I first started traveling in hostels when I was 18, all the way back in 2011. Since that first trip, I’ve been a convert to hostel travel and have nearly always chosen hostels as my accommodation when traveling. There are so many great things about staying in hostels—they’re cheaper, it’s a much more social atmosphere, etc. But staying in hostels (especially dorm rooms) can definitely have some downsides. After years and years of traveling in hostels, here are my top 10 tips!
1) Become an evening shower person
Most people shower right away first thing when they get up in the morning. Unfortunately when you’re in a hostel, you’ll be sharing facilities—which might mean a lengthy wait to hop in the shower in the morning. If you can, try showering in the evening. Chances are you will never have to wait for a shower! I became an evening shower person during my first hostel trip 6 years ago, and haven’t looked back since.
2) Pack light
Packing light is something I always try to do, whether I stay in hostels or not. But even so, I really recommend packing light if you’re staying in hostels. There might not be a ton of space in your dorm room for that giant suitcase, so ditch the stuff and leave it at home. Remember you’re sharing the space with others!
3) Lower your expectations
In general, it’s important to remember that if you’re choosing to stay in hostels, it won’t be the Ritz or the Hilton. It won’t be fancy, and you’ll most likely be sacrificing your privacy to save a lot of money. You probably won’t have your own bathroom, you won’t get those free shampoo and body wash samples, and you will be sharing your space with others. Lower your expectations and remember that you’re choosing to travel this way. If you’re not happy with the idea, pay a bit more and stay somewhere you’ll be happy!
4) Be considerate
Perhaps the golden rule of staying in hostels: be considerate of others. Remember it’s a shared space, whether it’s dumping your stuff all over your dorm room, leaving your dirty dishes out in the kitchen, playing music really loud when people are trying to sleep, or taking up the bathroom longer than you need to. Always think about how you would feel if someone else did it to you!
5) Always lock your stuff up
While hostels are great, you typically sacrifice privacy and security to stay for cheap in dorm rooms. Always lock up your belongings. Most hostels will have lockers (at least large enough for a computer, passports, etc.), so make good use of them! You can never be too cautious or too vigilant. It takes about 10 second to lock something up, but it means your things are secure. Never take any chances and when in doubt, lock it up.
6) An eyemask and ear plugs go a long way
If you’re staying in dorm rooms, you’ll have no control over how loud someone snores or whether that one guy comes in at 2:00am and turns on all the lights while he stumbles around the room. Bringing an eyemask and ear plugs can really make a difference—the difference between a good night’s sleep and a bad night’s sleep. I always travel with an eyemask (or a scarf to mummify myself, or a sleeping hat to pull over my eyes), and would never stay in a hostel without one.
7) Be able to get up with one alarm
My least favorite people in the whole planet are the ones who need about 8 alarms to get up, and who don’t seem to care that their alarms are also waking up everyone else in a dorm room. Learn to get up with one alarm. Train your body so that once your alarm goes off, you can get up—even if you scroll on your phone for a bit after you’ve woken up. There are too many times that I’ve had to literally wake people up because their alarm is going off, keeping everyone else in the room awake, but they can’t hear it. Don’t be that person. Ditch the multiple alarms and remember you’re in a shared room.
8) Be approachable and open to conversation
Hostels generally have a much more social atmosphere than any other type of accommodation. Staying in hostels is a great way to meet people, whether you’re traveling solo and looking to make friends, or you’re with friends and just like meeting new people! I started talking to a group of Russian teenagers on a school trip in St. Petersburg, and ended up going on a midnight boat cruise with them for White Nights! Try to be approachable and open to conversation. You never know who you might meet!
9) Always bring flip-flops
Flip-flops are one thing that every person should pack when they travel in hostels. Besides the fact that it’s nice walking from your room to your shower and not having to go barefoot, some showers in hostels might look a bit gross. And you might want those flip-flops in the shower. They don’t take up much space, but can be a real lifesaver if you need them!
10) Hostel private rooms are great deals—and they might be worth it
While hostel dorm rooms will always be the cheapest, it’s worth remembering that most hostels will offer private rooms as well. They might be more expensive, but if you’re traveling with two people I’ve found that sometimes it works out cheaper than two beds in a dorm room. Private rooms give you everything you crave when staying in dorms—privacy, security, a guaranteed good night’s sleep. But since you’re still in a hostel, you get all of the facilities, amenities, and social atmosphere! The older I get, the more I tend to look for private rooms in hostels. Private rooms are a great way for anyone who wants the hostel experience, but also doesn’t want to sleep in a room with strangers!
I nearly always use Hostelworld to find hostels. They have the largest selection of hostels anywhere, always have photos, and their reviews are only from people who have actually stayed there. They also don’t charge a booking fee!
You can read my own hostel reviews here!
Have you ever stayed in a hostel? What would your top tips be?