When you are travelling around the world on a budget, hostels are fantastic. They are much more affordable than hotel rooms and they usually offer a kitchen so that you can make your own budget meals and save even more money. Staying in a hostel is a great budget option and we have found that it is often possible to get an even cheaper stay than the advertised price.
Lee and I have spent most of the last few years in hostels and we have used these strategies many times to get discounted prices. Many people we meet don’t try to negotiate hostel rates and don’t even realise that it is an option. Perhaps you might feel shy about asking for a lower price, but hostel and hotel owners are flexible with their rates all the time and will be more open to negotiation that you might think.
It’s always worth trying to negotiate a lower rate – it’s not always a guarantee but in our experience we have a very good success rate. We are usually negotiating for a private room in a hostel, but these tips should apply for dorm beds as well.
Here are some tips for getting a cheaper stay in a hostel:
Check How Many Rooms Are Available
It’s all about supply and demand.
You can use websites such as HostelWorld or HostelBookers to take a look at the hostel you would like to book. These websites allow you to see how many hostel rooms are available for the days that you want to book. If the hostel is almost fully booked and it’s a busy weekend, you might not have a lot of luck negotiating for a lower rate because the hostel owner knows that many other travellers will be happy to pay full price.
However, if it is a slow period and you notice that a lot of rooms are available – this is a great time to bargain. The hostel owner will be eager to fill up the rooms and will be happy to have you stay, even at a lower rate. If the room is originally $15 per night but they have the choice between giving it to you for $12 or leaving it empty and making $0 – they will probably agree to the lower price.
Go for Owner-Run Hostels
You’ll have better luck negotiating price at a hostel where the owner is the person who greets you at the door, shows you the room and checks you in. It’s much easier to negotiate price when you deal directly with the boss.
In larger hostels with more staff you might be able to ask, but the staff member will likely not have the authority to grant you a discount. We have sometimes asked for a discount only to hear, “Sorry, the boss won’t let me.”
The Longer You Stay, the Better Your Chance for a Discount
If you are planning on staying in your destination more than a few days, make sure that you mention it when you are negotiating with the hostel owner. Having long term guests is a plus for hotels and hotels and many are happy to charge you less per night if it means that you will stay put for a week.
Having the same guest for several days means that they don’t have to worry about the check in/check out process and the cleaners don’t have to turn over the room. Also, the hostel owner knows that they have a guaranteed booking for the next several days so they don’t have to worry about getting new guests through the door.
Since Lee and I travel quite slowly, we often stay in each place for several days to a week – perhaps even more. When we ask for a discount for a longer stay of more than 2-3 days, almost all hostel owners will offer us a lower rate.
If you know that you are staying at least a few days, but possibly longer – let the hostel know of this. Sometimes three days turns into seven if you really love a destination and if the hostel knows that there is a possibility you might stick around for a while they will be more eager to get your business.
Suggest a Reasonable Discount
Don’t get too carried away and ask for ridiculously low discounts. If the original price of the room is $25 per night, don’t try to ask for it for $10. However, asking for a rate of $20 if you stay for at least 3 nights is completely fair. Usually a discount of around 10-20% on a room is reasonable, although if you are staying for several weeks or months, you might be able to get a deeper discount than this.
Look at the Room First
It is important that you take a look at the room first before you start haggling over the price. If you start negotiating before you see the room you might be able to work out a lower price, but the hostel owner might then take you to the worst, darkest, smallest and least comfortable room he has to offer.
This is our usual order of business:
- Walk into the hostel and ask if they have a room available and if they have the most basic amenities we need. (For us Wifi is essential and a kitchen is a huge plus.)
- Ask the price. If the price is too high from the beginning and we don’t have a chance of suggesting a reasonable discount that would bring it down to our price range, we say thank you and leave at this point.
- If the price is within the right range, we ask to see the room.
- After we have viewed the room and are happy with it, we start negotiating.
Be Willing to Take No for an Answer
It never hurts to ask for a cheaper stay at a hostel, but keep in mind that the hostel owner is not obligated to lower his or her prices for you. We find that many will, but some don’t want to. That’s fine, they don’t owe you a cheaper room and they have the right to charge whatever they choose – it’s their hostel after all.
All negotiations should be done in a polite and respectful way with a smile on your face and no resentment if they aren’t willing to grant a discount. If they say no, you can choose to pay the full price or thank them for their time and go somewhere else.
Have you ever negotiated a cheaper stay in a hostel? What strategies did you use? Let us know in the comments.