Leaving the life of luxury behind by trading in your private hotel room for a single bed in a hostel dorm? Feeling a bit unnerved? No worries, you’re not alone. Whether you’re traveling solo or taking a budget trip with friends, your first stay in a hostel can be a bit daunting. Here are a few tips to help you relax during downtime in the dormitory, so you can spend all of that extra energy enjoying your trip:
Pack flip-flops, a towel, and shampoo.
Hostels typically don’t come with all of the luxuries of hotels, hence the attractive prices, so you’ll have to bring a few of your own amenities. Since you’re probably going to be using showers in a shared bathroom, flip-flops are always a must. They’re easy to throw in the water bottle pocket of your backpack or slip into the front slot of your roller suitcase, so just pack them! Trust me. Additionally, many hostels don’t provide towels and shampoo at all. Some may supply one and not the other, while others may charge you to use these items. Checking the hostel’s website before heading out is always a good idea, but to be safe I always just pack my own. I especially like the Eagle Creek TravelLite towel. It is compact and fast drying for those travelers hopping from hostel to hostel.
Traveling outside of the country? Bring your own converter.
Along the same lines of the previous point: most hostels provide you with a warm place to crash and not much else. If you’re going to need a power converter, consider bringing your own. It’s really hit or miss as to which hostels are going to have some available for rental. Another option is to go to a nearby hotel to see if they’ll lend your one for a small deposit fee. If you’re the gambling type, you can also hope for a kind stranger to lend one.
Take advantage of your surroundings. Hang out in the common areas and meet new people from all over the world!
Saving money isn’t the only advantage of roughing it in a dorm; you’re also surrounded by travelers from far and wide. You have the opportunity to meet people you never would have met sitting in a hotel room. Most hostels will have a living room or lounge area. Go ahead and relax with fellow travelers, and don’t be afraid to spark up a conversation with someone new!
Bring earplugs and maybe a sleep mask.
Sleeping in a dorm with 3-13 strangers isn’t always the most peaceful of environments. With people coming and going at all times of the day and night, and people from all over the world with different ideas of being quiet while others sleep, chances are your slumber will be disturbed a time or two throughout your stay. Don’t let that stop you, though! Pack some earplugs to muffle the noise and a sleep mask, in case you want to nap during the day or have roommates who thing 3am is an appropriate time to turn on the main light, and you’re good to go!
Don’t pack plastic shopping bags!
I know it can be tempting. A Target bag is the perfect way to keep your shoes from getting everything else in your bag dirty and smelly. The problem? Plastic shopping bags are the loudest things on the planet. When you’re trying to sleep and your bunkmate is frantically digging through her suitcase trying to find her other sock at the crack of dawn, hearing the earth-shattering sound of a plastic bag is the last thing you want. Don’t be that guy. When you have to get up at 5am for that flight, you’ll be happy you left the bags at home, especially since everything seems louder when others are nearby trying to sleep.
If dirty sneakers are still an issue, consider dropping a few bucks on a nylon packing bag. They’re worth it!
Take advantage of the hostel staff’s knowledge.
Since staff at hostels are typically young locals, they might have some interesting ideas of places to visit or restaurants to try that you won’t find in your guidebook. If you’re at a loss of how to spend your afternoon, hit them up for some local favorites. Also, if you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language, they can usually write the addresses down for you to show the cab driver, or direct you to which public transit lines to take so you don’t end up lost for hours on end.
Hostels are generally safe places filled with people just like you—travelers who want to see the world without breaking the bank. Accept that you’re not staying in the luxury of a hotel, and embrace the life of a budget traveler!
Use your common sense and lock up valuables. Most hostels will provide lockers in the room for you, which is very convenient, but for the most part other travelers are pretty honest. Of course, there are always one-off cases of creeps, so if you truly feel uncomfortable, get out of the environment and find people who make you feel okay. You have to feel safe in order to enjoy your vacation!
Hopefully these tips have calmed any nerves or answered any questions you might have about staying in a hostel. Now, go forth and travel!