Staying in a hostel is like a backpacking requirement. Your first hostel experience may be a bit nerve racking if your not sure what to expect but there are many ways to avoid that.
Plan Ahead: it is my opinion that if you want guaranteed good karma with hostels then you must preplan your trip and find good places to stay early. It is true that you can backpack areas such as Europe with no plan and live day to day exploring wherever you like. BUT the best hostels fill up early and either sell out or raise their prices significantly for last minute bookers. I found really great hostels in Europe for really great prices by researching a few months ahead of time, reading reviews, looking at guides and finding the best fit for us.
Take into account other expenses: You may think that you have found a great deal but don’t forget to check the distance from the city, or the attractions you want to see, and the amenities available at the hostel. Sometimes paying a bit more a night to be closer or paying more a night but being able to cook in and use the communal kitchen can end up saving you money in the long run.
Get ready for some sleepless nights: no matter how lucky you are, and how much you plan ahead the biggest outlier in the equation that you can not out plan for are the other people in your dorm. I have had rooms full of people who had flights at 4am turning on all the lights and waking me up, groups of partying boys in Amsterdam who listened to music, turned on the lights, and snored at all hours of the night, and even rooms where people have thrown up. Keep in mind these are at nice hostels, we have not stayed in any of the notorious party hostels and I can only imagine what goes on there….If that is the kind of vibe you are looking for make sure to research that as well or you may be disappointed in the crowd you are staying with.
Consider an apartment: There are many types of alternate places to stay such as apartments in towns and cities. These apartments often have a full kitchen, even laundry, and provide an authentic living experience in wherever you are staying. It is my personal first choice but there are times where a hostel is good too. Check out the section review on staying in apartments and using AirBnB here.