If you are a backpacker and travelling Australia on a budget, hostels are a great way to save money. Moreover, meeting like-minded travellers from all over the world. However, if you have never stayed in a hostel before the idea of sharing a room with complete strangers can be terrifying. Not to mention the horror stories of bed bugs and wild parties which might be putting you off. This guide will cover everything you need to know to prepare for your stay in a hostel. Whether it’s your first time sleeping in a bunk or you are simply nervous about meeting new people. These tried & tested tips will help you find cheap accommodation and make memories to last a life time!
Choosing a Hostel in Australia
There are three main hostel chains in Australia – Nomads, Base & YHA. Staying in a hostel chain is a good way to find a reputable hostel. The likelihood of loyalty schemes and discounts are higher in chains.
Some even offer a “bed hopper pass” where you can purchase a certain number of nights accommodation that can be redeemed across several cities if you stay with the same chain, which is ideal for backpackers on the move.
Most hostels offer two styles of accommodation – dorm rooms or private with both options having communal areas to relax and cook. Dorm rooms are usually the cheaper of the two and are ideal for solo travellers looking to meet new people.
Amenities to look for when booking a Hostel
Although you may be after the cheapest hostel due to your backpacking budget, there are amenities you should look out for which could save you money in the long run. For example:
- Breakfast Included: If your hostel offers breakfast included this may incur a slightly more expensive room rate but will save money buying your own breakfast. Many hostels also provide fruit and bread at breakfast which can be used to make sandwiches for lunch or be taken with you to snack on later in the day – again saving you money. Many also offer free tea and coffee throughout the day.
- WIFI: Free wifi is essential in order to book tours and activities, contact family back home and plan the next part of your trip. Some hostels only offer free wifi in communal areas. Some you have access to wifi in your room, always check prior to booking.
- Air Con: This is an essential amenity when booking a hostel in Australia. A room without air con is likely to be much cheaper, but you cannot put a price on a good night’s sleep so it’s worth the extra few dollars for a comfortable, cooler room.
- Kitchen: Most hostels have communal kitchens which are a great way to save money on the road. Not only can you cook your own food, but split the food costs with room-mates to make bigger meals that can be shared.
- Laundry Facilities: Extra bonus points if your hostel offers these for free as doing laundry can be expensive, but unfortunately is necessary when living out of a backpack.
- Lockers: Most hostels provide lockers in dorm rooms for valuables such as cameras and your passport. Some, however, only have small lockers at reception while others don’t provide lockers at all so always check.
- Activities: From bar crawls to quiz nights, hostels are sociable places encouraging backpackers to get to know each other. If you are looking for a job in Australia, working or even attending interviews, then a wild party hostel may not be what you’re looking for. If you are looking to meet new people and dance the night away then a sociable hostel with lots of activities on offer is what you want.
Where to find Hostels in Australia
There are numerous websites and apps which allow you to compare hostel prices and facilities. However, sometimes it can prove cheaper to book with the hostel directly, so always double-check their own website before booking via a third party.
The most popular place to find hostels is Hostel World. Free apps such as Hostelsaustralia are a great way to receive discounts and promotions.
It is essential you read the reviews of all hostels before making your decision as a bad hostel can ruin your backpacking experience. Also, use Facebook groups and friends to quiz them on their own hostel experiences – this is the best way to find reliable info on which hostels are the best for your trip.
What to pack for staying in a Hostel
There are a few essentials which will ensure you have a pleasant night sleep in a hostel. Packing these items can make a huge difference to your stay, such as:
- Eye mask: Whether its people returning home drunk and turning the light on, or early risers opening the curtains you will be thankful for an eye mask to block out any light.
- Earplugs: Hostels can be noisy places, from parties next door to roommates on the phone to their mums, earplugs are essential for sleeping soundly in a hostel.
- Padlock: Although most hostels provide lockers, sometimes it is required to bring your own padlock. If your backpack is too large for the locker at least you will be able to lock it.
- Pack of Cards: A card game (with or without alcohol) is a great way to break the ice and get people together. Having these on hand is a guaranteed way to meet new people. Especially if you’re not quite brave enough to start a conversation. They’re also lightweight and small – perfect for your backpack!
Tips for staying in Hostels
Hostel etiquette – don’t be that person who sets hundreds of alarms super early then sleeps through them all. Remember you are sharing a room. This also goes for turning on and off the light, no one wants to be woken up by bright lights or noisy roommates at 3am.
Book in Advance – Although hostels are known for being cheap. However, around holidays such as Australia Day and NYE (especially in Sydney!) they can be crazy expensive. They also book out months in advance. So if you are looking for a hostel on these special dates, book well ahead.
Be Confident – It can be nerve-wracking making new friends and starting up conversations with strangers. The chances are people in your room are just as nervous. Some of the best friendships are formed in hostels. They are the perfect place to meet others to continue your travels with.
Book activities at your hostels – Hostels often receive discounts from tour operators. Booking bigger excursions for example Whitsundays or The Great Barrier Reef through your hostel reception will give you big savings.
Use your hostel to find a job – If you are on a Working Holiday Visa, hostels in Australia are also an excellent source for job opportunities, with many offering job boards as well as advice on second-year visas. Not to mention the best place for recommendations from fellow backpackers of places looking to employ (or where to avoid!)
Work Exchange for Accommodation – Did you know many hostels in Australia offer work exchange schemes? This means in exchange for a few hours of reception or cleaning work each day, you will earn free accommodation. This is a great way to save money to continue your travels. As well as gain work experience in the tourism industry.