Although some of us like to imagine it as a viable option, not all of us can afford to stay in 5-star luxury when we go travelling. Cheaper hotels may be a more realistic avenue, however they can often feel isolating, particularly if travelling by yourself, as well as leaving no choice but to eat out every mealtime due to a lack of cooking facilities. So, what should you do when you’re after something cheap and sociable with a place to whip up a simple meal? Of course, the answer is to stay in a hostel, the favourite and most obvious choice for every backpacker since the birth of cheap travel. They fulfil all three criteria – offering great prices, a fun atmosphere and (in most cases) a fully-equipped kitchen – while also providing other facilities, such as tours, activities, events, as well as all the typical features you would expect from paid accommodation.

Our list, while short, provides the top three websites for booking a bed in a hostel, whether looking for a shared room in a bohemian district of Berlin or a private room with an ensuite in Beijing. Each one has been extensively assessed to ensure that only the best platforms were selected, with each review containing a brief summary of the website, its highlights, what makes it unique, as well as its potential drawbacks. Nowadays there exists a mountain of different websites all offering a similar service, however not are all of the same standard. Therefore, we’ve sorted through them all to bring you only the best so you don’t have to, with all aspects of its functionality and features assessed, while the pros and cons are listed in an easy-to-read set of bullet points below each one.

One of the first factors that was taken into consideration when reviewing each site was how well it could be navigated. Although this seems a fairly obvious point, with the constantly changing nature of the web, sites can quickly become outdated, with pages that previously seemed to load a the blink of an eye feeling slow, and the general aesthetic looking tired. This can, in turn, make navigating the website a laborious process, causing customers looking for a simple, modern website to go elsewhere. Not only this, but things such as pop-ups or an abundance of adverts can also significantly impact the experience of navigating a website, ultimately distracting from the task at hand, in this case booking a room in a hostel. For that reason, in reviewing the sites, we made sure to first look at user-friendliness to ensure that we were recommending only the ones that offered a clean, up-to-date aesthetic and did not have too many different services that would make reserving a bed overly complicated.

Another aspect that was considered when compiling the list was search filters and ‘Sort By’ options. Even the most simple reservation platforms give their users the ability to add destination, arrival dates, departure dates, and number of guests, however, a wider selection of search filters that allows customers to narrow down search parameters by adding specific preferences undoubtedly makes for a far better website than one that only offers the basics. Although principally a function for saving time, owing to the fact that scrolling through hundreds of different hostels to find one that meets all your requirements is quite clearly a time consuming process, it also means that you can be very particular when making a search, such as whether the hostel has a snooker table or a bar, or if the room comes with a locker to keep your things safe. In addition, a broad choice of filters generally indicates that the website has attained a good knowledge of each property and its amenities, thus offering a more accurate representation of what to expect from your stay. ‘Sort By’ options, meanwhile, work in a similar way to filters, however (as the name indicates), they sort the results once users have added the appropriate filters, putting them into either ascending or descending order. This becomes especially useful, for example, if you are on a budget and you want to view rooms in ascending order based on price, or if you are more concerned with convenience over price, and want to ensure that you are no more than a stone’s throw away from the city centre.

A significant feature that was assessed was the level of customer service offered by all three hostel booking websites. Under the umbrellas of customer service was also included the range of options for actually getting into contact in the first place, as just one form of contact can feel limited, especially when abroad and making a phone call has the potential to be expensive. The presence of an live online chat was a big plus for hostel sites, putting customers quickly in contact with a travel agent who is on hand to clear up any queries you may have without the need to login to your email or wait in line on the phone. Hostelworld is particularly good when it comes to customer service, offering 24/7 assistance in nearly 20 different languages, making it accessible to nearly everyone who uses their site.

When it comes to booking accommodation, specifically that of hostels, finding the best price is an imperative for many travellers. That’s why we also considered whether websites offered a price match guarantee meaning if, after making a booking, customers found a better price on the hostel elsewhere, then the website will match it right up until the day before check in. Although it can often mean saving just a few extra dollars, it can quite quickly add up over time and allows users to feel as though they are getting the best deal without having to worry about searching across dozens of different sites. On top of this, Hostelworld also offers a booking guarantee in which they promise to provide a full refund and $50 USD in credit should there be a problem with the booking upon arrival. These schemes help to add transparency to the companies, narrowing the gap between business and consumer by offering cost saving guarantees.

Finally, the availability of a blog was taken into account when compiling the list of hostel booking sites. Although seemingly not as significant a factor as customer service a blog, featuring inspiring ideas, useful advice and tips on how to make the most of your trip, can make a website feel more complete and keep customers interested, even after making the booking. As companies with years, if not decades, of experience in the industry, they are some of the best qualified around to offer information on travel-related topics, while the articles often include high quality photographs taken by professional photographers. Therefore, the presence of a blog was, when reviewing the websites, considered an additional yet, ultimately, positive feature to the platforms.

Overall, this list provides the best selection of hostel booking sites from among thousands, combining all of the above features to single out only the top three. Hostels have long been the first choice for many travelers, offering cheap, sociable and fun means of lodging, an alternative to the often sterile and lonely option of a hotel. Whether it’s a short trip to the neighbouring country or an expedition to the other side of the world, these hostel booking sites will allow you to find accommodation that will suit all your preferences and ensure you make the very most of your travels abroad. Find the best deals on great rooms, meet amazing people in communal areas and discover lots of fun activities by referring to this list in order to book your place in a hostel, whether you’re a backpacker on a tight budget, travelling for work, or just looking for something a bit different.