For backpackers, hostels are a way of life.
They’re where every new adventure begins.
They’re where we meet all our new friends.
And the memories made here are unrivaled.
But hostel experiences are not always glamorous.
Hostels are hands down the best way to meet fellow backpackers, but they do come with some quirks.
Like really loud snorers.
And busy bathrooms.
Or everyone’s worst nightmare – the random hookup in the bunk right beside you.
There are tons of ways you can avoid some of the not-so-great aspects of a hostel stay. Not only are there things you can buy, but I’ve got some tricks and methods that will definitely help you work the system.
I personally practice these fifteen tips every time I’m staying at a hostel.
If you want to make the most out of your stay, I recommend you try these too!
1. Always use Hostelworld.
There is no better way to find and choose a hostel than using Hostelworld.com.
See 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.
Sleeping facing the sunshine will help you wake up early so that you can make the most of the day.
3. That way you can get to the kitchen/bathrooms before everyone else.
All shared spaces are virtually empty before 8 AM. I like to get into the kitchen before everyone else so that I can meal prep while they sleep in.
And if you get your shower out of the way early, you won’t have to wait behind the dozen girls who all want a shower at 10 AM.
4. Cook your meals.
If you cook a lot of your food in the hostel facilities you’re going to save lots of $$ while also having the option to eat healthy.
5. Bring earplugs and a sleep mask.
So when in the middle of the night one of your roomies is snoring like a freight train, and another clamors in wasted, shouting, and turning on all the lights, you’ll be ready.
6. Rule of thumb:
While a 10-person dorm room allows you to meet more people (and will be cheaper), the chances of you getting a good night’s sleep are exponentially better in a room with LESS people.
Less people in room = less interruptions/noises.
I’ve noticed that female-only rooms are usually a bit quieter and less messy as well (sorry dudes).
7. Lock up your valuables.
Though most people in hostels tend to be good, trustworthy people, there are definitely a few out there who give backpackers a bad name. People you wouldn’t suspect will steal shit given the opportunity, so resist the carefree urge to leave your belongings out. I’ve experienced theft myself and have heard stories from many 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. Use a refillable water bottle.
Bring a water bottle to refill at sinks/water refill stations to make sure you’re always hydrated, saving money, and helping out the environment. It’s a win, win, win!
9. When choosing a bed:
A) Always pick a bottom bunk! Top bunks aren’t the worst, but climbing up and down is just a slight pain in the ass.
B) Aim for the bed furthest away from the door to avoid people constantly walking past you and your stuff. 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 beds don’t have their own power outlets, try to pick whichever bed is closest to the power outlet in the room.
D) If your room doesn’t have great AC, locate where the fan is in the room and pick a bed accordingly.
10. Bring a plug with multiple charging ports.
11. Right when you arrive, ALWAYS check your mattress for bed bugs.
And do not throw any of your belongings on the bed. Just lift up the bottom sheet and check the mattress lining and zippers for little lice/tick looking bugs. A lot of black smudges all over the mattress could also be a sign that bedbugs are there or were there before. It take 15 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.
12. Bring good waterproof sandals.
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 too (we all know some hostel showers are better than others). I religiously live by my Croc sandals that are totally cute, 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 assholes in your room may decide to take your towel because they’re normally all identical. What the hell, you weren’t using it, right?! I suggest bringing a lightweight towel of your own with you. Or do what I do and use a colorful sarong to quickly dry your body, get dressed, then put your hair up to dry. The fabric drys super fast and because it’s unique, hopefully no one will try to steal it – unlike the unlucky backpacker in this hilarious story!
14. Use a sarong or towel for more privacy.
No privacy curtains on your bed? Try tying a large sheet, towel, or that sarong I just mentioned 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 you’re not in the mood for a chat.
15. Always attend the free events put on by your hostel!
Events usually includes free food, alcohol, games, and the chance to meet 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.