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There is so much choice when it comes to booking methods for hostels that it can be a little over whelming. The same accommodation is available on tons of different websites so shopping around is more important than ever.
I’ve realised the importance of being savvy and finding cheap hostels, particularly when travelling for longer periods of time. Those small savings on each booking can add up.
To help you be more savvy when booking hostels, I’ve put together this 4-step guide that I follow and then shared my ‘magic combination’ to reveal how I usually find the best prices.
Finding the Best Hostel
I tend to split the process up in to finding the hostel I want to stay in and then finding the best deal on that hostel.
Personally I think the best site for choosing a good hostel is Hostelworld. It is specifically built to book hostels so filtering by price is much easier, the number of reviews is displayed next to the rating, you can scroll through images without clicking in to the property and the map is much easier to move through options.
I also tend to look at reviews on blog posts, particularly for the bloggers who have actually been to those places and stayed in all of the hostels
Getting the Best Deal
Step 1: Check if you can book direct
The first thing to bear in mind, is whether you can book directly with the hostel. For many of the larger hostel chains, online booking is possible and they will usually guarantee you the best price or freebies for doing so. Here is a list of some of the more popular hostel chains and the benefits of booking direct.
|St Christopher’s||Slightly better price + free breakfast (worth € 5) when book direct|
[I found it to be about 3% cheaper + breakfast]
|Generator||Best price guaranteed when booking direct|
[I found this to be about 6% cheaper]
|A&O Hostels||Best price guaranteed when booking direct|
[I found it to be almost 9% cheaper ]
|Mad Monkey||Best price when booking direct|
[I found this to be around 2-3% cheaper]
|Vietnam Backpackers Hostels||Best price when booking direct|
[I found this to be around 8% cheaper]
|Nomad Hostels||Website says 5% discount when booking direct|
[However I found similar prices elsewhere]
Step 2: Check standard pricing using hostel comparison sites
There are so many ways to book accommodation that sometimes it’s hard to find the cheapest hostel booking website as visiting them all would be time consuming. Luckily, there are a few comparison websites to help out.
By searching these two comparison sites you’ll cover most of the best sites to find cheap hostel deals:
- Hotels Combined – Compares Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com, Expedia and others
- Hostelz – Compares Booking.com, Hostelworld, Hostelbookers and others
Note about Agoda on comparison sites – Agoda often appears as the best site to book hostels, but they add the tax later on in the process so the final price is usually more expensive than the comparison site suggests.
Step 3: Consider loyalty schemes + other benefits
The prices you see on the comparison sites will be the standard price. But with most of these sites, if you sign in you may get better prices or access to a loyalty scheme which will enhance your savings.
These are the best loyalty schemes to keep in mind when you’re reviewing prices.
The Booking.com Genius rewards scheme only applies to hostels who have opted in to it therefore not all hostels are enrolled. There are 2 levels of discount available depending upon how frequently you use site.
- Level 1: Make 2 bookings in a 2 year window = 10% discount on Genius properties
- Level 2: Make 5 bookings in a 2 year window = 15% discount on Genius properties
If you sign up to the Hotels.com loyalty scheme, for every 10 nights you book through them, you get one night free. The free night can be at the average cost of the 10 nights you already booked but you can pay the difference if it’s a little more.
For easy calculation, this is equivalent of 10% cashback.
There are also ‘secret prices’ available to members and frequent users of the program can unlock silver or gold benefits such as priority customer service and room upgrades.
The Agoda loyalty scheme is a little more straight forward, if you sign up, you’ll receive 4.7% off each booking. However, this can only be redeemed as a discount from your next booking.
Students can get 10% off bookings on Hotels.com when booking through a registered account on the Unidays website. However, this cannot be used in conjunction with the loyalty scheme. As I’m not a student I haven’t been able to verify how this works and it’s unclear whether this is a one-off benefit or a permanent discount.
Out of the best sites to book hostels, Booking.com appears to be the only one with a referral program that offers any real value. If you use your referral link to refer a friend to booking.com, you’ll receive £15 and they’ll receive £15. To make the programme even more appealing, it pays out in cash straight back on to your credit card. You’ll receive your rewards once they return from their first trip booked through the site.
Agoda doesn’t appear to have a permanent referral program but has been known to run refer-a-friend campaigns so check their website for details.
The Hotels.com referral program is only open to US residents and your friend must make a booking of $200, I can’t ever imagine spending this much on a hostel booking.
Step 4: Use a cashback site to make the booking
Once you’ve found your ideal hostel and worked out the best site to book the hostel. The final hack to help you save even more is to use a cashback website. I generally use Top Cashback or Quidco. Both have very similar cashback rates for the best hostel booking websites.
A rough guide to the cashback rates you can expect:
|Booking.com||3% cashback on all bookings|
|Hotels.com||8.4% cashback without the loyalty program,2.1% cashback with loyalty program. (The loyalty program pays better in the long term)|
|Hostelworld||42% cashback on the deposit only|
|Agoda||6.3% cashback on all bookings|
The Magic Combination
I continue to be savvy about my hostel bookings, my first port of call is to check if I can book direct, but in most cases I find that Booking.com is the cheapest hostel booking site.
The combination of competitive standard rates, Genius level 2 discount, extra cashback and the occasional referral bonus usually results in the cheapest rate. Sometimes the combination of these results in an even better price than booking direct with the hostel.
Extra Tip: Getting the best price for extending your stay
There will likely be instances where you wish to extend your stay at a hostel. I usually book 2 nights and if I like the destination and the hostel I can stay for longer.
When extending your stay, it’s worth researching the online price first. If the price you are quoted at reception is higher than the online price, you can usually persuade them to match the online rate.