Choosing accommodation while travelling is a lot like picking a vehicle in Mario Kart. Unless you have the game’s cheat codes (Daddy’s money), you have to be willing to make a few concessions in your attempts to maximise performance. Except, instead of the metrics of ‘Acceleration,’ ‘Top Speed,’ ‘Weight,’ ‘Handling’ and ‘Traction,’ you have the hostel’s ‘Cost,’ ‘Location,’ ‘Accommodation Type,’ ‘Breakfast’ and ‘Atmosphere.’
Cost is where I usually go wrong. I’m a sucker for a cheap hostel, as the $2.50 saved opens up a world of potential at the bar. I remember one time when it was my turn to pick our accommodation in the South of Mexico, where I found a place for $5AUD! The only issue was it had a rating on HostelWorld of 4.1/10, which swayed Dillon away from allowing me to book it. I’m pretty sure you have to murder a few customers to get a rating that low. Dillon almost got raped in Panama, and we still gave the hostel a healthy rating of 6.5/10. Sure, the chef tried to violate him, but the ocean views were magnificent.
The Location of a hostel is critical. If you’re going to save $5 by staying somewhere between the sticks and the boondocks, then you’re going to lose that money on travel expenses anyway. I’m always under the impression that if it’s not convenient to get back to at 3:00 am after a bottle of vodka; then it’s not worth the price of admission. With that being said, drop me anywhere in the world at 3:00 am after a bottle of vodka, and I’ll be able to make it back to my hostel. Hell, I’ll even run.
Next, you have the Accommodation Type. Do you want to be crammed into a 14-bed dorm, splash the cash for a private room, or sell your self-respect and camp? A mixed-dorm is generally the way to go as they are cost-efficient, a good way to meet people, and are decent for travelling groups. But they do have their shortcomings, as they smell of feet, sound of foghorns, and are often occupied by French people.
Breakfast is key when it comes to choosing the right hostel. You must look not only into how good the breakfast is, but how late they serve it. It’s all well and good to be serving a continental breakfast with a blowjob as a side, but if I’m getting in at 6:00 am, I may not be up for your 8:00 am cut-off... unless you start serving breakfast at 6:00 am. Then, take my money, baby!
The Atmosphere of a hostel is where research is vital… I imagine. The utility of the common area could make or break your trip, given the necessity of finding a place where it’s easy to meet people. This is not to be confused with a bar. Bars in a hostel are terribly overrated as you have to buy their beer, which is far more expensive than drinking store-bought alcohol. Remember: when you’re on the road, anyone worth hanging out with doesn’t have money for full-priced beer.
Also, be careful with party hostels. Don’t get me wrong; if you find one with nothing but positive reviews, they can often be the best time you will have abroad. But any joe-blow establishment can call themselves a "party hostel" when they’re usually as much fun as chlamydia. They’re often full of try-hard workers, with a customer base predominantly made up of Australians. And we suck.
If you’re still undecided after weighing up all these options, you can look into the finer print, such as late check-out, quality of staff, or how hot the girls are on their website.