 minute walk to the many Traditional Thai Massage parlours, and is a 10 minute walk to the beach.
  • Tan also has the comfiest and largest dormitory style beds that I have ever encountered.
  • They also make an effort to reduce waste: they umbrellas and reusable bags you can borrow, dishes you can take with you to markets to plate your food, and a water filtration system to refill your water bottle.
  • Tan also has 2 common areas:
    • One is located on the main level beside the “Tan Café”, where travellers staying at the hostel are offered a 10% discount on menu items and a discounted breakfast for 50 Baht.
    • The second common area is on the second floor, the “Sun Deck”, and is covered with a rug and pillows. It is an ideal place to interact with others, to meditate, or to nap.

Hostels: Health & Wellness

In my opinion, hostels have offered me more than just cheap and clean accommodation. Staying at hostels have offered me the tools to nurture my mind, body, and soul in order to live an abundant life.

Hostels have given me the opportunity to create friendships with like minded people so I don’t get lonely. Hostels have also given me the space to explore my intentions because of their creative spaces and common areas. In addition, Hostels have given me the inspiration to come up with new recipes with minimal ingredients, interesting exercises/workout circuits, and innovative ideas. Similarly, hostels have given me the ideal environments to relax, reflect, and have fun, while exploring the world. Thus, hostels are an ideal type of accommodation that have so much to offer both physically and spiritually.

So the next time you’re planning a trip, I encourage you to stay in a hostel. Hostels are so much more interesting, interactive, and cheaper than staying in hotels. With so many booking websites at our disposal, it has never been easier to find a trendy and polished place to sleep within your budget. Residing at hostels has helped me reduce expenses in order to experience the destinations I have longed dreamed of visiting and I hope that staying in hostels does the same for you.

As always, I look forward to feedback so please feel free to connect with me. What did you want more or less of in future budget travel posts? What do you want to know specifically about staying in hostels? Check out my Instagram Stories to follow me on my adventures.

Yours in budget accommodation,

Rachele

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