More and more travelers are cutting back and choosing hostels rather than traditional hotels, tempted by the low prices and improved facilities of what was only a stop-off for backpackers and cash-strapped students.
The rise of the ‘flashpacker’ (tech-savvy travelers, or backpackers with more money to burn) demanding better facilities and private rooms means that budget accommodation in Rome is often cheaper and better equipped than some of the chicer hotels.
But no matter how ‘flash’ your hostel may be, your first foray into budget accommodation can still be daunting – whether it’s booking a room or coping with shared dorms. To help all of you first-time hostelers out there, here are my top tips for hosteling in Rome.
- Booking a Bed
One of the advantages of hostels are that you can often turn up unannounced and find a bed, perfect if you have to stay an extra night in a city, or if your travel plans are disrupted. But I wouldn’t recommend just ‘turning up’ for an extended holiday in Rome – the city is hugely popular on the backpacker trail and beds fill up very quickly, especially in peak season (Easter, Spring, Summer).
If you fancy a spontaneous city break, expect to compromise on what kind of hostel you stay in and the facilities available – you could find yourself strung out on the outskirts of the city in a cramped dorm!
Plan your trip well in advance, and book online for cheaper prices– I’d recommend using booking websites like HostelBookers where you can see plenty of pictures of the hostel, user reviews and ratings, and maps so you know where you are going to be staying. Avoid any sites with a booking and joining fee as well!
Usually, you pay a deposit or a fraction of the price online first, and then the rest when you turn up at the hostel. Most hostels in major cities like Rome will have card machines, but I would bring some Euros just in case.
- Choosing a Hostel
This is the trickiest part of all, as there are a whole range of hostels in Rome. There are several youth hostels in Rome which cater to students and backpackers- the cheapest option. These usually have shared dorms and bathrooms, and often have a ‘lock out’ so you can’t hang around in your room during the day.
‘Party Hostels’ are along the same lines, but often have a jam-packed social calendar, a bar on site with cheap drinks, and no curfew, so it’s perfectly acceptable to stumble in at 2am.
Guesthouses and B&Bs are usually smaller, family-run versions of hotels, often in beautiful converted old homes, and with great extras like home-cooked breakfasts.
Boutique hostels are stylish and slick hostels, usually with a selection of private or shared rooms, a great range of facilities (such as self-catered kitchens, lounges and internet cafés) and cool interiors.
- Things to Look Out For
The best way to identify a good hostel is to read up on other travelers reviews, and to look at the hostel facilities. The best hostels usually have a combination of the following – a choice of private and shared rooms, a kitchen and social space such as a lounge, hot showers, an international, 24-hour reception or help desk, a free luggage room and lockers for personal belongings, linen and towels, and internet facilities.
Other extras to look out for include free breakfasts, social events and excursions, free city tours or maps, bars and restaurants, and even the occasional luxury extra such as jacuzzis and pools!
- Where in Rome
Although Rome is easy to explore on foot, check where your hostel is before you book. Many of Rome’s hostels are in a cluster of streets close to the train station and the University, which is ideal if you are arriving late at night. The Termini area may have a reputation for being a little dodgy at night, but in my experience most of the hostels are on the quieter and safer side of the station and are ideally located for walking to the main sites in central Rome.
- Hostel Etiquette
There are a couple of hostel faux-pas that should be avoided, especially if you are sharing a dorm with strangers. The key thing to be considerate, so don’t return to your room loud and drunk late at night, or have ‘amorous’ evenings with a loved one in your dorm bed (trust me, it has happened before!).
If the hostel has shared facilities like internet or a kitchen, just use your common sense – don’t hog the computers for hours or leave the kitchen in a mess.
Otherwise, relax, be friendly and you’ll be fine with your new-found roommates – hostels are a great place to meet like-minded people, and the staff are usually friendly fellow travelers or locals. Don’t be afraid to ask them for tips or advice! It’s rare that you’ll have any problems, but if you do have some uncooperative roommates, just speak to the hostel staff and they will help you out.
- My Top Hostels
There are a couple of hostels in Rome that really stand out. The two Alessandro Hostels – the Alessandro Palace and Bar and the Alessandro Downtown, have some of the friendliest and most helpful hostel staff I have ever met.
In converted apartment buildings, the rooms are very spacious and both host lots of social events and free food – when I was staying there we never ate out, because we got breakfast (lots of fresh bread and fruit) and a home-cooked Italian dinner for free!
The Yellow Youth Hotel is chicer than your average party hostel, and the homely Blues B&B is ideal for couples or families.