Open Letter to Hostel Owners

Without hostels, traveling wouldn’t nearly be the same and as convietnamt. Thank you hostel owners for opening and providing a global service to us backpackers and giving us a convietant and budget way of traveling around the world.

I’ve stayed in more hostels than I could possibly count in the last 2 1/2 years of mostly consistant travel. There’s a few things that I look for in every hostel that I think every hostel owner needs to keep in mind. I can understand there’s difficulties in meeting the fast changing standards of the traveling lifestyle. For example, wifi is now the norm while three years ago, it was a task to find a hostel that provided it. Still, there’s a few simple things that I’ve listed below that needs to be universal and provided to backpackers.

This is my open letter to you hostel owners so you can create a better environment for backpackers and make traveling more enjoyable.

Free and Accessible Wifi

None of the hostels I stayed in Australia provided free wifi. I was paying nearly $10 an hour. Having wifi is now becoming a standard just as much as having running water. Not only was I paying $10 an hour but half the time the wifi hardly even worked. I never had to pay for wifi in any country in Asia or South America and it was more reliable than Australia.

Tips for hostel owners:

  • Hire an IT guy to limit users usage on the wifi. You can limit users to one hour at a time then forced to re-login. Another option is capping internet speed so it’s equally distributed and block usage from downloading from torrents and certain activity that might suck up too much bandwidth.

Free Lockers

I can’t ever imagine staying in any hostel that didn’t have lockers. Now with so many people traveling with expensive cameras, laptops, and phones – why would you want to make your customers feel uncomfortable by providing an unsafe hostel? It’s quite simple. Just have a few big wooden boxes next to your customers beds with a hinge. The customer should have their own lock and if they don’t, you can sell locks at the front desk. You can potentially earn some extra cash while providing a secure environment to your customers. Make sure the containers are actually big enough too for the customer to fit all types of electronics. I especially love hostels that allow me to put my entire backpack in a draw under my bed which allows me to lock up.
City Hostel lockers
City Hostel lockers by eGuide Travel, on Flickr

Electric Outlets

I’d get annoyed if every other customer that comes up to me asked me where the plugs are. Save your breath and just install outlets in every possible location.
You know what would work really well? Embed the outlets on the side of all the tables in the common area. That way instead of spreading everybody out because your outlets are all over the place, you force your customers to be in the common area. They’ll interact, make some friends, and buy a drink while on the computer or charging their phone. I’ve also seen a few hostels put the outlets inside the locker for someone to be able to charge and lock up their electronics. That’s clever.

Shelf in the Shower

I hate walking into a shower with nowhere to put my clothes down. They end up getting wet before I can put the new clothes on. Hooks are not enough. Not all my clothes can be hooked. A shelf that’s AWAY from the shower head would be helpful. People need to be able to undress and dress in the same shower space.

Hooks IN the Room

I bet you never thought of this one before. I rarely come across a hostel that has this tiny feature. Not sure why either. When I come out of the shower, I need a place to hang up my towel or wet clothes from the rain. So the only place I could possibly find is on a ladder which is fine when I’m sleeping on the top bunk but it’s super annoying when someone else puts their towel on there and I’m not sure where I’m supposed to throw it. It’s especially annoying when I’m coming down the ladder and I notice a towel blocking all the steps down.

Handle to Climb to Top Bunk

I’m somehow supposed to climb to the top bunk with nothing to grab onto. Grabbing onto the ladder doesn’t work since most ladders are unstable and too short. I need a handle on the top so I can push myself up and onto the bed. This feature costs nearly nothing and it surprises me how many hostels forget to add this.
Hostel : Our Room
Hostel : Our Room by LoraxV, on Flickr

Enforce Quiet Hours

I understand that hostels can be loud and that it’s normal for people to come in and out at any time of the day. That’s not my complant. It’s the people outside of our rooms drinking and partying at 2:00am that annoys me. That’s what the common area is for. It should be enforced that customers must continue their partying past a certain hour in an area that’s separate from the dorm rooms. People will not know this unless you put signs that clearly mark where they are to go after a certain time. If your party/common area is located in the same area as the dorms, well you’ve picked a horrible layout for a hostel.
Drunks, please go elsewhere
Drunks, please go elsewhere by passiveaggressivenotes, on Flickr

Business Cards and a Map

Every hostel absolutely NEEDS a business card. There’s the obvious reason to pass your card along to travelers to pass along to other travelers but here’s another important one — if the traveler doesn’t speak the local language and wants to get back to your hostel, the traveler can show the business card to the taxi driver and get to the hostel safely. I’ve done this so many times and it has saved me multiple times. It was gold in China for me. It was especially useful when the business card had an easy to read map in the back so the taxi driver knew exactly where it was and myself if I decided to go for a walk.
Another thing though is to have a large map as well of the area to hand out. A full sheet size paper recommending places to go in your city with an easy to read map. Bonus points if you explain to your customer the map a tiny bit right as they check into your hostel.

Create a Facebook Page or Group – NOT a Facebook Account

I really wish Facebook could delete those company Facebook accounts. Pages and groups is where you showcase your business. You also risk being deleted by Facebook if they find your Facebook account. Pages and groups are much more interactive and allow you to display more information using tab applications.

Knowledgeable Staff

Backpackers are always looking for advice on where to go, what to do, and how to do it. Prepare your staff for every possible question backpackers are going to ask about your city and how to get around. Customer service is extremely important. If you’re going to hire other travelers to take care of reception, I’d recommend getting someone very knowledgeable of the area or always have local staff there with them at all times.

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