Krakow’s hostels are among the best in the world, according to Hostelworld.com, the most popular web site for booking hostels. Most of Krakow’s nearly 100 hostels are in the city center, are clean and offer a variety of free facilities such as Internet access, laundry and security lockers. They are also cheap.
A bed in a dorm costs between 30 and 50 zloty ($10-$17). The high standard of Krakow’s hostels is a tradition set by the first hostels in the city such as Bling Bling and Nathan’s Hostel. “They were offering free breakfast, lockers, Internet access and luggage storage. All the next hostels that were opening had to adapt their offerings to these high standards,” said Marek Bascin, owner of the Travelers Inn Hostel. Bascin previously worked at the Bling Bling Hostel. Then he decided to open his own business in 2004. His Travelers Inn was the fifth hostel in Krakow.Now, with dozens of hostels, the competition is high, but during the tourist season most hostels are full.
That’s because more and more visitors are coming to Krakow every year. Hostels’ fortunes rise and fall with the seasons. “During the summer there are a lot of customers, whereas winters are usually stressful,” Bascin said. To attract customers during the offseason, hostels jockey for the best positions in the ratings. “During the summer tourists usually choose the first available hostel, but when there’s a lot of choice they usually select the one that is best rated,” said Gosia Ewy, a co-owner of the Giraffe Hostel. Ratings on Hostelworld.com are based on six factors: character, security, location, staff, fun and cleanliness. The ratings reflect the grades given by customers. Tourists also can make written comments
Parties and dance courses
Hostels try to attract tourists in different ways. Travelers Inn offers a bike rental for free. Giraffe Hostel has a spacious bar with sofas, piano, pool table and a big projection screen where guests can watch films and football matches. “The bar in the hostel is often the reason why people choose us,” said Gosia Ewy of the Giraffe. To encourage customers to spend a night inside their hostels, owners organize concerts, parties and even dance instruction. “In June we were celebrating the first anniversary of the hostel. The party lasted for three days,” said the Giraffe?s Ewy. “There was a fete, awards and free tours for the customers. During the nights DJs played for the bar guests.” “We put a lot of effort to make our guests feel comfortable,” she added. “We never force them to stay in the hostel when there’s a party. Still, the best parties are spontaneous.”Many tourists have a few drinks in the hostel bar before they go out to a party to some club. On Saturday evenings Giraffe’s bar is full of young people drinking beer, chatting, playing pool or cards.
Staff is most important
Laura from Australia has been traveling around central and eastern Europe, and she has come back to Krakow for the fifth time. “I love the city and its atmosphere and I just keep on coming back here,” she says. She has stayed in many hostels around Europe, so I ask her what is the most important thing about a good hostel. “Staff and the overall atmosphere,” she says. Marcus from New Zealand and Seamus and Cormac from Ireland agree that the staff is the most important factor.
Knowing this, Gosia Ewy from the Giraffe is very careful while recruiting staff members. She usually chooses people with special talents. “The receptionist creates the hostel’s atmosphere,” she said. “That’s why it’s so important to have the right person who will quickly recognize the customer’s personality and provide them with the right entertainment.”
Hotels are boring
Wawrzyniec Slusarczyk wrote his BA thesis about hostels. The customers, he says, “are usually young people who not only want to save money by staying in a hostel but want to meet other young people from all around the world. They choose a hostel because they think that regular hotels are boring.”Marta Meissner, Giraffe Hostel’s manager, divides her customers into two groups. The first come to Krakow just for the weekend. ? usually from the UK, Ireland, France and Spain. They don’t do much sightseeing but rather concentrate on entertainment. The second group are backpackers ? from Australia, New Zealand and other distant countries.
They usually book a bed for one or two nights, but often decide to stay longer because they like the city so much.
Hoscars Awards for Krakow’s hostels
The reputation of Krakow’s hostels for being among the best in the world was recently confirmed during the Hostelworld.com’s 5th annual Hoscars Awards ceremony. Krakow’s Mama’s Hostel ranked fourth among all the hostels in the world. The winner was Berlin’s Jetpak City Hostel. A special award was given to another Krakow hostel, Flamingo’s Hostel. The winning hostels were selected by more than 500,000 Hostelworld.com customers from more than 12,000 properties featured on the web site.