Tuesday’s Travel Essentials: My Guide to Booking Hostels

jonny blair hostel lifestyle

Tuesday’s Travel Essentials: Staying in Hostels, here are my tips for booking them.

OK, so you’ll probably know that I’m more of a hostel style backpacker than a posh hotel lad. It’s just the lifestyle of it all that I love. Meeting people in hostels, cheap tours, new friends, cold showers, no privacy etc. I still love the buzz of hostels! So apologies to my readers who stay in hotels, campsites, B and Bs and house sitters, for today on Tuesday’s Travel Essentials I’m talking hostels. Here are my 5 tips on booking hostels on my travels.

1. Friends Recommendations

This is number one. Your mates know what they’re talking about. Listen to them. They’ll tell you about cool hostels they stayed in, the prices, the activities etc. Trust your mates and always ask mates about where they stayed in “City A” before you visit. Same goes vice versa I always recommend hostels to my mates. Through friends I’ve been recommended Swaziland Backpackers, Pariwana in Cuzco and Hostelling International in Tailuga.

jonny blair swaziland backpackers

Friends Recommendations: At the bar in Swaziland Backpackers in 2011.

2. People You Meet in other Hostels Recommendations

This is another key point to bear in mind. On your journey you’ll be heading to a city someone in your hostel has just come from. Ask them where they stayed there and if it was any good. Quite often they’ll share their hostel stories with you, without prompt. I use this tactic a lot, and again vice versa. A Colombian guy I met in Buenos Aires recommended the Black Cat in Asuncion, so I booked it. I trusted him and he was spot on.

black cat paraguay jonny blair

Other Backpackers Recommendations: This sent me to the wonderful Black Cat hostel in Asuncion, Paraguay.

3. Hostels that have their own website

I like hostels that have their own website, like Soweto Backpackers, Abraham Hostel and Masada Backpackers in Malaysia. The reason is you can email them beforehand, bond with them, don’t have to pay a deposit or a fee and can also see photos directly on their site. Facebook pages are also great to check out hostels on. Websites also have personality and I often choose hostels based on personality and even name. A hostel with a funky name (such as the Pickled Frog in Hobart) always stand out and normally are great places to meet people!

soweto backpackers jonny blair

They have their own website: I ended up loving Soweto Backpackers in South Africa.

4. Use Hostelbookers

People often ask me to toss things up between Hostelbookers and Hostel world, so here’s my take on it. Until either of them provide me with endless free hostels, I’ll tell you that I normally use Hostelbookers when torn between the two. The very first time I booked with them was one of their New York city hostel way back in 2007 (I stayed there for a week). Brand loyalty continued with me on that front. And besides they’ve just launched a Untied Sharing Hostels Tour which covers the USA, I think it’s a pretty cool tool to use if you’re heading stateside, which I will be again in the next 2 years for sure. Though as I mentioned, hostels with their own website are my preference.

nina cassiano jonny new york

With Nina and Cassiano – two travel buddies I met in New York, one of the times I used Hostelbookers.

5. Don’t Be Lonely in This Planet

Yes, I use the Lonely Planet. If all else fails, whip out your book and choose one that’s in there. Given the reviewers might have got free rooms and even been paid to include them, but at least they have addresses, phone numbers and e-mails which makes booking them easy.

jonny blair travel blog lonely planet

If all else fails turn to the trusted Lonely Planet…

There are a few other options not covered in this post, and I use other methods too, so there may be a sequel for you to this post. For the meantime, I’m hostel loyal. I find hotels have a little less soul…

With my endless travel tips and stories, I want to inspire you all to head out there and see the world! Check my advertising page if you have an idea for a product for my Tuesday’s Travel Essentials, and don’t forget I welcome free beers and nights in hostel on the house…

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12 thoughts on “Tuesday’s Travel Essentials: My Guide to Booking Hostels

  • I agree that personal recommendations are extremely valueable. Also, I really like hostels with their own sites, and booking through them is always preferable to me than booking through an agency because of no fees and direct communication! My partner and I also use Foursquare quite a lot to find recommendations for not only places to stay, but also cafes, restaurants, museums etc. The content is entirely user generated and can easily be edited to make it much more up to date than a guidebook.
    Sam recently posted…September 2013 ReportMy Profile

  • Thanks girls – yes these are just my top 5 hostel tips – I have a few other weird ways to pick hostels too, which I’ll maybe share at some point. Middle East backapcking right now – yes thats a top hostel!! Safe travels. Jonny

  • Thanks for the comment Agnes! After asking my mates and fellow travellers, Hostelbookers and hostel with their own website are what I normally go for. Safe travels, Jonny

  • I often use Lonely Planet actually, at least if no friends og aquaintances can recommend a place – yes, they might get free rooms and all, but the “Our Pick” in LP has only let me down once in all my years of travel. So by now, it’s kind of like a friend I ask 😉
    BakoymaTravels recently posted…Summary :: BarcelonaMy Profile

  • Thanks for the comment Bakoyma, thing about that “our pick” tends to be the busier hostels – now and then i prefer a quieter off the beaten track spot so chill and get some online work done. Safe travels. Jonny

  • Yeah, you might be right about that. Maybe the thing that’s saved me with this is that I tend to travel outside the main “tourist wave” times of year, I don’t know… Or maybe it’s just that I love heaps of people around me, either way I’m happy 😉 Looking forward to following your journeys onwards, Jonny. Safe travels right back at you!
    BakoymaTravels recently posted…Summary :: BarcelonaMy Profile

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