What Makes a Good Hostel

After six and a half months on the road, I have a decent idea of what makes a good hostel. I should say that no hostel managed to tick all the boxes – they were always lacking in at least one department, but here are the areas that make a good hostel along with the hostels that excelled and disappointed in each category – without mentioning the too obvious (i.e. reasonable price, friendly staff, a bed and a roof).

Access to power outlets

It may seem obvious, but having your own power outlet and somewhere to put your phone while it’s charging. a multi-outlet adapter at one of the room without actually enough for everyone to use does not cut it.

Well done: HI New York

Needs work: Pacific Tradewinds Hostel San Francisco

Reliable WiFi

This is one thing that hostels have above lots of hotels – free WiFi. And it’s not like I require super speedy WiFi – just a reasonable speed, reliable, and usable in your room. Too bad this isn’t the case in a couple of places.

Well done: Plus Berlin

Needs work: All Days Hostel Toronto

Lockers. That you can lock

Man I’ve seen a bunch of different types of lockers in my time. The best ones are always simple, large, and don’t make a crazy amount of noise when you open or close them. Thumbs down if it requires a really thick lock to actually keep your valuables (and not so valuables) secure.

Well done: St Christopher’s Hostel Bruges

Needs work: Callander Hostel


Temperature control

No I’m not saying every place needs air conditioning or amazing heaters. It just needs some sort ventilation system that keeps the room from getting over 30 degrees and above, uh, well actually most cold places were well heated.

Well done: Atlantis Hostel Krakow

Needs work: City Hostel Seattle

Common areas

This is usually the best place to meet other travelers in your hostel and perhaps go check out town together. So a common area that’s inviting, encourages people to mingle and large enough for people to actually use will usually encourage its guests to be social.

Well done: HI- Calgary City Centre

Needs work: Safestay London Elephant & Castle


Having activities organised by the hostel is another great way to meet your fellow hostelers whilst also doing something fun and interesting. And the best hostel activities are the ones where the staff know what they’re doing and are keen for you to have a good time.

Well done: Pacific Tradewinds Hostel San Francisco

Needs work: Atlantis Hostel Krakow

Hot showers

I feel like this should go without saying – and I wish I didn’t have to mention this, but having a good, consistent, hot shower is so important for a comfortable stay at a hostel. One that is only luke warm (I’m looking at you Galaxy Pod Hostel Reykjavik) or worse, a cold shower is not on.

Well done: Friendly Bike Guest House Portland

Needs work: Copenhagen Downtown Hostel

Shared kitchen

This is another great advantage that hostels usually have over hotels – you can store and cook your own food. And when you’re on the road for a long time or you’re a poor traveler and just want to save money, a kitchen can be a godsend.

Well done: Kickass Hostel Edinburgh

Needs work: Plus Berlin

Quiet beds

Yes it’s normal for hostel dorm rooms to have bunk beds, but god is it annoying when every little move anyone makes lets out a big creak throughout the whole room.

Well done: Copenhagen Downtown Hostel

Needs work: Galaxy Pod Hostel Reykjavik

‘It’ factor

Is it too cliche to have this as a category? Oh but it’s so true – a hostel can have a lot of downsides but for some reason, you just love it. But the opposite is true as well – it can have great features but somehow it comes off rather sterile.

Well done: Pacific Tradewinds Hostel San Francisco, M Montreal

Needs work: Safestay London Elephant & Castle, Galaxy Pod Hostel Reykjavik

Bonus: Free breakfast!

You can’t say no to a free breakfast right? Thank you IHSP Chicago and Flying Pig Uptown Amsterdam for your free breakfasts, and Copenhagen Downtown Hostel for the best hostel breakfast I’ve ever had.

Cover image by Allegro Takahi used under Creative Commons license


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