Sometimes, it’s the little things in life that take an experience from fairly good to fantastically great. And that’s no different when it comes to hostels. These small things can make a world of difference, and leave you saying when you leave “I wish I could’ve stayed longer!”
That is why we collected some little touches that make a Hostel go from Good to Great.
We are Hostelgeeks, your independent shortcut to the most unique hostels in the world, the 5 Star Hostels.
Size concerns are one thing, but having somewhere safe to put your stuff is much more important.
Almost everyone travels with something valuable (your passport, maybe?), and you’ll want somewhere secure to keep it.
And while hostels are generally really safe, it’s simply not a smart idea to leave your valuables lying around – no matter where you are.
Concerned about if the hostels are safe? We elaborated a full article about safety at hostels.
7. Maps of the city on hand (+recycle)
Finding your way around a new city is much easier when you have a map on hand.
We like when hostels have free maps available, and that “like” turns into “love” if the staff help you out by circling their favorite local spots.
And as we’re all about sustainable travel, why not pass your map on to the next traveler when you leave the hostel?
At Yim Huai Khwang, formerly one of the best hostels in Bangkok, you can leave the maps you are not going to use anymore so other travelers can use them.
It’s a sweet way to show people all the amazing spots you discovered during your stay.
And if you are not into physical maps, there are also some apps which can help you to move easier in a city, have you ever tried any of them?
We would love to hear your experience!
8. Friendly staff (that understand the needs of travelers)
Staff are one of the biggest factors that can make your hostel stay great.
When the guy or girl at reception not only helps you check in but also makes an effort to get to know you, it immediately sets the tone for an above-average experience.
Friendly staff who really love the city their hostel’s in can help you find the insider hotspots, give you helpful information about how to get around, and even take you out for some of the best nights of your life.
They can be a fantastic resource.
The owners of Puli Center Center, in Puli Taiwan, Ming and Ting even live at the hostel, so they always try to involve you in the culture and their passions. They do have some friends who love to show the Taiwanese culture and may take you to have a real Taiwanese food experience.
Even in the world’s cheapest, most basic hostels, if the staff are excited about doing their jobs, you’ll almost always have a fun time.
Bonus points if the owners are involved, too!
9. Clear information about activities in the hostel (and the city!)
Hostels almost always have something going on.
When staff post signs around the place with information about what’s happening that week, it makes it easier for guests to be aware of the events –
which makes them more likely to show up!
It can be something as simple as a blackboard.
Check out this amazing and easy board made with corks.
Easy to maintain and add all the information travelers need!
10. Signs posted with important information
When you’re traveling, there are so many exciting things to see and do… so boring practical information can easily slip your mind.
That’s why it’s a sensible idea for hostels to put up signs that have that boring but important stuff (like check out time, when and where breakfast is, etc.).
11. Quirky details that give you a unique sense of place
It’s awesome when hostels incorporate something that’s a nod to the local culture.
Some ideas of ways to do this from our Five Star Hostels include getting local artists to do paintings for the walls, or serving local food products at the breakfast bar.
It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, but something small that’s definitely local will make you get into the travel spirit even more.
Have a look, it can also give you some inspiration to cook.
16. Free coffee or tea all day long
Everyone likes a little pick-me-up!
There are usually tea bags and instant coffee available at breakfast, and it’s simple enough to keep them out all day for guests to enjoy.
After all, they won’t go bad by being left out.
inBox Capsule Hotel in St Petersburg offers tea and Coffee all day long at their common kitchen.
Perfect place to meet other fellow-travelers, so just get there, grab a cup, and enjoy.
17. A small selection of communal kitchen basics
This can be as simple as salt, pepper, and some sort of cooking oil.
Just those three things make hostel cooking a lot easier. They’re also easy to share. It’s a bit silly if everyone buys their own because it’s pretty tough to use an entire package of salt on a weekend trip.
At the modern Hobu Hostel in Bogotà, Colombia, has a simple but well-stocked kitchen.
18. An awesome breakfast is always (always) appreciated!
It is nice to have some toast and coffee in the mornings at the very least.
It gives extra points if the breakfast doesn’t end at a crazy-early hour!
Sure, an included breakfast sounds tempting and it can be good as well. But some hostels offer an extraordinary breakfast.
19. Free WiFi (and fast, please!!!)
Whether or not there should be WiFi in the entire hostel is a hot debate in the flashpacker community.
But having free internet access for guests at least somewhere is a good thing.
When you’re traveling, you might need to look up important information (like what time your flight is again tomorrow!), get in touch with friends and family, or just want to research stuff about the city you’re visiting.
If the WiFi can be enjoyed in a nice area, like at Maverick City Lodge in Budapest, then it is a perfect combination.
Does anybody want to try how is it to sleep in a prison?
22. A sink outside the bathroom
Having at least a couple sinks that are separate from toilet and shower stalls can make the shared bathrooms way more functional.
More people can get ready in the morning at the same time, and there’s less scrambling to find a free sink.
23. Decent showers
Most hostels aren’t the height of luxury, so we’re not talking about showers with tons of fancy jets and buttons to press.
But a piping hot shower at the end of a day of traveling – that’s not too much to ask, is it?
We love it even more when signs include humor, like at CoDE Pod Hostels – THE LoFT in Edinburgh, where you have showers and toilets for men, women, and Scottish. Obviously, when staying in hostels and backpacking in the world, a good sense of humor goes a long way. It can help a lot to break the ice and connect.
Often times, you can find space on the bunk beds to hang up wet towels or clothes. But in some hostels, there’s not much extra room.
Getting a wet towel to dry can be a real challenge if there’s not much space – and nobody wants to travel with a suitcase half-full of still soggy belongings.
Stay Hostel Rhodes in Rhodes, Greece, has these original hangers made with old hangers in their rooms, we simply love them!
25. Night-watch (No, not John Snow, unfortunately!)
Sometimes you can’t help getting in on a late flight, or maybe your bus ended up being hugely delayed.
Even if hostels don’t have round-the-clock staff at the front desk, they should at least be able to have somebody you can call to let you in.
Night staff can also be helpful in case of late-night issues.
We heard so many stories about keys gone missing during the nightly bar crawl.
26. Somewhere to put your clothes while you shower
A small shelf or bench by the shower is great.
It can be a little awkward if there’s nowhere to hang your clothes, leaving you with two options: either putting on damp clothes after your shower, or parading around the hostel in your towel (although hey, some people are into that sort of stuff).
27. Hand soap and towels in bathrooms
A tiny touch that goes a loooooong way!
Even better, also soap in showers!
Top-notch if that soap remembers you to stop the water while using it, as our friends from Ecomama in Amsterdam.
The ensuite bathrooms at Ecomama are stocked with body lotion, hand soap, shampoo and body wash by “Stop the water while using me“.
This soap brand only uses ingredients from certified organic agriculture.
28. No super early check out times
Any check out time past 11 a.m. is excellent news! Hostel check out times are all too often very early.
While we understand it’s good to get everyone out early so the staff can get things ready for the next guests coming, a few extra hours of sleep are always a nice bonus for visitors.
29. Letting guests stock their luggage at the hostel after check-out
Speaking of check out times, you almost always have to check out of a hostel in the morning hours before you have to leave to catch your bus, train, or plane.
It’s a perk when the hostel has a place you can safely leave your stuff during the day free of charge.
FREE OF CHARGE, please!
In Ximen Wow Hostel in Taipei, they have space enough to store your luggage in case you need it, and even some comfortable space to sort things in case you might need it.
OK, this one is a little hard to change about a hostel once it’s already up and running!
But a great location is really important when you’re choosing a hostel.
Luckily, what makes a location great depends a lot on the individual traveler.
Maybe the hostel is right in the heart of the city; maybe it’s further out but in a fascinating neighborhood or next to a stunning park. Or it might be that it’s next to lots of public transportation, making it easy to get around.
Whatever it is that makes the hostel’s location special, we want to hear about it!
You know what is a REALLY amazing location?
When you can only reach by water taxi for instance.
Here is a video of a super cool hostel in New Zealand.
31. Organized social activities (inside and outside the hostel)
One reason lots of travelers love staying in hostels is they hostels can be incredibly social places in a way that hotels or rented apartments typically aren’t.
When the hostel organizes some sort of social activity – whether it’s a communal dinner or a bar crawl – it’s a great way to help guests to interact, especially people who might be shy or are traveling on their own.
At Combo Hostel in Bologna, Italy, you can find great walking tours which you can join, just ask at the reception desk about them!
This doesn’t have to be a hugely time-consuming event to organize.
It can be as simple as one of the staff letting guests know they’ll be meeting at so-and-so time to go check out the sights, restaurants, or bars.
That’s a service which is not always needed, but for long term travelers, or light travelers, it is almost essential.
Because, at some point, you need fresh and clean clothes.
What is more comfortable than being able to do the laundry while staying at your hostel?
It sounds even better if there is also the possibility that the staff takes care of doing your laundry.
That way you can invest that time sightseeing, socializing or simply sleeping.
33. “The best hostel I ever stayed at…” – The Soul
There is a reason why so many hostels in the world have reviews starting with “The best hostel I ever stayed at…” and those reviews usually describe the social atmosphere the people working at the hostel and/ or the people they met.
The soul of a hostel is nothing that a hostel can buy, it something that happens in the process of creating a home for friends.
All the 5 Star Hostels come with a certain Soul and character which we try to capture in our hostel articles and reviews.
34. Luxury Facilities
That is a bonus which is not as expensive as it sounds.
At hostels, having a swimming pool, stunning views…can be just 1-2 additional euros. So next time you book a hostel, consider having a look!
How about a few examples? No problemo!
Sunset Destination Hostel in Lisbon offers a swimming pool and an awesome Zebra Bar on the rooftop terrace.
A Hostel really should take advantage of modern technology. This also includes their availability.
Dear Hostel owner,
if you read this, please make sure you make it easy for us travelers to book your accommodation. We recommend using a hostel management software, for instance Cloudbeds. We wrote you here a complete review of Cloudbeds.
Sincerely yours, The Hostelgeeks
They do also have the possibility to check-in in person just in case you do not like technology, but times are changing and so are hostels.
BTW even Joop, the hostel cat at Cocomama Amsterdam has an own application. Find out more about hostel pets here.
38. A useful website with cool information
When the hostel website comes with cool information, research about what to do during your trip turns to be easier.
Hualien WOW in Hualien, Taiwan, has a nice hostel website with cool information about the city and all the activities you can do, even organized by season!
Make sure you have a look when you are around, it is an amazing idea!
42. aaaand Action: Cinema
And if the cinema comes to you while you are in a hostel… heaven exists!
A cinema is a good way to relax and lay around during the days you just want to do nothing, or after a very intensive day.
Some years ago, hostels were full with computers and people were struggling to get them some minutes to communicate with their friends and family.
Nowadays, most people are traveling with a cell phone and they just need WiFi, but there are still some travelers which do not travel with their cell phone, so having 1-2 computers around is very handy.
44. Print Service
A great hostel has an opportunity to print tickets for you for instance.
That can be your fly tickets, any entrance…you name it!
However, this service usually is not free and costs a small symbolic fee.
We think that is absolutely fair.
However, a great hostel has the option to print out tickets for their guests, no questions asked!
45. Good Staff (seriously!!!)
We know we mentioned the important of good hostel staff already.
And yet, we’ve seen so many gorgeous accommodations burned by their unfriendly team.
A good team (friendly, reliable, social, knowledgeable, …) is the base of every awesome hostel.