Choosing Hostels When You’re Traveling Alone

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Out and about in Barcelona with Hostel One Paralelo

When I travel alone I often stay in hostels for 2 reasons:

  1. It’s cheaper
  2. I meet people

Basically, if I don’t know anyone where I’m going, I’ll stay in a hostel. The more I travel, the better I get at choosing hostels, and I had such incredible hostel experiences on my most recent 4-month solo adventure around Europe that I wanted to share my latest “formula” for choosing hostels.

1. The hostel is well-rated

To narrow down your initial search, look at a few hostels that are cheap AND highly rated on both Tripadvisor and Hostelworld (a score of at least 8.0 on Hostelworld, and a combination of low price and high rank on Tripadvisor in “speciality lodging”; if it has a certificate of excellence, even better). A hostel you’re considering doesn’t have to be number 1 (although a couple of my favorite hostels have been #1 on Tripadvisor), but it should have predominantly “excellent” reviews.

2. Most guests are solo travelers 

On Tripadvisor, go to the reviews section of the hostel you’re looking at and look at “traveler type”. The number of reviews left by each traveler type is there in parentheses. If most of the reviews were left by “friends” or “families” or “couples”, stay away. You want a hostel that has mostly reviews by “solo travelers”. Now click on “solo travelers” and read (or skim) the first page of reviews to make sure they’re good. You want to see a couple “best time ever” or “favorite hostel” or “stay here!” comments on the first page.

3. Most of the reviews mention “meeting other travelers” or “atmosphere” or even, “party hostel”

Even if the hostel is well rated, if most of the reviews on the first page are only about the facilities, stay away. You want to read again and again about how it’s “easy to meet other travelers” in the “common area” or “bar”. Point: my favorite hostels of all time all have bars. In my experience, a “party hostel” is just where the most open and social solo travelers go to have fun and make friends. Well alright, some partying goes on, but isn’t that the point?

In my opinion, if you’re a solo traveler that wants to meet people and be social, the above 3 points are the most important. Depending on how much time and energy you’re willing to dedicate to choosing your hostel, here are some other factors you might want to consider:

Age

I’m 35, so when I stay at “youth” hostels I’m often one of the oldest. However, I’ve noticed that age range can vary from hostel to hostel, and since I’d rather stay away from being with all college students, the fact that Hostelworld has reviewers report their age group is very useful. I always make sure there are plenty of reviews from the 30+ crowd.

Time of Year

If you want to be really thorough, read reviews from the time of year you’ll be there to see what people said. Tripadvisor has a “time of year” option in the reviews section.

Diversity

Personally, I like my hostels to be as diverse and international as possible, with travelers from all over the world, so I also check the “language” in the Tripadvisor reviews section and make sure there is a nice mix (and that they’re not just all in English). Hostelworld is even better because it has reviewers report their Nationality.

HAPPY HOSTELING! And if you’re heading to Rio de Janeiro, Punta del Este, Barcelona, Berlin or Istanbul, be sure to check out my Favorite Hostels of All Time.

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