Lisa Owen

We’ve all heard the horror stories of hostels. Filthy bathrooms, bedbugs, parties raging outside your dorm door, couples sharing way too much information... but the good news is it’s not all bad. It’s actually really easy to find nice hostels that suit all types of budget travellers.

Hostels range from party dens to chilled getaways, and not only provide a place to sleep, but may also provide a kitchen, social activities, Wi-Fi, and lounge areas perfect for sitting down with a good book or researching your next destination.

While I’ve had my fair share of noisy bunkmates, all the hostels I’ve stayed in have rated high for cleanliness, atmosphere and facilities. They’ve also been a great way to meet other travellers – and gain new friends.

Here’s my tips to find a good hostel.

Select your preferred booking site

First step is to start using a hostel booking site. These sites offer reviews from previous travellers to help you decide which hostel is right for you. They also list the facilities at each hostel, such as lockers, communal kitchen, or a bar.

There’s a few booking sites to choose from and and Hostelworld are my favourites. They’re easy to use and both have mobile apps.

You can also take a look through the Lonely Planet books and see what they recommend. However, choose wisely. While these hostels are popular for a reason, they can also be the most expensive and crowded hostels because of their mention in the Lonely Planet books. It’s easy to find comparable options by looking online.

Check out the ratings

Booking sites provide each hostel with a rating between one and 10. Ten is the highest rating. Hostels are usually rated on key areas such as location, security, atmosphere and cleanliness.

I try to stick to hostels with ratings above 8 where I can. However, you may not always have that option in smaller locations where there’s only one or two hostels. In those cases, I just go with the highest rating.

If it’s a big city with dozens of options, my aim is to get hostels with a rating of 8.5 or above within my desired price range. Lots of competition means hostels will go out of their way to get your business.

Pick your vibe

Your type of travel style will dictate where you’re staying. If your plan is to party the night away, then look for hostels with a bar or mentions of it being a great party place in reviews.

If a good night’s sleep is essential, then take a look at hostels where reviews mention it being quiet and chilled. Avoid any hostels where people mention it’s noisy at night.

Consistency is key

You have to read more than one review to get an idea of a place. Just because one person says it’s dirty doesn’t mean it really is. Some people might be particularly picky, visited at a bad time or this was their first time in a hostel after living it up in hotels. Many times I’ve seen one very bad review among lots of good ones, stayed at the place, and it was 10 out of 10!

Try to read at least five reviews before you decide if a hostel is in or out and look for red flag common themes such as poor cleanliness or noise at night.

Look out for any mentions of bedbugs

Cleanliness is a key factor when choosing a hostel. If you see any consistent mention of bedbugs, steer well clear. Bedbugs are not pleasant and it can be quite an ordeal to rid your clothes and backpack of them once infested.

Other hygiene red flags are consistent mentions of words like disgusting bathrooms, bathrooms were never cleaned, bedsheets had stains and there was lots of mould in the shower.

Consider your room type

Just because you’re staying in a hostel doesn’t mean you need to share a room with a bunch of strangers. You can always get a private room. Most hostels have a private room option but you will of course pay more for the privacy.

Many hostels also offer the option to have an ensuite bathroom or share a bathroom.

Many hostels these days also offer beds with privacy curtains. These go a long way to helping combat any privacy or light issues associated with having a handful of other roommates.

Think about the size of your dorm

Many hostels have dorms of various sizes ranging from four beds to 12 beds on average – although I have seen some hostels with a whopping 36 beds! No thanks.

I try to get dorms with no more than eight people,  but aim for four beds where I can as it limits the amount of people coming in and out and you’re more likely to have uninterrupted dream time.

Gender specific or mixed dorm

Some hostels also have an option for gender specific or mixed dorms. If there is a female dorm option I’ll usually pick that as generally these dorms are quieter at night (and there’s far less risk of snorers).

All female dorms will generally be slightly more expensive than male or mixed dorms but only by a few dollars.

If you’re looking for the cheapest option, then it will always be the mixed dorm.

Choose your location wisely

Location is also key when looking for a hostel. Where you can, choose a hostel that’s near good transport connections such as a metro station or bus stop. It will make your life far easier getting to and from the hostel and getting around.

While you might be tempted to get a hostel far out of the city because the price is significantly cheaper, factor in that it may be more expensive to get to the key sights – as well as taking longer.

Also look at location specific information such as in it on a main street or above a bar as this will have an impact on noise at night.

Consider what facilities you need

Are you on a serious budget, have lots of valuables or are a digital nomad? Think about what facilities are essential for your needs. You might want a kitchen so you can cook your own food instead of eating out; reliable wi-fi to do your job; or it’s important you have lockers for your valuables.

Most booking sites feature a facilities list for each hostel and you can also get a good idea from reviews to make sure the hostel meets your requirements.

Follow these handy tips for choosing your hostel, and you’ll be well on your way to finding a budget place to get some dreamtime – and you’ll probably make a bunch of new friends!


Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 70 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @thelittleadventurer. Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.