I have stayed in hostels big, hostels small, hostels in the UK and in Europe, hostels with cube beds, hostels with a Harry Potter room, hostels with saunas and hostels on their own island…
Through experience, I have learnt a thing or to about staying in hostels, including what to and what not to do. ‘Hosteling’ may not be for everyone, but I think it is a great way to afford a lot more travelling and, in my opinion, very worth it.
When choosing hostels, first get your priorities straight.
Is it important enough to you to be in a central location to choose a slightly more expensive hostel in which you have to share a room with more people? Or would you rather stay in a cheaper hostel from which you would have to travel? Or are you willing to sacrifice centralness and cheapness for a nicer, more private room?
Sometimes you will get lucky and find somewhere that matches all of your priorities, but it is more likely that you will have to decide what is most important to you and search for somewhere that matches this first.
Protect Your Valuables –
Many people will have been put off of staying a hostel after hearing a horror story about travellers having their money and valuables stolen whilst staying in one. While I have never encountered any theft while staying in hostels, I do always still take precautions against this.
Firstly, always bring a sturdy lock with you. Even if your hostel doesn’t have a locker (although most good ones should do), you can always lock your bag zips together or lock it to the leg of the bed. Secondly, if you have cash with you, split this up in your bag by making use of internal zips and hiding some in your wash bag or among paperwork etc.
Lastly, although I have seen people in hostels with expensive laptops etc, I would recommend not bringing valuables with you. If you do want to bring them, I would suggest not flashing them in front of other guests, and ensuring they are kept in a proper secure locker when not in use.
Think It Through –
If you don’t think you have what it takes to spend all night in the next bed to complete strangers, don’t try it. I personally think hosteling is great, but it certainly is not for everyone.
If you snore or don’t sleep well, neither you nor your room mates are going to have an enjoyable night so maybe consider getting a private room. Similarly, if you sleep with a light on or with music playing, you won’t be able to do that when sharing a room with others. Personally, I don’t wear earplugs, but I do know some people who swear by them.
Also, talk to people – it really isn’t as scary as you imagine! However, as I mentioned in my post Travel Budgeting 101, if you ever feel uncomfortable with the people you are sharing your room with, leave and let someone know.
A Good Towel Is A Wonderous Thing –
Ok, this is maybe more specific to myself than everyone, but I never underestimate the importance of a proper towel when staying in hostels!
A lot of hostels will have towels you can hire, but I always choose to use my own. The first time I went hosteling, I took a cheap micro towel, that I did not try out before, to save space in my rucksack . This was a TERRIBLE idea, as it did not dry me and I spent two whole weeks bitterly referring to it as my chamois leather. So I always make sure to find space when packing for a proper towel and air dry it.
An Organised Roommate Is A Good Roommate –
Being a conscientious hostel roommate takes a degree of organisation. If you think you might not be getting back to the room until after others are asleep, make sure you won’t annoy them when you get back by having to put a light on and noisily dig through your bag for toiletries and clothes. Know where your stuff is when getting ready in the morning and evening; keep your washbag at easy reach, lay out your clothes and don’t take forever to get ready.
Similarly, keep your area of the room tidier than you might do at home as everyone has to share the room and no one is going to remember the messy person in the hostel fondly!
Let me know what you think about my tips and, if you have any yourself, post them below!
Also, if you would like any hostel recommendation for anywhere I have been, just ask.
Featured image - Czech Inn in Prague (Courtesy of hostelworld.com)