When I was 13, I watched the movie Hostel, and promised myself that I would never be caught dead staying in one. To add to my fears of being abducted by people in hostels, I was afraid of filthy bedsheets, afraid of if I would be safe sleeping in a room full of complete strangers and lastly and wondered whether I would be alone in my travels. After staying in over 10 hostels (which was nothing like the movie, by the way!) here are the lessons I picked up along the way.
- The honor system is a real thing. There were a few times where the hostels I stayed at didn’t have personal lockers in the rooms, forcing me to leave my bags unattended – underneath my bunk bed or in plain sight on the floor. During crucial times like these, you’ll need to have complete faith and trust in the people you’re sharing a room with.
- Shower slippers are a must. If you’ve ever showered in a college dorm or at the gym, you’ll understand why I suggest this.
- Make an effort to become friends with people in your room. Every person has their own story – of personal struggles, ambitions, quirky talents, and words of wisdom – so make sure you get to know them. Besides, hostel-users are usually budget travelers like yourself, so it’s always fun being able to bounce around travel stories with one another, comparing experiences and having new friends to go eat with or club with.
- Your “night lifestyle” is not the same as everyone else’s. In a 16-female-bedroom, there’s bound to be some disagreement on what’s appropriate for bedtime. I remember one night where three girls in my hostel came back from clubbing around 5 a.m. The girls having consumed one too many tequila shots, went on to wake up everyone in the room by playing their music and blasting their hairdryers for a good 15 minutes before an argument broke out, plugs were yanked and vomit was heaved.
- Desk attendants know best. For the most part, the desk attendants at hostels are locals and know the best places to go in a city for the best deals. They’re extremely helpful for giving suggestions about where to eat, sightseeing locations and the city’s nightlife. The majority of the time, I’ll end up ignoring Yelp suggestions and just following recommendations the desk attendants give instead.
- A “free breakfast” does not guarantee a great breakfast. Most hostels advertise “Free breakfast,” but could only contain the basics such as bread, peanut butter, jelly, milk and cereal. If you were expecting Denny’s or IHOP’s, you’ll be in for a gnarly shock!
- Don’t let reviews skew your opinions. If a hostel has a few cruddy ratings dispersed throughout a variety of positive ratings – don’t immediately rule it out. Some people are more high-maintenance than others and will find any reason to give a bad review.
- It’s possible to be a minimalist while traveling. If you’re a heavy packer like I am, you’ll agree with me when I say that I don’t wear half of the things that I’ve packed for my adventures. I end up re-wearing outfits every few days, hardly even touching some of the clothes in my rucksack. After staying in a few hostels, I realized how much easier it was to travel when I packed lightly. When I packed heavily, it was so easy for me to lose small items and misplace things when I was in a hostel. With a lighter load, it was always easier to track down items in my bags.