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Staying in hostels is one of the best ways to widen your outlook on traveling and meet other adventurers. That being said, there is no harm in preparing yourself beforehand for the experience. Stopping in a hostel is completely different from your standard hotel.
First things first
Look at your available budget, and the destination you are stopping. Scout out the potential hostels and look at which ones are close to the main sights but still affordable. Once you have done this, think about your comfort and safety. Do you want to stay in a large 8+ person dorm? Or would you prefer a smaller, more private room?
Buy these essentials
Don’t forget the three essentials – flip flops, earplugs, and a padlock. These items prove invaluable in a hostel environment! Flip flops protect your feet in communal shower areas. Earplugs allow you to get a peaceful night’s sleep, and a padlock allows you to secure your luggage and locker.
Expert Tip: Flip-flops, a padlock, and earplugs are your friend – these simple items could improve your hostel experience indefinitely. If you want a pleasant sleep, to keep your belongings secure, and protect your feet, this trio of trinkets is essential!
Once you are sure of the location and which hostel you want to stay in, dive right in and enjoy the experience! Use the common areas and speak to other travelers. If you are traveling solo, you may find a buddy to explore the city with. Furthermore, you may find people to dine with or even travel with to new locations if you are on an extended trip.
Finally, make use of the amenities provided. Hostels often organize group tours and nightlife activities that anyone can join. You could join a walking tour of the city, for example, or embark on an epic bar crawl at the best nightlife spots. Whatever you do, be sure to immerse yourself in the experience and enjoy every second. Staying in hostels can open your eyes to a whole new world of travel and adventure!
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What to do before staying in a hostel for the first time
Most people view hostels as dangerous places where the most horrific acts take place – this just isn’t true! Hostels are some of the best places for solo travelers and those who want to meet like-minded people. Sure, there may be the odd hostel that has a bad reputation, but these are few and far between. 99.9% of the time, if you stay in a hostel, you will have an amazing experience!
Research the hostel location
The location of a hostel is vital. If you are stopping in a large city like Paris, New York, or Sydney, you want to be ideally located near the major sites and attractions. Failing that, you at least want decent transport connections.
Cheaper hostels are often further away from the action. If you don’t mind traveling a little, choosing something further away from the city center will reduce the cost. However, if you want to be in the middle of the action, a hostel in the city center will cost more. The upside is that most things will be within walking distance.
Read customer reviews
There is a range of fantastic websites where you can book and research hostels – Hostelworld, Booking.com, and HostelBookers, for example. These websites are brilliant because they provide genuine feedback and reviews from people who have stayed at the establishments.
Before booking a hostel, we advise checking these reviews.
Don’t read the reviews word-for-word – some people can be overly critical. Look at a range of reviews to gain an overall impression of the quality and atmosphere of the hostel. You can quickly understand which hostels have a good reputation and which are less than desirable.
Consider the amenities and room types within the hostel
The amenities and room layouts vary greatly from hostel to hostel. It is important when choosing a hostel to look at what it offers. Does it have a common area where you can relax and talk to fellow travelers? Is there a kitchen area that you can use to cook meals or have breakfast? What are the shower and toilet facilities like? Is there a bar attached to the hostel?
Furthermore, look at the available rooms. Some hostels have only large dormitories that sleep 8 people or more. Other hostels, however, may have smaller rooms that sleep 4 – 6 people. You may, for example, want to stay in a smaller room for your first hostel experience.
Purchase earplugs for a good night’s sleep when stopping in a hostel
Speaking from experience, hostels at night can be noisy! It is not uncommon to have people entering the dorms throughout the night. Furthermore, you can guarantee that at least one person will snore and sound like a tractor. Regardless of how well you sleep, it is advisable to purchase a set or two of earplugs. Having earplugs will ensure that you have a comfortable, noise-free sleep and feel fresh for the morning.
Purchase a couple of padlocks
Whilst security has generally improved in hostels in the last 5-10 years, it is still advisable to take precautions. In most establishments, you will have a bed and a locker. Some lockers may have a combination lock; others may have no lock at all. It is therefore important to take a couple of padlocks. One for your locker and one for your luggage. This will give you extra security and peace of mind when you head out to explore.
Try to mix with other travelers
Some people stay in hostels because they are cheap. Others stay in hostels to broaden their horizons and meet other people. Whichever reason, we advise mixing it up and speaking to others in the hostel. This type of establishment is communal and usually has a great community feel. Step out of your comfort zone and mix with other travelers. You will hear some amazing stories and meet some fantastic characters.
Look at hostel tours and organized events
Oftentimes hostel staff create tours and events for travelers. These could include walking tours of the city and bar crawls. This is a great way to meet fellow travelers. It is also an excellent way to see the city and gain insider information to the best spots and sights. Furthermore, the walking tours are often free!
Look at check-in procedures
Hostels have varying check-in procedures compared to hotels. Some may have a keypad entry system on the main door that you must have a code for. Others may have a main reception that is only manned during certain hours. Ensure you are fully aware of the check-in and check-out procedures so that you can quickly access the hostel and your dorm.
Create a checklist of hostel “must-haves”
Don’t look for a hostel with no clear idea of what you want. This can lead to disaster! We advise creating a short checklist of desirables. This could include cost per night, room size, location, amenities, and availability of breakfast, for example.
Shortlist 3 potential hostels for your destination
Having a choice is essential – this means you will avoid making a rash decision and potentially picking a poor hostel. We recommend your second action to narrow down your selection to three potential options. Once you have done this, consider the pros and cons of each establishment and make your final choice.
About the Author
Paul specializes in travel and photography. His passion for travel spans back to his childhood and has been a life-long obsession. He has seen much of the world including cold climate destinations like Antarctica, Greenland, Svalbard, and Iceland. This combined with a thirst for knowledge, and a love of literature, has allowed him to craft a successful career as a writer. Through his writing, he loves to empower readers to see the world just as he has.
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