Finding a hostel
You've just pulled into the train station and strapped on your heavy backpack. Desperate for a bed to crash out on, the search for a quality and affordable hostel begins.
Where do I start?
- If it is the height of tourist season you will have been wise to make a reservation at a hostel before you even arrived in the city.
- If you haven't got a reservation, head for the Tourist Information office. There you can get a list of all the local accommodation as well as maps for the city. Talking to other travellers on the train or looking through a guidebook can also give you an idea of places to stay.
- Call ahead from the station to see if vacancies exist and then make sure you have the local currency to pay for your first night's stay - most hostels don't take credit cards or traveller's cheques.
What to look for:
Take a look at your first recommended location to see if it is worth the cash. Follow TheSite's checklist to help you decide if the hostel is up to scratch:
Take it if:
- Your sheets are given to you (in exchange for a deposit) at check-in - most hostels provided you with bed linen, but if it is given to you at check-in then you know it has been washed. Be wary of hostels where the sheets are already on the beds, and carry your own sheet with you to use in such cases, or else carry some itching cream to take care of the bed bug bites you'll be scratching up to a week later.
- Kitchen facilities are included - being able to cook for yourself will save you some cash and hanging around a kitchen or other common area will help you meet other travelers in the hostel
- Lockers are provided - it is much easier to enjoy a city if you aren't worried about your diskman or any other valuables left at the hostel.
Keep on looking if the hostel has:
- A curfew - you're on holiday and you shouldn't have to be home by a certain hour! With a curfew, you will have to catch that last bus back rather than go to that after hours club.
- Showers you have to pay for - some hostels require you to buy tokens for your showers to control the amount of water you use up. This can be very frustrating when you have a head full of shampoo and the water runs out, leaving you in a towel trudging down to the desk to buy another token.
- Dirt everywhere - it is unlikely you will find an immaculate hostel for the money you want to pay but general cleanliness is a bonus. You can get a feel for the general cleanliness of the hostel from a quick walk around the common rooms.
It is also good to find out what dormitory facilities the hostel offers. Some hostels may offer mixed-sex dormitories, while others may not. If you aren't expecting to share a room with the opposite sex, your new roommates might surprise you when they stumble into the room in the middle of the night.
Also, keep in mind that a room in one hostel might hold six people, while another hostel might have 32 beds bunked up in the dormitory. Can you sleep with 31 other people in the room?
When in doubt...
Ask to see the bedroom. Trust your gut. If something doesn't feel right about the hostel, move on and take a look at another one. When you find a good place to stay, don't forget to spread the word to other travellers as well.
Written by Michelle Fawcett
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