Hostels: Love-Hate Relationship?

Whenever I make the decision to take a trip, I get a lot of joy out of researching. Exhausting all the resources to see if I can catch some tips to get the most of my destination.

One very important part of planning is the hostel search. I love hostels and I’m always searching for one that can add to my already exciting experience. There are a few very important factors to consider when searching for the perfect hostel.

Location is a huge factor for many people, especially in a big city. You either want to be able to easily access the most important site, and some top bars and restaurants or you want to be located in some cool neighborhood of the city that you want to get to know better.

Our big yet cozy hostel in Porto

Atmosphere this is the most important factor for me when choosing a hostel. It’s a mixture of the amenities, the ‘fun’ rating and the staff rating. It takes a lot to deter me from a place, but a good overall rating is the first step to getting me to take a closer look. Helpful and friendly staff is always a bonus, although not an essential, as it’s easy to ignore them in most cases. Depending on the vibe I’m looking for, I’m usually pretty intrigued by a hostel that has a bar or even a great common room. The most important part of this jumble of ratings is the accessibility of other travelers. I would always prefer a hostel that is rating highly on fun, because chances are that means you will meet some fun people along the way. The more open and welcoming the common areas are, the merrier the party becomes.

My recent very short stay in London and the last minute decision to do so led me to question the accountability of ‘reviews’ on some hostel booking websites. My booking was so last minute that I picked a place solely on location and a reasonable deal without even checking the other factors. As we got ready for our trip I looked the hostel up again for directions. That was when the fairly low rating made it’s blatant appearance. A little apprehensive, I started sifting through the reviews. The most common complaints included cold showers, dirty toilets and rude staff. The first two of which had potential of being a serious issue. Then the reviews went on to list every tiny detail, down the the ‘depressing decor’ and the tiny elevator. I got to the point where, as I was reading through the reviews, I started to even question who these people were. Seven out of ten of the reviews I read seemed voiced by people who would be much better off in a four-star hotel.

the outside patio of our Alicante hostel

Arriving to the hostel, I was not ecstatic with the set up. Reminiscent of a concrete and eery version of my freshman dorms it wasn’t the most welcoming atmosphere I had ever encountered. The three staff members I met on the way to my room were just as pleasant as anyone and the private room we had rented was bigger in size than any hostel room I’ve had in the past, simple as it was. With all of that extra space it wouldn’t have hurt to put at least some kind of table or dresser inside, but then again, hostels are really meant for the bare essentials.

I’m happy to report that my 9am shower was pleasantly warm and other than a funky smell coming from the window ventilator, the toilets were clean. The hostel has a large common room with a foosball table, large sectional couch and a projected screen for TV. The internet was set up through Global Gossip, which was the first time since Australia I have seen that, I was less than impressed with the idea of having to pay for internet.

No this was not the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in by any means, but I saw no reason that I would give it a horrible review. It is located smack in the center of Picadilly Circus a very well-known pub neighborhood of London.

The experience raised the question in my mind, what does it take for you to complain about a hostel? What is ‘good-enough’ and when are you left wanting more?