Here, I’m going to give you tips on things that every person needs to know before they stay in a hostel. This will cover everything from common sleeping arrangements to meeting people to how to keep your stuff safe in a hostel.
What is a Hostel?
A hostel is a budget accommodation where you share a room and bathroom with multiple people. Some have age restrictions, 18-35, and some don’t. Sometimes they are located in someone’s apartment, yes that’s right!, and sometimes they are large corporate style hostels with hundreds of beds and professional staff. The main draw for these types of accommodations is price – they are usually much cheaper than a hotel and the larger the dormitory room in which you stay, the lower the cost.
Sleeping Arrangements (Dorm Style)
Most of the time you will be sleeping in a dormitory style room if you stay in a hostel (some allow you to book private rooms). This means that you will be sleeping with anywhere from 1-59 or more people in the same room. As such, you should prepare to change your habits a bit compared to staying in a hotel. Most rooms will have bunk beds, usually 2 high but some places will have them stacked 3 high, and most hostels have rooms that are 4, 6, or 10 bed dorms. Some dorms have bathrooms attached (ensuite) and some share a bathroom with other rooms on the floor.
Since you will be sleeping with lots of strangers, you will need to protect your valuables and also expect there to be noise, noise, and more noise.
How to Sleep Through Anything (Almost)
In hostels there is a lot of noise, even if you have a private room, there will be noise permeating through the walls and into your room. You can use earplugs to try to keep the noise out but that is not always going to work well.
I recommend you use earbuds and plug them into your phone or ipod and put a single song on repeat. The earbuds will stay in your ear more easily than headphones will stay on your head throughout the night and using a phone or ipod will allow you to set an alarm to wake you up in the morning.
Now that you have protected your ears from noise, you need to think about light. People will come into your room and turn the light on either in the middle of the night or really whenever the inconsiderate bastards want. As such, you need to use eye covers or a sleeping mask.
The music in combination with the sleeping mask will give you the best level of sensory deprivation needed to sleep in a hostel.
Keep Your Stuff Safe
You are going to be in a shared room and that means multiple people will have access to where you keep your stuff. As a result, you really really REALLY need to keep everything locked-up. Never leave electronics or other valuables out in your room when you are not there or when you are sleeping, no matter what!
If the hostel has lockers, use them! If not, just make sure to lock all of your bags – you can use luggage locks to lock the zippers together and then lock your bags to your bed using a small cable or chain with a lock – this is especially important if you are storing a laptop or tablet in your bag. Use the cable or chain to loop through the straps or handle on a bag and then onto something like a bed frame support.
To lock everything up in most hostels, you will need a few different types of locks: luggage locks, a cable or chain lock, and a pad lock or simply a larger version of a luggage lock.
(If you are going through Asia or South America you might also want to invest in a metal mesh net type bag protector that will help to prevent people from slashing or cutting open your bag)
Bathrooms and Showers
You will be sharing a bathroom with a few people or many people. Just know now that you will have a reduced level of privacy. Some showers are placed in co-ed type bathrooms with guys and girls sharing the facilities equally; though, there will be a door or curtain to close for the shower or toilet. Some will be clean and some will be so dirty that you don’t want to use them.
For the most part though, just know that you will probably be taking shorter showers than usual and will not have great access to mirrors, hair dryers, or sinks either at all or in any private setting. That said, you will still be able to take a private shower and a private crap, just probably not in the cleanest or most secluded of facilities.
My main recommendation for this section is to bring a quick dry micro fiber towel, something like this: http://www.amazon.com/Travelon-Luggage-Microfiber-Travel-Towel/dp/B007XAIDJ0 [not a paid link or product placement], shower shoes or sandals, and a shower bag to hold everything that you will need in the bathroom.
Also, you will have to get used to using what feels like sand-paper for toilet paper. That damn Downy Bear toilet paper will never be present in a hostel! I recommend trying to get used to this before you travel, just buy coarse sand-paper instead of toilet paper and that should do the trick. 😉
Hostels are the best place to meet other travelers, many of whom are traveling alone. If you are social, you will find a friend to walk around the city with you or to grab a few drinks with you. This aspect of staying in a hostel is the best part; you will make instant friends with other people from around the world, share travel tips, and have a great time.
If you need a good ice-breaker, my favorite one is the simple “Hey, where are you from?” 95% of the people that I have met have been from asking this question.
Remember, “The people you meet define the experiences you have.”
As long as you are willing to meet new people and put up with some inconveniences, you can have a wonderful and amazing time in a hostel. Unless I need some quiet time, I never ever stay in Hotels if I am traveling alone. Hostels allow you to experience the life of a city and to meet lots of interesting and new people.
So, be mindful of your valuables, wear earbuds and eye covers at night, bring shower shoes and a micro-fiber towel, ask everyone where they are from, and get ready to meet some great people and have a wonderful time in your hostel! 🙂
What hostel tips do you have? Put them in the comments below for everyone to see!