What do you picture when you hear the word “hostel?” A bunch of backpackers crammed into a dorm room? Low-budget travelers cooking Ramen noodles in the shared kitchen?
You might think that staying in hostels is only for the very adventurous (or the very broke) travelers. It’s true that many people who stay at hostels are budget-conscious, but that’s not their only motivation for staying there.
The truth is that hostels today offer many of the same perks as traditional hotels for a much lower price tag. 90% of hostels offer private rooms (in addition to dorm-style rooms), as well as free WiFi, onsite dining, and daily cleaning services.
With that said, not all hostels are created equal. How can you sift through the options and find hostels that are clean, safe, fun, and affordable?
Keep reading for your ultimate guide to staying in hostels.
1. Research the Area
Before you book a bed at any hostel, get familiar with the area first. Read reviews about the condition of the room, the facilities, the staff, and the neighborhood.
Travelers tend to be pretty honest in their reviews, so pay close attention to their input. Is it easy to reach the hostel via public transportation? Did they feel safe in the neighborhood during the day and after dark? Was there a fun, friendly vibe in the common areas?
2. Travel Light
You don’t have to bring only a backpack, but you don’t want to haul a gigantic suitcase into a hostel room either. Remember that space is limited and your oversized luggage probably won’t fit in the storage lockers.
If you have trouble packing light, start by paring down your shoes. In most destinations, a pair of sandals and a pair of sneakers or hiking boots are likely all you’ll need. It’s also safe to skip bulky items like a hairdryer and most toiletries, as these will be available at your destination.
Bonus tip: Most hostels provide sheets and towels for you to use, but double-check their policies before you book. If you’re not carrying your own, you may have to rent a towel or sheets for a small fee.
3. Keep Your Valuables Safe
Most travelers who sleep in hostels are trustworthy and respectful of others’ possessions. Still, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Leave all non-essential valuables at home, and store the things you must carry in a locker or locked luggage.
If your hostel doesn’t offer adequate security (or you just want to be extra-safe), look up a luggage storage network in your destination. This could be a great option for storing your valuables for a few days.
If there’s no other way to secure your most important valuables (passport, wallet, phone), slide them under your pillow or keep them in a fanny pack while you sleep.
4. Understand Your Rooming Options
As mentioned before, most hostels offer private rooms for one or two travelers. If you’re new to staying in hostels and a little unsure about the experience, this could be a great way to ease in.
If you’re ready to dive into shared accommodation, pay close attention to the number of beds in each room. You might get a really cheap price for a room with 16 beds, but consider if you’re mentally prepared to share space with that many people. Your best bet is to book a shared room with four to six beds, as you’ll have more space and privacy.
Another important note: Check if the room you’re booking is same-sex or co-ed. If you’re a single female traveler, you may feel comfortable staying in a room with other females. If you’re traveling as a couple and you want to sleep in the same room, make sure you book a co-ed room.
5. Respect Common Spaces
Most hostels have shared bathrooms, kitchens, and common areas. Remember, this isn’t a hotel, so you’ll be expected to pick up after yourself.
If you use the kitchen to eat or cook a meal, follow the hostel’s guidelines for cleaning your dishes and disposing of trash. If you leave food or drinks in the fridge, put your name on them. Never take food or drinks from a common area unless it’s crystal clear that the hostel has provided them for guests.
The same rules apply to your dorm room and bathroom, as well. Don’t leave dirty clothes or wet towels lying around. Try to keep the area around your bed as neat and tidy as possible.
6. Pack Earplugs
This is perhaps our greatest piece of advice for staying in hostels: Don’t forget your earplugs!
Hopefully, you luck out and get nice quiet roommates. But you never know who’s going to snore, toss and turn, or stumble into the room at 2 am after a night of partying.
Even if you’re normally a heavy sleeper, you may struggle to get a good night’s sleep in a new shared environment. Earplugs will be a lifesaver!
7. Be Honest With Yourself
All of these perks of staying in hostels sound great, but does that automatically mean it’s the right pick for you?
Here are three important questions to ask yourself:
- Are you a very light sleeper?
- Do you need a lot of space and luxury furnishings to feel comfortable?
- Do you tend to be messy when you’re traveling?
If you answered yes to the questions above, you might be better off booking a private room at a hostel or going the more traditional route with a hotel or Airbnb.
Soon You’ll Be a Pro at Staying in Hostels!
Staying in hostels is not just an affordable way to travel. It’s a wonderful way to meet like-minded people, swap travel tips and advice, and make some new friends along the way.
And remember, hostels aren’t just for young people or backpackers either. If you’ve never stayed at a hostel, why not give it a try for your next trip? You’ll be surprised at how much you enjoy the experience!
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