Welcome to the extended Guide To Hostels in Europe, covering all of the essential tips and tricks you need to know.
There are many myths and open questions for first-time travelers, as well as for the experienced, when staying in hostels.
This Guide to Hostels in Europe will help you to find out about
the basics of staying at a hostel
how to go about finding a good one
how to stay safe
where to book smart
how to get discounts
This article is part of the guide to hostels, and was last updated December, 2022. Here we cover many different topics around the topic of hostel-typed accommodation. We also wrote up a big detailed guide of the absolute best hostels in Europe with map.
It includes 13 simple tips and 1st hand experiences of travelers and hostels alike.
The simple answer is: YES, but as always you should pay attention to your things. When there is people, there is always the chance people do stupid things. Always use your locker and your hostel stay will be very safe. We never got anything stolen in any hostel in the world!
Another very basic and popular feature is the guest kitchen at a hostel.
Many budget travelers choose a hostel over a guesthouse for the ability to cook.
The benefit of a hostel kitchen is quite obvious: you can cook your own meals in a fully equipped kitchen and save some coins on food.
It is common for hostels to organize different events around the kitchen, such as cooking classes and dinner nights.
However, keep in mind that nowadays many new hostels in Europe do not offer any hostel kitchen.
Therefore, before booking the accommodation, check if a kitchen is available.
Full Equipped Kitchen!
2.3 WiFi and Computers
Nowadays almost every single hostel has WiFi, and most of the time the WiFi is for free.
However, be aware that there are still hostels out there that charge you extra for the privilege.
Before smartphones and tablets sneaked into our daily life, it was important to check if a hostel offered any free computers to use.
Lollis Homestay in Dresden offers as well free laptop rentals. You just need to ask at the reception, leave a deposit and here you go. Simple!
There are still hostels that offer computers for guests, so in case you need one while traveling, keep an eye on that during your research.
5 Star Hostels: A requirement for a 5 Star Hostel is free WiFi.
Good to know: Some hostels try to keep the common areas as a social spot.
Therefore, the WiFi does not work in the common area. This means you could only use the internet in your sleeping area, or any other specific area. On the other hand, there are also hostels without the internet in the sleeping areas.
Their goal is to keep the rooms for sleeping only, and they want the travelers to join the common areas instead.
BTW: You should also considering getting a pocket WiFi in Europe.
If you want to keep it simple and non time-consuming, you can just drop us a message on facebook, instagram or via email. We will be happy to recommend you great hostels in any destinations around the world.
You will NOT find all hostels in the world on one booking platform!
Why is that?
Hostels have to choose to work with a certain website.
There are hostels preferring one platform over the other and therefore (perhaps for more complex reasons!) they choose not to work with some websites.
Keep this in mind when checking out the different pages.
Some of the 5 Star Hostels are not available on certain booking engine.
They do not agree with the way these platforms work, so they decline working with them.
3.7.1 Hostelling International
Hostelling International is the worlds largest hostel network.
HI (Short for “Hostelling International”) is a non-profit organization, and you can stay in more than 4000 affiliated hostels worldwide. This makes it very likely you will see them on your travels around the world.
You can find all (and only) HI Hostels on their website HIhostels.com.
3.7.2 Hostelworld (Hostels.com and Hostelbookers.com)
In case you want to book a hostel, or any other accommodation with AirBnb you need to get verified and confirm your identity. This involves scanning your passport and sending it to the Airbnb team to help ensure a safe and secure platform.
Let’s talk about the smaller hostel booking platforms.
Hostelsclub is an Italian booking platform where you can also find hostels and budget accommodations from all over the world.
This website can be a good resource when traveling through Southern Europe.
There is service charge for bookings with Hostelsclub and they also offer a Membership Card – this can be a good choice if you’re looking to get some extra discount.
When booking with Hostelsclub.com, you need to pay a non-refundable deposit of 10%.
Update: Gomio no longer exists and the website is offline
Gomio.com is a Spanish company listing the highest percentage of only hostel-style accommodation.
This booking platform has no booking fee and requires no membership fee.
It had its focus on the social part of travel, offering a free application to connect to your future traveler buddies in the hostel. However, currently this application is offline.
When booking with Gomio.com, you need to pay a non-refundable deposit of 10%.
Let’s talk about us.
Hostelgeeks.com is an independent publishing & branding website reviewing and presenting you with 5 Star Hostels.
Instantly check all of the booking websites at once!
Hostelz is an independent website comparing hostel prices taken from different platforms.
Hostelz compares prices taken from the previous mentioned booking platforms Hostelworld, Booking.com and Hostelsclub.
Whenever you have found your desired hostel, they will let you automatically book the cheapest price available.
This is indeed a very powerful way to book and is useful for travelers. On Hostelz.com you will also find more reviews, photos and the hostels website as well.
However, Hostelz earns its money through an affiliation system with the named booking portals. Therefore, they want their users to book with them rather than using any other service.
Fair enough as they offer a great and useful service!
Last but not least they claim to offer the biggest hostel database with more than 45.000 listings in more than 7.000 cities. Not bad, right?!
4.2 Platform A vs. Platform B vs. Hostel
Above we listed the common and most important booking platforms for hostels.
Here you can type in your dates, choose your room/dorm, and hit the „book button“.
On the actual booking summary page (you know, the page where you need to take out your Credit Card), you will see the final price.
Some websites do have a hidden service fee that they sneakily only show at this point.
his makes comparing the prices even more time-consuming, and really tiring. We already mentioned this in detail above.
Hostel booking websites charge commissions to the hostels.
This commissions varies, starting from 10%.
Many hostels now offer the lowest price on their very own website.
The commission paid on booking platform is usually the extra you have to pay for the service provided by the booking platform.
Good to know: We at Hostelgeeks have been working with in tourism since 2009, and closely with hostels since 2010.
Usually hostels offer their lowest price on their very own website.
Why is that?
A hostel has to pay a certain commission percentage to use the booking platform and the establishment would rather save this where possible.
This is why some hostels lower their prices on their website and/or offer a special discount when booking directly through them.
Also, we have seen cases where they offer you something extra e.g. a free drink at the bar!
4.3 Special Offers?
In the internet there is always the chance to find great offers – no doubt! Some booking websites, as well as travel agencies, offer special discounts or packages when booking.
Tripadvisor is a popular website to compare prices. It will do all the work for you and compare actual booking websites.
You’ll see all prices at a glance. Incredible handy. Yet, for the actual booking, we recommend using the booking platforms.
While Tripadvisor is a good tool to use, Hostelz.com is still the much better hostel booking site. Why? Well, simply because it is specialized in hostels, and not other accommodation types. Tripadvisor is more for hotels and upscale accommodation.
5. How to Book Hostels in Europe (and comparing prices)
5.1 Comparing prices of different hostels in the city
Comparing prices for the different hostels in one city may seem easy. In fact, this is very complicated and here you can spend a lot of valuable time.
As said before, not every hostel has the same standard and hostels offer different services.
There are basically three options for the services.
The ones included, the extra services, and last but not least the service which is not yet available.
We had a close look and we will show you what you need to keep an eye on when comparing different hostels in one city.
This is the basic stuff you want to have!
It is the freebies you want to enjoy, included in the price already.
It can be free WiFi, free luggage storage and so on. Many hostels offer a free dinner night as well – more money saved that can go towards sightseeing.
Perhaps there is a free tour, or linen included?
There are two sides of this: the things you expect to be included, and the ones you expect to be excluded. Let us explain that.
At a hostel you should (yes, you really can) expect to have free WiFi.
An extra service such as a tour which you can book with the hostel, would be something you can expect to be extra, but not something that’s included in the price.
Have a look on the towels, linen, luggage storage, and breakfast. Are those included or extra?
These are the facilities and services you will not find at all throughout the whole hostel building. This part is often not shown when you are searching for your hostel. Therefore, you have to have your expected basics you want to have made very clear.
Let’s say you need to have WiFi for whatever reason, then keep an eye on it.
If the hostel description does not state anything about WiFi or Internet, then it may not be available at all.
Having that said, watch out for all 3 different types of facilities and services. Many booking platforms try to list all the required facilities and services.
However, it is also common to not show non-available items at all.
Meaning, when there is no guest kitchen available, you won’t find any hint, it will simply not be mentioned on the website.
Therefore, this can make it even harder to find all facilities and services you would like available at the hostel.
5.2 The Website of the Hostel
The time has (almost) come to an end when hostels had terrible websites, where it was easier to understand the theory of relativity by Albert Einstein than making a booking on a hostel‘s website.
Many Hostels in Europe understand now the importance of an optimized website.
“The time has come to an end where it was easier to understand the theory of relativity by Albert Einstein than making a booking on a hostel‘s website.”
– Matt, the guy behind Hostelgeeks
For the hostel owner:
Make sure you run a smooth website which loads quickly and is easy to navigate. We may not neccessairly need to see your puppies and read 4 pages of your story. But what we need is to see your hostel photos from common ares to sleeping areas, a location description and how to get there, and finally, prices.
Make it easy for us to check prices and rooms as well. We recommend using a software like Cloudbeds for this. Here is our Cloudbeds review and an insight review of Cloudbeds PMS.
5.3 Booking Platforms
As mentioned above, Booking Platforms are a great resource for finding hostels.
Every booking platform has its own advantage for using.
However, we at Hostelgeeks do not use them as we choose to stay in contact with the hostel or accommodation directly.
Good to know: Booking platforms are resellers.
They sell the rooms and beds of their hostel partners. Here the hostel pays a certain percentage to the booking platform for every booking they receive.
Many hostels now offer the lowest price on their very own website. As they do not have to pay any commissions here, it is the cheapest way for them to offer you a great deal.