Bedbugs, drunken backpackers, stolen items, and snoring bunk mates. You’ve heard all the stories and while they are probably true, your hostel experience doesn’t have to be the nightmare that you may think it is. If you’re prepared, and by reading these hostel tips you will be, then I can guarantee you a much better time. Within no time, you’ll be a seasoned veteran of the hostel life.
1. Bring Earplugs
This is probably the single most important hostel tip. Without good earplugs, I can say that the chances of you having a good night’s sleep is slim to none. Between the partiers, the snorers, the lovers, the late arrivers, the early risers, the … well, you get the picture. Earplugs or vodka, you choose.
2. Wear Flip-flops To The Shower
Remember the flip-flops I told you to bring? Well, you’ll be wanting to wear them into the communal shower. Now, I’ve been to some really clean hostels and even then, I wore my flip flops just in case. You really, REALLY, don’t want a fungal infection.
3. Bring Your Own Toiletries
Not all hostels provide shampoo and soap so it’s wise to carry a small bottle of your own. However, if they do, fill up whenever you can! My shampoo ended up being some Frankenstein mixture of 10 different hostel shampoos and my hair never complained. 🙂
4. Lock Up Your Valuables
Obvi. Make use of the lockers and keep everything locked up when you’re out or when you go to sleep. However, I would also recommend bringing your own locks and even your own steel mesh cage, like this one. Some hostels will charge you to rent locks, so bringing your own is always good. And avoid the TSA accessible locks because those are practically useless. If you’re super paranoid or in Cambodia, sleep with your valuables pack under your knees and put your phone under your pillow if you need to charge it over night while you sleep.
5. Get A Bottom Bunk
Sometimes you’re assigned bunks, sometimes they are a free for all. Whatever the case, try to get a bottom bunk as they’re cozier, easier to get in and out of, closer to your things on the floor, and safer if you’re drunk.
6. Thoroughly Inspect Your Bed And Sheets
First thing you should do when you get your bunk is to check for bedbugs. Once you’re done that, check again. You really don’t want bedbugs because they will latch onto your clothing and you’ll carry them to your next hostel. So yeah, be thorough. If there are bedbugs, don’t just ask for another bunk, ask for a refund and get the hell out of there as they spread easily. Indiana Jo has a great write up with hostel tips on how to find and deal with bedbugs.
7. Be Considerate
It may not seem like much but turning on the lights or making a lot of noise when everyone is still sleeping can quickly turn you from that cool kid from Canada into that asshole with the steel mesh around his backpack. Lay out your sleeping clothes and toiletries before you head out for the night so that you’re not rummaging around in the dark when you get back late, drunk and wasted. The same goes for early departures. Nothing sucks more than hearing ZZZZZZZIP, over and over and over again when you’re hungover.
8. Research Your Hostels
Not all hostels are created equal so use hostel booking and review websites like Hostelworld.com to research them. Find hostels in central locations, shared kitchens for cooking, free lockers, laundry facilities, and most importantly, free wifi. And read the reviews for hostel tips on how the place feels, good or bad, and if it’s the right fit for what you’re looking for. In general, I try not to stay anywhere that has a rating below 85% but sometimes you don’t have much choice or you’re in Cambodia.
9. Check Out The Room And Facilities First
If you haven’t made a booking yet, then ask to see the rooms, bunks, and facilities. Most places won’t mind you taking a peak around before you commit so here’s your chance to make sure you’re not staying in some cockroach and bedbug infested dump.
10. Free Breakfast Means Toast And Nutella
Don’t expect much from hostels advertising free breakfast, this isn’t the Four Seasons. However, if you’re a Nutella nut then you’re in luck because almost every hostel I stayed at had some form of Nutella.
11. Visit The Hostel Reception
The lobby or common area usually has tons of things to help you with your stay. From free maps and brochures to nightly hostel activities and guided tours, spend some time browsing all the goods and you can even ask the hostel clerks for advice. Besides, it’s a good excuse for chatting up the cute clerk you saw when you checked in.
12. Be Respectful
Remember that this is a shared space so be considerate, clean, and do your fair share. Don’t throw your clothes all over the dorm room, and make a mess in the kitchen. You’re often expected to wash your own dishes so don’t leave them lying around thinking that your mom is going to come by and clean up after you.
13. Be Social!
The second most important hostel tip is to be social! It’s actually pretty hard to be anti-social in a hostel. I mean, you can do it but you pretty much have to hide under your covers in your bunk all day. So make the most of it and say a simple, “Hello, where are you from?” to your bunkmates, other travellers in the common area, or random backpackers in the hostel bar. The best part of staying in a hostel is that you never know who you’re going to meet and quite often, you never know how the day will go or the night will end.
Do you have any other hostel tips for the first timer? What are some of the best experiences you’ve had?