Last Updated 06/02/2024 | 6th February, 2024
Are you planning your first big adventure and dipping your toe into the world of hostels? Well, fear not; they are not as scary as you initially might have thought.
Here are my best hostel tips – guaranteed to help you have the best experience when staying in a hostel for the first time!
12 Tips For Staying in Hostels
Do Your Research (Most Important Hostel Tip!)
All hostels are not created equally. In fact, far from it.
Hostelworld is by far the best app for booking budget travel stays. It offers a wide variety of accommodations and typically only requires a small deposit. You can pay the remaining balance when you arrive.
Always read the reviews, paying close attention to those that mention cleanliness, facilities, and location. These will be the three most important things when staying in a new hostel.
Once you have found a hostel that you like the look of (I try never to book anything rated under an 8.5 on Hostelworld), then typically check the TripAdvisor reviews (although I take these with a pinch of salt) and any social media the hostel has.
This should give you an excellent insight into the accommodation you are booking.
Also, you should be familiar with the different styles of hostels. Hostels don’t typically explicitly state what kind of hostel they are, but after a while, you begin to get a feel for them. I believe they broadly fit into the following categories:
These do precisely what they say on the tin!
Expect a younger crowd here (typically 18 – 25), lots of drinking and little exploration. Personally, I avoid this kind of hostel at all costs, but I do understand the allure. They are great for meeting people for a good time, but making long-standing connections can take time and effort.
You’ll typically find excellent happy hour deals, pre-arranged bar crawls, and large mixed dorms.
⭐ How to spot a party hostel: The advertisement will focus on large group pictures, free happy hours, and reviews mentioning nighttime noise.
Budget Hostels are a great starting point if you’re on a tight budget and are new to the backpacking world. They usually have basic bunk beds, so don’t expect pod-style dorms. Budget hostels will not usually have breakfast included, and often, hot water is scarce.
⭐ How to spot a budget hostel: the low price tag!
Higher-end hostels are excellent if you want a slice of luxury but with the community feel of a hostel. In these hostels, you will typically find a slightly older demographic and more couples. These hostels tend not to be the most social, so they may not be the best for a solo traveller looking to make new friends.
⭐ How to spot a high-end hostel: higher price tag, more private options, modern decor.
Again, the name is self-explanatory. Co-working hostels are the homes of digital nomads, particularly those who travel solo (long-term Airbnb can get very lonely!).
While everyone tends to keep to themselves during the day, there is a great communal feel at night. They can also be very inspiring and incredible for networking.
Usually, these types of hostels have just a few dorm rooms, with more of a focus on privates. They are ideal for working remotely, studying, or building projects. If you’re just backpacking, these might not have the atmosphere you desire.
⭐ How to spot a co-working hostel: The advertisements will focus on solid wifi, desks in the common spaces, and a large kitchen.
Don’t Book For Too Long
Except for around festivals (Day of the Dead, Rio Carnival, World Cup, etc.), most hostels have constant dorm and private availability. Therefore, booking for a long time is unnecessary if you are travelling on a flexible schedule.
I recommend booking for two nights, then extending if you wish. That means that if the hostel doesn’t quite match your vibe or live up to your standards, you can move on fuss-free.
Introduce Yourself Straight Away (Hostel Tips for Making Friends)
When I first started staying in hostels seven years ago, the thought of approaching a stranger made me feel a little sick. But I can guarantee it will make your hostel experience much more fun.
Even if you don’t meet your new lifelong best friend, you will get some company and might just get a few tips and tricks for the best things to do in the area.
✏ Top Hostel Tips: If you’re nervous about introducing yourself, approach someone with a question. Ask if they have any recommendations or simply for directions to the nearest shop – this will be a great icebreaker.
Know Your Rucksack
Understanding where everything is in your backpack is essential to being a good hostel roommate. I love packing cubes for this reason, and you can fill one with everything you need easy access to (clean underwear, PJs, toothbrushes, etc.).
If you arrive late at night or in the early hours of the morning, you will be keeping your disturbance to a minimum.
Strategic Showers (Hygiene Hostel Tips)
Shower time can become the bane of your life in hostels.
Wherever possible, showering at unpopular times can give you the best chance of the most peaceful and clean experience.
✏ Top Hostel Tips: Look out for what times the cleaner works on the bathrooms, and then plan your scrub around that! This is the best way to get the freshest bathroom, but it will undoubtedly be the most inconvenient.
Trust Your Gut (Hostel Safety Tips)
99.99999% of the time, the worst person you will meet in a hostel is the guy who insists on playing Wonderwall on his guitar for everyone.
However, sometimes, someone or multiple people give off a bad vibe. If you feel unsafe, please leave. That might mean moving to a different dorm (single-sex dorms are an excellent option for solo female travellers) or leaving the hostel altogether.
This might be frustrating for the budget, but it is entirely worth it in the long run.
Don’t Flash the Cash
As mentioned above, most people you meet in hostels are kind, considerate fellow travellers. However, some are not.
Don’t flash any valuable items or cash. While there isn’t always enough room to lock away your whole bag, keep valuables such as your camera, laptop, or money locked away at all times.
Don’t take phone calls in the dorm late at night. Clean up after yourself. Smile and be polite. Wash your dishes. Just generally be nice, and you’ll get along just fine.
Take Advantage of The Kitchen
When I first started using hostels, I foolishly didn’t take advantage of all the amenities hostels offer. This is an epic budget backpacker fail!
Hostel kitchens typically have a communal section with free oil, butter, and spices. Travellers will often leave products when they move on, so you can bag yourself some dried goods (please don’t be greedy!).
However, my number one tip for using hostel kitchens is to avoid trying to make elaborate meals. There is often limited utensils and a queue of people waiting.
It’s back to the student days – pesto pasta will be your best friend!
Keep it in Your Pants
Dorm sex isn’t cool. Thankfully, I’ve never experienced the horror of being woken by some of my dorm mates going at it – but I’ve heard plenty of tales about it.
Getting jiggy in the dorm room isn’t fair on others – regardless of how discreet you think you’re being. So, save everyone’s blushes, just book a private room!
Treat Yourself to A Private
Following on from the above, treat yourself to a private moment occasionally (regardless of what you’re up to!). Whether you’re travelling with a partner, a friend, or alone, it’s terrific to have a slice of peace once in a while.
It can be a great opportunity to relax and recharge that social battery.
Private rooms are typically only marginally more expensive than two dorm beds, so if you’re travelling as a pair, I recommend always investigating the prices of private rooms.
The people you will meet in hostels are usually the most welcoming, friendly individuals you will ever encounter. In the early days of backpacking, I recommend saying yes to (almost) everything.
Go on the pub crawl, the hike, the meal!
While an adventure with strangers can be intimidating initially, they are some of my fondest travelling memories. You will undoubtedly have many new experiences that only new friends can provide.
Hostel Tips: What to Pack
💤Eyemask and earbuds. I am blessed with the power to sleep through earthquakes (literally). But if you’re not the same, earbuds and an eyemask will be your best friends.
⚡A power bank. Almost all hostels have a power outlet right by the bed, but this will be a lifesaver when this doesn’t exist.
🧼A small toiletry bag. Please do not invest in one of those large hold-all bags that went wild on social media; you do not need to take all that to the bathroom simultaneously. A small waterproof bag does the trick perfectly.
🚿A microfibre towel. These dry super fast, so you only have to hang them out in the hostel room for a few hours at most.
🎶Headphones. Sometimes, it’s nice to watch a movie or listen to music in bed without disturbing your roommates.
🔦A torch. I don’t recommend heading into your room late and flashing this in everyone’s eyes, but it is handy, so you don’t have to turn on the main light.
🩴Flip-flops. Communal shower floors are not the most sanitary of places. Therefore, I recommend wearing flip-flops at all times!
🔒A Padlock. While most hostels have lockers, many do not supply padlocks, so you will need this to keep your belongings safe.
🪢Bunjee cord. Sounds a bit random, right? But bungee cords are so useful if you have wet items (either from the beach or from doing laundry) and need to hang them to dry.