Hostel Survival for Beginners: 5 Keys to a Good Hostel Experience when Traveling Abroad

Whether you’re backpacking across Europe or trekking to another city in America, your travels, preferences or budget might require you to stay in a hostel. Here are some ways to ensure your experience is happy, not horrendous

5 Participate in hostel activities

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Many hostels offer tours, parties and other activities for guests. At the very least you are likely to find some sort of common room with a TV or a dining area. Check it out. Even if you’re traveling with friends, step outside that social bubble and interact with the people who are staying with you, at least a little. Your fellow travelers are fonts of information.

4 Wear flip flops

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You will see this suggestion in every single guidebook and pamphlet about hostels. There’s a reason it appears over and over again. A lot of feet walk across those communal shower tiles and bedroom floors, they have varying degrees of hygiene and health conditions, and you don’t need souvenirs, such as fungus or warts, from them. The first time you get athlete’s foot or step on a pin you’ll stop thinking this is a silly suggestion.

3 Watch your stuff

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You’re sharing a room with people you don’t know. That’s the bottom line. As nice as they might be, as much as you might have in common, you have no idea who they really are, so watch your stuff. If they’ve issued you a locker or cubby, use it and secure it with a quality padlock, not one from the dollar store. If your suitcase doesn’t have a small lock, get one. Some people sleep with their valuables in bed with them, and it’s actually not a bad idea. You can easily put your small purse or backpack under your pillow or the covers at the top of your bed, close to the wall. The idea is that someone would have to climb over you to get to your stuff and would invariably wake you up. It’s not paranoia; it’s taking that extra step to ensure you don’t get ripped off. Most people aren’t victims of theft at hostels, but “most” is not “all,” and you don’t want to be the exception. Having to replace documents, money, clothes, shoes, cameras or other belongings really sucks.

2 Don’t be a Jerk

One of the complications of sharing a room with numerous strangers is that you’re all on different schedules that may or may not be compatible. Maybe your flight leaves early in the morning. Maybe you stayed out late and you’re only getting back to the hostel at 5 a.m. You do what you have to do. However, there are certain areas where you can show consideration for others and avoid being a jerk. If you’re having a rollicking conversation at 3am, for instance, do it in the common room, not in your bedroom where five other people might be trying to sleep. If you’re playing a game on your phone, use headphones or keep the volume down. When you’re preparing for that early morning flight, try to be quiet. Common courtesy goes a long way.

1 Do Your Homework

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The best thing you can do to make sure your hostel stay is pleasant is to research well before you even make your reservation. Just as some hotels are nice and others are miserable hellholes, hostels can be a mixed bag. Different hostels also cater to different populations: if you just want a quiet, clean place to sleep where you won’t be bothered by anyone, you’re probably not going to want to stay at that party hostel by the beach. How do you research? If you’re reading this, you have access to the Internet – check out the reviews on Yelp, Tripadvisor and Hostelz.com. Pay particular attention to the ones posted within the last year or six months, because the character of a hostel can and does change. Let’s Go and Lonely Planet’s guidebooks and websites also have candid, unbiased reviews.
Hosteling is something that every traveler should try at least once. Follow these top five tips to ensure that your hostel experience is a positive one!

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