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 a hostel, how to go about finding a good one and last but not least where to book your desired accommodation.
We have been working on this European Hostel Guide for a long time, and we will always keep it up to date if and when anything important changes. Do you have any questions, anything not clear, or maybe you have your own tips? Please drop us a comment, we would love to hear from you!
Good to know: This European Hostel Guide is aimed at every kind of traveler: newbie, experienced, professional! Each independent hostel is unique, even if the difference is just slight, and this guide will help you to get an idea of the full picture.
Traveling Europe in 2017? Then jump directly to the eBook 2017, your ultimate booking hack!
In this Guide to Hostels in Europe we will cover many different aspects of hostels. Here is an overview and table of contents.
Jump directly to the chapter of your choice.
Table of Contents
- Understanding Hostels
- Features and Facilities of a Hostel
- How do you find good Hostels in Europe?
- Comparing Prices – How to book the lowest price
- How to Book Hostels in Europe – Comparing hostel prices
- More Helpful Tips for Hostels
1. Understanding Hostels: The 101 Hostel Basics
Travelers around the world love to stay in Hostels. But why is that, and why did hostels become so popular? We collected some of the most common questions about hostels and have tried to give an extended answer as best we can.
1.1 For now and ever: What is a Hostel?
A hostel is a type of accommodation, popular for backpackers traveling on a budget, who are looking for a place to get in contact with other travelers. Hostels, often referred to as Youth Hostels, offer a cheap accommodation in the form of dorms where you can book a bed. This means you will share a room with other travelers as well as the facilities. Nowadays, almost every hostel offers the option of a private room and ensuite facilities.
Find all full definition of what is a Hostel! 12 definitions and 1 final answer.
What is a 5 Star Hostel? There is a definition as well.
A good night sleep at Ecomama in Amsterdam.
In Europe, hostels are a common way to stay overnight in almost every travel destination across the continent. Another important standard for a hostel is a common area which can be a living room or lounge for the travelers to get together. The social part of a hostel is very important, and many of them organize different events to strengthen this part of their accommodation.
Last but not least a hostel-type accommodation also has the facility of a guest kitchen. This, however, is not a requirement for a hostel.
1.2 Who is the traveler staying at a Hostel?
The people staying in Hostels are usually travelers on a budget, looking for a social spot to meet other like-minded people. Travelers choosing hostels over a different type of accommodation are usually between 18 and 30 years. This has changed over the time. This audience is still very common, and you will find most young travelers hanging out at the local Party Hostel.
Related Article: Sex in hostels – 4 tips and hilarious real-life stories
However, nowadays you will find a wide range of different travelers at hostels, for example, retired couples, families with children, solo travelers and the occasional group. The audience really depends today on the hostel’s theme. Read more details about the types of hostels in the next point.
We at Hostelgeeks love to collect travel stories from Hostels as well. Here you can find Short Hostel Stories, written by travelers and hostel workers. These stories can give you an insight view of the traveler staying at Hostels.
1.3 The 7 Types of Hostels
There are different types of hostels you should be aware of.
We created a specific article about the 7 Types of Hostels. It gives you a clearer idea of the options out there.
The range starts from the cheapest budget option, to design conscious hostels, party-orientated hostels for the party animal, activity and lifestyle hostels, and more. There are also accommodations that are a hybrid of the different types.
There are no fix standards or definitions for any listed type except the 5 Star Hostels.
Whenever you choose to stay at any type of accommodation, you have to be clear about your expectations. A hostel is a more social type of accommodation where the budget travelers meet and get together. The variety of hostels out there is big, and you have to be aware of what you can expect from each one.
The 5 Star Hostels by us at Hostelgeeks are the only type of hostels based on fix transparent criteria of sustainability, design, uniqueness, and social character. The social character is a result of the traveler and the staff.
Here are the 7 different types of hostels:
- Cheap Hostels
- Homely & Cosy Hostels
- Boutique Hostels – Design, Luxury, Upscale
- Party Hostels
- Traditional Youth Hostels
- Activity and Lifestyle Hostels
- 5 Star Hostels
You can find all 5 Star Hostels here.
1.4 Costs when staying at Hostels
As mentioned before a hostel is a great option for budget travelers. The cheapest option for staying at a hostel is the biggest dorm available, and most likely with shared facilities.
You see that we used the term “usually“.
Every hostel has different sizes of dorms with and without en suite facilities.
By shared facilities we mean a shared bathroom with more than one dorm and this is most likely the cheapest option. The same rule applies to private rooms. Below we created a small table for you to show the scale of pricing for simply staying at a hostel.
Additionally you can buy many more things directly at the hostel. There are accommodations with an in-house restaurant, bar and some even even have their own small travel-desk. In point 2 we have listed the items you need to keep an eye on.
In point 5.1 Comparing prices of the different hostels in one city we show you in detail how you can compare the prices properly to avoid any misunderstanding from the very beginning.
1.5 Are there Hostels all over Europe?
YES, in every large, well-known (and even the smaller) destinations all over Europe you will find hostels.
With the raise of boutique and design hostels, it is also likely that you will be choosing between budget and more upscaled options. Every big city in Europe has (usually) a huge hostel-scene, and you can easily spend hours choosing the right hostel to stay at.
Smaller, but still frequently visited destinations in Europe are also likely to have a hostel available. When it comes to smaller towns and villages, you need to have a closer look to see if there is any hostel around, and we would recommend checking this in advance. If there is a hostel around the area of your actual destination, you might want to change your travel plans.
Hostels are most likely located in spots where budget travelers stop by.
This means if there is a hostel in the city next to your actual travel destination, there might be a reason for that. Have a close look, and try to figure it out. Maybe there is something special to do or see in the area? The hostels website is a good point to start.
To cut a long story short: Yes, there are many fabulous and worldclass hostels all over Europe!
Here is a map of all 5 Star hostels of Europe:
1.6 History of Hostels
We understand this part might be boring for some of our readers, but we wanted to include it anyway, just to have a complete European Hostel Guide.
The very first hostel worldwide (as known so far) opened its doors back in 1914 at Altena Castle in the region of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. This Medieval hill castle was turned into an accommodation for travelers, sharing rooms, and common areas side by side. The original rooms used as dorms are nowadays part of a museum.
Fun Fact: This Medieval Hill Castle is still a hostel!
This photos shows the oldest 5 Star Hostel in the world: Hostel Ruthensteiner in Vienna, Austria. Back in the day, they helped intellectual refugees from the cold war to apply for visas all over the world.
1.7 Is there a membership fee for travelers?
There is no membership necessary anymore when you choose to stay at independent hostels. Only the Youth Hostel Association HI Hostel is a membership-based accommodation. Hosteling International is, however, the largest network of Hostels worldwide. Here you receive your own membership card, and you will get special discounts when you choose to stay with them.
Also, there are booking platforms and services where you can join up for a membership; these membership cards allow you discounts with a specific hostel network.
5 Star Hostels: There is no membership fee for staying at any 5 Star Hostel! Every 5 Star Hostel is an independent hostel.
Not a membership card, but a voucher. At Backstay Hostel in Ghent , the 5 Star Hostel in Ghent, you can get these vouchers as a present for your travel friends.
1.8 Hostels vs. Hotels – the difference
This is quite a common debate, so let us break it down to the most basic differences between Hostels and Hotels.
- Hostels are budget-orientated
- Hotels are usually more formal than Hostels
- Hostels are usually more informal than Hotels
- Hostels offer different common areas like living room and informal lounge, whilst Hotels offer usually a more formal lounge and a Bar.
- At Hotels, you usually find an in-house restaurant and bar, while Hostels usually offer a kitchen for self-catering.
- Most of all: It is the mindset of the traveler arriving at the accommodation!
Personal note by Hostelgeeks: Comparing these two types of accommodation does not make a lot of sense to us, as both are designed for different purposes. So in case you want to start a discussion about this topic, please save your energy for something more useful e.g. solving a maths problem, or cleaning the beach.
1.9 Are Hostels safe?
This question is a very common one.
We dedicated the full article “Are hostels safe?“ to this topic.
It includes 10 simple tips and 1st hand experiences of travelers and hostels alike.
2. Features and Facilities of a Hostel
Hostels offer many different facilities, amenities and services. In fact, we collected 46 details of what makes a hostel awesome! Here we would like to give you an overview.
2.1 The Sleeping facilities
There are 3 different options for sleeping arrangements in a hostel.
Here is a full guide to the different hostel room types.
Let’s have a look at them. You can sleep at this double room at Hektor Design Hostels in Tartu, Estonia.
Every hostel has a dorm option as a sleeping room, and this is one of the very basics of a hostel. The Dorm is a sleeping room where a traveler books a single bed, and shares the full room with other people. Booking a bed at a hostel is (most of the time) the cheapest option.
The size of a dorm varies, starting from
- 2-bed dorms (not very common!),
- to 4-bed dorms,
- up to x-bed dorms
the size of a dorm actually has no limit. The most popular room at a hostel is the 4-bed dorm.
How about an example? This is a cosy, spacious dorm at Lemon Rock, the 5 Star Hostel in Granada, Spain.
What about the facilities?
It depends on the hostel if there are shared facilities as well or ensuite facilities for the room. Some Hostels in Europe even offer several options. The cheapest option to stay at a Hostel is usually a bed in a big dorm with shared facilities.
This is how a typical dorm looks like. The photo shows With Inn Hostel in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, a small 5 Star Hostel with a big heart. Okay okay…not Europe, just want to give an idea!
There are as well female-only dorms. We wrote up a detailed article about 7 pros and 4 cons of female-only dorms.
Below a beautiful female-only dorm in Amsterdam’s Ecomama Hostel.
2.1.2 Private Room
At many hostels nowadays you can also book private rooms. The size of a private room depends on each hostel independently, and there is no general rule about that.
There can be a
- single room
- twin room
- double room
- up to family rooms with several different beds
Also, there can be private rooms with ensuite facilities, as well as shared facilities.
This photo is a double-double room at Rambutan Townsville.
It is also quite common that in a hostel the dorms and private rooms are separated from each other. It is possible that the private rooms are in a separate area of the building, away from the common areas and dorms where it is quieter. Some hostels see the private area as a ‚hotel‘ part inside a hostel.
The double room at Swanky Mint Hostel in Zagreb, Croatia.
Good to know:
Make sure you check which private room you book. A twin room means that there are two separated beds. A double room means you will have one bed with a big mattress for two people. To avoid disappointments, make sure you check this beforehand!
Last but not least:
If you are traveling in a group, you can contact the hostel directly to ask for a „private“ dorm for your group.
This is private room at Wallyard Concept Hostel in Berlin. This 5 Star Hostel in Berlin offers stylish private rooms with ensuite facilities.
Less-known and not very common indeed is the apartment option at hostels.
Some hostels offer apartments in-house or next to their main building.
This means you can get the full benefit of staying at an apartment with the added privacy, own kitchen and bathroom. Nevertheless you can still join in with the hostels events, and mingle with the other travelers in the common areas when you fancy.
The Mosaic House Prague, the 5 Star Hostel in Prague, offers Dorms, Private Rooms, and Apartments.
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! A Hostel usually offers a guest kitchen. This photos show the hostel kitchen at The Share Hotels in Kanazawa, the first 5 Star Hostel in Japan…yeah, okay, again…not Europe!
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.
2.4 Reception – 24-Hours, and additional Information
The reception is the first thing you will see when entering the hostel and it is here you at least check-in and check-out. If you need any information you can come here and ask one of the team.
Some hostels offer a 24-hour reception, whilst others don’t.
In case you have to check in very late, you should first make sure that this is possible at your desired hostel.
Important: There are some hostels charging extra for late check-ins – keep this in mind.
The Hostel Reception at Ani&Haakien Hostel, the 5 Star Hostel in Rotterdam.
2.5 Common Areas
The common areas at a Hostel are highly important, if not the most important area in the whole building. This is where travelers meet, get to know each other and the social part of a hostel comes alive. There are different kind of common areas at hostels, including:
2.5.1 Living Room/ Lounge
The living room and lounge is an area you will most likely come across at every single hostel. Here you will find sofas and spots to relax, get together and mingle with the other travelers.
Below the stylish lounge at Stay Hostel Rhodes.
2.5.2 Bar and/or Restaurant
An in-house bar and restaurant can be pure gold – if it is a good one! Same as the hostel itself, the bar and restaurant are usually also budget conscious. It can be an advantage of having a bar and restaurant inside a hostel as you can save some money, it can be very convenient, and for sure it will have something fun going on. Some travelers claim it to be a disadvantage as you will be spending more time inside the hostel instead of going out exploring the city – it really is person dependent.
Please note that an in-house bar does not instantly mean it is a party hostel.
2.5.3 Balcony/ Terrace
Especially in Southern Europe, a balcony or terrace can make the difference. Sitting on the terrace with a special view is always something you want to take with you. Our personal favorite is the rooftop terrace. Do we need to say anything more?
A lush garden adds a special homely flair to a hostel, doesn’t it? It is simply the green version of the previously mentioned balcony or terrace. It is mostly used for barbecues and as a perfect area to chill out. If a hostel has a pet, this is also the place for finding it.
2.6 Laundry/ Washing Machine
Especially when traveling long-term, you will need to do your laundry at some point. Most Hostels offer the service of laundry and a washing machine for an extra charge.
There are different ways a hostel handles this service. There is the option of an in-house washing machine you can use on your own, or, the hostel can arrange for an external laundry service with which they are connected to. We have also experienced a direct laundry service, whereby you just leave your laundry at the reception and you can pick them up later: clean, fresh and folded.
Hostels are famous for holding events. This is one of the reasons why hostels became a social spot. Specially organized events are a great way to get in contact with your fellow travelers. The list of potential events at a hostel is endless.
Here is a list of different hostel events you may experience when visiting a Hostel:
- Pub Crawls
- Dinner Nights
- Cooking Classes
- Game Nights
- Drinking Games
- Movie Nights
- Craft Markets
This photo shows a concert at the Superbude Hamburg.
2.8 Others (Travel Desk, Swimming Pool, Cinema, Game Room …)
By now you will have realized how unique every single hostel in the world can be. This does not stop when it comes to the facilities either. You can find travel desks to book tours, transport and more.
Also, there are several accommodations with an in-house swimming pool such as the Sunset Destination Hostel in Lisbon. Another cool facility we want to mention is a cinema.
3. How to find good Hostels in Europe
This is a super interesting question, and every Europe Traveler wants to know it. The most simple answer is checking Hostelgeeks.com to have a look at the one and only 5 Star Hostel in your chosen destination! Simple as that!
Here you can find all the best hostels in Europe, based on the 5 Star criteria.
We present you the hostel in detail, tell you why they are a rock star hostel and finally we lead you to their website. Here you can find the lowest price, book your room/bed and there; you are done finding good hostels in Europe.
But! There is also a more complex answer to this question. We will walk with you through the details on what is important, and how you can find a good Hostel in Europe.
Example? You get a 5% discount at Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof in Interlaken, Switzerland.
3.1 eBook 2017
Europe can be expensive, and hostel research is time-intense (and can be annoying)! When backpacking Europe, you want to invest your money in experience and cool stuff, right?!
Therefore, the new ebook 2017 is a must!
Hostelgeeks put together 127 AWESOME hostels and 10% discounts to all of them. You can save more than $340 in your hostels across Europe. We created this ebook for everyone traveling Europe in 2017 and staying in hostels.
It is your backpackers bible and your smart booking hack!
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Here is a preview of the included hostels. Castles, island-hostels, swimming pools, historical monuments, and more!
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3.2 What kind of hostel do you want?
Make sure you know what kind of hostel you are looking for.
There are 7 different types of Hostels as mentioned in the introduction.
Do you want to travel completely on a budget? Do you like to party, or do you fancy a more design-conscious hostel?
The reviews of Hostels are full of disappointed travelers simply because they chose a hostel that did not meet their expectations. This is not always the case, but often enough it is simply the poor research beforehand. Therefore, talk with your travel buddies and find out what it is that you want. But bear in mind it is not necessary to narrow it down to the last detail.
3.3 Comparing Facilities, Amenities, and Services
In point 2 of this European Hostel Guide, we already talked about the different facilities, amenities, and services at a Hostel. And this is now what you need to use when comparing different hostels in your upcoming destination.
3.4 The Pricing
We are talking about budget accommodation, right?! Therefore, your budget and pricing of the accommodation has to be taken into account. But being on a budget does not mean you have to miss any awesome accommodation.
In fact, especially now with the raise of boutique and 5 Star Hostels you can now get more for your money.
Comparing prices of Hostels may seem easy, but in fact, this topic is quite a complicated one. Why? Over time, different hostels have found ways to lower their price on the first glimpse. Simply comparing the final price on the booking page is not enough! On the second glimpse you realize all the excluded amenities. This could be the excluded but mandatory buying of bed linen, the charge for WiFi, or the breakfast.
At point 4 you will find „Comparing hostel prices properly and how to book“. Here we will jump into the details.
3.5 Using Reviews to get an idea
Reviews are a very powerful way to find great hostels. This is logic, isn’t it?! When you are looking for a hostel based on reviews, make sure you take into account the number of written reviews. You can sort the reviews by different parameters.
SMART TIP: Have a look at the extreme reviews, meaning the worst and the best ratings. What do they say? This helps you to get a feeling for the hostel. If there are lot of really bad reviews pointing out one specific disadvantage, then there might be something wrong here.
Where do you find these reviews? In the next point we will introduce you to the most important hostel websites you can – or even should – use to get the information you need!
3.6 The Hostel Location
Finding a good hostel is also about its location. But what is a good location? It certainly does not mean 20km far away from the city center, but you may do not want to stay in the very heart of the touristic center, do you? We will prepare a specialized article about this topic.
Here is a helpful video about Hostel location. Damon and Jo are two ex-hostel workers from the US. In this video they collected 10 great tips on “How to book a Hostel”.
They will walk you through the process of how to identify a good hostel location. Basically they recommended to search for the main attraction in your destination and put it on the map. This way you get an idea of the area you may want to stay close to.
3.7 Hostel Websites and Booking Platforms
There are many different booking platforms and websites out there specialized for hostels and are a great resource for finding the good ones in Europe. We show you the most important and relevant resources for hostel searches and bookings here.
Good to know:
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)
Hostelworld is the largest hostel booking platform. If you have been researching for a hostel in your lifetime, you will have come across Hostelworld for sure. It is also a main platform and is the owner of Hostels.com, Hostelbookers.com and other related platforms. You will notice that Hostelworld does not only list hostel-typed accommodation but also Hotels, Apartments, Guesthouses, B&Bs and more. Over the years they expanded their market, so have a look on this when you are specifically looking for a hostel. There is a filter you can use to only show Hostels.
When booking your accommodation with Hostelworld you will need to pay a deposit of minimum 12%. You can choose between a non-flexible booking or a standard flexible booking. With the non-flexible booking your deposit is non-refundable. The standard flexible booking costs an extra fee and your deposit is protected and in case of a cancellation you can use this deposit to make a different booking.
Good to know:
A disadvantage of Hostelworld is their information policy. When you are looking for specific dates the website only shows their own available hostels during that time. This makes sense in terms of a booking, but unfortunately not in terms of information. It means when a hostel is not available on Hostelworld for your chosen dates, you will not see this hostel at all – this is a real pity.
Why is that? Even Hostelworld does not have 100% of the availability of all hostels in the world. Every single hostel chooses how many beds and rooms they allocate to the different platforms.
Booking.com is the largest booking portal for accommodation on the internet.
BTW We got you a 15€ discount with Booking.com – use it, thank us later!
This gigantic web portal from Amsterdam offers almost every single accommodation on this planet. booking.com is an excellent resource when you want to get an overview of accommodations in a destination.
The information you can get from this website is really the best one we can recommend. The design is kept simpler, with the text at a minimum, focused on relevant information rather than marketing. When booking with Booking.com you may not even need to pay deposit. They also offer free cancellations on most of the rooms you can book with them. This can be quite useful for you as a spontaneous traveler as plans can change.
AirBnb is actually a social accommodation platform for private house holds renting out their spare room. Over time it has also become a booking platform for apartments, renting between two private parties.
The reason why we list AirBnb here is simple: Here you can also find some hostels, although it is still not very common for a hostel to be listed here. For using AirBnb you need to register. 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.
You can get a 35€ discount at AirBnb with us.
Let’s talk about the smaller hostel booking platforms. Hostelsclub.com 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%.
Gomio.com is a Spanish company listing the highest percentage of only hostel-style accommodation. This hostel booking platform has no booking fee and requires no membership fee. This booking portal 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. Find all the 5 Star Hostels here. We do the leg work for you and collect for you the most awesome Hostels in the world. This is what we do. Period.
We, Anna&Matt and our international media team show you the outstanding 5 Star Hostels based on transparent criteria, a unique concept by Hostelgeeks.
Hostelgeeks is NOT a booking platform, so unfortunately you cannot book with us at Hostelgeeks any of the 5 Star Hostels. For making a booking, we always recommend you choose the hostel‘s website.
Good to know: Whenever you drop us a message, we will reply to you in person!
Even better to know: We get plenty of awesome discounts for our Hostelgeeks Community. Just check out our shop or keep an eye on specific hostel articles. Be smart!
HostelPass is another star on the horizon of hostel booking platform. The young american start-up aims to be your all-included-hostel ticket to hostels in Europe. We personally helped them to pick hundreds of hostels over the old continent, and they included as well some of the 5 Star Hostels. Pick the numbers of nights you are planning to stay at hostels, get the ticket, and go. You can choose and change your bookings via the HostelPass app.
4. Comparing Prices (Websites & Special Offers)
This is a very juicy topic. There are two parts of “comparing prices for hostels”. The first part of comparing prices is finding the lowest price for your desired hostel which we cover in this part #4. The second one is comparing prices for different hostels in one destination which we explain in detail in #5 (Hostel A vs Hostel B).
After finding a really great hostel you would love to stay at, this is the part where it gets even more time-consuming. But is it worth it to compare prices? Is there any difference, and why should you care in the end? We had a close look at this topic at well. At this point #4 we focus on websites comparing prices and websites offering a hostel booking service.
We also created a specialized article about 11 Hacks and Tips for Booking Hostels like a Pro.
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, Priceline, Gomio, 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. This 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.
5. How to Book Hostels in Europe (and comparing prices)
Here is a detailed instruction on how to book 5 Star Hostels the smart way.
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. Why? 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.
Included: 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?
Excluded/ Extra: 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?
Not Available: 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
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.
5.4 Oldschool: Call!
Let’s go old school! There is still the opportunity to call up a hostel, and make the booking via a phone. The advantage here is of course talking directly to a person plus it is obviously faster than an email. This can be especially helpful in case you have a few more specific questions. (e.g. when does the first ferry leave to the other island, until what time can I do the Check-in etc).
The reception desk at Seagulls Garret Hostel, the 5 Star Hostel in Riga, Latvia.
Good to know:
Many Hostels provide a telephone number on their website and due to European law, the hostels have to have an official telephone number. This being said, there are hostels refusing bookings via phone. In this case they will ask you to do the booking on their website instead.
The new equivalent to calling a hostel today is email and facebook. If there is one social network to contact all hostels in the world, it is the big blue one with the white F. Here you will get a reply quite fast, and sometimes they even have a special discount or promotion going on on their Facebook page. So, it is worth checking out!
On the hostel‘s website it is also common to find a direct email address for further information or direct bookings. Through this email you can easily reach the reception of the hostel, and if it is a professional hostel, you should receive a fast reply.
Good to know: There are hostels who do not take any bookings via email or phone.
Hostel Booking on Facebook? Backstay Hostel Ghent offers this option!
6. More Helpful Tips for Hostels
As always, we will keep this post updated. We will keep adding more useful information for hostels. Here are more helpful tips for hostels.
6.1 Ultimate Hostel Packing List
Before hitting the road, make sure you download our free hostel packing list. It highlights 23 things you need to pack.
Also, our friends at Wanderlust Storytellers created a printable travel checklist. It comes in super handy to avoid forgetting some important things like vaccinations or photo id’s for visa requests.
6.2 The term „hostel“ in the name?
You may notice some Hostels not using the word „hostel“ in their actual name. When looking for a hostel, take this into account. Many booking portals offer the search option to filter by property-type.
Remember: A hostel offers minimum one dorm, a common area, and a guest kitchen.
This is very basic definition of what a hostel actually stands for.
6.3 Hostels on Social Media
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…You can find the budget-accommodations all over the web. It can be useful to follow the hostels on your preferred channel. Why? They post information about their city, special events, fun facts, and sometimes even discounts!
We created a special post about +23 awesome Hostels on Instagram.
Also, watch out for „social signals“ throughout the hostel. Is there a hashtag being promoted? When you take a photo of the common area, the party, or whatever you fancy inside the hostel, make sure you tag the hostel properly. Drop them a message, and let them know you are there. They will appreciate it, and most likely share your posts on their social networks as well!
What’s next? More powerful info:
- Find +105 Design Hostels to fall in love with
- Understand what is a 5 Star Hostel
- +11 smart and easy booking hacks for hostels
Any questions? We are here for you, simply drop us a line!
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