So you want to open a hostel? Read these tips from the owner first…

We’ve enjoyed the process of turning Island Life into a colonial building with potential, to a fully-fledged, award-winning backpacker paradise. But of course, the road to success hasn’t been easy.

Chris, of the English owners of Island Life Backpackers’, always gets asked for tips by both guests and backpackers on exactly  how to open a hostel — and keep it open! So we’ve collated some of his many tips below to give you an insight into what really goes on behind the scenes.

It’s not an easy job but he wouldn’t change it for the world. So if you’re thinking of the best way to open a hostel, read his advice below before you commit…

Remember you might stop travelling

Many backpackers fall in love with the idea of starting a hostel because it means they want to live abroad; but remember, if you start a business in another country, chances are you’ll have to stay there to make it work. Travelling, as you once knew it becomes a thing of the past. Chris says: “You miss the whole travelling aspect. Remember that you’ll be stuck in one place, working and building a business there. All the mundane things you once did back home you’ll probably be doing abroad to make your hostel work.”

There’s the language barrier

Not being fluent in a the language of your new business is going to be a challenge, so brush up before you sign paperwork! Chris advises: “I moved over with zero Spanish and I had to get the construction materials to build the hostel myself. Trying to explain the materials I needed without knowing the words, using all these hand signals…it was tough!”

Don’t underestimate the work

“Remember it’s a lot of time, more time than you’d ever think. Its awesome but there is always something to do.

open a hostel
Chris at work

Talk to other hostel owners

It’s often a good idea to get advice from other hostel owners first. Chris adds: “I spoke to a lot of hostel owners at some of my favorite places before I decided to open my own and that really helped. I also made notes when I travelled around, taking note of what I liked and didn’t like at different hostels”.

Remember the people…

“There’s government officials you’ll need to meet to get your permits and sort out your taxes, but remember that you’ll have to get to know the locals, the police, the people in the street too”, Chris says.

…And the fact that work doesn’t stop!

“It’s a 24/7 job. From 6.30 in the morning until midnight you’re present. And then when you’re not, you’re still thinking about everything. But I wouldn’t change it for the world!”

But there’s plenty of great aspects too…

Chris says: “You may stop travelling but you’re always meeting other travellers, living through their experiences and helping them travel better, which is very rewarding. There’s never a dull moment.”


Need to stay in an award-winning Santo Domingo hostel? Island Life Backpackers Hostel can book your excursions and offer you an unbeatable hostel experience;  be sure to contact us today!