HOW TO// Find a Rad Hostel
I have a confession. I hate hotels. Well, let me rephrase that. I hate staying at hotels when traveling alone. While I love sleeping in silky sheets and having endless channels of cable TV to watch, I find hotels cold and boring. Instead, whenever I travel by myself, I stay at hostels. Hostels can be found in the middle of a city or in a former prison/lighthouse/hospital in the middle of nowhere. They have community kitchens where you can cook dinner with fellow travelers. There is cheap beer (most of the time) and helpful down-to-earth front desk workers (99% of the time). They even have single rooms if you crave the privacy of a hotel. Here is my guide for what to search for when booking a hostel:
Look outside the city center
If you are staying in a cosmopolitan city, my advice is to avoid staying smack dab in the middle of downtown. Look for accommodations in a relaxed neighborhood. You will get a quiet(er) nights sleep and experience a more authentic view of a city. Plus, more residential neighborhoods offer cheaper groceries, bars, and cafes options that will save you major $$$.
HI San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. The hostel offers AMAZING views of SF Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz without the crowds and chaos of a downtown hostel. Plus, it's housed in a historic building right next to the ocean. 240 Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA 94123
Know the vibe you're looking for
There are two basic types of hostels: party hostels and sleeping hostels. Generally, a hostel that is centrally located and large will have more of a socializing atmosphere. Those that are smaller and located a bit off the beaten path are more relaxed. Figure out what type of trip (or night) you want to have before booking a hostel. I like to split my times between the two types. Party hostels for days when I want to meet fellow travelers and quieter hostels for when I need to recharge. Check the traveler reviews on booking sites such as HostelBookers.com and HostelWorld.com, to get a feel for an accommodation's atmosphere.
Woodah Hostel in Copenhagen. They offer a relaxed, almost ambient, atmosphere complete with free yoga and cozy sleeping pods where you can tune out the whole world.Abel Cathrines Gade 1, 1654 Kbh V
Check out the events
Most hostels offer some sort of events or excursions for their guests. From cooking classes to city tours to pub crawls, most hostels offer some sort of activities for their guests. This is the best (and easiest) way to meet new people while experiencing the city you're visiting. Since most events at hostels are first come, first serve, make sure you inquire about the activities when you check in.
Hostel Waka Waka in Marrakech. This is, hands down, the most friendly and colorful hostels I have ever slept in. In addition to a homemade breakfast every morning, they offer a variety of day trips from the hostel including overnight trips into the Sahara and excursions to the Atlas Mountains. Derb Sabai, 13, Marrakech 40000
Look for single occupancy bathrooms
Alone time is a luxury while staying at hostels. Book a hostel that has single occupancy bathrooms to have some peace and quiet without coughing up money for a single occupancy room.
City Backpackers in Stockholm. This hostel is BIG but, designed in a Scandinavian chic way that makes it warm and inviting. Plus, they offer blow dryers, irons, a sauna, and (most importantly) private shower rooms. Upplandsgatan 2, 111 23 Stockholm
Make sure there's food nearby
Staying outside a city center does have its drawbacks. Neighborhoods usually close up shop a lot earlier than busier areas of town. Book a hostel that has late night food options in or nearby it (you can always e-mail the hostel to inquire).
KEX Hostel in Reykjavik. They have a delicious gastropub right inside the hostel complete with a delicious breakfast buffet and local Icelandic beers at night. Skúlagata 28, 101 Reykjavík
Photo by Orlova Maria