First Time Staying in a Hostel: FAQs & Tips

In my previous post on staying in hostels, you know that my initial thoughts on hostels weren’t good due to the stigma attached. So much so that I thought my roommates were going to kill me in my sleep (you’ll be pleased to know they didn’t kill me and I lived to tell the tale of them being AMAZING!)

I also discussed that we needed to break the stigma of hostels as they are not like they used to be back in the day! If you missed that post don’t forget to read it here: BREAKING THE STIGMA: 7 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD STAY IN A HOSTEL

In this post, I will be answering FAQs on ‘hostel life’ and sharing some top tips for staying in a hostel.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

1) Are hostels safe?

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I answered this question in my previous post (click here). Yes, you are just as safe in a hostel as you are in a hotel or Airbnb.

2) Where can I find hostels?

Hostelword screenshot

Hostelword has to be my favourite as it is specifically for hostels (which saves time filtering out hotels/apartments on general search engines). Secondly, all you need to do to is pay a low-fee deposit to secure your room or bed and then pay the remainder at the hostel when you arrive. Lastly, the website is extremely user-friendly – it has reviews, ratings, pictures and even a blog!

3) What type of rooms are available?

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4 Bed Shared Female Dorm

  • Shared dorms  Is a room shared with other people, you pay for your bed rather than the whole room. Ranges from 4+ people per dorm and could be females only, males only or mixed. Some shared dorms also come with an en-suite.
    • Pro’s: Cheapest hostel option, your roomies could become lifelong friends.
    • Con’s: Less privacy, you would have to think twice about walking around naked as it could scare off your roommates, you have to be more mindful when doing things (i.e. putting the lights or air-conditioning on, playing music out loud etc)
  • Private rooms – Where you pay for the room instead of the bed (same as a hotel room). There are different types of private rooms, for example, you could get a single bed private room or a 3-bed private room.
    • Advantages: Privacy, not having to ask anyone to turn the lights off or put the aircon on, your own space (especially after a long day), walk around naked and wigless.
    • Disadvantages: More expensive than a shared-dorm and even more expensive if you are booking the room for just one person as the cost won’t be split

PRICE HACK ALERT: If you are travelling with a group of friends, instead of booking private rooms you can make a group booking for a shared dorm. For example, if there are 4 of you travelling and there is a 4-bed dorm, your group will occupy the whole room.

4) The cost of staying in a shared dorm vs. private room

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Photo credit: Hug hostel rooftop – Chiang Mai, Thailand

There isn’t a ‘one price for all’ when it comes to hostels. Prices depend on the country, location, services and a whole range of factors. A general rule of thumb is that shared-dorms are cheaper than private rooms, as you’re paying for the bed instead of the room. The average prices for hostels range from:

  • Shared dorms – £4+ p/n
  • Private rooms – £12+ p/n

5) How do you store your belongings?

The Quisby Hostel - New Orleans, Louisiana

The Quisby – New Orleans, Louisiana

Many hostels offer lockers inside your room or around the hostel. All you need is a padlock to secure your personal belongings. You can bring your own padlock or you can inquire at the front desk for one.

6) What type of showering facilities are available?

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Shared bathroom at Maverick City Lodge Hostel – Budapest, Hungary

The most common showering facilities available in hostels are:

  • Shared bathrooms – are separate to the room and very similar to showers at the gym. There could be 6 separate cubicles each with a shower and a door/shower curtain for privacy. Some shared bathrooms are gender-specific, whilst others are mixed.
  • Private bathrooms – are also separate to the room. However, it can only be used by one person at a time. They usually include a shower, toilet and sink.
  • En-suite bathrooms – are inside the room. They are shared between the people staying in that room, but can only be used by one person at a time.

7) How do you socialise and meet new people in your hostel?

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Generator Hostel – Barcelona, Spain

There is not one set way on how to mingle or socialise with people in your hostel – there are loads of opportunities where you can meet new people.

  • If you’re staying in a shared dorm, you could start off here and get to know your roomies a bit more. If you have a free slot in your travel plans, maybe organise to meet up for some drinks or to tour a certain part of the city.
  • Hostel dinners are also a great way to meet new people also staying in your hostel. Depending on the hostel, the dinners are quite close-knit and cosy and everyone is talking to EVERYONE. Even if you’re a bit reserved/introverted, I guarantee you that someone close by may introduce themselves to you.
  • Activities organised by the hostel is another way to socialise with other travellers staying at your hostel. Simply sign up for one of the tours/activities they provide and wait and see who you could meet!

8) How do you change into and out of your clothes when other people are in the room?

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Maverick City Lodge – Budapest, Hungary

Whatever you feel comfortable doing is what you should do.

  • You could get changed in the bathrooms straight after showering;
  • Or you could literally just change out in the open in your room (maybe a towel or some sort of cloth covering you, don’t wanna scare your roommates off in your birthday suit);
  • Bottom bunks also make it easy, I just sit on the edge of the bed and change whilst I’ve got my towel on or if the bottom bunk has a curtain I draw it and do what I can

HOSTEL TIPS

SECURITY:

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It’s a sad reality that some people are just thieves (I know, sucks right?) So please do not leave your valuables lying around the place or your locker unlocked. Just lock away your valuables in a safe place to avoid any of your items being stolen.

BE MINDFUL IN SHARED-DORMS:

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  • If staying in a shared dorm, be considerate of other people! If you’re coming in late at night, be mindful of those sleeping and do things quietly. Or if you want to play some music out loud ask your roomies if they’re okay with it.
  • Again, if you’re staying in a shared dorm not everyone in your room came to make friends. The shared-dorm was probably the only room they could afford at the time, so don’t take it personally if you have a roomie who doesn’t really want to socialise or spend time with you because the probably already have plans of their own.

CHOOSING YOUR ROOM:

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I cannot stress how important it is for you to choose your room WISELY!

  • If you really value your own personal space and have worries about sharing a room with complete strangers then maybe you should opt for a private room. The last thing you want to do is book a shared dorm and feel extremely uneasy throughout your vacation.
  • If you’re on a tight budget, you really don’t mind sharing with others and you literally just need a pillow to put your head on, then opt for a shared dorm.
  • Also, choose wisely on whether you would prefer to sleep in a mixed-dorm or a gender-specific dorm. 
    • For instance, if you as a girl chose to sleep in a 6-bed mixed dorm and you end with 5 male roomies would you be okay with the setup or would you be like “uh uh HELL NO”?

CHOOSING YOUR HOSTEL:

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It is good to research into a number of factors before choosing your hostel (just like you would do with a hotel):

  • Amenities Is there wifi? Do they offer breakfast, free linens, kitchen, dinners tours activities, lockers and laundry?
  • Location – If you are new to the country and want to be located close to the major points of interest, make sure you choose a hostel which is conveniently located.
  • Nature – If a hostel is known for being a “party hostel” (which can be quite loud during the night) and you’re not looking for that kind of environment, then you may want to look for a hostel which is known to be quite chilled and not too noisy based on reviews.
  • Ratings – When looking on Hostelworld, I prefer to look for hostels with a rating of 8.5 or more. I also look for reviews/information on how clean the hostel is or how secure it is.

ESSENTIALS TO BRING:

  • Padlock – Really important for keeping your valuables safely stored in your locker. Some hotels sell/rent out padlocks for the duration of your stay, whilst others may not.
  • Flip-flops – this is a very important essential for showering (saves you from catching anything nasty from the shower floors) and also walking around on dusty floors.
  • Extension lead/Power strip – This is so you can charge and use multiple things at once (your camera, phone, blow-dryer, shaver etc)
  • Travel Adaptors – The country you’re going to may not use the same plugs your country uses, so it’s necessary to get one for your appliances.
  • Towel – If your hostel does not provide a towel. Hostels will let you know whether they do and if they don’t you could drop them an e-mail and ask.
  • Earplugs – Just in case you’re a light sleeper and the drop of a pin could wake you. You may not want to risk it, especially if one of your roomies stumbles back in at 1am absolutely hammered.

As well as your clothes and anything else you’d bring on holiday.


I hope this has answered any further questions you may have on hostels.

If you feel there are questions I have not answered or other tips that have helped you in hostels – please share in the comments below!


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