Meeting new people is one of travel’s biggest attractions. If I didn’t travel I would have never met some of the greatest people I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with. How did I end up at a hippy cult open mic? How did I spend a night out with a professional kite surfer? How did I become friends with a tattoo artist? It’s only because I stayed in hostels while I was abroad.
A hostel is basically a dorm for travelers. Usually you share a room with a few people. Depending on the price and the place you’re staying, you could end up in a room with 3 other people or 20 other people. Hostel’s are hubs for young backpackers. They’re typically social environments and sometimes they offer activities or excursions for a cheaper price. And, best of all they’re dirt cheap compared to hotels. In Thailand, one of our hostel’s only cost us $7.50USD per night and it was located on the beach.
As with any sort of travel accommodation, you need to do your research before booking. Some important considerations are:
- Location – how far are you away from the city or the activities you plan on doing while you’re there? How far is the nearest form of transportation? What’s the distance from the airport?
- Atmosphere – do you want to stay at a party hostel? Do you prefer someplace a little mellower? Is this staff friendly?
- Amenities – Is there a kitchen available if you want to cook your own meals? Do they provide towels? Are there hairdryers available? Is there a place to hangout and meet other travelers? What about 24-hour access? If you’re in a hot country, do you need air conditioning?
- Cleanliness – How are the showers and bathrooms? Do the rooms look well kept?
- Room availability – Are you willing to share a room with a ton of people? Do you want female/male only rooms? Are you okay with a mixed gender room?
- Security – Is there a place to lock your valuables? Is this hostel notorious for theft?
- Price – is this place worth the price tag? Do you want to pay more for a private room? Do they only accept cash in the local currency or do they take credit card?
Like I said, I love the sociability of hostels. I’m not super outgoing person who easily makes new friends, so staying in a hostel is an easy way to meet people with minimal effort. Talk to the people who are staying in the same room as you are. Hang out in the communal areas, especially in the lounge or kitchen. Talk to the staff, usually they’re extremely friendly and they can provide some tips or recommendations during your stay. People are almost always willing to go out or grab a drink and chat.
Below are my top tips for staying at a hostel:
- Always bring your own lock – sometimes the hostel will advertise that they have lockers to store your valuable items. Sometimes, these lockers will not have locks on them so it’s imperative that you have your own. It would be terrible to have something swiped because you didn’t lock up your stuff.
- Hang around the communal areas – chances are that someone will strike up a conversation with you.
- Bring your own towel – sometimes hostels charge extra if you want to rent one of their towels.
- Bring shower shoes – you never know how clean the showers are. Don’t risk getting some weird infection from the shower.
- Hang out where people smoke or drink – Hostels may have a bar or a smoking terrace. People here are the most keen to talk to you. Smoking and drinking are social activities so even if you don’t want to join in, there’s no harm in hanging out and meeting some people.
- Earplugs and sleeping masks are key – People snore. People leave the lights on. Take measures to ensure a good night’s sleep.
- Take advantage of the social events sponsored by the hostel – Maybe go on that pub crawl, or go on that sunset cruise. You’ll end up meeting some people staying at the hostel with you and other people and travelers. These events are sometimes cheaper when you book through the hostel. (The excursions are better for meeting people because bar crawls are more random and can get messy).
- Always have cash in the local currency – Some hostels charge extra is you want to pay with credit card. Many of them require a cash deposit. Always have cash.
- Pack the night before you leave – You don’t want to be that person who wakes up the whole room because you’re frantically packing at 5am.
- Leave one leisurely day to go-with-the-flow – this may not always be possible if you’re on a tight schedule, but if you can, plan one day to be open. Someone at the hostel may be doing something cool, and this way you can join in without sacrificing anything.
- Take the bottom bunk when possible – it sure makes packing and passing out from exhaustion a heck of a lot easier.
- Hang your towel for increased privacy – sometimes hostel bed have a curtain you can draw for privacy. Sometimes, they don’t. You can hang your towel up as another barrier.
The past year, I’ve almost exclusively stayed in hostels while traveling. Here are some of my most fond memories:
- Riding around Bagan at 5am on electric bikes with some random guys.
- Going to a ping pong bar in Shoreditch.
- Somehow getting conned into accompanying someone to a late night McDonald’s and wine run.
- Winding up at a hippy cult open mic gathering in someone’s house and proceeding to stargaze at the end of the night.
- Getting dragged out to a beach party at 1 am in Thailand by my British bunkmate who I had met a few hours earlier.
- Running around Singapore’s nightlife with a Polish Kite surfer who was recording a film with National Geographic.
I almost exclusively use Hostelworld to book my hostel accommodations. However, I always recommend checking the hostel’s own website to book because sometimes they offer better rates there.
Wherever you go and wherever you stay, enjoy your trip and I hope I could help out with this post.