Hostels come in a variety of shapes and sizes, personalities and budgets. There are a few accommodations that categorize as home-stays; reminiscent of a quiet night’s sleep with coffee bars and porch swings while others invite guests to a series of strobe light fights and mid-day water pulverizing .
Some are sleek set-ups boasting desks of shiny laptops and steady I
nternet connection, comfy couches, and double-size beds bound by sturdy, wooden posts and headrests. Bursts of air-conditioning stifle the drench of humid summer nights and you’ll wake with less than a typical army’s worth of mosquitoes stuck to your neck. Other hostels offer only the necessities- meaning a bed. A sheet of sort. And perhaps an overhead, communal sputter of a fan to keep you cool alive.
Warm breakfast options range from complimentary coffee, fresh fruit and warm bread to sticky remains of last night’s beer bash complete with mysterious black bugs stuck to the confines of the arm rest.
Some hosts will open their home (as most guesthouses will serve as both their living quarters and yours), their breakfast table, and kind listening ear to your very original travel stories, and a clean towel.
Although they speak a smattering of English and the internet connection freezes half-way through your college application process, one can appreciate the provision of a clean bed, sheets, kind smiles, and complimentary cup of coffee in the morning in a reasonably-priced bedroom.
There will be other hosts to whom you’ve yet to meet only to realize they are indeed the individual asleep on the floor for as long as you’ve been attempting to check-in and drop your 15-kilo backpack. The hostel will the surface as a twenty-something, backpacker-congested scene of no curfew and late nights that don’t rest until the sun breaks.
For those of you to whom do rest? Check out the following tips of being ever-so-picky in choosing an appropriate hostel for your traveler’s sleep.
Forgot to Book a Hostel? Top 10 Tips to Choosing a Hostel on Whim
1. Internet. Need internet. Distinguish between free Wi-Fi and Internet access. If you brought a computer or laptop, you need to be conscious of working Wi-Fi access, especially when you need to book a hostel the following night or a train the current day. If you prefer to check your social networking sites and purchase upon whim, several hostels provide working computers as a scant price per minute. Just be wary of your credit card input and your surroundings.
2. Do they provide food and drink for purchase? When the area is as quiet as the village town of Mae Salong, Thailand and you’ve managed to miss the morning market at 5 AM, food ought to be a guesthouse mainstay (or else closely located to food as hostel prices can get high).
There are only so many bags of peanuts you can eat at 7-11.
3. Did you scan the room without success to locating a fan? In 41 Celsius? Find one or find another place to sleep or else sleep will be a relative term at 2 AM when you awaken in a pool of your own sweat.
4. If the host(s) is currently making the bed upon arrival- then you need to slowly back up. Edge quietly and politely out the door and run as fast as you can to the next guesthouse on street. Bed bugs are a rampant problem among guesthouses and with the necessity to strip sheets, pillow covers, carpeting, not to mention deep-clean the mattress and surrounding areas, most affected hostels have recurring problems.
5. Do you find you’re the only echo in the hostel? You’ve not seen another traveler, housemate, or individual despite the host for some time now. Forget the high reviews- high-tail it to a place where you can speak to someone and start meeting and greeting- that’s half the fun!
6. Do they speak a compatible language? If not- chances are you won’t know how to find the good eats, scour the “to-do’s” and must-see’s, or make your bus, train, tuk-tuk in time.
7. Check out the area. Is the hostel located in an area within walking distance to attractions? Can you change notes at the local money changer? See any travel agencies or transportation services to buy a boat or bus ticket? Any drifting smells of lingering food stalls or drink stands? Make your life easier and visually check out (if you have not prior researched) the area of your hostel.
8. What’s the vibe? A hostel is as worthy as its accompaniments. If you sense that most guest mates are on the their computer, inside their room, out exploring, or napping on a close-by coach, consider the place low-key, relaxed, with a general ease of travel and importance of sleep. Show up to an open-air hostel, filling with people at mid-afternoon, cool drink in hand, intermingling at large? Recognize that the social hub is one for meeting and making friends, hitting town at night and sleeping well into the morning. Not your vibe? Find one that is!
9. Follow the backpacks. There’s much to be said for word of mouth, traveler experiences, and stars of review. The word is out- someone has stepped foot where you are soon to- try your hand at making contacts en route to the local backpacker hub of hostels and link up with fellow mates that have done their research. Sometimes- the best deals come by double (and not single or dormitory) rooms.
10. Budget. Hostels vary in budget and some hosts do not open dormitory or single rooms when they need the dime for the double or private room. Don’t stop at the first hostel you see- shop around a bit on foot. The “special promotion” that you keep hearing from room to room does not end today nor did it begin yesterday- it’s a game that gets you in. Ask to see the room or jump at the chance to experience the solitary confinement of some single space room- you may enjoy an extra hour of sleep and another star of review for the lesser-known, “non-reviewed” hostel.
Choose your money, time, and accommodation wisely else you may be walking to the 7-11 for dinner. And remember- the change of routine is in part what makes traveling so exciting!
by J’Nisha Towne