Show up or book hostel in advance?

The question some first time travellers asked is should they book their hostel in advance or walk in. I am not an expert in this. Just merely sharing my thoughts on this. Before I begin, I would like to clarify that this is based on my experience in South East Asia. Things may not be the same elsewhere.

Booking hostel in advance can be done through platforms such as Agoda. With the advancement of technology, booking hostels become simpler and less costly. It allows you to choose based on the location, pricing, facilities available as well as reviews. This is by far the most economical way to book your hostel. Booking in advance allows you to get the best rate and you have a piece of mind from worrying if the hostels are fully booked.

Alternatively, you can choose to walk in. From my past travels, I note that hostels (dorms) pricing do not fluctuate that much so tentatively, it is still economical to walk in. It depends on how you would want to do it. I usually compare the pricing given by the hostel’s owner and compare it with Agoda. If the price in the platform is cheaper, which generally it would be cheaper, I would book through the platform.

Here’s when you should book your hostel in advance

The hostel is recommended by your friend or you had previously stayed- If your friends have been there and you happen to have the same travel style, you would most likely love the place they recommend. Or if you have been to the place before and would like to travel back to the same place again. Like how I love the hostel I stayed in Hug Chang House, Chiang Mai. I know that the environment is good and the place is clean. If I happen to be back there, I would definitely book in advance

The place you are travelling to have very limited hostels- I was travelling with my sister in Indonesia as we were going to Ijen Crater where we need to spend the night in Banyuwangi. Luckily, my sister booked the hostel way before we begun travelling as it is pretty hard to look for hostel around that area. We met a few travellers who had not booked their hostel and ended up not finding any.

The destination you are going is a popular destination– If you are going to a popular destination, you may want to book in advance if you want a good deal ( a cheap place with good location and reviews). There are lots of time that I did not book in advance and I ended up paying more for a hotel which is located further away.

You are arriving late at night– The last thing you would want to do is walking around in the middle of the night searching for a hostel. Imagine arriving at a destination at 1 a.m knowing that you have no place to stay. Some hostels even shut their gate after 12 a.m so you may have a hard time.

Here are good time to walk in

There are lots of hostels in that area- Depending on where you are heading to, there may be a place populated with hostels. Places like Bangkok and Chiang Mai are a good example in Thailand.

You are particular about the room condition– Toilets!! That is the number one concern when it comes to hostels. Walk into a hostel allow you to have a physical look at the condition of the hostels before making a decision. I lost count on the number of times I book a place in advance only to regret it.

You have plenty of time to kill- Searching for a hostel is not the quickest thing you can do. You will probably go to a few hostels before finding one which interests you. I usually do that if I arrive early in the morning and have plenty of time to explore the place. Travelling for 2 whole months gives you more flexibility compare to travels in 2 weeks where you need to rush to places.

Platform to book accommodations

Regardless if you are booking in advance or walking in, these are platforms that you should have with you. Walk in prices quoted by the hostel’s owner will usually be higher than prices stated in the platform as there is always promotional rate on the platform. What I usually do when I walk in is to ask the owner how much they charge and later compare the pricing against the pricing in the booking platform.

Agoda- This is by far my favourite and most commonly used by me. I have spent approximately RM3,500 (USD 817) to date on Agoda. I will usually compare the pricing offered in Agoda and to see which rate is the best.– Another platform which is similar to Agoda which I used a lot as well. There is no one favourite platform I would choose over and it really depends on which platform gives me the best price.

Hostel World- Another commonly used platform but travellers but I have not used it before. Thus, I am not really familiar with the interface.

AirBnB– Not something I use often unless as I am always looking for a cheaper room, usually dormitory. I would only consider when I am travelling with my family or with my friends as it would not be economical.

So what way do you usually use when you book your accommodations?

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One thought on “Show up or book hostel in advance?

  • August 14, 2017 at 10:42 am

    Great list! I also usually book in advance if I’m on a short holiday (who wants to walk around for two hours in the heat when you only have two weeks somewhere?) but wing it on longer trips. I’ve also only been able to use Agoda in SE Asia — for other regions HostelWorld had more, better, cheaper options.


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