What makes a good hostel dorm room?

After writing recently about what makes a good hostel common room, I was asked by a reader in the comments section to continue on my theme of “what makes a good hostel…” I thought it was a great idea! A quality hostel certainly does not stop at having a social & atmospheric common room! A hostel needs to cover all bases in order to provide a good service to its customers.

Just as important if not more so to the hostel common room is the dorms! When you date back the history of hostels, harking back to the beginning of Youth Hostel Associations and hostels as a whole, the main thing that set them apart from a hotel other than budget was that you stayed in dormitory style room. Initially they were all same sex dorms, but as times moved on hostels began offering mixed sex rooms too.

So what makes a good hostel dormitory style room?

Comfortable Beds…

It may sound like pointing out the obvious, but guests need their sleep. That is first and foremost what a guest is paying for after a roof over their heads. If the beds are really uncomfortable then it makes things hard. Who wants to stay somewhere they can’t get any sleep? A guest is probably not going to book again or recommend a hostel if they find this, nor will they fill out a flattering review on a hostel booking website. Investing in good quality beds can be the best decision a hostel ever makes. They tend to last longer than cheaper, poorer quality bunks, and are really integral to the main service a guest is paying for. Other than cleanliness and overall safety, it really is the most important thing!

Bed bug & water proof!

The majority of hostels I’ve stayed in have all been very clean. Unfortunately, at somepoint in your travels you will probably come across at least one hostel which isn’t up to standard. Just like you can find a crappy hotel from time to time, you can find a crappy hostel! Depending on the location you are travelling to for instance, things like bed bugs can be rife (Perth, Australia was surprisingly one of them when I was there). A few simple decisions made early on by a hostel can eradicate this problem from every happening, or at least stop it from spreading.

  • Bed bugs find smooth surfaces hard to latch on to. Something as simple as having metal bed bunk frames prevents bed bugs IMMENSELY! Wooden bunk frames are easy for them to live and breed in. They can’t do this ona metal frame.
  • Having matresses lined with plastic or water proof material can also help prevent bed bugs getting into the mattress material that they can easily latch onto. It also helps prevent staining and destruction of mattresses from water like substances too, so it has a double benefit.
  • Washing all linen including blankets at a high heat regularly will help reduce the likely hood of any criters too! (Some hostels don’t wash the blankets for some reason, but just the sheets.)
  • Keeping beds a few inches away from the walls where some bugs live also helps. It’s harder for the bugs to jump from the walls onto beds at this distance.

If you are staying at a hostel that has all of the above implemented then you know there is very little chance of them having things like bed bugs! It should also be noted that bed bugs are not a common occurrence in hostels, so don’t unduely worry about them if it’s your first time travelling. You can also get them in hotels (I’ve even heard of a Hilton Hotel in New York got them at 1 point), so don’t be too allarmed if you hear of something like this. Many businesses have to deal with it.

“Bring your own padlock” style lockers, big enough to fit your valuables!

Having a locker next to your bed is ideally what you want in any hostel. It’s much more convenient for the guest if they are placed in the room next to their bed. One of my pet hates travelling is hostels which either a) don’t provide lockers at all, or b) offer lockers far too small. You need to be able to fit an ordinary sized laptop in them, plus things like cameras and other valuables too. Ideally they will be able to fit a whole backpack inside, but as long as you can fit all your main valuable inside that’s ok.

Having to pay for lockers is no-no too. I’ve only ever come across 1 hostel that does this, but for me security is the number 1 thing before cleanliness that you need. This should already be incorporated into the price. For me, lockers should also be the kind that you use your own padlock. I’m sorry, but I just don’t trust that someone else might have a code to my locker, regardless of whether they work at a hostel or not. I’m sure 99% of hostel staff are honest, but you hear all the time of people having their stuff stolen out a hotel security box from staff – you don’t tend to hear that about hostels… I like to think that’s because each traveller is the only person who has the key or code to their own padlock.

Room to move!

I’m all for super cheap prices in the biggest dorm rooms available, i.e. the more beds in a dorm the cheaper the price per bed. However, the room has to be big enough to allow for all the beds. If you have a massive room to fit in 20 bunk beds then by all means! I’ll happily pay €5 a night staying in a huuuuge room… provided I actually have enough room that is! Too many hostels make the mistake of just trying to fit as many beds in as possible. You need room for people to move, put their stuff, and to fit lockers. If people don’t have this they won’t feel comfortable, they are unlikely to extend their stay…

An en-suite + extra bathrooms

Lot’s of hostels advertise as having en-suite facilities to their dorm rooms. That’s great if you’re in a private room with your partner where you only have to share with 1 other person, but do that with an 8 bed dorm of 8 girls all trying to check out at the same time with only 1 bathroom and it’s a nightmare! An en-suite is great for convenience… when it’s available! If you can offer it great! Just make sure if you are a hostel owner that you also offer extra toilet cublicles and showers outside the rooms too. As a customer you may be fooled into thinking there is extra convenience with an en-suite, but when you’re sharing a room with a lot of people this set-up changes to that of a private room like you would get in a hotel.


2 Responses to “What makes a good hostel dorm room?”

  1. Alex says:

    The two other main things that are often lacking in my experience (mainly western Europe) are personal reading lights and useful plug sockets. The number of hostels that only have one light or socket per dorm amazes me!


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