March 27


How to choose the right hostel for work & fun

By Johannes Völkner

March 27, 2014

When working and travelling, choosing the right accommodation is key. If you’re staying in one place for a week or two it doesn’t make sense to rent an apartment. And if you’re travelling for a while you’re not going to want to spend $50-150 a night to stay in a guesthouse or hotel.

So you’ll often end up staying in a hostel.

Now, many people are going to wonder how it’s possible to get any work done in a noisy hostel full of drunk backpackers with nothing to do all day. BUT believe me, there are great hostels out there that are perfect to get things done – you just need to find and choose it very carefully.

We work and TRAVEL not work and work. Hostels provide a great atmosphere that you will not find in guesthouses or hostels. Work-life balance is why we want to leave that stuffy office in the city .

Two reasons why you need to choose your accommodation carefully:

  • Looking back over my last few years of working and travelling, I’ve found that I’ve always been at my most productive in the destinations where I most liked the accommodation and  where I felt the most comfortable. The kind of place where a planned three day stopover turns into a three week stay. Not many hotels can give you that feeling.
  • It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, hostels are great places to stay. Whether you’re in Rio or a little jungle town in Sumatra, nice vibes and good people will make sure you have an awesome time. At the end of the day, it’s the people who make the place. We’re not working and travelling to show off to our facebook friends, we actually want to enjoy it as well.

There are a lot of factors that go into making a hostel perfect for both work and fun. As a result of my many mistakes when choosing short-term accommodation in the past, I have compiled a few tips that I hope will be helpful for you the next time you need to find good work and travel accommodation.

How to choose the right hostel

Before going into detail about what type of accommodation would suit you best, let’s look at the things that matter. Some of these factors are very different from usual traveller suggestions, so read carefully.

Choose small over big

Small hostels have tonnes of advantages over the bigger, more popular alternatives.

  • The internet is shared between far fewer people and in a smaller property the connection is more stable everywhere
  • In the big hostels the receptionist won’t even remember your face. Whereas smaller hostels are far more personal. You will get all the best tips about what to do in the city and a smile when you return
  • Everybody knows each other in the smaller, more personal hostels. They often have great little communities of travellers who end up staying longer than they planned.
  • It’s so much easier to get your work done without the constant distractions you’ll find at bigger hostels
  • Fewer people means more peace and quiet to be productive

These are the reasons I always choose small over big. Being comfortable around people who I can get to know means I can be far more productive.

Choose a hostel with the right atmosphere

The people staying at a hostel make it what it is. Obvious, I know, but every hostel attracts a certain type of traveller which adds to its vibe. Striking a balance between having the right surroundings to get your work done and having a good time in the evenings is super important for any travelling worker.

When you’re researching on hostel booking sites such as and make sure you look at the ‘atmosphere rating’. This will give you a good idea about what to expect. Also look at the pictures and see if there are any ‘quiet areas’ where you will be able to work. Make sure it’s not a party hostel!

Don’t stay too cheap – Look for boutique hostels

Being on the road for a while makes you appreciate your budget. However, when it comes to hostels it’s a good idea to spend that little bit extra. There are all kinds of hostels for every budget, from super cheap to boutique.

Spending that extra couple of dollars will buy you more space and peace and quiet that is so important to productivity. One tip is to look out for boutique hostels. They will often have a much better wifi connection, comfier beds, cleaner rooms and bathrooms, friendlier staff, and a good breakfast to start the day. So remember that the extra couple of dollars usually makes for a far better deal.

Study the interior carefully

A hostel might have a great bar and big, comfortable beds. But has it got an area where you can work for 5 hours a day in comfort? This is very important for those of us who work and travel. When researching online, look at the pictures to see if the hostel has a comfy lounge, seats, and a table.

Don’t stay too far from Cafés and other work options or bring offline work

Sure, the eco hostel in the jungle might be an exciting place to stay (especially since you heard so many people raving about it). BUT, if you need to get work done you should avoid relying on one internet connection far off the beaten track. That’s why it often makes sense to have some back up options that you can work on if things go wrong and you’re cut offline. You don’t want to travel 5 KMs to the next place with a connection.

There are exceptions: I’m actually on the way to kitesurf in a bay far off the track in Costa Rica right now, and I’m unsure about how good the wifi connection will be. So I sent an email to the hostel far in advance (they replied saying that it was good, we’ll wait and see!) Remember: when in doubt always send out an email to a hostel asking about the internet!

Stay in long-term hostels

Larger cities often have a few hostels where many travellers stay long term, in order to study Spanish, teach English or volunteer. These hostels often have a great internet connection and a more homely feel because the travellers get to know each other better. Another advantage in these hostels is that everyone is busy during the day, so they will understand that you have stuff to do.

Long term hostels are the best place to stay if you want to meet people who have a similar schedule to you. The problem is that it’s not easy to find these hostels, so a good approach is to find out through the language schools which hostels they recommend to their students.

Choose small dorms or single bedrooms

I am not a big fan of dorm rooms and whenever possible I try to avoid them. However, if the hostel is great and I’d really like to stay there, I still don’t mind staying in a dorm room for a few nights. But remember when choosing your hostel try to avoid the big dorm rooms. I’d always go for the smallest dorm room possible or a single room if they have them.

Study ratings wisely and read the reviews

Two extremely popular websites to book your hostels are Hostelbookers and hostelworld. Both of them offer ratings. Most people simply book the hostel with the highest rating, but  be careful doing this. Often the most popular hostels can be the noisiest ones. So make sure you read the reviews as well and figure out exactly why the hostel is so popular (it’s often a crazy party hostel).

Stay as close to the action as possible

If you’ve travelled somewhere to surf then you should stay as close to the beach as possible, not a 30 minute bus away. Your work-life balance is important so try and stay as close as possible to what interests you in a destination. Having to work while we travel means that we can’t waste time commuting to do the things we enjoy.

As you can see, there are quite few things to consider when choosing a hostel. Most importantly the place should look comfortable and the internet connection should be strong, but other factors matter.

Have you worked in hostels before? Can you recommend any great hostels you’ve stayed that allowed you to have a good time and get things done?

Feel free to share your favourite work and travel hostels in comments!

Johannes Völkner

About the author

Founder of WebWorkTravel magazine

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