Hostel Stay-Small things that hostel owners can improve upon

Hostels are my preferred mode of accommodation during my travel. I prefer it against other options such as couch-surfing, airBnB etc because of multiple reasons- such as
  • I need a place closer to metro station/public transportation hub or city centre to save time on commute
  • I prefer free cancellation and pay at property feature offered by booking.com
  • I spend most of my time outside n need a place mostly to sleep. I don’t want to disturb individuals (like hosts) unnecessarily at odd hours. Hostels with automated process/staff on duty works well.
However, there’re multiple minor but annoying things about hostel stay that I have experienced. Not all hostels have all these drawbacks, but if you’re a hostel owner, I strongly suggest you check if these drawbacks apply to your hostel. If you’re a customer, you might want to check reviews carefully to ensure these don’t bother the hostel you’re trying to book.
Let us see some of them
1. Wrong location Google maps
Location is a major criteria for me while booking a hotel. Reasons are many- sometimes I don’t have a working phone connection at the destination country- I plan my commute based on hostel’s google map location and pre-departure plan on how to reach the hostel from airport or train station etc. If the hostel is NOT where it is as compared to its listing on Google maps, I will be up for a big disappointment and inconvenience. Happened with me in Shanghai City central hostel- where map showed it is just 150 meters from metro, but when I reached there, there was no hostel. Had no one to talk to- eventually a courier person dropped me at the right address which was about 1 km away from location marked on google maps.

Same issue at Fehi Inn in Gan Island Maldives-home stay was not where it was supposed to be, so I had to beg some locals to call the homestay care taker and ask him to come where we were. Sometimes actual hostel could be just 200 meters from where the google map shows it is, but without knowing which direction, where to turn or where exactly it is, finding exact location will be painful.
What makes it worse is most hostels, home stays aren’t often well known to locals or taxi drivers (unlike a hotel) and most won’t even have proper signages/displays outside (mostly to avoid trouble or taxation from law enforcement).  The difficulty gets complicated multiple times if it is night time, or if it is raining etc. Getting stranded in an unknown locality, without knowing where to go, whom to ask or what to do is definitely a bad experience no one looks forward to.

If you’re a hostel owner, cross check your hostel’s location on Google maps and ensure it is correctly listed. If it is not, say it is marked some 500 meters off, get it fixed or send clear instructions to your guests on how to reach your hostel.

2. Squeaky, shaky beds
Some hostels buy cheapest available bunk beds, which shake a lot and make squeaky sound when someone is climbing up to upper deck. This is highly disturbing to other guests who may be sleeping and creates uneasiness.  Will be good if hostels can invest in a stronger furniture/bed that is firm and strong.

3. Limited WiFi
While all hostels usually advertise WiFi, some of them don’t disclose the limitations they have- like free WiFi is available only in reception area or there’s a limitation of usage per day-say 300 MB etc. I understand internet is expensive in some countries and hostels may have budget constraints. But at the minimum this information should be disclosed upfront so that guests can make informed decision.

4. Gap between one edge and the wall
Can’t really blame anyone, but beds that have a gap towards the wall side- often some things fall off- may be coins, books or such small things- they may fall off on to the bed below or they may fall on the ground-noticing that they fell off and trying to recover them is a effort intensive process. So I have to be extra careful not to keep any stuff that carries a risk of things falling off. Some hostels have very firm beds that align perfectly with the wall with no room for things falling in the gap- which is a great set up in my opinion

5. Too late check-in, too early check-out
I understand cleaning staff need time to clean the beds and rooms and ready it for next guest. So some gap between check-out and check-in time is understandable. But some hostels have too much gap. For example, check-in at 2 PM and check out at 12 noon is understandable. But if a hostel has check-in at 4 PM and needs us to check-out by 10 AM, I kind of don’t like such hostels. Anyway it is not like every guest checks out only at last minute and every check-in guest arrives ahead of time- many voluntarily check out early, and many arrive late in the evening, so keeping too much buffer is a turn off

6. Hyper sensitive bathroom controls
This is another thing that annoys- the levers in the shower control are often bit difficult to control- either I get too hot water or too cold water- maintaining the right combination needs lots of skills and a bit of luck. Not all hostels are like this, but some are.

7. Too little space
I understand hostels by design offer very little space. It is a shared accommodation with multiple beds stuffed inside one room. I can’t expect all the room for myself. But then some hostel rooms are stuffed so tight with beds/cots that there’s hardly space to move around. Will be good if hotels can configure rooms such that they leave one bed space (find out how many beds can fit maximum, keep one less)

8. No individual lamps and charging points
Most hostels are generous enough to provide a lamp and charging socket per bed. But some hostels don’t. They offer only one or two sockets per room and all guests have to fight for this power socket. Particularly if your bed is far from the light switch, power socket, more inconvenience to you.

9. Undisclosed hidden charges
The motorhome in Auckland wouldn’t give a set of bed-sheets and pillow cover. They say they charge NZD 10 extra (INR 500) for it.
Most hostels offer lockers- as long as you have your own padlock you can keep your stuff inside and lock it. But some hostels have locker space with number lock or other lock types and also insist on charging extra for locker usage


10. Tight space- can't even sit upright
Some cots do not even have enough space to sit upright, which often disappoints
I don’t want to complain- different hostels have different pricing, cost structure and way of working. But I just expect them to give clear disclosure of their shortcomings, limitations if any. A few things are assumed standard worldwide-like a bed with basic linen (sheets, pillow, blanket), locker & shower etc. If your hostel deviates from this globally accepted standards, do disclose it upfront so that people notice it before booking.

Also this is for their own good. If you don’t disclose crucial information, your customers will be upset as they leave- this will result in poor rating and negative reviews. You don’t have to do charity and offer everything free, just put yourself in the shoes of a guest who is new to the country, see how your hostel experience can be done better-particularly small things that don’t really cost money but make lots of difference to user experience.

On a positive side, if hostels offer below facility, I absolutely love them
1. Kitchen access so that we can cook our own food
2. Breakfast
3. Hostels having some pets
4. High Speed WiFi at no extra cost
5. Very close to metro/public transport
6. Common facilities like TV Room, library, Games room
7. Flexible check-out policy or provision to hang around/keep bags for sometime after check-out
8. Creative corners
What are your thoughts? Anything that bothered you during your hostel stays? Would you have some items to add to this list?

Chitra Kumar has written a similar piece focusing on Solo Women travellers- read her post here

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