This week on Girls Go Abroad we’re talking all about booking hostels as a solo female traveler.
Aren’t hostels scary, dirty, and disgusting? That’s the fear of so many first-time solo female travelers, and I get it. Because the fact of the matter is that hostels can be scary, dirty, and disgusting, and even just a few years ago that was pretty much par for the course.
But these days, hostels are absolutely having a moment, and with boutique, luxury, and design hostels all on the rise, there are so many absolutely amazing hostels out there.
Staying in hostels as a solo female traveler is, in my opinion, really the way to go, but because there are a lot of misconceptions about hostels and it is possible to get stuck in a bad one, I wanted to dedicate a full episode of the Girls Go Abroad to choosing, booking, and staying in hostels as a solo female traveler.
Why stay in hostels as a solo female traveler?
Alright, so first off, why do I recommend staying in hostels as a solo female traveler? Well, for one thing, hostels make it a lot easier to make friends, which is key when you’re traveling solo if you don’t want to get lonely. With things like lounges and bars, gathering with other travelers is just natural in a hostel, and you’ll always have people to talk to.
Secondly, staying in a hostel is, in general, a lot cheaper. Not only in general, but especially when you’re traveling solo. This is because when you stay in a hostel dorm room, you’re just paying for the bed, instead of an entire room like you do in a hotel or Airbnb.
When you’re traveling with other people, splitting the cost of a hotel room or Airbnb can generally make it pretty affordable, but when you have to pay for the whole thing yourself those costs can add up fast. So just having to pay for a bed in a hostel is generally a lot cheaper.
Now, I know you’ve probably heard that hostels are dirty and dangerous, but the simple fact of the matter is that they’re not! Yes, there are some sketchy hostels out there, but in general you’ll find that most hostels these days are actually really nice. There are even hostels which bill themselves as boutique or luxury hostels which have some amazing amenities without the high price tags.
In addition to this, a lot of hostels have female-only dorm options if you’re not comfortable staying in the same room as guys, which is great for solo female travelers and especially first-timers. There are even private rooms if you prefer to have your own space but still want the social aspects of a hostel.
Booking Hostels As a Solo Female Traveler
How to Choose a Hostel
Alright, so now that you know why hostels are so great for solo female travelers, let’s talk about how to choose a hostel. Because honestly, not all hostels are created equal, and choosing the right one can sometimes be a bit of a trial.
I always use Hostelworld to find hostels.
So, when it comes to choosing a hostel there are a few things that I like to keep in mind, and those are: location, dorm rooms, amenities, price, and reviews.
So first up: location. As a solo female traveler, I like to stay in generally safe neighborhoods that are close to the main sights but still quiet. In general in Europe, I try not to stay right next to the train station, even though it’s convenient, just because in a lot of European cities the spot right next to the train station isn’t necessarily the nicest.
Once I’ve found a hostel or a group of hostels in a location that I like, the next thing I’ll look at is dorm rooms. In general, I don’t like to stay in dorms with more than 8 beds, just because it can get a little crowded and noisy. If they go down to 6 or 4 that’s even better.
I also like to look at pictures of the dorms to see what the bed situation is like. Are there rickety ladders to get up to the top bunk? Are there shelves or privacy curtains? Do the beds look super close together or will I have space to breathe? That sort of stuff.
Another thing to definitely take into consideration when booking a hostel is whether or not they offer female-only dorms. While this isn’t a rule breaker for me at this point, because I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable sleeping in dorms with dudes, my first couple of solo trips I would only stay in female-only dorms because I was just a lot more comfortable that way, and if that’s the case for you too then you’ll definitely want a female-only dorm.
The next thing I’ll look at when I’m choosing a hostel to stay in is all the amenities. For me, the more amenities a hostel has, the better. For example: do they offer free breakfast? This is great.
Do they have charging outlets and reading lights at every bed? Ideal. Lockers? Absolutely necessary. I pretty much won’t stay in a hostel if they don’t have lockers available to store my valuables in.
I also like to take a look at the bathroom situation. Some hostels offer dorms with ensuite bathrooms, which is basically luxury because then you’re sharing with only a few people instead of the whole hostel, but if they don’t then hopefully they have a picture of the bathroom so you can see if there are plenty of sinks, toilet stalls, and showers and that it’s clean. Having to wait in line or use a dirty bathroom is the worst.
Finally, be sure that the hostel offers wifi and has good common areas like a lounge or a bar. You’ll want somewhere with comfy seats–and lots of them–they’re great for making friends.
Additionally, if you can find a hostel that offers organized activities like walking tours, group dinners, pub crawls, etc. then you know you’ve hit the jackpot. These are always so much fun and are a great way to see the city and make some friends at the same time!
Of course, the next thing you’ll want to look at after checking out all of the amenities is the price. Hostels are, in general, super affordable, but I personally prefer to book ones that are a few dollars more expensive than the cheaper options because that indicates that they’re a much more high-quality hostel.
And finally, be sure to check out the reviews for everything you need to know about the hostel that they don’t mention on their listing. For example, are there hidden prices you don’t know about or a noisy bar nearby? Reviews are so helpful!
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Booking Hostels
Alright, so now that we’ve talked about what you should be looking for when you’re booking hostels as a solo female traveler, I want to talk a bit about some of the most common mistakes people make when they’re hostel hunting and how to avoid them.
So the first and biggest mistake that you can make is simply booking the cheapest hostel. I see this happen all the time, where people are trying to save a few bucks so just pick the cheapest hostel and move on. But then they show up and it’s a total dump, when you could have stayed in a really nice hostel for just a few dollars more.
So how do you avoid this mistake? Well, just don’t book the cheapest hostel. I use this just as a general rule when I’m booking hostels and will always go for the one that’s just a few dollars more expensive, because I know it’s going to be a better hostel.
Honestly, it’s amazing what a few dollars difference makes when you’re staying in hostels!
The second biggest mistake you can make when you’re booking a hostel is to accidentally book into a huge party hostel. Unless you want to party into the night every night, then the loud music and loud people coming into your dorm at all hours of the morning is going to get real old, real fast.
So how do you avoid big party hostels? Well, sometimes they’ll be nice enough to advertise themselves as party hostels, in which case you know to steer clear.
If they don’t though, then this is where reviews will come in handy. Big party hostels’ reviews will generally be filled with two kinds of reviews: people raving about how it’s the funnest hostel ever, and people who were annoyed by the party noise and couldn’t sleep. A quick skim of the reviews should tell you whether a hostel is a big party destination or not.
You can also take a look at the ‘atmosphere’ rating on Hostelworld. A good atmosphere rating can either mean that it’s a great party hostel or just a well-designed spot that’s good for making friends, so go for one with a high atmosphere rating that doesn’t have party hostel reviews and you should be good to go.
The next biggest mistake you can make when booking a hostel is to take them at their word when they say that it’s only a 5 or 10 minute walk from the hostel to the center of town or the train station. It is almost always NOT as close as they say it is.
So just do a quick search on Google Maps to see how long the walk is from the hostel to some of the top sights so you know what it actually is and you’ll be good to go.
Finally, the last common mistake I want to talk about is not reading reviews. And more importantly, not reading reviews with a skeptical eye when you do read reviews.
Reviews can be an absolute wealth of information about a hostel, and so you definitely want to read them before booking. But you also want to read them with a skeptical eye and beware of fake positive or negative reviews. The online review industry is one of the most rigged out there, so try to not take super positive or super negative reviews at their word.
And if a hostel claps back at a negative review with a bunch of excuses? Steer clear.
Alright, so that’s everything that you need to know about booking hostels as a solo female traveler! Be sure to head on over to Instagram to let me know which one of these tips was the most helpful to you and drop suggestions for future episodes. I can’t wait to hear from you!