How to Survive Staying in a Hostel
So you’ve come this far. You’ve booked your flights, you know your itinerary. You’re ready to take on the world! And you’ve inevitably gone through the process of booking the first few hostels in your first destinations. And it is completely understandable to feel a bit nervous. What will it be like? Will it be clean? What if I’m in a room with people that I don’t like? These are all questions that run through any first-time travellers minds. So here is a quick guide to help you get through the first few weeks of hostel living.
1. Make Lots of Friends
You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make friends in a hostel. There are people everywhere all of the time, so you’re bound to find someone that you bond well with (one would hope). It doesn’t matter if you’re travelling solo or if you’re travelling with other people, having several other friends in each hostel you go to makes things a million times easier and more interesting. Of course, it does get hard because people come and go all the time, and you go off in your different directions. But it’s so so incredible when you meet those same people in a different country or when you’re back home. You will have friends from all over the world; utilize that. Ask them to cook you a dinner from their home country and you can do the same to them. It makes hostel living A LOT more exciting.
2. Don’t be Afraid to say No to Going Out
In hostels, there is copious amounts of drinking and partying. It’s inevitable. It’s like University all over again. There will ALWAYS be some kind of occasions; someone’s just arrived, it’s somebody’s last night, it’s someone’s birthday. There is always something going on. Don’t ever be scared to say no if you just don’t feel like it. You shouldn’t have to force yourself to drink or go out. Being a backpacker in a hostel is also about the nights where you’re all snuggled up in the communal TV room watching a film. Don’t burn yourself out, trust me.
3. Buy Earplugs
This cannot be stressed enough (ESPECIALLY if you’re a light sleeper). You’re going to be in a 4/6/8 and sometimes a 16 bed dorm. People will snore. People will come into the room at ridiculous hours when they’re VERY drunk and be VERY loud. People will do other things that I probably shouldn’t mention here (but you can imagine what happens when you are staying in a mixed dorm and there’s alcohol involved...so gross). One of these things is going to stop you from sleeping or wake you up if you don’t have earplugs. And who wants to be grumpy and sleep deprived when you do loads of fun activities the next day? No one. So do yourself a favour, and buy some earplugs. Earplugs are your new best friend. It will be the best thing you ever do.
4. Respect Everyone’s Personal Space
Dorm rooms can be extremely small sometimes. It’s amazing how they can fit so many bunk beds into a room the size of a cupboard. Be the nice respectful person in your room and keep your stuff tidy. There is nothing worse than coming back to your room only to find that a bomb has hit it and Steve from Ireland’s stuff is EVERYWHERE. No one wants to do an assault course to get to their bed.
5. Have Some Alone Time
Hostels can be pretty overwhelming at the best of times. There are people everywhere, at all times. You go to the bathroom to brush your teeth and Jenny from the other night is at your shoulder jabbering on about that lad she fancies. It can be a nightmare. Don’t be afraid to have some alone time. Curl up in bed and watch a movie. Or read a book. No one will judge you, everyone will need their space at some point. You could even get out of the hostel for a few hours, go for a walk around the town and look at the beautiful scenery. You’d be surprised how much better you’ll feel. Plus, you haven’t made it all the way to another country to just sit indoors (even though there is nothing wrong with doing that, of course)!
6. Be Different
The amount of people you’ll meet will be ridiculous. And they are going to ask you the same questions. Every.Single.One. And you will probably ask the same questions too. Where are you from? Where have you been? Where are you planning to go after this? Be different and creative with the questions you ask. People get bored of repeating the same thing over and over again. It’s refreshing when someone asks you something a bit more personal, and it shows that you actually care about the answer! Try asking people what their favourite place in the world is and why. Or talk about life before travelling. Make things interesting and everyone will love you.
7. Pack the Night Before
You are going to be moving around. A lot. You will be jumping from hostel to hostel every few days. Always pack the night before you go. ALWAYS. If you have an early bus journey, you don’t want to get up an extra half an hour earlier than you would normally just to pack (especially if you’re hungover, which is not recommended if you’re about to do an 8 hour coach journey with VERY windy roads). Also, if you get up at a ridiculous hour and start rustling plastic bags and trying to cram all your clothes in your bag, everyone else will get very annoyed. Not everyone will have the same itinerary as you. Don’t be that person that wakes everyone up when all they want to do is sleep.
8. Trust Your Gut
This is probably one of the most important. If you ever, ever don’t like the look or the feel of a hostel, there is nothing making you stay. MOVE ON. If you’re unhappy about the security, or you don’t feel safe, or you don’t like the cleanliness, or you really really don’t like the people in your room – do not stay there. You may have booked in advanced and you may lose your deposit, but if you are unsure about somewhere go somewhere else. If there’s one hostel in a certain area there will be 6 more down the road. Trust your gut. It will make you happier and you won’t start to hate the world of hostel living.
Despite some of these point sounding very negative, staying in hostels will give you an experience you will never ever forget. Of course, you’ll stay in places that you’ll dislike, or meet people you’ll dislike. But you will also stay in places that are breathtaking. And meet people that will be your friends for the rest of your life. Do what feels right and you will breeze through the hostel life. Be yourself. Do your own thing. You will love every single minute of it if you do.
By Katy Dalligan
The main picture on this article is the view from the Mad Monkey Hostel, Koh Rong Sanloem, Cambodia.