Since I started traveling internationally and independently nearly 7 years ago now, my preferred accommodation has always been hostels. They’re much cheaper than hotels, have a better social atmosphere, and are a great way to meet people on the road. I have stayed in countless hostels around the world and while I know they’re not for everyone, I truly think they are a great way to travel. But sometimes you need to pack a few extra items to make the most of your stay.
Staying in shared accommodation (dorm rooms) in hostels can be daunting, especially if you haven’t experienced it yet! I already wrote about my top 10 tips for staying in hostels. So this post is all about what you need to pack for hostels. After years of hostel trips, I can say that I bring these items with me every time! Here are your essentials for what to pack for hostels:
First and foremost, you need to bring a lock with you when you stay in hostels. Most hostels will have lockers for your belongings. Some hostels might have large enough lockers (or cages underneath a bunk bed) for storing luggage. Some lockers might just be large enough for valuables like a laptop, passport, and wallet. Either way, pack a lock to secure your items, and never take any chances. I have never had anything stolen in a hostel—but then again, I have always locked up my valuables, every single time. Either a padlock or a key lock will work just fine. But be sure that you don’t lock your key inside the locker!
No one wants to be in a dorm room with someone that snores. Or someone that comes in the middle of the night and noisily changes and bangs things around. But sometimes it happens, and packing earplugs can go a long way in making sure you get a good nights’ sleep.
Similar to earplugs, if you pack an eyemask you will guarantee yourself a better nights’ sleep. I have traveled with an eyemask, a sleeping hat, or even a scarf to block out the light, and it has been my savior more than once. This is especially helpful if someone in your room comes back at 2am and turns all the lights on with no consideration for other people.
Technically, you don’t really need to pack a towel if you’re traveling in hostels, but I still always do. Some hostels will have free towels, and some will rent towels (sometimes for ludicrously absurd prices like 5€!). I always prefer to have my own towel, especially as some hostels will only give very very tiny towels out. If you’re staying in just one hostel, and it says they offer free towels, you can forgo packing this. But if you’re staying in multiple hostels, I really recommend bringing your own.
Flip-flops are a must for traveling in hostels. Sometimes hostel bathrooms can be a bit dingy, and you won’t necessarily want go to barefoot in the shower. They’re also nice for walking from the bathroom back to your room after you shower, so that you don’t have to go barefoot with wet feet. I pack flip-flops for every trip and I’ve never once regretted it!
Wherever you may be going in the world, you should always pack an adapter if you’re switching countries and changing plug sizes. This is especially true for hostels, because they generally won’t rent them to guests for free—typically, you have to buy one (and they can be super expensive). I always bring adapters with me, and I suggest buying the smallest one possible. Hostels frequently have few sockets and awkward angles for plugs, and a bulky adapter might not fit in that tiny space between the bed and the wall.
- Power strip
If you want to be an absolute hero, pack a small power strip with you! Sometimes dorm rooms will only have 1 or 2 plug sockets for up to 10 people, and it can be tricky if you have to charge your phone, laptop, and camera all at the same time. Bring a power strip so you can charge all your devices (and even other people’s if you’re feeling generous!) in one go, only using up one plug.
- Sandwich bags/plastic bags
One of my number one items to pack on any trip is sandwich bags and plastic bags. Sandwich bags are great for storing your liquids, sneaking snacks from a free breakfast for lunch later on, and just in general organizing your belongings. Plastic bags are great for separating dirty laundry, transporting wet towels or swimsuits, and for keeping dirty shoes separate. When you don’t have space to spread out in your room, it can keep you organized better.
Unlike hotels, hostels don’t provide you with toiletries, so it’s important to pack your own body wash, shampoo, and conditioner when traveling in hostels. Alternatively, you can buy your own on the ground so you don’t have to worry about airline liquid restrictions. But either way, it’s something you’ll need to bring yourself.
- Water bottle
Bringing your own reusable water bottle is beneficial in many ways. But I always pack my own when staying in hostels, since I don’t want to have to get up in the middle of the night and possibly disturb everyone. Regardless, it’s cheaper and more environmentally friendly, so you should bring your own anyways!
While phones can be great sometimes, nothing really beats a good old-fashioned flashlight. Flashlights are especially helpful for reading in bed at night, or for finding your way in the dark, without having to turn all the lights on and potentially wake everyone else up. Sometimes phones just can’t cut it.
Don’t be that person who listens to music or watches videos loudly when everyone else is trying to sleep. Be respectful and pack a pair of headphones. They take up next to no space but can be a real life saver!
- Portable safe
I don’t have one of these yet, but it’s something I plan on investing in within the next year (particularly if I go anywhere outside Europe). A portable safe is exactly what it sounds like—a safe that is portable. You can stick all your valuables inside, and then lock it up to something sturdy in your dorm room—pipes are the best bet, but any sort of heavy item of furniture should work as well. I think this would be a great item to pack when traveling in hostels!
Regardless of what you choose to pack for hostels, you should always try to pack light, and remember that you’ll be in a shared space. Try not to overpack, or bring super bulky items that take up loads of room in a tiny dorm room. Don’t explode when you unpack, and take up everyone else’s space. And always lock up your belongings!
What items are your must-haves for hostels?