I mentioned in an earlier blog why I liked staying in hostels over hotels when traveling. In short, it's because they are great ways to meet people from all over the word who are in your exact same situation. This makes the connections, not only easier, but more meaningful.
When looking for a hostel, I follow these guidelines (in order):
- Is it social? (If it has a pub, game, or movie room, chances are, it will be)
- Is it within close walking distance to the areas I want to see? (Historical sites and/or nightlife)
- Is it in a decent area of town?
- Is the price worth the distance from the areas I want to see? (I'll gladly pay a little more for convenience)
- Is there free internet access? (This isn't a deal breaker, but it's a nice perk)
- Is there a free breakfast/lunch? (See above)
Of course, I scour message and review boards to read the opinions of other travelers. You can't put too much stock, however, into what others say. One person may hate a noisy room, while another may be specifically looking for one. What's "clean" to you will have a completely different meaning to me. So you have to play the averages. Did a majority of the people seem to like the hostel? Does it fit my criteria? If so, it gets bookmarked.
I'll admit, I've heard first-hand horror stories from other backpackers. And my few times in and around Europe, it seems I've been very fortunate. That said, I wanted to give credit where credit is due. Here is my list of three great European hostels.
Hands down, this is my all-time favorite. It met every one of my criteria perfectly. The friendly staff, communal rooms and rooftop bar provide the perfect social atmosphere to meet other travelers. The location couldn't have been better. The view couldn't have been better. Although I didn't take advantage of any of them, the hostel puts together organized day trips throughout Greece and offers a free, basic breakfast every morning. My only complaint would be the very, very small bathrooms and showers. But the overall atmosphere more than made up for it. I can't wait to go back.
You really can't beat that view.
If you're looking for a social hostel, this is the place.
Nathan's Villa in Krakow made my trip there perfect. I still talk to some of the great people during my stay there. I went during Easter weekend, which, surprisingly, was a slow time for the hostel. I managed to land a 6-person room all to myself. The rooms were large and comfortable, but what really made this a great hostel were the common rooms. Nathan's has a basement pub, game room, TV room and movie room, full of DVDs. The pub is full of different beers and liquors from around the world (although I suggest you stick to the local Polish spirits.) There is also a large deck filled with picnick tables, pingpong and a grill which was used every night to make a $3US dinner of chicken, kielbasas and hasbrowns. The staff of Americans, Poles and Ozzies were friendly as hell. If I ever make it back to Poland, I will definitely stay again.
The Nathan's staff seen in their natural habitat (behind the bar)
View from the back deck.
Looking into the pub from outside the movie room.
One of the bright spots during my Istanbul trip was the Big Apple. The staff was friendly and helpful, the rooms were large and clean and the bathrooms were the nicest hostel bathrooms I've ever seen (glass doors as opposed to the usual, dingy cloth or latex curtain.) Located in the heart of the old city, just behind the Blue Mosque, the rooftop bar at Big Apple was warm and comfortable, with amazing views over the Sea of Marmara and into the Asian side of the city. There was also a free breakfast of fruit, chesses and breads, which was nice. They also had a communal guitar which helped break the ice and just add to the typical backpacker atmosphere.
View from the rooftop.
The comfortable inside bar area.
Warm. Relaxing. Turkish.
So what are some of the best hostels you've stayed in? What is the criteria you look at when searching for one? And of you're the hotel type, what are your reasons behind it?