Hostels – budgeting

My first post about hostels looked at facilities and how the presence of certain facilities or lack thereof can impact the travelling experience, as it did mine. This post looks into budgeting for hostels.

If you haven’t read my first post on hostels, go read it now – it’s only going to help you make a more informed decision.

While the need for budgeting when travelling sounds like stating the obvious, it’s mainly so that you have more money to spend on your excursions and the least amount possible on the bed you’re crashing on. Saying this, I’m not suggesting compromising on things like security and cleanliness. However, it pays to research whether there are events happening in the time frame you are planning to visit that particular place, as this will have a direct impact on the prices of hostels.

When I was travelling around Europe, I did not book every hostel in advance, to give myself a little bit of flexibility should I change my mind. This is especially true when I decided to go to Croatia during the electronic music festival Ultra at the last minute – as I did not have a hostel booked in advance, the cheapest room per night turned out to be £45 during the festival weekend.

I was spending max £20 per night where ever I was and able to maintain living to pretty high standards, so it was a shock to the system to have to spend double that and more. However, being as it was during a festival, it’s part of the natural order of these things – price goes up as demand goes up – and I accepted it. However, staying in Split and Hvar blew my budget out of the water and ended up costing me twice to three times more than any of the other previous cities did.

In this case, budgeting earlier, albeit unknowingly, helped me afford Croatia later on even though it still proved to be expensive.

Again, in terms of budgeting, I don’t mean compromising on your excursions and limiting your fun, but by choosing other, fairly painless ways to save money.

If the hostel you’ve chosen doesn’t offer breakfast for free, which most don’t, going out to the closest supermarket, such as Aldi or Lidl in Europe, and buying a few items will keep you going for the next few days. Most hostels will provide kitchen facilities, which can range from simply a cooker and fridge, to a fully stocked and spacious kitchen with fridge and storage space as well as a dining area.

Drinking and going out in the evenings is also a big part of the travelling experience. Some hostels I went to had their own bars and sold beers and other drinks for incredibly cheap prices. In Berlin and Prague, the hostels were selling German beer for as little as €1 per bottle. Other times, I went to the local equivalents of corner shops and bought local beer for as little 30-50 pence a can or other alcohol and pre-drank at the hostel with other fellow travellers. Socialising and saving money – two birds, one stone.

Whether you have an interrail / eurail pass or not, reservations for trains is one of those areas that you can save money on. Apart from a few specific trains, such as overnight sleepers and French trains, most trains in Europe have optional as well as mandatory reservation trains. If you have a pass, it is worth downloading the interrail app (which also works offline) to find out which trains have optional reservations, allowing you to travel without having to fork out more for a reserved seat. For non-pass holders, the Deutsche Bahn website and app provide train timetables for pretty much all of Europe, including information such as the requirement for obligatory reservations, as well as whether you need to book a seat a certain number of days in advance.