If you don’t know already, I am travelling on a budget so that I can travel for as long as possible. One of the best ways to reduce my daily expenses is by staying in low-cost accommodation, so depending on the country that could be a hostel, a cheap apartment or budget hotel. If I am extra lucky I stay with a friend.
I thought perhaps first-time travellers or even other regular travellers might be interested in my thoughts on hostel life and I will also share some of my tips down below.
Insights on Hostel Life
–A hostel is only as good as the guests are. I have listened to deafening snorers, been in rooms that looked like dumps full of food/drink packaging and possessions everywhere, unwillingly listened to foreplay (and the rest) and have been woken by many drunks (one of which was talking to himself loudly in bed…). I also stayed in a hostel that turned out to be an unofficial party hostel, so even with my best attempts, I never got proper sleep and was constantly harassed by people I didn’t even know (or like) to go out and party with them. These stories are actually all from one hostel visit too (!!!) and it also happened to be one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed at, mostly due to value for money. So despite the actual hostel being amazing my experience was horrible – unfortunately, there is only so much hostel staff can do about insufferable guests.
–You will meet the worst and best people. I am not sure why but it is just the truth. I have met multiple unequivocally awesome people who I am still in contact with and who I am looking forward to seeing again at some stage. I made some fond memories, had some wonderful conversations and forged the beginnings of many friendships.
I have however also had my fair share of creepy guys hitting on me and trying to follow me around for the duration of my stay. In a hostel in Krakow, I met a German guy who pretended to be my friend for the week but in the end said something along the lines of ‘it is not worth seeing you ever again’ when I rejected his advances. In Iceland, within a few minutes of meeting an American guy, he asked me if I wanted to ‘share body heat’ and then became visibly angry when I made friends with another guy in the hostel :/. You will definitely meet some real oddballs, just try to avoid them like the plague. In the case of hostels, it is Russian Roulette with meeting people, you have to take the good with the bad.
-Hostels can be an introverted person’s worst nightmare. Dorm life can be very rough for an introvert. You will rarely get time alone, that is just the nature of hostel life. Some people won’t understand why you want to retreat to your bunk to read a book, watch a TV show or just be alone. People will sometimes question you and it can be frustrating but you also sometimes meet another introvert hiding away in the dorm relishing in their alone time.
-Different people have different travel styles. This will be evident in the behaviour of people you stay with. Some people want to spend their time sightseeing, some want to party all night (and subsequently sleep all day) and some are seemingly in hostels to creep around (there seems to be always at least one). You will meet long-term travellers, short-term travellers and people who are staying while they look for longer-term accommodation. Due to people having different ideas about their ideal way to travel, there will be frictions (like the ones I mentioned earlier) but this is just something that one has to accept when it comes to communal living.
Tips – If you have not run for the hills yet there are many things you can do to improve your hostel experience:
- If you are a woman and have the option to: stay in a female only dorm. Men are twice as likely to snore than women, so here is a way to reduce your contact with snorers. People will be unlikely to have sex in your room as men aren’t allowed inside (not denying that people of the same sex could potentially have sex in the room). I find the women’s only dorms tend to be a lot tidier and they generally smell better (sorry guys!). When I have stayed in women’s dorms, the guests were very rarely party goers and if they were they very quiet and considerate when they returned.
- If you are a light sleeper and can be easily woken you need to work out your game plan. For noise: I have heard wax earplugs are the best if you like earplugs. I prefer to play white noise (I like to listen to thunderstorms from my ‘White Noise’ playlist on Spotify) through in-ear headphones – I will eventually upgrade to some noise cancelling headphones which are the best for this purpose and just for generally drowning the rest of the world out. For sight: you could use an eye mask or a scarf. I prefer to use my blanket scarf and I also rest it over both my ears to make them more comfortable when I wear my headphones to bed.
- Pack your bag smart. Try to pack your bag or suitcase in a way that makes it easy to retrieve the things you are likely to use during your stay. This is especially important if you are checking in late at night and in this case, I would recommend having your sleeping clothes and toiletries ready to grab at the top of your backpack or suitcase. Oh and for good etiquette, pack your bag the night before if you have to leave early.
- Call people out on their bad behaviour. If people are having sex in your room or being loud at night when you are trying to sleep, if you feel comfortable to do so, tell them to stop. If not, let the hostel receptionist sort them out (in the hostel where there was sex in my room 2 nights in a row and I told the receptionist after the fact, he said that he would’ve kicked them out). You don’t have to put up with this behaviour unless you are in a party hostel… then that is a different story.
- Know your limits introverts! My advice as an outgoing-introvert is to mix things up and alternate with other budget options when possible. Yes, it is more expensive than staying in a hostel but it will keep you sane. (I would never stay in a private room in a hostel as you can generally stay in an apartment or low-cost hotel for cheaper FYI. )
- Choose the highest rated hostel within your budget and leave reviews for other travellers. When selecting your hostel read the comments about the hostel on Hostelworld (or whichever website you are booking through) before booking as it will give you a good idea of what you are getting into and try to get the highest rated hostel. I recommend checking that your hostel has lockers and a secure luggage room. If you have time, make sure you leave a review of your hostel so future travellers can make the best decision possible.
- Bring your own locks and a lightweight, micro-fibre towel. Some hostels charge you a fee to rent or buy a lock – so just bring your own from home. Some hostels will charge you to rent a towel (occasionally I came across ones that provide a free towel for your stay) so I recommend bringing your own towel too.
- Keep your possessions locked up. It is better to be safe than sorry, anything that you can’t afford to lose should be locked up in your locker at night and when you are out. I’ve heard also of people sleeping with a money belt strapped to their body in sketchy places.
If you have any tips on surviving hostel life that you’d like to share please comment them down below, I would definitely love to hear them.