Hostels are a cheap and fun way to travel around the world but staying in a hostel for the first time can be daunting. I asked Danny from What’s Danny Doing to share his top tips for staying in a hostel from a guy’s point of view – and you’ll be glad to know that the same top hostel tips apply for everyone staying in a hostel! Just follow this advice and you’ll have a great time!
I remember the first time I stayed in a hostel. I was in Auckland, New Zealand, at the very start of my first foray around that epic country, and I was scared out of my mind!
The hostel was huge. I’m talking, multi-storey style accommodation, with floor after floor of fellow travellers, talking, drinking, mingling, and doing their thing. Sure, it was exciting, but it felt a bit like being the new kid at school. I remember walking in and feeling totally out of my depth; grateful that I was only staying for a few days, and with friends to fall back on.
Had I been on my own, I’m not sure how I would have handled it.
Thankfully, the more I stayed in hostels the more I began to enjoy them. By the end of that trip I was a dab hand at hostels; familiar with the quirks, culture, and unwritten rules of engagement. Now, 5 years on and a whole lot more travel under my belt, I’ve learned to love them more than any other form of accommodation on the road (and not just because they’re cheap!). They offer an unparalleled atmosphere that only comes from total strangers being brought together, under one roof, by the same love of travel. You meet great people, glean top travel tips, and, ultimately, have fun.
But, as I know all too well, hostels can be a daunting prospect for first-timers!
It’s with that in mind that I decided to put together a selection of ‘survival tips’ for staying in a hostel. I hope they’ll help settle the nerves and prepare hostel newbies for the experience to come!
Get Stuck In
The best advice I can give to anybody staying in a hostel is this:
Throw yourself into the action!
Be the first to say hello, ask tons of questions (check out these questions for road trips for ideas) make an effort to introduce yourself to people, ask if you can join in the drinking games, and strike up a conversation with anyone and everyone you meet.
It can feel daunting, to begin with. I mean, you’ve got dozens of people sitting around, chatting, drinking, cooking, playing cards, and so on. It can feel like everybody already knows each other, which makes it harder to get stuck in.
However, 99% of the time you’ll find that everybody’s friendly, and more than happy to welcome you at their table. Even better, your confidence levels will increase in record time, making you feel more comfortable and at home in the novel environment.
Hostel Tips: Pack Some Earplugs
You might be sharing a dorm room with up to 11+ individuals and you can guarantee that at least one of them is going to snore.
You can also rest assured that a fair number of them will be out drinking, coming home late, and moving in and out of the dorm room at all hours.
That’s bad news for anybody who wants an early night! If you need your beauty sleep, then it’s a good idea to pack a pair of earplugs for the night time. They might not block all the noise out, but you’ll definitely be better off.
Pack a Padlock
A padlock is another handy hostel item to include in your backpack. 9 times out of 10, your stuff’s going to be fine anyway. I’ve left all my valuables out and about in hostels, totally unattended and open for the taking, and had nothing stolen.
But I’ve been pretty lucky. It would only have taken one bad egg and a dose of bad luck to be telling a different story here. Theft does happen, and hostels are a prime target for the crime. Having a padlock means you can make the most of the lockers that most hostels provide. You’ll enjoy far greater peace of mind, and safer belongings too.
READ MORE: 10 Essential Items for your Backpack
Grab a Bottom Bunk
That first time I went to a hostel, I was stoked to find myself on the top bunk. I couldn’t believe everyone had left the coveted top bunks alone in favour of the bottom. ‘Suckers’, I thought, as I happily left my things on the top. In my head, based on my memories of childhood sleep-overs, the top was where you wanted to be!
I quickly changed my tune as I settled down to sleep though.
The person below me moved around in their sleep, shaking me awake at the same time; the power sockets were on the floor, meaning I didn’t have my phone there to use as a clock; and every time I needed the loo I’d have to clamber down in the pitch black, trying not to wake people up, but inevitably causing a cacophony of creaks.
I’ve since learned my lesson and gone for the bottom every time! I whole-heartedly recommend you do the same.
Keep Your Phone Close to Hand
Here’s a quick one: Keep your phone close by during the night.
There’s nothing worse than trying to sleep when somebody else in the room can’t find their phone to turn the alarm off. You gotta remember that those rooms get dark! It’s not like your own space where you can pop the bedside table on to help you find things. Nope, you’re groping around in the pitch black, desperate to check the time or turn off the alarm, so try to keep it somewhere nearby throughout the night.
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Tips for Staying in a Hostel: Label Your Food!
Food thieves run rampant in hostels, unfortunately! Leave anything unlabelled and untended for long enough and you can guarantee it’ll find a new home. We could be talking everyday foodstuffs like milk, bread, or backpacker luxuries like chocolate and booze. You’ll never see it happening.
You’ll just turn up to prepare your meal and realize your milk bottles half empty, you’re missing a beer, or your prized tomato ketchup is running suspiciously low. It’s never funny (unlike these epic camping jokes!).
Rule number one of any hostel stay is to label any food you leave in the communal kitchen! Many hostels have signs up telling you to put your name, room number and departure date.
If you don’t, the cleaners will chuck it out in the morning. The only thing worse than having your food stolen is having it thrown out for no good reason! Label your food to stop it happening.
Cook in Off-Peak Times
Here’s another kitchen-related tip: in big and busy hostels, don’t wait until traditional mealtimes to prepare your food. This is when everybody piles into the kitchen, taking up all the countertops, appliances, stovetop, and so on.
It’s like culinary rush hour, and it’s a recipe for frustrating waits and rumbling tummies. I, for one, find few things more stressful than manic kitchens!
Try to get in there earlier, or, if you don’t mind waiting, later on in the evening when it’s quietened down. You’ll get things done quicker and more efficiently, with full access to all the pots and pans.
Don’t expect everything to be sparkling clean either. There’s always somebody in a hostel who fails to do their washing up. Stacks of pots and pans with half-eaten food are often dotted around, waiting for someone else to tidy them up.
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It’s also important to be open-minded. You’re staying in the same building as dozens, sometimes hundreds, of other travellers. You’ll come across people the likes of which you’d never hang out with back home. You’re bound to come across a few people with different opinions and ways of life.
You might also find yourself confronted with situations you’ve never come across before. People stealing your food, sleeping together in dorm rooms, leaving bathrooms filthy in their wake, or espousing viewpoints and opinions contrary to your own.
It’s all common, and all demands an open mind to see the funny side of things! Leave the judgments outside and enter any hostel around the world with an eager and easy-going attitude.
You’ll enjoy yourself far more if you aren’t getting worked up over the indiscretions. Moreover importantly, though, you’ll challenge yourself and the stereotypes you hold. You’ll meet beautiful people who you’d never dream of hanging out with ‘in the real world’. You will grow and become a better person in the process.
Hostel Tips: Don’t Overdo the Drinking
Hostels and nightlife go hand in hand. Not always, but often. It’s natural when you’ve got a bunch of people travelling the world, looking for a good time!
People go and grab some cheap booze and crack out the drinking games! It’s fun, and an effective way to remove any awkwardness and inhibitions that might otherwise stop you enjoying yourself.
If you drink and feel comfortable doing so, then get involved! Just don’t overdo it.
People literally die in party-central places through excessive consumption of drugs and alcohol! On Koh Phi Phi (a famous party island in Thailand), for instance, people get so inebriated that they wander into the sea, fall over, pass out and drown – it’s crazy!
Take it easy on the booze when you’re overseas. Make sure you’re in your right mind to help you avoid any nasty fate that can sometimes befall drunk people on the road!
Ask About Work for Accommodation
Finally, ask your hostel for any work exchange opportunities.
This is when you swap a few hours’ work in a hostel for a free night’s accommodation. Many places around the world advertise these roles as a win-win; they avoid staff costs and you get to stay somewhere for free.
That’s always handy when you consider how accommodation is one of your main expenses while travelling. You might have to commit to a week or two’s minimum stay, but that’s no bad thing when you’re travelling around beautiful parts of the world and find yourself strapped for cash!
READ MORE ABOUT WORK EXCHANGE PROGRAMS
I hope you find these hostel tips useful!
Hostels are one of the most popular types of accommodation on the road. However, they can also be a little bit daunting when you’ve never stayed in one before! These tips for staying in a hostel for the first time will help you embrace the experience and make the process of adjusting to hostel life that bit easier.
About the Author
Danny Newman is currently writing and travelling his way around the world in a bid to figure out exactly what he’s doing with his life. He’d love you to follow along with his journey over at What’s Danny Doing.
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