Our top tips for the Hostel Life
Hostels are much cheaper than hotels and many of them are very nice, they are a great low-cost option for low-budget travellers. However first-time hostel guests may find that sharing a bathroom and having dorm-mates is somewhat intimidating. Hostels are fun and with these practical tips, your stay will be hassle free:
Before you travel
Before you travel, consider the following tips:
1. Read the Reviews
All lodging places portray themselves as being top of the pack: clean, neat, cheap, and friendly. So it is a good idea to read the reviews of their guests to get an unbiased opinion. They will tell you the facts and you can then decide if that hostel is suitable for you.
Find out exactly what the hostel offers: is there breakfast? does it have WiFi? is it free? Ensuite bathroom? Hairdryers? Air conditioning? Lockers in the room? Where exactly is the hostel located (is that really the downtown area? Check it out on a map).
2. Define your type of room
Hostels offer different types of rooms (Read more: Hostel room what types are there?), so what kind of room do you want?
Women traveling alone may choose a female-only room. Other hosteliers may want a smaller dorm room with four beds while others like larger dorms. Smaller rooms are more expensive though. If you are travelling with a group, you may want to book a private room it could be cheaper than booking individual beds in a dorm-room.
Cheaper options mean dorm rooms which means less privacy but more social interaction with your dorm-mates. If you're staying a while, ask about extended rates.
What type of Hostel?
You know your destination, and the dates that you will be travelling, and read the reviews, but now you have to pick your hostel. If you don't fancy imbibed guests, avoid a Party Hostel. If you will be travelling to other destinations, perhaps your hostel is part of a chain or network and you could get some "loyalty" discount by using the same chain (like Loki Hostels in Bolivia, Peru and Argentina). Consider these factors when selecting your hostel.
At the hostel
You've just arrived at the hostel, and here are your roommates. Introduce yourselv to them when you arrive. Don't be shy. For instance you can say hi to your dorm-mates during breakfast or if you see them having a drink at the bar. Hosteliers are open people and like to interact with people. They can share travel tips on sights and attractions in this or other destinations. Hostels are places to meet people and make friends. Ask people where they're from and tell them where you're from.
1. Bottom Bunk Always
The bottom bunk is easier to get into. No need to climb in the dark, groping for the stairs. You can even make it more "private" (in a crowded dorm room) by asking for an extra sheet at the reception when you check in and tucking it into the bottom of the upper bunk: it will hang like a curtain across your bottom bunk. It will also help you charge your phone and other devices (plugs are usually closer to the ground).
Clothes hangers, pack a few -yes, they are stiff and big, but you can hang your clothes to dry by hanging them from the under side of the top bunk!
2. Noise management: Earplugs
Shared dorms are noisy, and partying room-mates returning at 5 AM with a few drinks in their system may be noisy and make a lot of noise when they return to the room.
Then you have the snoring people. A bigger dorm means more people and increases the chance that one of them snores. Fortunately most hotels offer Earplugs (free or for a fee) or you can buy some silicone earplugs on Amazon for 36¢ per pair.
Be considerate, you make noise too! keep noise to a minimum: don't slam doors or sing while you listen to music on your phone. Respect your fellow room mates.
3. Bathroom tips
Come shower-ready: unlike hotels, hostels don't provide towels (or if they do, they charge a stiff fee for them), soap or shampoo.
Use your Shower caddiy (Toiletry Organizer) it will make it easier to carry your soap, shampoo, deodorant, etc. to and from the bathroom that is down the hall.
Bring your "flip-flops" this is a sensible practice because the moisty environment of public showers are breeding grounds for biofilms (slimy patches of microorganisms). These may find their way from your feet to your body (as you dress) and cause anything from a fungal infection (athlete's foot fungus) to a MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection.
Wash your Towels often. Even though you may think that the towel is clean (it dries your freshly washed body doesn't it?), it isn't. Towels smell and in a Dorm room that can be nasty. So wash it with the rest of your laundry. Clean towels smell nice.
Use a larger waterproof bag to carry your change of clothes to the shower with you. It's better than walking back to the room wrapped in your towel.
A Sleep Sheet. Sometimes the sheets at hostels look rather grimy and may put you off or you may be thinking "bedbugs". So buy some sleep sheets; they are two sheets sewn together forming a sack, a very thin liner, like that inside of a sleeping bag, which makes it easier to pack.
If you are travelling to a destination that has mosquitos, then pack a light mosquito net and hang it over your bed when you go to sleep.
5. Protect your valuables: bring a padlock
Keep your money, passport, extra credit cards and other valuables in a safe place. Hostels usually offer a safe or a locker but some don't provide a lock to keep your valuables safe. So bring a padlock, code ones are great (no need to fumble for a key - use a code that is hard to crack). You could even bring two locks, a small one (some lockers may require a very small padlock). But then again, some hostels give you a card or bracelet with a chip in it that opens your locker.
If there is no locker, keep your valuables on you in a soft bag around your neck or a money belt.
6. Charging your devices
Plugs are a valuable commodity in Hostels, they are always being used by someone so it may be difficult to charge your mobile. But try this: if your hostel has a television, look for the USB socket on the back of the TV and plug into it with your USB connector. Don't forget an adapter to the local sockets -they may be different to those back at home and an external battery pack for extra juice.
7. Coping with temperature
With many people sleeping in Dorm rooms, they tend to be warm (look at it this way, each of us is a stove that is at a temperature of 36.7°C - 98.6°F) so even if it is cool when you go to bed, as it fills up it will warm up too. Dress in layers and strip them off to sleep cooler.
8. Learn the Hostel etiquette
Youth hostel etiquette is simple and common sense: don't turn on the lights at night (use a small flashlight), don't make noise (use headphones inside the dorm), streamline bathroom use -it is shared. Your bed area should be neat (no smelly food in side the room, hang towels or clothes at the foot of your upper bunk, not the side). Don't use anything belonging to a fellow roommate without asking for, and getting, permission. Be polite. Don't put your stuff on other people's beds.
9. Pack a flashlight
A headlamp is a great option for the lights-off bedtime period. You can read a book or find your stuff in the dark without upsetting your rommates. It also comes in handy in areas where power outages are common (like in some South American destinations).
Concerned about the cleanliness of the hostel's cutlery? Then use plastic cutlery (pick some at the nearest fast-food joint). No need to wash them either.
But it is an even better (and environmentally sound too!) to bring a fork a spoon with you frome home as well as a travel mug.
One advantage that hostels have over hotels is that you can cook your own food and save money. But remember that the kitchen is communal space, so you must share it with your hostel dorm-mates. Remember these simple rules:
- Don't cook at rush hour or peak time, you won't have space or equipment to do so.
- Take a marker pen to write your name on your food items so nobody will mistake it for theirs. Don't eat other people's food.
- Share the Fridge: refrigerate only what needs to be refrigerated.
- Wash the pots and pans you use as fast as you can so others can use them too.
- Be clean, neat and tidy. Wipe the counter
- Don't hog all the stove's burners.
- No cooking late at night if there are rooms near the kitchen: cooking is very noisy.
11. The Reception has plenty of information
Head for the reception and ask them what are the best sights in town, the areas that are dangerous and which should be avoided, local places to eat or buy stuff, cheap activities, parties, maps, whatever. They have the knowledge, so use it.
12. Off to an early start?
If you will be leaving early, in the dark, it makes sens to pack your stuff the night before, with plenty of light. That way you won't be leaving something behind. It will make for a silent departure and you will not wake up your roommates.
Don't forget to prepare your clothes and toiletries (if you plan to shower before leaving) to make it easier to get dressed and depart.
13. Be nice to the staff
Yes, because it's nice to be nice and treat people with respect. And also because Hostel Staff have the key to all you may need from soap to towels and the internet.
14. Above all, be courteous
Hostels are places where open-minded people go, people who are sociable and interested in meetin people. So be corteous, keep your space neat and tidy, clean up after yourself, keep quiet at night and respect other people's property and space. Your stay at the hostel will be memorable.
15. After your stay: Review and rate the hostel
Write a review: it will help future guests avoid problems that you suffered or it can reward the hostel for being so nice and clean by attracting more guests, drawn by your great review.
Enjoy the Hostel life, and travel the world!