I booked several hostels on my recent visit to Europe as a Solo Traveler, and must say that some of them are much more modern and sophisticated than hotels. I urge you to read this post patiently before booking Hostels in Europe.
Based on my experience, hostels are possibly the best type of accommodation for solo travelers, or if you travel with more than 4 people to Europe.
I experienced and researched and found that, It is inexpensive, they’re located in every European city, and they’re full of other travelers so that you would not feel alone and isolated.
According to my research, the competition between hostels has grown over the past 10 years, therefore the quality has risen considerably in past decade, therefore it is high time to book a hostel in Europe if you are planning a trip now.
I am from Asia but I know that hostels are pretty uncommon in the US, so many Americans are totally clueless about Hostels in Europe and have a lot of misconceptions, well, I had the same feeling and I am not blaming anyone.
I select a Hostel over Hotel if I travel alone and If I travel with my entire family, I prefer to book a 4 bed hostel room; that is 2 rooms in a Hostel as my kids like bunker bed experience.
Selecting a hostel is not due to budget or that it is cheap, it is due to hosteling philosophy. A hosteler trades service and privacy for a chance to live simple and communally with people with the same interest.
If you’re heading out on a trip anytime soon and hoping to spend as little money as possible, you’ll most likely be planning on spending some time in hostels. If you’ve never stayed in one before, the prospect of them can be a little daunting.
This article covers everything you would possibly need to know about of what hostels are like, what to expect from them, and how they work. This complete guide to hostels in Europe will cover everything from hostel basics to tips for choosing a great hostel, whether you are American or Asian like me.
Before I forget, the very first hostel worldwide opened in 1914 at Altena Castle in the region of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.
1. How to Select a Bed,Bunker Bed & Below Hostels in Europe
Private Room or Bunker Bed
In a hostel, you only rent a bed, still it is obvious that you share the dormitory with a few fellow travelers. It is quite obvious that your privacy is limited, but the low cost and social fellowship with fellow travelers, more than make up for the rest of the negative factors.
Bear in mind that, if you wish, you can rent or book a double bed room hostel as well, if you prefer privacy.
Some hostels have iron bunker beds and some have wooden bunker beds, but it would not effect your sleep as long as you find conformable beds. whether it is wooden or iron, it should not bother you when you are selecting a hostel or hostel bed.
What Do you Prefer: Lower or Upper
It is very much advisable to reserve a lower bed in a bunker bed.
If you are on the chubby side, you may not be able to climb the ladder in the dark, or if you do not know how to climb the bed without making a commotion, disturbing the rest of fellow travelers who are in the room.
Further, it is bit of a tedious experience, getting down when you want from the bed, sleeping without shaking the bed etc.
Due to many reasons, it is good to book the lower bed of the bunker bed. However, you would not be able to do that at the point of making the reservation.
You may need to write an email to them or talk to them at check-in time. I was never ever refused my request for a lower bed of the bunker bed, therefore do not be afraid to ask.
“Ask and you shall receive”
Height Between the two beds of the Bunker Bed
One main thing you need to worry about is, the height between the two beds.
Oh man! this is something that you need to find out, as I had a few bad experiences. If you cannot sit on your bed without bumping your head on the upper bed then you would not be able to have a comfortable stay.
Since you have limited space in the room, your bed is your work space, and place of privacy. therefore, if you are unable to sit/sleep there comfortably, then you would not enjoy your stay.
The other factor is, if you get up suddenly, you may bang your head on the upper bed.
Bed with or Without Linen
This is rare, but you should be prepared by checking in advance if the hostel is not providing bed linen by default. Either you have to carry your own or rent it from the hostel.
Please do not expect the hostel to allow you to use you sleeping bags as a replacement for bed linen. Every hostel that I stayed in, provided clean, fresh very good linen and they also cleaned the room daily.
I am not very sure whether they change the bed linen daily, but Hostels keep the cleanliness up to a very good bench mark, as the cleanliness is the key factor of a hostel.
Private Bed Curtains
Some hostels provide private curtains for your bed, so that you can close the curtains when you want, which provides you privacy.
More than that, it will help block off light from the room during the night, if someone switched on the light.
Since you share the room with many other fellow travelers, often, at the mid of the night, somebody switches on a light or entire set of lights in the room, purposely or accidentally.
This would disturb your sleep if you are sensitive to light, therefore if you are able to find a hostel in Europe that provides you with a private curtain around your bed, then do not hesitate to book this type of hostel even if it is costs you a few Euros extra.
It was a great feature when I was at Les Piaules hostel in Paris. I came to hostel after 23 hour travelling and I had a very peaceful sleep until the next morning, significantly due to having a private curtain around my bed minimizing the outside disturbances.
Please note that this is a bit of a rare feature in a Hostel, the other alternative is to use a Sleeping mask 🙂
2.Bunker Beds Technology of Hostels in Europe
One of the major things that I look for when booking a Hostel in Europe is, the technology that hostels provide with the accommodation.
If you are an American or Asian , one of the major things that you need to be aware is, how to charge your electronic gadgets in hostels in Europe.
The compliance of electric outlets is so diverse, you get frustrated sometimes when you are unable to plug your device cable into a plug.
I took my old laptop on my recent visit to Paris, but was unable to use it anywhere in Europe as I dd not carry an Universal Travel Adapter with me.
But I was able to charge my phone and camera batteries as I used the USB slots.
Most of hostels in Europe have upgraded the technology side of the facilities in hostels.
Hostels in Europe provide USB slots, Multi-sockets, electric outlets, excellent WiFi and private reading lights for your bunker beds.
It is advisable to carry an Universal Travel Adapter along with you, so that you are NOT surprised when you want to charge your stuff.
3.Hostels in Europe: Lockers, Lock, Padlock, Bicycle Lock.
One of the major concerns is, how to keep your belongings safe. This was the first thing that I researched before I stayed in a hostel for the first time in my life.
Every hostel provides a very good safety system to keep your backpack or bag safe.
I have never seen any hostels without lockers or not having a room to keep your backpack/bags; which only hostel staff has access to, therefore do not worry about your backpack or bag’s safety.
Hostels give you a locker to keep your bags and belongings, and it is your responsibility to put a padlock and keep it safe. You have to buy a padlock or bicycle lock, in order to lock your belongings.
Make sure, you buy an unconventional padlock or bicycle lock so that nobody would be able to tamper it.
Do not buy just one padlock as it may be not right one for some lockers in Europe hostels, it is advisable to buy at least 2 padlocks and carry it along with you.
Make sure, that the padlock handle is slim as possible so that you would be able to use it on any locker. there is no universal standard for hostel lockers, it varies.
I usually carry a bicycle padlock along with me so that I can keep my backpack/bag safe.
Lockers and Padlocks
The lockers are in different sizes unfortunately, there is no universal size. The height, width and breath of lockers differ from hostel to hostel.
I am not a backpacker, therefore I have not carried a big backpack to a hostel, but I have been to hostels where backpackers keeps their backpacks in the dormitory and lock it with a bicycle padlock to the bed, so that nobody can take it.
Of course, valuables are packed in smaller backpacks, similar to mine.
If you have a decent sized backpack like Swiss Gear , you would be able to put it into the locker.
If you stuff too much into your backpack, obviously you would not be able to put it in.
I can assure that, the lockers come with adequate space so that you can keep your stuff safe.
Basically, the lockers are in the room so that when you are in the room you know that it is safe, but some hostels provide lockers at the Reception area too, so if you are not very comfortable to keep your stuff in the room, then keep it in the Reception area lockers.
4.Toilet In Hostels in Europe
Hostel bathrooms can be very good or really terrible. I never experienced a terrible bathroom, yet let me address things that you need to watch out or ask/inquire before making a booking.
Each hostel has a different setup based on the quality of the Hostel. Therefore, do not be lazy to read the customer reviews on Hostels in booking.com or any other site that you wish to book the hostel through.
You need to read at least 30-40 reviews before making a decision. Do not be “penny wise pound foolish” too.
When it comes to the showers and toilets, most of the time each room has its own shared bathroom.
This means that the room of 8 people or 4 people could be sharing one small bathroom.
Hmm.. NOT a bad experience after college hostels again.
Due to this reason, I personally book a 4 people sharing room than 8 people, as I do not mind paying a bit extra to have less hassle when it comes to toilets.
Some have large community-style bathrooms with a few sinks and multiple private shower stalls or cubicles.
One of the Hostels in Paris had this type of Bathroom.
I stayed in a 4 Person Room but the entire floor had only one Bathroom.
I got to know this only after check-in as I had not read the description of the room properly. It had 1 Toilet, 4 Cubical of shower facility and 3 sinks only.
One of the hostels in Amsterdam had a private Bathroom in the room and Toilet together for 4 people to share.
Of course, It had very large common bathroom at the Reception area too. It was one of the best hostels I have been to.
The worst setup is the shower/bathroom combo, what I mean: shower and toilets have no separation. sometimes, they use a half glass wall to separate the shower and toilet.
The entire Washroom area gets wet and it becomes a horrible experience trying to get dressed with no dry area to step on.
The other disadvantage is that, if somebody goes for a shower, then the person who wants go to toilet, has to wait until the other person comes out. It creates unnecessary delay and inconvenience.
There are different types of washrooms and toilets in Europe, so be aware of this!
According to my experience, Hostels do not provide towels along with your bed, but most of hostels l rent towels for a nominal price.
This is one of the major differences between hotels and hostels.
I do not carry towels and I rent towels from the hostels. I pay Euro 2-4 per towel.
If you are a frequent traveler, my personal advice is to purchase “Travel Towel”s from Amazon.com or any other shop that you like. This is the most famous travel towel in Amazon.com based on my review.
Shampoo & Body Wash: Toiletries.
Most of Europe’s hostels do not provide Toiletries. I was told that Japan and Taiwan hostels provide most of toiletries, but do your own research if you go to Japan and Taiwan.
Take your own toiletries along with you in a flexible transparent pouch. It is great if you could buy disposable toiletries than family sized ones that are used at home.
If you like a specific brand, it is better to purchase it from your country and carry it with you. Otherwise, you would be able to purchase these items locally.
My best advice is, that you take a transparent pouch with a handle, so that you can hang the pouch in the toilet while showering. This will be a great convenience to you, I assure you.
Do not expect fancy toilets with all amenities in hostels.
Take your own!
This is one of the basic amenities a hostel toilet should possess, and every hostel I went to had toilet paper, but it is always advisable to carry a toilet roll with you in your backpack or bag, just in case you require it 🙂
I have experience of an entire toilet paper roll wet and unable to use, as the previous person has used the toilet in a very unpleasant way :-).
Do remember that you find travelers from all round the world, whose toilet manners differ.
If you are an Asian like me, please do not expect bidet shower facility in hotels or hostels in Europe.
You have to get used to the Europe style or have a shower once you finish your major task. This is what I do!
Since you find hot water facility in every Hotel or Hostel, it is good to have wash after your major event in toilet unless you are allergic to water!!
5.Dangerous Factors that You need to be aware of:
Elevator or Staircase in a Hostel
If you carry a heavy backpack or bag, then you better check with the hostel whether they have an elevator.
I had a very bad experience at one of the hostel’s in Paris, I had to carry my heavy bag 3 floors. To tell you frankly, it was not fun!
Most of the hostels in Europe have 1 to 3 floor, if the hostel is situated in a new building, of course it comes with an elevator, otherwise staircase. It is better to get prior confirmation about this.
The staircases in Belgium and Netherlands are very steep. You would not enjoy the staircase experience if you are traveling with family and heavy bags.
A/C and Switch off Time
Some hostels do not provide A/C., if you happen to visit during the summer time, this will be a horrible experience. Please read the room description very carefully.
One other question, do they switch off the A/C during the day due to any reason? Some hotels and hostels shut down the A/C for a couple of hours for cleaning or other reasons.
If you happen to get a room with an old or noisy A/C, you would not be able to sleep properly therefore discuss these with Reception before checking into the room.
Never keep any belongs under the A/C as sometimes A/C leaks would wet your belongings.
Bed and Breakfast
If any hostel provides you with free Breakfast, you would find the same breakfast everyday without any changes to the menu. This is very normal in hostels in Europe.
If you are entitled to complimentary breakfast, go for it! but if the hostel charges you for breakfast at the time of reservation, please check the price.
If it more than 8 Euros, then you need to think about it twice
If you stay in the same hostel for more than 3 days, then it is not worth paying extra for breakfast, as you would be fed up with the same breakfast daily.
But if a hostel provides you with jam, butter and some toast complimentary, why not eat it when you feel like?
Most of the hostels run a breakfast table or Ala Carte menu at the Reception area or at the bar where you can pay for what you order.
these prices are similar to the outside local shops, therefore it is better to eat at hostel than go out.
I have observed that, some of the travelers bring there own food and consume it at the breakfast tables in hostel.
Location, Location, Location
Make sure, you find a hostel close to a very good transportation hub; meaning: Taxi stand, Metro and bus station. I had many good and bad experiences due to that.
My number one factor is to find a hostel or hotel very close to central transportation hub. Very specially, if go with your spouse or family to a city for first time at night, then it is best to find a hostel close to Metro or main railway station.
I also book a hostel or hotel very close to the central railway station or central bus station in the main city so that I can conveniently take a Metro or Train to the Airport, attraction of the city and other places that I want to visit.
This is a very critical factor, but most of the people take this into consideration when it is a bit too late.
I do understand that, Hostels or hotels very close to Central station or bus station is bit expensive, but still you can book a decent place for a reasonable price if you do your research patiently and carefully.
Even if it is expensive, still it gives you good value for money.
Let me give you an example.
When I was in Rome, on 27th of February 2018, The City of Rome experienced a snowfall after 6 years.
Metro trains to the airport were cancelled and there were only a few buses to Airport.
Since Rome does not get snow every year, Rome’s municipal council is not geared to handle this type of situation efficiently, therefore the city of Rome came to virtual stand still on that day.
Even though our flight back home was at 10 p.m, We decided to leave the hostel at 11 a.m to get to the airport without any unwanted delays.
To cut a long story short , since we were very close to Central Bus and Train Station, we just walked to the Airport bus stop and managed to hop a Airport bus after much struggle.
We reached the airport at 1 p.m. We did not miss our flight, but I came to know that many travelers were unable to reach the airport on that day due to the crippling of the transport system, due to the unexpected snow fall.
Since we stayed a walking distance from the bus station, we were able to hop a bus to take us to the airport well on time.
Therefore when you book a hostel, the very first thing is the Location, second thing is also Location and 3rd thing too is Location. It is the key to everything!
If you have to get into a few Metros to reach the Airport, then think about it twice.
If you have to take a few Metros or Buses to reach most of the places of attraction, then think about the location.
6.How to Book a Good Hostel in Europe
I never book a Hotel or Hostel other than using booking.com. I have been using booking.com for the past 10 years to book Hostels and Hotels in Europe, I have never had an issue yet.
Even if I need to book Hotels or Hostels in Sri Lanka locally, I still use booking.com as it is the most reliable way to book a hostel or hotel.
I experienced that I get a better service when I do a booking from booking.com, as Hostels or Hotels do not want to get negative reviews or ratings from customers, therefore they are very attentive to your request if you book online.
I am pretty sure, there are many reputed sites on the internet that could help you to get a better deal. Whichever site you use, please use the below strategy to book a hostel in Europe.
- The most critical factor is the “customer’s reviews“. if you are able to read at least 40-50 customer reviews, you would be able to get a better idea about the Hostel, therefore do not be lazy to read carefully.
- There are many Hotels/Hostels in Europe where you would be able to pay at the time of check out. I never book a Hostel that charges me instantly at the time of booking. booking.com allows you to filter hostels in Europe which allow you to pay at the time of check out.
- Book a hostel that allows you to cancel the booking prior to check in, anytime. Many things can happen in your life that requires you to cancel a booking. You should book a hostel that allows you to cancel the booking any time prior to the check-in date.
- Most of the time, after booking , Hostels charge you a Dollar to check your Credit Card financial status. if you do not have enough balance to book the hostel at the time of booking, you may face an issue, but Booking.com allows you to book the room, but it will send you an email asking you to change the credit card.
- If you book the Hostel for more than a week, the Hostel may charge a first day of the room rate at the time of booking. Of course, if you cancel the booking later, they will refund it to you.
- Write to the hostel that you book , with all the concerns that you have. if you do not get any reply promptly and properly, then the Hostel is NOT advisable to book . If they are NOT interested to response to your email, then they may not give you good service after you check in. I had a similar experience! Booking.com gives a better interface to do email correspondence with the hostel efficiently.
7.More Helpful Tips for Hostels in Europe
1.Take your earplugs and sleeping masks along with you so that you have peaceful sleep. There are some ill-mannered people who you may come across sharing the the room with you, they may switch on the lights in the entire room during the night, for no reason.
Also you may come across snorers who snore super loud in the middle of night earplugs and sleeping masks would save you from these calamities.
2.Write to the hostel and get the correct address, direction, contact numbers and a mobile number if possible.
Sometimes, it is very hard to find the location of the hostel at nightfall.
I ask them to send me an email with the direction very clearly such as, which Train or Bus I need to take, and some land mark so that I can find the Hostel easily.
Do not rely on your mobile WiFi and Google map always. These things do not work at times.
3.Inquire about the payment policy. Sometimes they only accept cash. Cities like Rome, ask you to pay the state taxes by cash, while they allow you to pay the room charges by card.
If you carry American Express card, ask whether they accept the cards
4.Checkout and checking time. Normally, Hostels’ check-in time is 3 p.m and check-out time is 11 a.m or 12 Noon. Make sure that you are aware of these well in advance.
5.Baggage storage policy. if you want to keep your big backpack or bag after checkout, ask how much they charge and how secure it is.
Most of the Hostels in Europe allow you keep your backpack for a few hours without a fee, but some hostels charge.
6.Try to avoid getting a room where the bar or reception is very close.
Hostels arrange function or parties to entertain fellow travelers and make money. If you are not a party type of person, like me, then you would not be able to have a good sleep when the party goes on in full swing.
7.Laundry Facility. Most of the hostels have inbuilt Laundry facility. The most important thing is , whether they would carry out the service or you have do it on your own,. the price is also very important.
Hostels in Europe
If you are used to staying in a hotel and you have not been staying in hostel before, staying in a hostels in Europe for the first time would be great experience.
I have listed most of the factors that you need to be aware of and know, before booking a hostels in Europe and before checking into a hostel.
You may have different factors that you may look for when you book hostels in Europe, but I have covered most of the areas that a traveler may need to know.
All the very best on your Hostel experience!