How to Pick a Hostel as a Solo Female Traveler

I originally wrote this article for Modern Trekker, an online travel magazine for the everyday budget traveler. You can check out the original and the rest of their awesome content here: https://moderntrekker.com/pick-a-hostel/

Before I set off on my first solo trip, I was super excited about getting out to explore the world, but I was definitely a little worried about doing it on my own. Even more so, while my family was generally supportive of me wandering around Europe on my own for three months, they were a little more nervous about the types of places I’d be staying.

At this point, I’ve spent about eight months of the last two years living in hostels and have definitely seen the good, the bad, and the ugly side of hostel life. If you’re planning your first trip, here’s what to look out for in order to pick a hostel and have a good experience:

Pay attention to the hostel’s ‘ambience’ and ‘safety’ ratings.

The vibe of the hostel is important, especially when you’re traveling on your own. Try to look for places with nice common areas or bars, so you have a space to meet other travelers. Hostels that organize group events or have community breakfasts or dinners are great because it’s a built-in way to meet other people and create a group of people to go out adventuring with.

If you can, try to avoid properties that are half hostel, half hotel. These places cater more to families and business travelers, and the vibe is much different than that of a property that caters specifically to the young, backpacker crowd. These places are typically much less social, which can make for a lonely stay if there aren’t any people around for you to mingle with.

Also, this is pretty self-explanatory, but check out the safety ratings. This will cover things like whether the property is located in a good part of town, whether there’s a secure place to lock your belongings inside your room, if the keys and locks work, or if the building and surrounding area well-lit, or whether there are people hanging around the property who aren’t guests of the hostel, etc.

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Some fun artwork on the side of Chicago’s Freehand Hostel. It’s a beautiful property, but not the greatest spot for solo travelers.

Pick a hostel that is close to the attractions and has a 24-hour reception.

If you know you’re going to want to go out at night, look for a place closer to the city’s nightlife so you don’t have to travel as far in the dark in the event that you end up having to be out alone. You can minimize your time spent on public transit doing so, and you won’t have to take as many cabs (so you can avoid being ripped off) and you won’t have as far to walk if that’s something you’re concerned about. Obviously, use your judgement and take the same precautions you would at home, and you’ll be fine.

24-hour reception is important if you know you’ll be arriving late. You don’t want to show up after the reception has closed and not be able to check in. Also, if there’s an emergency and you need something in the middle of the night, the hostel reception is going to be your first point of contact because they know the area and how to get you the services that you need (like pointing you to the hospital where you’re more likely to find English-speaking doctors at 4am).

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The reception can also hook you up with tips on how to see the city for (basically) free.

Female-only dorms (maybe).

I have mixed feelings about staying in female dorms because I’ve had good and bad experiences with both (big surprise: people suck regardless of gender). You never know who you’re going to get as roommates, and my good experiences have by far outweighed the bad. The only difference is that so far, I haven’t (yet, thankfully) been fearful for my safety in a female dorm. I have two big pieces of advice on this one:

1. Read the reviews carefully.

If the reviews give you a sense that the hostel only really cares about their bottom line and just wants to fill beds, it might not be somewhere you want to stay, for a variety of reasons, but if it’s the only option available, you may want to consider booking a female-only dorm. You might just end up in a 12-bed dorm with an 11-person stag party, who stumbled back in at 4am and didn’t realize that they do not actually have the room to themselves (first the obnoxious drunkenness, then the snoring, yikes). Needless to say, I dragged my blanket downstairs to sleep in the bar, checked out as soon as I could, and left the property a delightful review for 1. letting that happen to me in the first place, and 2. not informing me or giving me another choice of room.

2. Pay attention to whether or not you’ll be traveling in peak season.

If there’s an issue with your roommates, the hostel will likely let you change rooms if they have the space available, although they might charge you a fee (worth it for the peace of mind if you’re the only woman in the room with some creeper neighbors). If it’s fully booked, you might be out of luck (hopefully they’ll help sort you out but it’s possible they may not).

Bubu Backpacks Photo

Read the reviews, but use your judgment.

You can generally get a good sense of the place from what previous guests have written, and how many people have left reviews. Keep in mind that the quality of reviews may vary from place to place, so always take them with a grain of salt. For example, a lot of people who don’t typically stay in hostels travel to places like Amsterdam to party, but then complain about things like the fact that a 200-year old building doesn’t have an elevator and you had to walk up four flights of stairs with a heavy suitcase.

If you’re traveling solo, I’d always advocate for staying in hostels, because they’re great for so many reasons. If it’s your first time and you’re nervous, just be careful and deliberate with when you pick a hostel and, above all, use your best judgment and you’ll be sure to end up having a wonderful trip (or at the very least come out with a lot of interesting stories).

 

xoxo,

Hanna (Bubu Backpacks)

 

If you’re on the fence about traveling solo or nervous about being on your own for the first time, check out my previous post on the 8 reasons why I absolutely LOVE solo travel (and why you should too!)

Also, if you’re struggling to figure out how to pack for your first long trip, be sure to check out my tips on packing for long-term travel!

Do you have any other tips for first-time solo travelers? Let me know below in the comments!

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How to Pick a Hostel as a Solo Female Traveler

 

 

 

 

All the photos in this post are my own, with the exception of the featured image, which is by rawpixel on Unsplash, an awesome free stock photo resource for digital creatives. Not an affiliate link – I just love it and want to share with all of you!

 

19 thoughts on “How to Pick a Hostel as a Solo Female Traveler

  1. I remember my first hostel experience and am so glad that it was a good one! I booked a bed in Krakow and wound up being the only person in that hostel. You would think it would have been a deterrent for me, but coming off of 3 nights without sleep (overnight trains), it was so nice to have it all to myself! I know that was an anomaly, but so wonderful! Common sense is key. And yes, reading reviews with a critical eye is key!

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    1. That’s awesome! It’s always a nice surprise when you have the room to yourself haha, even if it means you don’t get to meet as many people because you don’t have to share space 🙂

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  2. Great tips, especially finding a hostel with 24 hour reception! I once was lucky enough to have a whole hostel dorm to myself in Dublin and it was so great!

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  3. I love these tips and couldn’t agree more! I usually book a female dorm room but I have also been in mixed rooms and hadn’t had a problem. I also usually take a 4-bed room or 6 beds at the mosts. I have stayed in a 25-bed dorm room, not my choice, and I didn’t sleep a bit!

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  4. I’ve never been to a hostel but these tips are super helpful. I didn’t realize that there were female only dorm options. It sounded wonderful at first but it was eye-opening to know that you had mixed experiences.

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    1. They’re pretty great if you’re nervous about sharing a room with strange men! But also I’ve had obnoxious female roommates too (drunk people stumbling in at all hours, or that girl who turned the lights on and decided yelling and loudly packing at 4am was ok, etc.) There’s always a risk of having sucky roommates, but overall hostels are pretty nice.

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  5. Good points. I’m past staying in dorms but make a point of booking close to attractions and public transportation. It’s also good to know if you’ll feel safe walking after dark on your way between dinner and hostel. No fun camping out in the lounge room when you’re hungry and don’t feel safe on your own out the door.

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