13 Things You Should Know Before Staying in a Hostel

If you’re used to traveling on the cheap, chances are you’ve already made use of the plethora of hostels that serve tourists around the globe. These communal living spaces tend to be in touristy areas and cities. They serve people who don’t feel the need to drop loads of money on a hotel room when a bunk in a communal room would serve them just as well.

Hostels are great for people who are interested in the friendly, communal atmosphere of shared living space and enjoy meeting new people while they’re on vacation. However, if you’ve never stayed in one before, there are some unspoken rules that will help you make friends and win over your dormmates, as well as ensure you a safe and secure night’s sleep.

Here are some things you should definitely know before staying in a hostel.

1. Read Reviews Before You Book

There are tons of different types of hostels out there. In order to ensure you’re comfortable and secure, read reviews online before you book. Generally, people will give their honest opinion.

In addition to reading reviews, make sure you check out what type of hostel it is. There are some larger networks like Hostel International that have certain standards and practices that all their hostels must comply with. If they don’t advertise any larger network connection, assume they’re operating independently.

Hostelworld has a great listing of hostels, along with reviews from verified guests.

2. Choose Your Room Wisely

When you book a bed in a hostel, you’ll generally be offered a choice of the type of room that you wish to stay in. Although not all hostels operate under the same policies, generally hostels will offer rooms that vary in size between privates — which cost a little less than a cheap hotel room — two-bedrooms, female-only rooms, all the way up to large co-ed dorm rooms that can sleep dozens of people.

If you’re uncomfortable sleeping with members of the opposite sex, make sure you’re book into a single-sex room because it’s unlikely you’ll be able to switch once you arrive. If you value your privacy, choose a room with as few dormmates as possible. Generally, the more people in a room, the cheaper the cost of the bed.

3. Even If You’re Staying in a Single-Sex Room, Hostels Are Still an Extremely Co-Ed Experience

If you’re staying in a hostel but are uncomfortable seeing members of the opposite sex in any state of undress or on their way to the bathroom in a towel, a hostel may not be the right accommodation for you. Even if you’re sleeping in a room with members of your own sex, you should still expect to see both men and women roaming the corridors in various stages of undress. It’s just a reality of hostel life.

There are some single-gender hostels out there, but they’re few and far between.

4. Check What’s Included

With shared accommodations being more popular than ever — especially as people seek to travel on ever-shrinking budgets — hostels are upping their game to attract new clientele.

In the past, hostels would generally offer complimentary breakfast, which was usually cereal, milk, and maybe toast and orange juice. Now, many hostels offer free Wi-Fi, group tours, and comfortable sheets, pillows, and even towels.

Many hostels have a laundry room, but it’s not usually included in the nightly price. Therefore, you may have to pay a few dollars per load. Also, make sure to check whether a towel rental is included or whether you’re expected to bring your own.

5. Expect Noise

Hostels are not known for being quiet, serene spaces. Generally, they attract younger travelers who gravitate to the party-friendly environment and cheap beds. Even if you’re staying in a smaller dorm, you should expect noise at all hours. Bring a good pair of earplugs with you or use noise-canceling headphones so you can sleep in peace.

It’s considered good etiquette to keep the noise down in the bedrooms at all times since you never know when a jet-lagged traveler will be sleeping.

6. Bring Your Own Sheets If You Want Home-Like Comforts

Most hostels will provide you with a cheap comforter, sheets, and a pillow, which have been laundered over and over again. At the very least, you should expect your sheets to be clean. If you want more comfortable sheets, you should bring some from home.

A popular travel accessory for hostel-dwellers is a large king sheet folded in half and sewn together on two sides to form a light sleeping sack. If you want to buy one specially made for traveling, there are some popular options made out of tightly-woven fabric that prevents bed bugs and other pests from getting inside.

7. Choose Travel-Size Toiletries

It’s very rare that hostels supply toiletries, so you should always bring your own. Generally, even if you’re traveling for a longer period of time, it makes the most sense to carry travel-sized items, so you’re not bringing full bottles of product back and forth from your bedroom to the bathroom.

Invest in a small, waterproof container that you can use to hold your shower things. This will make sure you won’t have to fumble with a bunch of little containers whenever you want to bathe. You’ll also want to bring a pair of flip-flops to wear in the shower.

8. Make Use of a Locker or Safe When Offered

Many hostels offer either an exterior locker or a small safe inside your room where you can stash your valuables. Even if they want to charge you a few extra dollars per night, the cost is worth it for peace of mind alone.

If your hostel doesn’t have the option to rent a locker, make sure to bring a flexible lock that you can use to secure your belongings.

9. Facilities Will Vary in Cleanliness

Generally, if cleanliness is the most important thing to you, it’s worth the extra money to rent a hotel room rather than staying in a hostel. The reality is, with so many people passing through every day, hostels are not as clean as hotels. Generally, you should expect basic cleanliness, with no pests, mold, or visible dirt, but you should be ready for anything.

Reviews should be able to give you a sense of how sanitary your hostel is and how often high-traffic areas like bathrooms and showers undergo a thorough cleaning.

10. Bring a Robe and PG Pajamas

If you’re staying in a large, mixed dorm, chances are there will be someone in your room walking around in their underwear or a very precariously hanging towel. If you don’t want to be that person, make sure you have a bathrobe, as well as pajamas that aren’t too revealing. Generally, shorts and a t-shirt are appropriate for both genders.

If you need to change, it’s common courtesy to go to the bathroom or pull the privacy curtain on your bed.

11. Pay Attention to the Curfew and Rules Regarding Noise

While some hostels institute strict noise and light curfews, others rely on common sense to ensure that everyone is able to sleep in peace. Generally, midnight is considered the usual lights-out time.

If you’re still awake, head to a common room to hang out or use a flashlight if you need light in your room. Keep phones on vibrate or silent while in your dorm.

12. Use the Laundry Room for Its Intended Purpose

Many hostels have laundry rooms where you can wash your clothes for a few dollars a load. In an effort to save money, some people bring their wet clothes into their dorm and hang them from every available surface. Not only is this incredibly rude and annoying, but it’s also not a great way to ensure your freshly washed clothes stay clean.

If you want to do laundry or hang clothes to dry, use the laundry room.

13. Use the Common Areas to Make New Friends

Hostels are great places to meet new people. If you want to signal to others that you’re interested in making friends, hang out in the common rooms.

It’s not as polite to start making conversation with your bunk-mate, who is probably trying to sleep. So, if there are groups already hanging out in the common room, be courageous and strike up a conversation.

Miodrag Gajic / Getty Images



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