Hostelling provides a unique and unforgettable experience for the global explorer. The moment you enter a hostel, you’re welcomed into a community of international visitors who hail from countries all over the world and who all share one interest in common – travelling.
When planning your adventures abroad, staying in a hostel makes the most financial sense when you’re backpacking across multiple destinations or when you want to allocate more of your trip budget towards experiences that cost money.
And, while you save travel funds, you’ll gain so much more in terms of the travel experience. Whether it’s your first time at a hostel or you’re gearing up for your next stay, here are some tips for staying at a hostel, so you can take full advantage of the hostel life.
Know your room boundaries
Hostels are communal-based, so it’s important to be aware of your boundaries and what you’re comfortable with when it comes to rooming with strangers.
Dorm rooms typically host anywhere between 4 to 16 guests, with a choice of staying in a single-sex or co-ed room. When booking, take a look at the photos of the rooms to get a sense of the layout and features that are determining factors, such as bunk beds versus single beds, electrical outlets, wifi access, or individual lockers.
Despite how well you prepare yourself, there are some variables you can’t control, such as sharing a room with night owls and people who snore. Getting a decent rest in a dorm room may prove to be difficult if you’re easily woken up by disturbances. This is why earplugs, noise-cancelling headphones, and sleeping masks are a recommended investment for light sleepers to drown out the noise, block out the light, and have a good night’s sleep.
For those who are travelling with a group or who want more privacy, there’s the option of booking private hostel rooms that host singles, doubles, and quadruples
Be considerate of others
When you’re away from the familiarities of home, it’s a general rule of thumb to challenge your habits and routines and change your regular ways to what’s respectful of other guests. To be a respectful temporary roommate, be mindful of how you’re sharing the space with others. This means, don’t munch on snacks in bed or leave belongings on the floor. Do take those late-night phone calls outside. Whether you have an ensuite bathroom or are using the shared washrooms, take only the time you need.
If you like to enjoy the nightlife, be respectful of the hostel’s lights out policy (typically by midnight) and do not disturb your roommates who are trying to get some much-needed shut eye. If you want to use your tech devices to watch movies or catch up on emails, be considerate by using headphones and turning the brightness down.
Fuel up for the day or night ahead
Take advantage of the buffets and meal services offered by the hostel. Many will serve continental breakfast in the morning and offer savings on meals ordered at the restaurant or pub next door. These meals will provide an authentic sampling of the city’s local cuisine, including freshly-baked pastries and fresh fruit. Some hostels also provide free coffee, tea, and water throughout the day to keep you energized.
Hostels also often have communal kitchens, where you can cook your own meals with food found at the grocery store. Not only is this a cost-saving option (as opposed to going out for dinner every evening), but you can also turn it into an opportunity for an international cafeteria where you share your dishes with other travellers.
Get to know the hostel staff
From those at the front desk to those managing the bar, the people running your hostel are resources worth appreciating and using.
You can get a sense of what the locals are like, learn about the local culture, and get personalized recommendations, such as where to find the best vegan restaurants and underground art exhibits in town. If you build up a good rapport with the staff, they may even offer you special access and discounts to certain attractions and events in the city.
Make new friends from around the world
Hostels provide an incredible opportunity to meet new people and make new friends while travelling. You can strike up a conversation with your fellow hostel guests to share travel stories and tips, and to learn more about their culture. By doing so, you may build an international network of friends you can travel with and stay with in the future.
For those who aren’t as comfortable with meeting new people, there’s an ease in knowing that you already have the love of travel in common with everyone. As someone on the reserved side, pushing myself to be open to talking to new people during my solo travels made me grow in confidence when it comes to chatting and connecting with anyone in any social context.
Be open to exploring the city with your hostel mates. Hostels will host social events (often free or for a reasonable fee) such as free pizza and movie nights, walking tours, day trips, and pub/club crawls as a way of building community and fostering connections amongst travellers. If your roommates invite you to go out, go!
One of my favourite memories in Paris was staying at the St. Christopher’s Hostel, where in my room, I met five other women who just so happened to be from Canada as well. I ended up sharing a fun pub night with them and went to the Palace of Versailles with one of the girls the next day. It was a reminder of the small world we share and how we should take every opportunity to explore and adventure together.
Hostels have a way of drawing every traveller outside of their comfort zone to discover something new about the world and about themselves. Give hostel living a try!