Below are some tips that can make your and everyone’s hosteling experiences a little more enjoyable. Everything you need to know about staying in a hostel and saving money while traveling:
Tips for Staying in Hostels
- (1) Always make sure you have earplugs and face-mask for sleeping when in a noisy dorm room
- (2) Sheets are often included in most hostels these days, but it does NOT hurt to have a sleeper sheet just in case you run across the odd one that does not
- (3) Many hostels do NOT allow alcohol. Make sure to check before you go on a beer/wine run
- (4) Some hostels disallow you access into your room during certain times of the day for cleaning. This is not extremely common, but check first; you may only have one chance to grab everything once cleaning starts.
- (5) Many hostels do NOT provide towels with their linens. Make sure to bring your own just in case
- (6) Many hostels, esp. in Eastern Europe, only take cash. Do not roll out to pay during check-out when you are about to catch a train and expect that you’ll be able to pay with credit. Always have cash available at check out just in case.
- (7) AVOID leaving your passport as a deposit. Reception will often ask this in lieu of paying at check-in, but do whatever it takes to prevent this situation.
- (8) Keep in mind when making reservations at hostels (esp. online), that if you cancel within 24hrs of scheduled check-in, they will probably charge you for that first night stay, no matter what. That is common policy.
- (9) You commonly find hostels without lockers. While I have not had any problems myself, if you have super valuable things, most often staff will be more than happy to hold onto these items for you while you are out and about. [also bring a pad-lock, you will often need it for lockers]
- (10) Always wear sandals in the shower at hostels. While traveling, your feet are one of your most important assets; protect them!
- (11) Just about all hostels have free WIFI these days, so don’t worry about staying connected with back home
- (12) Read reviews for hostels, but do NOT go overboard with them. I have stayed in great reviewer-rated hostels and had a bad time and vice versa. Part of hosteling is what you make of it.
- (13) When trying to locate a hostel, make SURE to read the hostels write-up for directions. DO NOT solely rely on the “push-pins” on GoogleMaps; they have often led me astray. Also, sometimes hostels are tucked away so indiscreetly, you would never find them without specific instructions.
- (14) Get to know the hostel owner/host. Hostel owners in areas tend to know each other, so they can give you good tips on hostel choices in your next destination.
- (15) In my experience, the best hostel is one you can walk to from the bus/train station. The last thing you want after an 8 hour train/bus ride is to have to figure out the public transit system at 11 at night in a strange city just to get to the place you want to sleep.
- (16) Meet as many new people as you can! Everyone at a hostel has 1 thing in common; they are travellers. Get to know them. When you get back home to your apartment, you will be sad meeting people won’t be this easy anymore.
- (17) DO NOT leave your shampoo in the shower. Shampoo is a hot commodity to the backpacker. If it is left around, it will soon most likely be gone, esp. in a busy hostel.
- (18) If you are leaving on an early train, do not turn the lights on at 5am to pack. Back the night before. Turning the lights on while a majority of ppl in the dorm are sleeping is BAD. This means you too party groups coming back at 3am.
- (19) Watch for bedbugs! Read hostel reviews, ask current hostel-goers upon arrival and check manually if really concerned. Being plagued with bedbugs is something I would not even wish upon my enemies!
- (20) Make SURE not to leave your wallet in the pocket of your trousers laying next to your bed before you turn in for the night. If someone in the room DOES plan to steal from you, that would probably be the first place they look.
- (21) Always pick a bottom bunk! They are easier to get in/out of, closer to electric outlets and easier to arrange your stuff around.
- (22) As a hosteler, keep in mind one thing; to ensure happiness, be satisfied with the bear minimum! These are not hotels, there is no concierge, no room-service, no mint on the pillows. You are a traveller, not a tourist. Life is an adventure. Do not throw a tantrum because there is no hot water. At a hostel, it happens!
- (23) a lot of hostels offer a buffet style breakfast. casually grab an extra bun/bread and some meats/cheeses and make yourself a sandwich for later in the day. bring a ziploc/sandwich bag to keep it in. and grab some fruit if you can. it’ll save you money for lunch. i did this basically everywhere around europe. just don’t draw too much attention, as i’m pretty sure it’s discouraged.
A Few Bonus Staying in Hostel Tips
You get a feeling for a hostel pretty quickly – safetywise. I’d say that personal safety and property safety line up pretty well, but not in all cases. And it only takes one dick to ruin your trip. ID and use train station lockers when you’re staying in a hostel that hasn’t provided lockers.
Pace yourself. Traveling solo lets you set your own pace – plan to have one whole day off every fortnight/three weeks. Or make allowances for chilling out at comfortable hostels when you find one.
The hostel host will know good, cheap places to eat that you wouldn’t even think about – and will recommend a menu to try. Look out for (be wary of) ‘western variations’ of local dishes. They’ve always the worst food. I’ve ordered “What he’s having” loads of times, and it is usually pretty good. Remember, especially through Asia, bones are a big part of cheap eating. You’ll have to pick them out!
Watch what change the locals use/price they pay for stuff. Especially through Asia, again, prices are not usually listed – even in big supermarkets – and you will be had. It isn’t rude for people to haggle over everything, so be aware that you’ll be asked a very high price for things. My technique is to have the correct change (based on what I’ve seen locals pay) and place it on the counter with my purchase. It avoids that awkward, spanglish, haggling when you just want a bottle of water.
Always drink bottled water until you speak with other travelers about the state of the tap water where you’re staying. Watch out when brushing your teeth!
Often Chinese (sorry this is getting country specific – and nothing to do with hostels) will set the price of beers/drinks/meals before you enter the pub for the night. Listen to what locals are paying and state firmly that that is the same rate you will be paying.
Book ahead. Even if it is only one day in advance, if you can. Turning up late to a place without a reservation add another layer of stress you don’t need.