People seem to have strong reactions when I tell them I stay in hostels on my travels abroad. Some folks envision scenes from “On the Road,” while others are just plain horrified. It’s true that staying in hostels requires a few concessions, but it can also be an amazing way to travel. Follow these tips to make the most of your experience:
- Be flexible. While hostels are generally clean and accommodating, you’re not staying at a hotel. It’s possible that you’ll have to wait in a short line to brush your teeth or that the shower will be a little gross. For those who are already concerned, stop reading now and just book at a hotel 🙂
- Check the amenities before you book. Do you want access to a washer and dryer? A cheap or free continental breakfast? Luggage storage if you arrive before check-in? Hostels vary in terms of these offerings, so do your homework if a particular feature is important to you. For me, I prefer hostels that have in-room lockers available free of charge. Just bring a couple locks of varying sizes and you’ll be all set. Similarly, read up about any hidden fees. Some hostels will charge the equivalent of a few dollars for sheets or a towel rental. If you’re staying at a number of hostels that charge for towels, you might be better off bringing a quick drying one with you.
- Decide ahead of time what kind of room you want. Do you care if it’s an all-gender room or would you prefer an all female or all male space? How many people are you willing to share a room with? You can often choose between a single, double, 4-person, 8-person, 12-person, or more. Of course, the single or double room is the most expensive but is typically still more affordable than a hotel. Once you have 12+, the most challenging part is negotiating space. You may have to roll someone’s suitcase to the side to get to your locker, or wait awhile to use the in-room sink. However, if you’re not spending much time at the hostel, this is a super-affordable way to travel.
- Talk with your fellow travelers. I feel like there’s a standard conversation that often happens: “Where are you from? How has your traveling been so far? Where have you been? Where are you headed?” This is just the type of small talk I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of. This is also where I’ve gotten some great travel recommendations and some of my best stories. For those with flexible itineraries and a desire to meet new people, many hostels also have group activities you can partake in, like a movie night in the common area, a free walking tour, or a scavenger hunt.
- Remember that you’re in a community. Wash your dishes until they’re sparkling clean, leave a leftover item in the “free food” section of the kitchen, and try to keep your luggage out of the way of others. The travel gods will look favorably upon you. On the other side of the coin, when someone eats the rest of your tortilla chips, which were labeled with your name & date in the kitchen (not that I speak from personal experience or anything), let it go. It’s just one of the small costs associated with staying at a hostel.
Post your best tip for staying at a hostel below!