Good youth hostels are almost as common as dirty backpackers in European cities, but a great youth hostel can be harder to come by. Great youth hostels are the stuff of legends. You’ve all heard the stories, passed down from adventurous Euro-trippers, coming back from a stay at the Flying Pig in Amsterdam or at the Pink Palace in Corfu. Stories of friendly backpacker co-eds intermingling in pre-club room parties and having wild nights at local clubs in exotic locales. Friendly staff, great location, delicious free breakfast, clean rooms, and relaxed rules.
There is a lot that goes into making a youth hostel great, and while it may not be an exact science, there are a few things that these hostels tend to have in common.
Location, Location, Hostel Location!
One of the most important factors in a youth hostel is the location. It has to be near a metro stop, close to all the interesting and fun things to do in the city (museums, bars, etc.) and it has to be in an area that wont kick up much fuss about having dirty, noisy backpackers trekking up and down the block at odd hours.
Common Area in the Hostel
Another important facet of a great youth hostel is that there needs to be a good common area. Think of a big living room with couches, beanbags, coffee tables, board games and loads of friendly twenty-somethings. A common area with a good vibe can make or break a hostel. It doesn’t have to be raucous and wild, but it has to be relaxed enough to allow you to meet new people, new friends, and new drinking buddies.
On-site Hostel Bar!
What the hostel lacks in a common area, it can easily make up for with a good onsite hostel bar. A hostel bar doesn’t have to be fancy, just a meager selection of local brews and spirits will keep most travelers happy. More than a place to get drunk, the hostel bar is a great starting point for wild nights. Solo travelers and groups of hooligans can band together for expeditions into the exciting world of the local booze-hound, visiting local dives and fancy clubs far off the beaten backpacker path.
Hostel Community Kitchen
A community kitchen is another great way to meet people in a hostel, and a great way to save money on the road. Go to the market, get some pasta, some sauce, and a baguette, and you’ve got a meal for yourself and 3 or 4 new friends!
This is an important one. A great hostel will make you feel comfortable, and in order to feel comfortable, most people require a certain level of cleanliness. I’m no stranger to cockroaches, bedbugs, rats, or flies, but a good hostel will do its best to keep these critters at bay. Clean and comfortable mattresses, fresh linens, clean and functional bathrooms – these are all important fixtures of a great youth hostel.
This list of things that make a youth hostel great is far from complete. There are many factors that contribute to an awesome hostel experience, ranging from safety to cleanliness to fun. So let us know what you think and tell us what great hostels you’ve stayed in, and what made them great for you!