Hostels are the budget traveler’s dream. However, even though you are saving money by using hostels, you could be saving more money. At first, hostels seem inexpensive, with many quality hostels only charging $10 a night. But wait- there is a catch. Hostels use sneaky added fees to overcharge their customers. Only the shrewd budgeters will prosper.
OYE #1: Make Your Hostel Reservation Without Paying Booking Fees:
Step 1: Use your travel guide to see their top hostel picks for your destination city.
Be aware that you need to reserve the best hostels a few days before your arrival date- the best hostels always book fast. I use Let’s Go for hostel recommendations, but there are many guide books out there- choose your favorite.
Step 2: Use a hostel booking app for quick research.
I’m talking 5 minutes max of research. Use hostelbooker, hostelworld, or any other booking app to check for availabilities of the top recommended hostels. I do NOT recommend booking your reservation through a booking app because there usually is a booking fee required to make your purchase. Solely use the booking app as a resource to check for hostel availabilities.
Step 3: Make the phone call.
In the world of modern technology, this is a millenial’s worst fear. But it’s worth it. By making your reservation over the phone, you will avoid a booking fee and get the guarantee direct from the hostel that your reservation is waiting for you. Since you already did your 5-minutes of research on a hostel app, you know your hostel has availability, so you’re not wasting your time. You also know you’re booking a great hostel, since you referenced your guide book beforehand.
OYE #2: Everyone wants “clean sheets”, right? Wrong.
At most hostels, the “clean sheets” service seems so essential that you’re brainwashed not to notice the added fee. However, what hostels don’t want you to know is that you can bring your own liner to avoid this fee. My favorite liner is the Mummy Liner (shown above), because it is relatively inexpensive (~$25) and rolls up into a compact pouch.
Pro-tip: clip the pouch to the outside of your pack to save room. Even though a $3 clean sheet fee may not seem like much, when you’re paying $3 extra every night of your trip, that starts to add up. Bring your own liner, you’ll know that it’s actually clean and will save yourself from the hidden fees.
OYE #3: Hostel towels? Just say no.
The towel trick is the most common fee that I see travelers fall for at hostels. To save room in their pack, travelers often do not carry a shower towel with them, opting instead to rent a towel at each hostel. A smarter way to avoid the pack dilemma and the extra fee? Bring a small hand-towel. Remember, this is not luxury advice, this is thrifty traveler advice. A small hand-towel will do the job of drying you off just fine. Also, a hand-towel will air out sooner than a big towel after your shower. And your hand-towel rolls up to a compact size to neatly fit in your pack. Is an extra fee really worth a luxury drying-off experience after your shower? Just say no.
If you’re hesitant about the hand-towel, another option is a yoga mat towel. Yogis use these towels during hot yoga when they tend to sweat profusely. Towels for yoga mats are extremely absorbent and tend to be much thinner than regular towels. This means that you can still have a luxury shower and save room in your bag. Plus, dual purpose. If you don’t mind putting your towel on the floor, you can use it as a substitute for your yoga mat. Om, anyone?
OYE #4: The Trials and Tribulations of Hostel Food.
Keep your expectations low when it comes to hostel food. While many hostels include breakfast services for travelers, some hostels go above and beyond with in-house restaurants. Don’t be fooled. I’ve yet to find a hostel that serves quality restaurant food. Hostels know that travelers are attracted to the convenience factor of finding dinner within the same building.
The problem with in-house restaurants within hostels is that they are commonly manned by the front desk staff. Therefore, any food you order is not prepared by a trained chef, but regular staff, meaning the food must be simple to prepare quickly. When you see “pizza” on the menu, the translation is “frozen cardboard”. The staff is likely tossing your “gourmet pizza” into the microwave and then charging you restaurant prices for it. Instead, walk to the grocery store down the street or the hole in the wall diner. Don’t let hostels capitalize on your laziness.