I can’t even remember the first time I stayed in a hostel, we were not rich growing up so I was quite young. That being said, we never stayed in a dorm with strangers, obviously. As a grown up though I love a good hostel. They’ve allowed me to visit places I otherwise never could have afforded and meet like minded people. This guide, if you can call it a guide, is for hostels in Europe, I’ve not stayed in any outside of Europe so can’t speak to them but can strongly recommend checking out Steph my Life’s blog, specifically her what to pack blog.
Hostels vary greatly in cost and when booking a good idea is to search in for ones in the city centre where you’re staying as this will save you money on public transport, even if the hostel cost is a few euro more per night. Next thing is to look at the reviews, is this a party hostel and you’re an early night out all day kinda person or would your roommates being asleep at 8pm piss you off? The thing with shared dorms is that you kind of have to accommodate people sleeping, no matter what time of day. So best you can, try and pick a hostel based on what kinda vibe you’ll be in on holiday mode.
When searching the likes of booking.com/hostelworld remember that they will show you the cheapest room rate, which could be a bed in a 30 bed mixed form. In other words, think about how many people you’re willing to share with. The smaller the dorm, the less likely you’ll run into inconsiderate people. If you travel a lot or plan to travel a lot it’s worth knowing that booking.com gives you rewards in the form of discounts on accommodation once you get enough points. Once you’re above level 1 you can search for places that specifically have a ‘genius discount’. Nothing major but can save you a few bob. On this note, I also recommend having a nose through my money saving travel tips blog, specifically at collecting avios/airline miles.
Most hostels have a ‘reserve now and pay later’ option. I always go for this if I can, just in case I get covid or the holiday is cancelled at the last minute so I haven’t lost my money. I think we’ve all learned covid lessons haven’t we. I’m sure there are people still waiting on their cancelled flight refunds. Sometimes if you book directly with the website you’ll get a free breakfast or even a cheaper rate. On the continent, breakfasts are very basic, coffee, maybe a piece of fruit or a pastry. This is buffet style normally, so you can help yourself. If you’re on a budget this is a great opportunity to get a free lunch too (and who says there’s no such thing!). This is usually in the form of an inevitably slightly squished banana and a sandwich or pastry you tucked away from breakfast. On a recent trip breakfast was 4 euro which means I basically paid 2 euro for breakfast and 2 for lunch, you wouldn’t get a cup of tea for that! It’s a great way of reducing the cost of food on a budget trip, or if you’re like me, increasing your shopping fund slightly.
Let’s talk security. Sharing with complete rando’s obviously comes with its risks. Always bring a padlock with you for locking away everything at night and when you’re not in the room. I recommend keeping the key on a bobbin (hair-tie) on your wrist. Even when going to the bathroom, going for a shower etc always lock away your stuff. Basically if you’re leaving the room. The one that’s difficult is when you’re going to sleep. Normally by the time you’re back at the hostel everything is dead, or nearly dead phone, camera, Fitbit (can’t miss out on those holiday steps!) and the plug is usually above your head in a little cubby. I recommend bringing an extension lead from home, one with a 1 metre lead and then you only need to bring one plug adapter and can charge everything rather than having to prioritise. Obviously try and charge your valuables before you go to sleep and then lock them away but if you can’t you can’t. The hostel won’t compensate you though and if you’ve not secured them chances are travel insurance won’t cover you either. Just something to be mindful of. Another reason to be friendly with your roommates.
Hostel etiquette. Hostel behaviour will change from your late teens to early thirties but some rules always apply. If someone is sleeping, shut the fuck up. You can whisper, russel about with bag zips as needed but if you wanna watch something stick on headphones, if you want to ring a friend go sit in the common area. And for the love of god if you come home drunk DO NOT put on the bedroom light, even if you can’t find your charger, even if you can’t find your pjs or your toothpaste. You should have a little light in your bed that won’t wake everyone up, that’s fine, so is your phone torch providing you only point it towards your bed. Basically, just don’t be a prick yeah? On the same note, if you come back and your roommates are having a drink, join in ! Basically match the vibe you enter.
Fun stuff. If you’re a solo traveller I especially recommend this next tip. Ask the receptionist if they have any activities or anything organised. Most will have something, from karaoke nights to pub crawls to wine tasting or games night. It’s a great chance to meet other people, especially any other solo travellers and you’d be surprised how many temporary friendships you can make based on that bond alone. End of the day solo travellers all having something big in common, a love of travel even if it means going alone. That alone is something that can be hard to find at home. Plus, how cool would it be to have a bunch of friends from around the world, maybe you could crash at theirs sometime and vice versa.
The essentials list:
- Padlock and key (two if you can, keep them separate. Something like this: https://amzn.to/3YB9WBF).
- Extension lead with short cord (recommend something like this with at least 4 sockets : https://amzn.to/3YDWGfO)
- Powerbank (something with enough for 4 or 5 charges should last you a weekend, something like this with at least 20,000 amps: (https://amzn.to/3YDWGfO)
- Plug adapter (if you buy an international one, you only need to buy it once: https://amzn.to/3YxywDq
- Earplugs (not all people are sound!)
- Eye Mask if you need to
- Pjs a tit wont fall out of if you roll over or bottoms your mickey won’t fall out of.
- Flip flops, you don’t want to get verrucas from the bathroom.
- Travel toiletries (the silicone ones with bigger heads are able to empty out, clean and re-use easier than the traditional hard plastic ones I find).
- Plastic bags x2 (one for used underwear and one to hang your valuables in inside the shower cubicle, phone, key etc)
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