12 Tips For Surviving Hostel Life
You’re finally hitting the hay after a long, long travel day. You’re so ready for a decent, non interrupted sleep that you’re not even planning on setting an alarm for the next morning. You slip your hand in your back pocket to grab your room key, but before you’ve even reached for the door handle, you can hear the noise. That dreaded, oh so frustrating noise that means that even though you’re exhausted and want nothing more than peace and quiet, your hostel roomies are in the exact opposite boat.
You open the door, force a smile, and know that even though they realize you’re headed for bed soon, they’ll probably stay right where they are until they’re ready to go out. And lucky for you, you won’t see them again until 3am when they come home drunk, unknowingly slamming doors and turning on lights while you plot a plan to wake everyone up at 6am as pay back.
If you’re an avid traveller and this is a familiar story for you, then you’ll know what I mean when I say that hostels are a one of a kind love-hate relationship. Love: they’re cheap, social, convenient, and usually in great locations. Hate: they’re loud, sometimes dirty, and offer zero privacy or peace whatsoever. So what’s the best way to survive any hostel experience?
Bring/wear earplugs and a sleeping mask: You might be the deepest sleeper ever, but when it comes to hostels, your roommates are not going to be compassionate and willing to get ready in the dark when they come home at mid morning from a night out. Expect people to open and close doors many times when you’ve just climbed into bed and turn on and off the lights in the morning well before your alarm. Put your ear plugs in before you go to bed, that way, when your roommates come home late at night, there’s a better chance that you’ll sleep right through it.
Pack your bags the night before you depart: There’s nothing worse than a roommate who has to depart the hostel early (i.e. before 7am) and leaves their packing until that morning. Do everyone a favour (including yourself) and pack your bag before you go to bed. That way you can just wake up, change, and take all of your stuff out of your room in one swift go. Pro tip: If you have to, it’s better to be loud once than be semi-quiet and take your sweet time leaving in the early hours of the morning.
Cook all breakfasts and some meals in the hostel: Most hostels will have equipped kitchens, but always check reviews and the hostel website to make sure they do (and a semi decent one at that), because you will want to cook there at least once a day. Breakfast is the cheapest and easiest meal to make yourself. Try oatmeal, cereal, or toast and peanut butter. You’ll save a lot more money than you think. Most hostels will also have communal pantry items like cooking oil, salt, and pepper, so you can make basic recipes.
Lock up all of your valuables: Even if you trust the people in your room, it’s a good idea to lock up all of your valuables in a locker if the hostel provides them. Which also means that you should bring your own lock and key when you travel. Even if no one in your room is going to steal your passport, you never know if they’re going to have people over or leave the door unlocked accidentally. Pro travel tip: leave your passport, iPad etc. in the locker instead of bringing them with you on your day trips. There’s a much better chance of having these items stolen from your bag than if they’re in a locked locker.
Get to know as many people as you can: It can be hard to socialize when you don’t know anyone at the hostel, or if you’re travelling in a group and feel like your set in the friend department. Regardless, you should always make an effort to get to know at least one to two people at each hostel you stay at. You may not know it at first, but the people you meet travelling can easily become lifelong friends or good connections if you travel in their home city one day. And who knows, maybe you’ll end up travelling with that person for the rest of your trip.
Join in on trivia games and other hostel activities: Many hostels host nightly or weekly games for everyone to participate in. They may seem like juvenile activities, but they’re an awesome way to get to know people and you might even win free alcohol at the end of it.
BYOB if allowed: Prior to arriving at each hostel, check to see what their rules are on BYO and whether or not they have a licensed bar. If the hostel’s rules are fairly relaxed, you’ll save a lot of money by buying your alcohol in a liquor store and keeping it in the hostel’s fridge.
Always pack a Swiss Army Knife: It sounds a little unnecessary, but if you’ve ever cooked at a hostel and found that you couldn’t even cut through a carrot because the hostel’s knives were so crappy, then you’ll understand where I’m coming from.
Label your food: They’ll tell you to do this at each hostel, but there’s always that one time where you couldn’t be bothered to find a pen and just shove your grocery bags in the back of the fridge anyway, unlabelled. When a hostel says that they clean out their fridges regularly, they’re not joking or trying to scare you; they’re actually telling the truth. Do yourself a favour and label everything, or else you might stumble to the kitchen for breakfast one morning only to find your brand new box of cereal in the bin.
Buy a dual or triple USB charger to charge more devices in one outlet: No one likes that guy or girl who takes up 3 out of 4 of the room’s plug sockets. Be prepared and buy a dual or triple USB charger so you can plug 2-3 devices into one plug.
Stay with as few people as you can afford: Always compare prices for different sized rooms. Sometimes hostels will have sales on smaller rooms, which means that there’s a better chance you’ll have a better sleep. The fewer the beds in the room = the better the sleep. If you’re travelling with one other person in Asia, for example, you might even be able to afford a private room for only a few dollars more. It’s true, hostels are amazing for the social aspect, but only if you get a decent sleep. Finding the balance between these two elements is critical for enjoying your travels.
Find out when happy hour is: If your hostel has a bar, find out when happy hour is in advance and plan accordingly. If you’re in a country like Australia or New Zealand, drink prices can be a bit steep (and can add up quickly if you’re there for an extended period of time) and you’ll be happy you waited until the drinks were on special.