I traveled to Europe by myself for a month starting three days after I turned 18. It was fantastic. And to afford everything I wanted to do, I needed to keep my sleeping arrangement costs low. I stayed in hostels, which on average was in the 20-30 euro/night range. That’s a killer deal! The places I stayed in were clean, had friendly staff, and some even included breakfast in that price. But how did I know which places were good to stay in?
I used one site at the time (this was in 2006) called HostelWorld. What I liked about HostelWorld was the fact that only users who made their reservations through the website could write reviews. This allowed for authentic and trustworthy feedback, and is still how they operate today!
Before picking out a place to stay, I would highly recommend figuring out what you want to do and see. If you find that there are several places in the city you gotta check out, then you should make note of where they are and try to pick a hostel within walking distance. This will save you a lot of time and be very convenient.
I recommend the following items when staying in a hostel:
A lock will help keep your valuables (and non-valuables) secure in the lockers provided at a hostel. I recommend getting a TSA approved one so you can use it for your bag if you check your luggage. Also, getting this type of lock (pictured below) will ensure your lock is compatible in size to any locker!
Depending on how you travel, you may be carrying only credit cards, only cash, or a combination of both. I used to get travel money cards from AAA. You can load money onto it and use it like a debit card. You can also get a backup card! This allows you to keep one card on you and one card in your bag at your hostel. If something happens, you can cancel the card and activate your backup one without interrupting your trip. You can also withdraw money from an ATM! Be careful on the amount of times you do this as international withdraw charges are typically $5.00. The point is, if you are going to carry multiple credit cards or cash, take some with you and leave some in your luggage bag.
Copies of documents.
Stuff happens. And it’s not always good. Always take photocopies of the following items and put a set in every bag you are taking with you:
- Plane tickets.
You never know when you will be staying at a hostel with people who snore. Women do it too! Not only will this protect you from not being able to sleep, but it maximizes your chance of being woken up when your other hostel mates return at late hours in the night.
Same thing as ear plugs. I am sensitive to light, so when that door opens and the hallway light pours in when I’m trying to sleep, I’m probably going to be grumpy. Also great for the plane!
There are pros and cons to staying with 3-11 other strangers, male/female/coed. You can meet new people who are traveling, just like you, and see sites together or share stories! Or, if you prefer privacy, many hostels offer private rooms at a higher cost, but are still usually way below the average hotel price. You will still have the opportunity to meet other travelers in common spaces provided, all while maintaining privacy, if that’s your thing.