First time in a hostel? This is everything you should know about hostel life

If you’ve never been in a hostel before it can be sort of scary and exciting at the same time.

What can you expect?

Will you meet nice people?

How do you find a good hostel?

And should you book it in advance or just show up and claim a bed?

If you’re planning to go backpacking in Australia, you’ll most likely spend most of your time in hostels. So it’s fair to say that staying in the right hostels is important if you want to get the most out your Australian adventure.

In this article, you’ll discover all the ins and outs of hostel life, when to book, what to look for when choosing your hostel and some alternatives in case you need a break from hostel life.

Why would you want to stay in hostels?

Ask anyone that hasn’t stayed in a hostel before and they’ll paint you a picture of hell with sperm stains, cockroaches running around and loud backpackers drinking more goon than water.

Well, don’t worry.

Hostels are actually very clean and often have more facilities you can use for free than any well-known expensive hotel.

In fact, life in hostels is amazing and your best option for sleeping in Australia. Here’s why:

Hostels are the best place to meet people

Whether you’re traveling together or alone, it’s always nice to meet new people from all over the world, so you can share stories and do awesome things together.

Hostels are by far the easiest place to meet people.

Just say hello to anyone in your dorm and start a small conversation. Do the same in the kitchen or the chill-out area. Join a pub-crawl or a free walking tour. Play beer pong. Talk to people and you’ll be sure to make some new friends.

It really is that easy.

Hostels are cheap

Besides camping and Couchsurfing, hostels are the cheapest place to sleep in Australia.

Not only because of the price for your bed, but also because hostels almost always have a kitchen that you can use to prepare your amazing backpacker meals. That means you save money you would’ve otherwise spent on yet another McDonald’s meal.

Hostels are an awesome source of travel tips

In hostels you won’t only get travel tips from your fellow travelers, most of the time the staff can also point you towards amazing things to do.

Now, this isn’t unique to hostels but the main thing is that hostel staff understands your needs. They understand you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on private tours, but rather do it the cheapest way possible: by yourself.

In addition, most hostels also have an in-house travel agent that can help you book tours and transport often at a discount if you book packaged tours.

In other words: hostels will help you get more travel for your buck.

Welcome to your room 🙂

Everything you need to know before booking a hostel

Booking a hostel is sort of an art, one you’ll get better and better in as you wander further into your backpacking life.

Here’s one important thing:

There is not one best type of hostel. There is only the best hostel for you at that particular moment.

You see, during your travels, you’ll go through different phases. Different feelings, moods and needs. That means you’re quite likely to stay in different types of hostels.

There will be times you want to party, so look for hostels geared towards that. Other times you’ll want some me-time reading a book in nature. In that case, look for a hostel that caters to that need.

Finding the right hostel for you

There are several factors you can base your decision on, but the main points are:

  • To party or not to party?
    Like we said, sometimes you want to party and sometimes you don’t. Choose your hostel accordingly.
  • Price of a dorm
    Hostels differ in price and not always with a sound reason. More expensive doesn’t always mean better service, so make sure to check the reviews.
  • Location
    Cheaper hostels are sometimes a bit outside of the city centre. That’s all good, but if that means you’re spending a lot of money on getting to the city centre you might as well spend it on a more centrally located hostel.
  • Free stuff
    A lot of hostels offer you free things. Sometimes this means that the hostel is a bit more expensive but when you add in the free things, it’s actually cheaper. Think of things like free breakfast, wifi, laundry, city tours, bbq, pasta nights, shots, drinking games, etc.
  • Reviews
    Never book a place without reading some reviews. It will give you an honest idea of how satisfied other travelers were, but more importantly: it will give you important information on what life in the hostel is like.

Other things that might be of importance to you are:

  • Does the hostel have a female dorm?
  • What does the common chill area look like?
  • What’s the breakfast like?
  • Does it have a swimming pool?
  • Does the hostel provide lockers?

Where and how to book your hostels?

When it comes to booking hostels you basically have a couple of options:

Below you’ll read exactly why you should or shouldn’t use these sites:

Hostelworld.com and hostelbookers.com

When it comes to the first two options there is no real big difference. In fact, hostelbookers is owned by hostelworld so just pick and choose whichever feels best.

However, sometimes prices differ between them so before you book it’s always a good idea to check both websites.

Dormbed on Hostelbookers.com = 17 AUD
Same hostel on hostelworld = 14,45 AUD.

The good things about hostelworld and hostelbookers are that they:

  • Often only provide hostels in the search results.
  • Have thousands of reviews mostly from solo travellers that want to stay in hostels.

The things we don’t like about hostelworld and hostelbookers are:

  • You pay a non-refundable deposit or you need to pay extra in order to stay flexible.
  • They don’t do discount deals very often.

All in all, Hostelworld is still our go-to website when we start researching hostels. But there is always a second step you should take.

Booking.com

The second option is booking.com and we’ll tell you why it’s important to always check booking.com as well: Price and flexibility.

It might be that booking.com is a bit cheaper than hostelworld. Sometimes it’s the other way round. But in case both websites have similar prices we recommend you use booking.com.

The reason for this is that booking.com often offers cancellation without charge and that’s a real gamechanger.

You see, when you’re traveling Australia’s east coast you want to be flexible, but you also want the best place to stay.

When traveling Australia’s west coast it’s a similar story. You want to stay flexible but also want the luxury of choice.

Booking.com lets you have both.

Just book your hostel and if your plans change, cancel your booking without extra charges.

Another good reason to use booking.com is that they have a lot of discount codes working for you. Meaning that if you book a hostel worth over 30 AUD, you can get 15 AUD back.

In case you would like to use one of these codes: use this one.

Free cancellation on booking.com is the best!

Buying in bulk: is that a good idea?

So here’s another option:

Buy your nights in bulk so can save up to 8 dollars per night.

You see, there are a couple of big chain hostels throughout Australia. The biggest ones are YHA, Nomads and Base.

These hostels give you a little discount in case you pre-book a flexible bedhopper deal.

It normally means you get about 3-5 AUD discount per night. Just imagine how much you could save on a long trip.

In case you’re interested, you can have a look at the deals here:

Pro’s of booking a bulk deal:

  • On average you’ll pay less
  • You stay in reputable hostels that need to meet certain quality standards

Con’s of booking a bulk deal:

  • Your choice is limited to the one hostel in town
  • Often, like with the YHA ePackages, there is a limit to the number of consecutive days you can stay in one place.

Should you book your hostel in advance or not?

Some backpackers like to book their hostel so they know where to go when they get to a new place.

Others enjoy the excitement of not knowing or would like to see the hostel before they book it.

There is no right or wrong, just pro’s and cons.

But there are times when it’s smart to book a hostel (unless you want to run the risk of sleeping on a park bench of course).

You should book a hostel:

  • If you want to celebrate NYE in Sydney because hostels often sell out months in advance.
  • If you want a private room because hostels generally only have a few.
  • If there is a festival going on like the St. Kilda festival in Melbourne or Mardi Grass in Sydney.
  • If there is a big sports event like the formula 1 in Melbourne.
  • For your first two nights because there is nothing more annoying than carrying around a heavy backpack after a long-haul flight.

What if you don’t want to stay in hostels?

Although we might have presented hostels as the holy grail of backpacker accommodation, there are times you want something else.

There will be times where you’re sick and tired of sharing your room, the same conversations or your roommates snoozing their alarm for the 5th time at 6.30 in the morning.

Maybe you’re struck by Cupid’s arrow and after some hot nights in the hostels’ shower, you’re finally ready to get some privacy in a hotel room.

Or maybe you’re traveling with a group and it would be cheaper to rent an apartment instead of booking separate hostel beds for each one of you.

Whatever the reason, sometimes you’ll need an alternative to hostels. Here are the best:

  • Airbnb
    Is a great option for if you’re traveling with two or more people. Often you’ll get real good deals and amazing houses especially if you apply for this sign-up bonus where you get 50 AUD off your first night accommodation. Better even, if you sign-up, you’ll be able to give that same link to your mates so you earn credits as soon as they sign-up.
  • Couchsurfing
    Want to meet some locals and sleep for free? Why not try Couchsurfing? It’s a great way to meet locals, learn about some cool spots and sleep for free. Just remember to be a great guest and that it’s more about having a good time with the host than you just taking advantage of the free nights.
  • Camping
    Camping in Australia is a magnificent way to get out and be surrounded by nature. Best of all? It can be completely free. Just download wikicamps on your phone and you’ll find hundreds of free campsites throughout Australia.

Are you ready for your first night in a hostel

So there you go:

That’s all you need to know about booking hostels so you can get the most out of your adventure.

With these tips you’ll soon become a hostel booking pro, that just always seems to stay in the best hostels.

Happy travels.

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