Growing up in Canada, I never really heard about hostels until my solo trip to Europe in 2018. I always thought hostels were grungy, dirty and cheap places to stay. It wasn’t until I started looking at accommodations in Europe and realized that hotels and airbnbs were way out of my budget since I wasn’t sharing the room costs with any one. I finally did some more research and found some really cool hostels all over Europe that I was actually excited to stay in!
What are hostels?
It’s a frequent question I get asked and one that I now love to answer because so many people have such a negative view on hostels when they have never even stayed in one.
A hostel is a place where someone can pay for a bed in a communal dorm room at a cheaper price than other accommodations. Most rooms have between 4-14 bunk beds and either an en-suite bathroom or communal bathrooms in the hallways. Most hostels have common areas, which can include, the kitchen, bar, cafe, work space/living area to meet other travelers. It’s a great way to save a lot of money, especially if you are travelling by yourself!
Where do you find hostels?
Hostelworld.com is the biggest search engine for hostels online. All you need to do is type in the city you’re travelling to and the dates and Hostelworld will find you all the hostels in the area. An amazing thing about this search engine is that you can customize your search and make it as specific as possible so you can find the best fit!
For example, you can filter through prices, ratings, amenities and gender dorms, which makes it super easy and stress free to find a great one!
Booking.com also has an option on the left hand side to select hostels but not all of them show up on this site.
Once I decide on the hostel I want to stay at I will find the hostels personal website and book directly through them because usually the rooms are a little cheaper. If the hostel doesn’t have a personal website (very common in small cities) then I will book directly with Hostelworld.
When i’m on long trips, like the one in Europe and am not sure of my dates, I will usually book a hostel bed a few days in advance. I have never had a problem finding a room in larger cities.
Tips when booking a room:
Once you reserve your bed, sometimes on the website there is a note section. If you prefer the bottom bunk, kindly write it there and 9 times out of 10 they have given me the bottom bunk! If you book on Hostelworld there won’t be a note section so once you make the reservations email them and ask directly.
If you are arriving at a weird hour make sure your hostel has a 24hr reception so you are able to check in! In smaller towns they don’t have these hours and they will make you pay a fee for them having to stay late.
Book a room with 4-8 people max, the more people you have in your room the louder it is!
How much do hostels cost?
The prices vary greatly depending on the time of the year, any celebrations, weekends and of course what country you’re travelling too.
In the Balkans, Baltics and Eastern Europe in the summer I paid between $15-$30 a night. These regions are less touristy and you can find a great deal! I have heard people getting rooms in Krakow hostels for as little as $8 a night in off season!
Scandinavia and Western Europe are more expensive because they are super touristy and have a higher quality of life. Average prices for a bed are between $40-$60 a night.
The hostel prices in Europe are a very good deal in comparison to Canada and the USA. North America doesn’t have a huge hostel culture and the ones that we do have aren’t nearly as cool as they are in Europe and Asia. While you can find nice ones for a good deal, I would suggest booking at least 1 month in advance.
Canada Hostel prices vary from $20-$30 a night in Montreal, Quebec City and Halifax to $50-$75 a night in Toronto and Vancouver.
Tip: 80% of the time male and mixed dorms are cheaper than female dorms. If you want to save even more money stay in a mixed dorm.
In the part 2 guide I will talk about safety in hostels, everything that is provided, what you need to bring and what amenities to look for!