How to be a superfly hostel (The List)

Written by on April 26, 2010 in Reviews, Romania, Travel, Travel Tips - 35 Comments

Hostels — love them or hate them — most backpackers have to stay in them.

What makes a superfly hostel, D?

I’m glad you asked.

1. 24 hour reception for people who take the night train and arrive early in the morning … or late at night.

There is nothing worse than arriving to your hostel and finding you can’t even get in the front door until 9 or 10 a.m. That makes 4 a.m. arrivals miserable. And, there is nothing comfortable about sleeping on a front step of a hostel in a new city. For me, a hostel that doesn’t offer 24-hour reception is a deal-breaker. I am fine if I can’t get a bed right away, but at least let me in off the street so I can put my bag down and close my eyes in a safe environment.

2. Common rooms.

Meeting people isn’t too difficult in a hostel, especially if you are sleeping in a dorm … that just breeds conversation. But, a key factor for those not in a dorm, or just not ridiculously chatty is the common room. Most hostels have them. The good ones have them placed strategically near reception allowing new arrivals to peek their heads in and survey the guests. The great hostels not only have centrally located common rooms, but have them stocked with couches, tables, chairs, a TV, speakers, etc. to facilitate a friendly, interactive environment.

3. Kitchen.

Backpackers have a budget (afterall, money spent on beer is a much better investment than on food, right??) so a kitchen is a necessity. Hostel kitchens have the staples — pots, pans, microwaves, stoves, utensils. The really good kitchens will even have salt, pepper and oil (bring your own olive oil, it’s too pricey to give away at most hostels). Hostels with big kitchens score more points for me. Even more points go to hostels with a table in it big enough for more than two people to sit and enjoy their food. And, a note to you backpackers — don’t steal food. It’s bad karma and a travel no-no. Buy your own, cook your own and when you leave, if you have leftovers you can’t take with you, mark it as “communal” so others can enjoy. I repeat — DO NOT STEAL (MY) FOOD.

4. Lounge for parties.

Aside from the common room, there needs to be a room for travelers to enjoy new friends and old in a place that won’t keep the entire hostel up until the wee hours of the morning. I like rooms like this in the basement. Even if a group is loud, it isn’t as bad as having it in an area where you can hear every word while trying to sleep.

5. BBQ for impromptu cook outs.

Cooking pasta day in and day out gets old. When you’ve got a group, a great, tasty and economical option for chowing down is the barbie. In Hvar, the BBQ was perfect — overlooking the Adriatic. Not every hostel has the killer views Green Lizard had, but a BBQ adds a different social element to the mix — cooking and drinking beers and enjoying the outdoors with friends, simultaneously.

6. Free wifi.

Staying in touch (and writing blog posts) is important so if a hostel doesn’t have wifi, it means having to haul your computer to a cafe, or wait for hours for the lone hostel computer to open up. So, free wifi is a must. Bonus points if the wifi is accessible throughout the hostel, it lends to more private Skype conversations and peaceful writing.

7. Free brekkie.

Again, budget-conscious travelers need some incentive to stay at a hostel. Free breakfast, even if it is just toast and jam, or cereal and coffee/tea can help keep the wallet fatter. Hostels, take note: not many of you offer fruit, and damn it, I would LOVE me a banana or orange. Or a hard-boiled egg.

8. Free drinks.

Even if it is only one drink when you check-in, free drinks are great to spark up an evening in the hostel, encourage people to interact and a nice way of saying “thank you for your business.” Bars are good to have, too. Activities, such as quizzes or games, also adds nicely to the mix.

9. Tours.

It is a hassle to book tours. Hostels that offer low-cost tours (or just tours in general) score more points with me. Traveling isn’t always easy, so if a hostel has something already on the books and all you need to do is sign-up, then I’m in.

10. Laundry.

Free laundry is even better, but I will settle for cheap laundry service any day. It beats having to haul clothes to the laundromat or re-wear stuff that has no business being worn again.

11. Friendly staff.

Staff can make or break a hostel. The friendlier and more helpful the staff is, the better. Not being fluent in many languages makes it difficult to phone a car hire service or book a stay at another hostel. Staff that can help do this make a world of difference.

12. Deals.

I am partial to the offer of staying extra nights at a discount or for free. In Brasov, I didn’t need to stay five nights, but the fifth was free, which was cheaper than leaving, so why not?

13. Location.

Please, don’t tell me to take one metro, one bus and five trams to get to your hostel. I won’t. Location is key — the closer to the center of town and public transportation, the better. As a rule, if it takes me more than 15 minutes to get to where the action is, I won’t stay there. Unless I want peace and quiet, but that’s a different story.

Special thanks to Kismet Dao Hostel in Brasov, Romania to having every one of these things.

Related note: For more on hostels, head over to Michael Hodon’s site, GoSeeWrite, and read his tips for hostel owners.

What else makes a hostel superfly? Share your comments below!

About the Author

Diana Edelman is a travel writer and expat currently residing in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She is a former career breaker and long term solo traveler. Today, she helps promote responsible elephant tourism and is the co-founder of #RTTC, a weekly chat on Twitter focusing on responsible tourism. When she isn’t writing, Diana handles the PR and social media for Save Elephant Foundation, which runs the popular Elephant Nature Park. Her writing as appeared in About.com, Thought Catalog, The Huffington Post, Matador Network, Travel + Escape, Luna Luna, Vegas Seven, World Nomads, Viator, CheapOair, OneTravel and more.

35 Comments on " How to be a superfly hostel (The List) "

  1. CB April 26, 2010 at 8:14 am · Reply

    Drainage.. or at least a mop – Nothing worse then a wet bathroom floor.
    Hostel mascot – dog, cat, bird or rabbit (preferably alive!). Local strays don’t count.

    • dtravelsround April 26, 2010 at 8:16 am · Reply

      Yessssssss!!!

      And, would looooove a hostel mascot. Especially one that lets you hold it. Good call.

  2. CB April 26, 2010 at 8:14 am · Reply

    Drainage.. or at least a mop – Nothing worse then a wet bathroom floor.
    Hostel mascot – dog, cat, bird or rabbit (preferably alive!). Local strays don’t count.

    • dtravelsround April 26, 2010 at 8:16 am · Reply

      Yessssssss!!!

      And, would looooove a hostel mascot. Especially one that lets you hold it. Good call.

  3. King Pigeon April 26, 2010 at 9:49 am · Reply

    A perfect list–especially with regards to wi-fi. People who argue against wi-fi say silly things like, “You came to travel, not to surf the web,” but they forget that some of us actually have to get work done while overseas, and relationships can get strained without that connection.

    One thing I would note is how some hostels’ generosity can backfire. For example, the manager of the excellently-run Lollipop Hostel in Maribor, Slovenia told me of how she used to offer free breakfast to travelers. Low and behold, some backpackers were not satisfied with the breakfast food (they wanted a hot breakfast and hers was cold), so they dissed the hostel in their reviews of the place for hostelworld.com! After she dropped breakfast she saw her reviews go up again. Crazy.

    • dtravelsround April 26, 2010 at 10:27 am · Reply

      Boo on unwarranted bad reviews. Free = you can’t knock it!!! It’s better than no breakfast at all.

  4. Nomadic Chick April 26, 2010 at 8:01 pm · Reply

    Great list! All true. Although, the prospect of a cafe with wifi sounds decent to me – in the thick of the place you’re visiting. :)

    • dtravelsround April 27, 2010 at 3:35 am · Reply

      That sounds like perfection. When you come across one of those, let me know. :)

  5. Meg April 26, 2010 at 11:02 pm · Reply

    Outdoor patio or porch is definitely nice! I met and drank with all sorts of people on the front porch of my cape cod hostel. It was perfect!

    • dtravelsround April 27, 2010 at 3:34 am · Reply

      Agreed. Outdoor patio or porch lends nicely to those who want to smirt. :) And those who don’t smoke but want to smirt anyway.

  6. Christine April 27, 2010 at 10:40 am · Reply

    Holy moly, that makes an AMAZING hostel! Definitely super-fly :) 24-hour reception, Wifi and a common room are the only deal-breakers for me–the rest are just great perks!

  7. Anglo Bob April 28, 2010 at 7:36 pm · Reply

    Outstanding stories! Was especially interested in your report on the second Vaughantown experience. Different people but sounds like you ended up bonding a la Valdelavilla. Really enjoyed being with you and the others there and envy your new travel experiences.

    Press on!

    • dtravelsround April 29, 2010 at 12:05 pm · Reply

      Thanks, Bob!! I enjoyed being with you as well. Pressing on!!

  8. Scot April 29, 2010 at 2:59 am · Reply

    That’s an awesome list that hit’s it all right on the head. It’s great when you get a hostel that hits all of those points

    • dtravelsround April 29, 2010 at 12:04 pm · Reply

      thanks!! i did forget a stationary shower head. man, those are lovely.

  9. Lindsay aka @_thetraveller_ May 9, 2011 at 8:51 am · Reply

    Ya and free wifi that doesnt SUCK. I hate when they are all ‘oh yeah it’s free’ and it takes you 20 minutes to load a page.

    Right on though, you tell those hostels how to be!

    • The Adventures of D May 13, 2011 at 10:59 am · Reply

      Wifi like that is the worst. I had that in Faro, Portugal, and would just walk over to McDonalds for the free wifi instead. I didn’t want to take that long to load a page.

  10. Iain Mallory May 9, 2011 at 8:59 am · Reply

    A shower that works well is always a bonus, kind of like keeping clean and not smelly and a nice shower always helps!

    • The Adventures of D May 13, 2011 at 10:58 am · Reply

      In Istanbul I stayed at a hostel that had a killer shower — jets all down the wall. Of course, I had no idea how to work that thing, but damn!!

  11. ayngelina May 9, 2011 at 9:07 am · Reply

    I’d also add towels, such a nice treat.

  12. Tom May 9, 2011 at 9:29 am · Reply

    Animals! My favourite hostels are ones that are family-run and have pets that you can play with if you’re indoors riding out a storm or some crappy weather!

    The best one I stayed at was Ferah Pension in Fethiye, Turkey. For a few dollars, the mother of the family would make dinner – and you’d get a huge plate piled high with the best food that I ate in Turkey! Cheaper than anywhere in town, too. Also, they had a little pool area, and the daughter took us all clubbing one night to her favourite bars, too.

    Most definitely a super-fly hostel!

    Super-fly hostels also don’t have their dorms right above heavy metal bars…I won’t name names, though. Needless to say sleep was tough haha!

    • The Adventures of D May 13, 2011 at 10:57 am · Reply

      In Lagos, there was a house cat that became my buddy. It was just me and the cat in the hostel for most of the time I was there. At night, I would keep the door open so she could come and sleep on the bed with me.

      The meals — love it!!! I stayed in one in Turkey that had a great dinner, too!!

  13. Erica May 10, 2011 at 1:48 pm · Reply

    The free wifi thing has been a deal breaker for us. I won’t book a hostel unless I see that is is there. The most recent hostel we went to even cooked us breakfast while we waited at the table. LOVE!

    • The Adventures of D May 13, 2011 at 10:54 am · Reply

      I won’t stay at a hostel without wifi. It is too important and I have no patience to sit and wait for a computer while people are on Skype, etc. Love when the cook brekkie for me! There was one hostel in Mostar, Bosnia-Herz that made amazing brekkie every morning. They didn’t advertise it b/c then people would complain about something or other, but man, it was soooo nice to have french toast, fresh fruit, coffee, all hot and perfect!

  14. Federico May 10, 2011 at 1:50 pm · Reply

    WiFi is sooo necessary nowadays. If I plan on staying in the same place for a few days WiFi becomes indispensible

    • The Adventures of D May 13, 2011 at 10:52 am · Reply

      Sometimes, I would stay at a hostel just because it had good wifi. And air-con. For days. :)

  15. Abby May 10, 2011 at 7:54 pm · Reply

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes…. Amazing to me how many don’t accommodate train schedules.

  16. Will - DontFlyGo.com March 21, 2012 at 5:43 pm · Reply

    Yes! A bit late to the party but somebody who finally gets what hostels should be – fun, friendly and ripe for something else. Free drinks and free breakfast get me every time.

    • Diana March 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm · Reply

      I’m a sucker for free brekkie!

  17. dtravelsround April 29, 2010 at 12:04 pm · Reply

    thanks!! i did forget a stationary shower head. man, those are lovely.

Trackbacks for this post

  1. The Hostel Owners’ Guide: The How-to’s… Please! | | Go, See, Write - tales of overland adventure travelGo, See, Write - tales of overland adventure travel
  2. Hostel Review: Kismet Dao, Brasov | Off-The-Path

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