For backpackers, hostels are a way of life.
They’re the beginning of every new adventure.
They’re where we meet incredible people we’ll never forget.
And the memories made here are unrivaled.
But some hostel experiences aren’t always glamorous.
Hostels are hands down the best way to meet fellow backpackers, but they do come with some quirks.
Like really loud snorers. Busy bathrooms. Or the horror stories of people gettin’ it on in the next bunk over.
But don’t let these minor incidents ruin your hostel experience!
There are tons of ways you can avoid some of these not-so-great aspects.
Not only are there things you can buy to help make life easier, but I’ve got some tricks and methods to help you make the most of your stay:
1. Always use Hostelworld.com
There is no better way to find and choose a hostel than using Hostelworld.com.
You can find photos, prices, locations, amenities, and hundreds of reviews from past travelers, making it easy to pick a hostel that’s right for you.
2. Sleep facing the windows/sun.
If you sleep facing the windows, the suns rays will greet you into the morning! This way it’ll help you wake up early so that you can make the most of the day.
3. Get to the kitchen and bathrooms early in the morning.
All shared spaces are virtually empty before 8AM. I like to get into the kitchen before everyone else so that I can meal prep for the day while they sleep.
And if you get your shower out of the way early, you won’t have to wait behind the dozen people who want to shower at 10AM.
4. Cook your meals.
If you cook a lot of your food in the hostel facilities you’re going to save tons of money while also having the option to eat healthy. It’s also a great way to meet new friends!
5. Bring earplugs and a sleep mask.
Earplugs and an eye mask are crucial to a good nights’ hostel sleep! These are a game changer if one of your roomies is snoring like a freight train or someone stumbles in after a late night, turning on all the lights. With these trusty items, you’ll be ready.
6. Rule of thumb on room sizes:
While a ten-person dorm room allows you to meet more people (and are normally cheaper), the chances of you getting a good night’s sleep are much greater in a room with LESS people.
Less people in a room means less noises and interruptions.
From my experience, female only rooms are usually a bit quieter and less messy as well.
7. Always lock up your valuables.
Though most travelers in hostels tend to be trustworthy people, there are definitely a few out there who give backpackers a bad name. People you wouldn’t suspect will steal given the opportunity, so resist the carefree urge to leave your belongings lying around. I’ve personally experienced theft and have heard horror stories from other fellow travelers. It can be hard sometimes to lock up EVERYTHING, but lock up your valuables in a locker or buy a lock for your bag.
8. Right when you arrive, ALWAYS check your mattress for bed bugs.
And do not throw any of your belongings on the bed! Lift up the bottom sheet and check the mattress lining and zippers for little lice/tick looking bugs. Lots of black smudges all over the mattress could also be a sign that bedbugs are there or were there before. It take fifteen seconds to check and they’re pretty hard to miss.
If you see bugs, immediately tell the hostel reception and they’ll either move you completely or get you another bed. Don’t feel bad bringing it up, they deal with this sort of thing and they want you to leave happy, not covered in bug bites.
9. Use a refillable water bottle.
Bring a water bottle with you to refill at sinks and water stations to make sure you’re always hydrated, saving money, and helping out the environment. It’s a win, win, win!
10. Helpful hints when choosing a bed:
A) Always pick a bottom bunk! Top bunks aren’t the worst, but climbing up and down can be a pain in the butt.
B) Aim for the bed furthest away from the door to avoid people constantly walking past you and your things. You avoid a lot of the hustle and bustle throughout the room and it gives you a feel of a bit more privacy.
C) If the beds in your room don’t have their own power outlets, try to pick whichever bed is closest to the power outlet in the room.
D) If the air conditioning in your room isn’t great, locate where the fan is in the room and pick your bed accordingly!
11. Bring a power plug with multiple charging ports.
12. Good waterproof sandals can double as shower shoes.
When choosing what shoes to bring on your trip, try to chose sandals or flip flops that are good in the water that way you can wear them as shower shoes, because we all know some hostel showers are better than others. I religiously live in my Croc sandals overseas that are totally cute (if you can believe it), comfortable, and versatile.
13. You'll want to have a fast-drying towel.
Towels are not always given to you in hostels and if they are, they’re not always free. And when they are free, some jerk in your room may decide to just use your towel anyway.
I mean they’re identical. You’ll never know, right?
I suggest packing a lightweight towel of your own. Microfiber towels dry pretty fast and roll up for easy travel. Hopefully because its a personal towel, no one will try to use or steal it – unlike the unlucky backpacker in this hilarious story!
14. Use a sarong or towel for more privacy.
No privacy curtains on your bunkbed? Try tying a large sheet, towel, or sarong to the top bunk to create your very own “curtains”. It won’t replace the feeling of actual privacy, but at the very least your roommates will know when you’re not in the mood for a chat.
15. Always attend the free events put on by your hostel!
Events usually include free food, alcohol, games, and the chance to meet fun people. Hostel events are a huge reason why hostels are so great, so participate! I’ve made some of my favorite travel memories inside hostels.