Hostel experiences can make or break a holiday. You pick a bad one, make basic errors, get unlucky and get a noisy, or even worse, a boring room. It can really suck.
However, if you know what you are doing and end up in a cool hostel with sweet people, some of your best memories will be from that hostel and with the people in it. They are the backbone of all backpacker and adventure travel stories. So without further ado, we bring to you, the Just Fn’ Travel’s – 15 Best Tips On How To Stay In Hostels Like A Pro.
Without doubt the number#1 of our best tips on how to stay in hostels is research. There’s no excuse not to research the hostel before you stay. Read reviews, read the cancellation policies, and weigh up your options. You also might want to look at amenities: if there’s a free breakfast, en-suite bathrooms, a kitchen, a bar, a common room, free WiFi, 24-hour check in/out, lockers, etc. Hostels are getting better and they are becoming more upscale, hip, modern, and home-like.
Another thing to consider when booking a hostel is the vibe. Are you a partier or do you prefer peace and quiet? Are you more extroverted or introverted? Pick the hostel with the right scene for you. Or just speak to us and we will put you in one that suits your needs.
Make sure you pay attention to the location of the hostel, and that it’s safe and near where you want to go. If you value getting a good night’s sleep, don’t stay in a hostel near the nightlife. If you take public transport, you might want to stay near a bus stop or train station.
2. Book early
The best and most popular hostels get booked out early. If you don’t want to settle for a not-so-good hostel, make sure you book early, especially during peak travel season or during holidays. This is especially true of people looking for female-only dorms.
3. Don’t forget the essentials
Hostels aren’t like hotels and they will nickel and dime you for everything. Bring your own toiletries, bring a towel, bring a padlock for the locker, canvas bags (they’re quieter than plastic bags), eye mask, flip flops for the shower, and earplugs. DON’T FORGET EARPLUGS!
4. Have your money/debit/credit card and ID ready
If you’re on a budget or waiting on that paycheque, you’ll like that you don’t have to pay for the hostel stay up front, just a small deposit when you book and then you pay the balance when you check in.
You will also need your ID: typically either a driving licence or passport. Some hostels only accept passports, so if you don’t have a passport, make sure you get one or stay at a hostel that doesn’t require one. There might be a long queue so have everything you need ready. Be patient too, people tend to be nicer when you’re patient.
5. Don’t be shocked if your bed isn’t ready
You might get to the hostel in the morning and find you can’t get an early check in. Early check ins almost never happen, maybe if the hostel is practically empty. This is normal. Most hostels will happily take your bags and store them so you can go sightseeing during the day. You may also be able to use the common areas at the hostel while you’re waiting for your bed.
6. Don’t expect an upgrade
Hotels can give you free upgrades if you’re part of their frequent guest programme, the hotel isn’t busy, and you’re not staying very long. Hostels, on the other hand don’t really do that, unless you pay. I got lucky once when I was in Amsterdam and I checked into the hostel. I originally booked a six-bed dorm, but when I got to my room, I found that I was put into a private single room with an ensuite bathroom. Not sure if this was a mistake or if the dorms were booked out, but I was lucky and very happy.
7. Say hello
Get to know your fellow guests at the hostel. It’s likely to be a friendlier environment than a hotel and most people will be open to socialising. Hostels also organise social events like pub crawls, quiz nights, movie nights, or walking tours. Most of these events are free or low cost. These are great ways to make friends.
Hostels are usually communal. One great way to get to know people is sharing food. Bring or cook some food from your culture and share it with guests. Get to know your dorm mates too. You’re going to be sharing the room with them, so might as well not be complete strangers.
8. Claim your bed and get organised
When you get to your room, make sure you claim your bed. If the hostel doesn’t give you a tag to put beside your bed, you can put your pyjamas or your toothbrush on your bed to claim it. One time, I was staying in a hostel that didn’t have bed tags and someone claimed my friend’s bed and was lying down. Luckily the situation was sorted out without much trouble and the person was moved to another bed and fresh sheets were put on the bed.
Getting organised is important. It’s not easy to find everything in a packed bag, so unpack what you need. Make sure that when you unpack, you don’t have everything thrown around. You are sharing this room, after all, so keep your stuff confined to your area of the room. Don’t put your stuff on other people’s beds when unpacking. If you’re washing clothes, don’t hang them up all over the room and hog all the radiators.
9. Clean up after yourself
No matter where you are in the hostel, clean up after yourself. You don’t have to make your bed, but make sure you’re not sloppy. Try not to eat in the room (especially not anything smelly, keep that in the common area) and if you do, throw away any wrappers. Don’t make the housekeeper’s job more difficult than it already is.
If you’re cooking in the common area, wash everything you use. If something pops and spills in the microwave, wipe it afterwards. The common area is for all, make sure it’s nice for the next guests who use it.
10. Keep your stuff safe
I’ve personally never had anything stolen from me at a hostel, but many others have experienced theft. If you take precautions, you’re less likely to have something stolen. Theft is a crime of opportunity. Thieves are more likely to go for an unlocked, unattended bag or stuff lying on your bed unattended than a locked bag. They just want to take stuff and not get caught.
You might want to get a padlock because often a regular luggage lock isn’t enough. There also are lockers to rent for a fee. If you have expensive electronics or valuables, you might want to store them in one. Another thing you can do is chain your bags to something secure, like a bunk bed or a pipe in the room.
Be careful where you chain You can also buy a Pacsafe bag with slash resistant straps and metal mesh inside that protects your stuff from thieves, in case the thief cuts open the bag. Pacsafe also make portable safes. An alternative to the Pacsafe is the Loctote Flak Sak, which is not only slash resistant, but also water resistant. Like the Pacsafe, the Flak Sak can be locked anywhere. While these two bags discourage casual thieves, nothing is 100% theft proof.
Also, don’t be flashy with your belongings and if you’re that worried about something being stolen, don’t bring it with you. It’s common sense. You can buy a neck wallet to keep money, a passport, and credit cards in. This neck wallet on Amazon is only a tenner. You can get travel insurance that covers theft, however, there’s usually a limit to how much the insurance company will pay out.
11. Be quiet
Whether you’re a late check-in or coming back from a night out, be quiet. If you want to talk, keep it to the common room if it’s quiet hours. This doesn’t mean you can be as loud as you want in the common area, because sometimes walls are thin.
When people are sleeping, try not to disturb them. If you’re wearing clunky heels that make noise on hardwood or tile floors, take them off. Make as little noise as possible and get to sleep quickly. It’s a good idea to make sure your stuff isn’t in a bunch of plastic bags, as the noise can be very irritating.
Hostels often have quiet hours, which are generally between 9 or 10 PM and 7 or 8 AM, but this depends on your hostel. If you’re a night owl, respect the early birds.
12. Be considerate
You’re sharing a space with other guests so make sure you are considerate, polite, and have manners. Don’t borrow other people’s things without their permission, kind of basic but it can happen.
Don’t video chat in the dorm room. Please silence your phone and if you’re going to listen to music at night, mind the volume levels. Regardless, put headphones on whenever you’re watching a video or listening to music.
If there are no curtains for each bed, make sure you refrain from using your phone at night because the light can get annoying. When you come back from a late night out or you are packing in the early morning last minute, don’t turn on the lights, use your phone’s torch. At the same time, don’t overuse the phone torch. Don’t be that person, everyone hates that person!
13. Be organised
If you’re backpacking, you’ll be packing and unpacking over and over. It’s best to keep your bag organised with your changes of clean clothes on top and your toiletries easy to access. Keep a plastic bag for dirty clothes so you firstly don’t let them stink up your clean stuff. Secondly, it keeps them all together so you don’t lose them and can throw the bag in the wash.
When you keep your room organised, it’s easier to repack and you spend less time doing that and more time going out and enjoying the places you’re travelling to. Double check every area of the room if you unpacked your bag and stored your clothes on shelves.
As checkout is usually before noon, you might want to pack your bags the night before rather than in the morning, so you’ll have more time. You’re less likely to forget things if you have time to double check. This also means that you can sleep a little longer.
14. Feel free to enjoy the other services the hostel offers
If you have a late flight, the hostel will likely store your bags for free or at least very cheap. While you can’t sleep in your room, you can enjoy the common room while you wait for your bus or train.
15. Quick Hints
- Always take the bottom bunk, it is easier to get into and way less noisy at night time. Plus you can put a towel or sheet under the edge of the bed above you to act like a curtain – privacy in a dorm is tough to find!
- Try to get a bottom bunk beside plug sockets. Most hostels have them beside ever bed, but if they don’t, get one that does.
- Book your nights in bulk, it works out cheaper.
- If you’re female, get an all female dorm. They are usually safer and less likely to have unwanted night time visitors.
- Double rooms in hostels usually got for $65+, and a standard 6 person dorm is usually AU$28-32 per bed. If you are in a group of 6, a couple or two travelers, sometimes it can be way nicer and more private to just have a room to yourself for a few nights. Book out an entire 6 person dorm, so you can have some fun in your room after a nights drinking and know all your stuff is secure. As a couple sometimes it can not work out a lot more expensive to just get a double room sometimes. It really is worth it sometimes. Air-Con, Fridge, Bathroom, Privacy and Security for an extra $5-10 each. Treat Yo’Self!