For anyone out there who is yet to experience hostel accommodation, you might have some mental images of what the experience might be like – and it’s probably quite different from what you’d get in reality. Some travellers consider other options like private hotel rooms or Air BnB, and of course each to their own; but as well as being a lot cheaper, staying in hostels is by far the easiest way to make friends, and ensure you’re always surrounded by like-minded travellers to get out and explore with. Choosing to stay at a recommended hostel is the way to go, as it eliminates a lot of risk. These places have earned their good reputations for a reason! Here are a few quick-fire tips for your first experience with hostels.
Grab The Bottom Bunk. Always.
If you’re not used to bunk beds, the top bed might seem like a novel idea at first. It’s not. There’s nothing worse than coming home after a night out and having to vertically struggle your way to bed, especially if you’ve got other people in the room and you’re attempting to be quiet. Sure, some people might be fine with it, but if you’re like me and have all the stealth and subtlety of a baboon in heels, the bottom bunk allows for quick and easy access and should always be your first choice.
Make Use of The Common Areas
Don’t be afraid to sit down in the common room/shared living areas and strike up a conversation with a stranger. This is what it’s all about! If they don’t speak your language, then at least you tried, and you can claim you’ve made a new friend and they won’t be able to argue anyway. But seriously, they wouldn’t be sitting there if they weren’t attempting to be social too, so get chatting and you’ll end up meeting interesting people from all over the world.
Have Jandals/Thongs/Flip-flops on Hand
Whatever you call them (we all know jandals is the correct term though), make sure you’ve got a pair. You don’t want to wander round a hostel barefoot, but it’s annoying to take shoes on and off repeatedly. And of course for hygiene purposes, it’s always better to shower with these on!
Reception Has More Stuff on Hand Than You Might Think
If you ever find yourself rummaging through your bag and realising that you’ve accidentally left your charger in Slovenia with a German tourist called Wolfgang who asked to borrow it briefly, fear not. Before you head out to try and find a shop that sells whatever it is you’ve lost, it’s always worth checking what your hostel reception has available (either to borrow or purchase). Some even have umbrellas for you to use on rainy days, and if you ever need to print tickets they’re generally able to cover you for that. While you’re there you might as well ask the staff for recommendations on local bars and restaurants – they know their stuff.
Earplugs Are Your Friend
Of course sharing a room does sometimes come with a little bit of extra noise, and it’s always good to have either a decent pair of earplugs or headphones within reach. You’ll probably get used to it after a couple of nights anyway, or hopefully you’ve done so much exploring you’ll be tired enough to fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow. But it’s better to be prepared, cos every once in a while you might have a snorer in your room (hint: if you don’t, it’s probably you).
Bring Your Own Padlock
Hostels pretty much always have storage lockers for you to keep your luggage when you want to go out exploring, but every now and then you might need to provide your own lock or pay €1 to use one. Just bring your own at the start of your travels and never be caught without one. The same goes for a towel – hostels supply linen for your bed, but not always towels. If you’ve got space in your pack, definitely try and bring a small one with you, unless you don’t mind hiring them from reception too.
Get to Know Your Roommates
Everyone who’s been exploring overseas knows that making friends on your travels is completely different to making friends at home. Crossing paths with someone while travelling gives you a shared sense of camaraderie, both being in an unfamiliar place, soaking in the excitement of exploring somewhere new. You may only hang out for a couple of days but it’ll feel like you’ve known them forever, in a way that’s hard to explain to those who haven’t experienced it. The best part about staying in hostels is making new friends, and there’s no easier way to do that than getting to know the person or people that you’re sharing a room with. You’ll soon become a master of the initial awkward small talk, and you might just make your new best friends.
Like all good experiences, it’ll feel like it’s over in the blink of an eye and you’ll find yourself back home longing for the days of checking into a new hostel and meeting new people. So live in the moment, and make the most of it!