Backpacking isn't quite the same as it used to be, that's no secret. Gone are the days where hostels were very similar in what they offered you and backpackers' perceptions were very different. The competition within the backpacking industry was not nearly as rife and the recession and other social changes has evolved into what backpacking is now.
The positive side effect is that there is a hostel out there to suit everyone and anyone but it can be difficult to know and find the correct hostel for you. A bad hostel experience can ruin a destination for backpackers so it is important to find a hostel that will accommodate your needs and not just its own.
Within such a competitive market, you will without fail be given numerous sales pitches on your travels and it can be very easy to say 'yes' under pressure but remember that this is your trip, you get to decide where you stay, for how long, and what it is that you want to do.
Every hostel is going to tell you that it is well located, clean, comfortable and friendly because if they didn't you wouldn't look twice at them. Just to give you a bit of a helping hand, here are some points to consider when thinking about your backpacking trip and what kind of hostel you are looking to stay in.
Choosing a hostel (the right hostel for you!)
Consider your budget
How much do you have to spend per night? The rise of 'flashpacker' hostels can also mean the rise of hostel prices. If you are really on a budget then find a hostel that is designed for those on a budget and don't expect any more than just the basics.
Consider the extra's
If you are on a shorter backpacking trip and have the money then consider spending that little bit extra on your hostel and benefit from the added extra's you may get. There are hostels now that offer you spa's, sauna's, Sky TV and good quality kitchen and games facilities. If you have come away to treat yourself, then why not do so.
Consider the location
If you choose to stay in a hostel in the heart of the city then you benefit from easy access to just about anything. However, this also means that you may be prone to noise. If you want peace and quiet look for a hostel located slightly off the main road.
What are your needs?
Are you looking to have a base for a while, to meet people, find out where to start travelling? If the answer to these are yes, then look for a hostel with a travel desk and with daily and nightly activities. They are designed to get backpackers to meet each other and are the best way to make you feel less lonely. If the answer is no to those questions and you just want a place to relax then maybe look for something that can offer you some space and won't have you sharing dorm rooms with loud, drunken backpackers.
Don't feel pressured by the sales pitch
This is your trip and there is nothing worse than someone pushing you in to something you don't want to do. To be fair, companies want to promote their product but if someone comes on too strong and makes you feel uncomfortable then avoid at all costs. If a hostel is that pushy and don't respect your own personal preferences then you don't want to stay there.
Check service in advance
Give the hostel you are thinking of staying in a call and ask a few questions. If the response is friendly and welcoming then you know you are on to a winner. If you feel like you are burdening them with pointless questions then do not waste your money on their hostel. Regardless of whether you stay in a hostel or hotel, there is no excuse for poor service.
Read reviews but with caution!
The likes of Trip Advisor are there for a reason, to give consumers the chance to an open and honest opinion. It takes 5 minutes to search your potential hostel and read the comments. Remember nowhere is perfect so it will only be natural for a hostel to have a couple of negative responses, that's human.
If it's good, stick with it
Most hostels in Australia and New Zealand are part of a brand or are affiliates to a brand. This essentially means that hopefully what you get in one destination you will get in all the others. So, if a hostel works well for you then stick with the brand on the rest of your travels. This way you know what you're getting when you arrive.
If it doesn't work, move on
But tell the hostel why it didn't work out for you. You should get an understanding response from the hostel. Perhaps it was a conflict in personality types or perhaps it was something the hostel did incorrectly. If you don't get an understanding response, get yourself on Trip Advisor and let others know. Again, there is no excuse for poor service.
The simple idea behind finding the right hostel for you is to know what you want and what you deserve in the form of service. Backpackers spend equally as much money as your average hotel stay these days and your money is worth just as much. Do a little preparation in advance so you know what your options are, this way you can't be caught unprepared and you should have the ultimate backpacking experience that you came away for.