I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with hostels. I love them because it’s cheap and it’s a great way to meet people but I hate them because many people are inconsiderate and behave as if they were alone. Here are a few tips for choosing and staying at a hostel.
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How to know if staying in a hostel is right for you?
A few years back, I would never have stayed in a dorm. Sharing a room with a bunch of stinky/snoring backpackers? No way. But that was when I only traveled for two weeks at a time, and saving money wasn’t my main concern.
Once I started traveling long-term, I started looking for ways to save money so I could travel longer. That’s when I tried staying in a hostel and got out of my comfort zone. Staying in hostels is not for everyone but if you want to save money or are solo traveling, I would recommend trying it at least once. Even if I get annoyed at people waking me up at night, it’s a great experience. For your first stay, I would recommend staying in a nice dorm, with fewer beds.
How to maximize your experience
1 – Don’t be shy
Hostels are social places, yes you go there because it’s cheap but also because it’s a great way to meet fellow travelers. Don’t hesitate to talk to people, if you’re planning on exploring or going someplace, ask people if they want to join, You’ll end up making friends and meeting all sorts of people you wouldn’t necessarily meet in your daily life.
2 – Join the activities the hostel is offering
Often hostels will organize tours and activities, if you are traveling alone, it’s a great opportunity to socialize and meet other travelers. It can also be cheaper than going with a tour agency.
3 – Do some research before booking
It’s important to know what type of hostel you’re going to stay in. For instance, some are party hostels and will have loud music until midnight, others will be quieter, it all depends on what you like. Some offer same-sex or mixed dorms. Try to find what’s right for you.
Some hostels also offer private rooms, so you can have privacy and be able to socialize at the same time.
You can also check the price on different platforms and call the hostel directly (it’s often cheaper to book with them). I also often use HostelWorld, it’s like Booking but with many more hostels and way less hotels.
What to look for when choosing a hostel
I always check first the location, is it close to the tourist attractions? Is it in a safe area? Is it easy to reach from the airport/bus terminal?
Then I check the amenities and services, do they have a kitchen guests can use? Are there common areas to hang out? Is the reception open 24 hours or is there a time you have to be back? How many beds are in the dorm? Do they have security lockers? Is there AC/hot water? Do they serve breakfast? Is there wifi?
Third, I check the photos, does it look clean? Does the place look run down? Do the mattresses look comfortable? Is there a privacy curtain around the beds? A mosquito net? Are all the beds stuffed into a tiny space? Are there windows in the dorm? (yes I’ve seen dorms without windows)
Lastly, I read the reviews, is someone saying something about bedbugs? Cleanliness? Noise?
How to maximize others’ experience
1 – Don’t make noise at night
This is the hardest part, I don’t think I’ve ever spent a night without people talking or going through their stuff as if no one was sleeping.
To avoid being noisy, first don’t talk in the dorm at night when people are sleeping, don’t even whisper, if you have something to say, just talk outside in the common area.
Second, if you know you’re coming back or leaving early, prepare your stuff beforehand. If you have to pack, bring all your stuff outside and pack there.
Lastly, avoid plastic bags, they’re the worst, you can try as hard as you can, you’ll still make a lot of noise if you’re rummaging through plastic bags. I’m a big fan of packing cubes, it’s way more discreet and it helps you save space. You can also use cotton bags instead of plastic ones.
Use headphones if you’re going to watch a movie or listen to music, even during day time.
2 – Don’t turn on the lights at night
I’ve seen people coming back at midnight and just turning on the lights when everyone else was sleeping. If you’re coming back late, use your cell phone, or better pack a small rechargeable flashlight.
3 – Don’t sleep naked or walk around in your undies
No one wants to wake up and see your butt. I’m all for a free world where everyone could be naked and no one would care, but we don’t live in this world. A hostel is an international place, with people coming from all over the world, many cultures would frown upon this. Be considerate of others.
4 – Don’t have sex in the dorm (or masturbate)
I shouldn’t even have to say that, but unfortunately, these things happen, and more often than not. If you want to have sex, just book a room, or use the shower at least. No one wants to have to hear that.
5 – Don’t take up all the space
Sometimes, hostel dorms are cramped. Try to keep your stuff in order and out of the way.
6 – Shower and keep your stinky shoes/clothes out of people’s nostrils
There’s nothing worst than having the person next to you unpacking stinky things out of his/her bag, and just leaving them right there. We are all backpackers, and we all probably wore the same shirt for two days in a row, but please wash your clothes once in a while, or keep them in a bag inside your backpack. Most hostels have a laundry facility, use it.
What to pack for a hostel stay?
- Earplugs and a sleeping mask (check out these super cute eye masks)
- Flip flops for the shower
- A toiletry bag you can hang
- A lock
- A microfiber towel (dries faster than a regular towel)
What about you? Have you ever stay in a dorm? How was your experience?
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