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Things you should know before staying in a hostel

I've already been on lots of trips around Europe and I've almost always stayed in hostels. I always booked them on booking.com and any problems I had, they always resolved them for me.

Obviously not all hostels are the same, nor the people you find in them. That's why I wrote this text in case you're thinking of travelling and staying in hostels, you can be more prepared.

In most hostels, the bathrooms are outside of the bedrooms and you have to share them with the other guests at the hostel, meaning men and women (as most bathrooms are unisex). However, I got to go to a hostel where there were only 4 people in each room and the only bathroom we had was the one in the room. That was in Paris. And another hostel in Malaga where we had an 8-dorm room which came with a bathroom inside the room. The other bathroom had to be shared by many rooms. I only realised how many bathrooms there were and where they were once I got to the hostel, because on booking.com there's not much information about this. However, if you want to know, you can contact the hostel and ask.

Also, there are big bathrooms as well as small bathrooms. I went to a hostel in Sintra where if I sat on the toilet, my knees touched the door. It was a really uncomfortable bathroom, but very clean, not like others which are always dirty like the ones I used in Lisbon. But all hostels provide you with toilet paper, but that's something they should provide you with anyway.

Every hostel has its good things and bad things. Some depend on the people, and some on the hostel itself. There are hostels with swimming pools like in Ibiza and San Antonio, but most of them don't have them.

I have always looked for the cheapest hostel to stay in, but ones which are in the historic centre. Since I've already experienced staying in a hostel far from the centre and had to get around and walk a lot to get to the centre, or use public transport. All this adds up, and it's money I could have spent on a better room in another hostel closer to the centre. And as people learn by making mistakes, here you can read my experience so you can take precautions.

Another important thing to know before renting a hostel is knowing how to get there from where your transport left you (whether that's the train, bus, boat or plane). And if you have to use some form of transport to get there, to know how much it costs. Since sometimes it's better to book a hostel near the train station if you're going to be there for a few days so you don't have to spend too much money on transport. That's what I did in Sintra and I recommend doing it if you're only staying for one night. As you can walk around the centre in Sintra in just a few hours and to be honest, it's not worth paying for another form of transport to get to the centre and stay there.

Another important thing is to never trust leaving your belongings in the room if there's no security. As I spoke about this in one of my experiences, people can seem nice and sociable, and in the end they steal from their roommates. In my case, I didn't even leave my phone in the room to charge if I went for a shower and I wasn't going to be in the room. It's also good to know that lots of hostels give you a locker without a lock, and there are some places which give you a lock, and others where you have to pay for it. That's why it's better to take your own lock, a small one so that it fits in the majority of lockers. Once, when I went to Florence in Italy, I had my own lock, but it didn't fit in the locker. And that wasn't because it was too big or too small, but because it had to be the perfect size for that particular locker. Of course, they made it like that so people would pay to borrow one of their locks. But that only happens in a few hostels, in fact I only had that problem in that one.

Hostels normally do check-in after 2 in the afternoon and check-out before 11a. m. But it's good to know that if you're leaving one day and you were thinking of making the most of seeing the city before you go, you can leave your belongings in the hostel, but not in the locker in your room. Most hostels have a specific place where you can leave your things if you've already checked out. Most of these places have free shelves to put your things there and they're not locked. So, there's a small chance that someone could steal from you, although this has never happened to me. Other hostels have safe lockers outside the rooms to put your belongings, like the one I went to in Sintra. In the ones I've spoken about so far, none of them charge you extra to leave your things after checking out, and this is the case for most hostels, although not all. I went to a hostel in San Antonio in Ibiza where they charged me by the hour to put my things in a locker, when I was going to be out. There were big lockers and small lockers at different prices.

Something which really varies depending on which hostel you stay in is the access to towels for showering. Some say that they're included and when you get to the hostel, you realise you have to pay extra for them, something which didn't appear in the description. That's why I soon learnt to ask each hostel if towels are included in the price which shows up on the page. If it isn't the case, if I can fit a towel into my suitcase, I take my own. And if not, I find another hostel which includes towels and then decide whether it's better to go to that one or to pay extra for a towel in the other hostel.

A little while ago, I went somewhere and saw that they charged more for towels and BED SHEETS. That had never happened to me before, I'd never been charged for bed sheets. Obviously, I'm not going to take my own bed sheets from home, so they ought to include it in the price as I really doubt anyone would do that. They should provide you with bed sheets in all hostels for that matter.

That's why you should read everything carefully and ask someone if you have a doubt, so you're not surprised when you get there. They don't normally tell you about the cost of all the extras which aren't included in the total price.

All hostels have kitchens, so that people can make whatever they like. There are also communal fridges, but you must write your name on food, so it doesn't just "disappear".

Another thing which really depends on the hostel is whether or not breakfast is included. And in the case that it's not, most hostels give you the option to pay extra for breakfast. However, for me, the extra money to have breakfast in a hostel isn't worth it. Most breakfasts consist of jam and toast with tea or coffee. Most of the time, I think it's cheaper to buy a croissant for breakfast from outside.

It's very important to always read reviews. I prioritise reviews which talk about the bathrooms and cleanliness. Although most of them aren't great, it's good to know what problems people found and whether it would annoy you or not. Because if they speak about things which would annoy me too, I would really think about whether or not to go to that hostel. And I know how important it is to read hostel reviews because most people depend on them to make a decision, without having any unwanted surprises when you get there. I also write reviews of hostels I've been to. For example, it was really annoying not to have read a comment about a hostel not having hot water for showers. And even being in the hostel we asked why, since it shouldn't really be allowed for a hostel not to provide you with hot water, and they told us it was because there wasn't enough hot water for everyone, and the solution was to try to have a shower as soon as possible to use the hot water. But in such big hostels there are always going to be people showering before you. Also, all hostels should be willing to satisfy the needs of all customers staying there. So, that really annoyed me, and I obviously left a comment so that others could decide whether or not to pay to go to that hostel, or not knowing that they didn't have a basic need which you shouldn't even have to consider and wonder if they have it or not, as is hot water to shower with.


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