Updated January 2, 2021 by Clarisse
A hostel can be a foreign term for most people who don’t travel on a budget. See the reasons why you should give them a chance on your next trip.
I was a vacationer once too, only going on trips from a week to a month, visiting several towns and cities along the way. The only places I would book my stays would be through a hotel or an Airbnb.
Then, I met a friend, named Andrea, and we decided to go on a trip together. Andrea mentioned that to save money, we should rent a hostel for the weekend.
The confused look on my face was a giveaway that I knew nothing about what a hostel was. Andrea explained it to me as best as she could.
But going through the experience was a whole different world.
Do you wish that someone took the time to give you a detailed walkthrough of what to expect when booking your first hostel?
Below, I will give you the best description as to what you can expect. Plus, everything first-timers need to know when picking hostels around the world. At the very least it will give you a unique experience and it will allow you to tick one more thing off your bucket list.
What You May Not Like About the Experience
- Little to no privacy
- Sharing a bathroom
- Wait times and queue for the bathroom use
- The bathroom may or may not be located in your room
- You will have to make your own bed and strip the sheets when checking out
- Thin mattress
- One pillow
- Having to go up and down stairs if on the top bunk
- No elevator
- It’s a hassle to lose your key
- You’ll have to immediately pick up and clean up after yourself
- Quiet hours are in place at night
- Tiny Rooms – Small space for your stuff
Look on the Bright Side
- Cheap accommodation. You’ll have more money to spend on experiences.
- Meeting Like-Minded Travelers.
- Most hostels offer cool social areas – movie room, rooftop terrace, hammocks in the garden, swimming pool, board game room, reading or book room
- Full kitchen utensils.
- There will always be someone to let you back into your room if you lock yourself out. This will save you the hassle of going to the front desk.
- Your creativity will be unleashed. Finding different ways to add a little bit of privacy to your space will get your creative brain working.
Different Types of Hostels
- Party Hostel – One of the top choices for young travelers who are searching for a good time. Most party hostels offer free pub crawls or host their own events. Things can be as tame starting off the night with bingo, karaoke, or paper plane contests. However, as the night goes on, things can get wilder. There are some party hostels that will turn a small space into their private night club. They also host various events such as wet t-shirt contests, jello wrestling, and drinking games.
- Chill Hostel – A great choice for those who want to get decent sleep throughout the night. Chill hostels are filled with travelers who want a calm oasis. Most of the backpackers here are usually more mature and respectful. These types of places are perfect looking to have a peaceful stay.
- Family-oriented local Hostel – This is perfect for those who want a homely stay. You’ll get to know your hosts and the hostel feels as though you’re staying with family.
- Budget hostels – A choice for those who are even more so on a strict budget than what most hostels already offer. These are the hostels who offer the bare minimum. The location is usually less than desirable, more so located outside city limits.
- Upscale Hostels – These are the ones that offer more than the average hostel. The extra amenities does come with a price.The extras are worth it to certain people though, who have some extra dough to spare. A few of the extra amenities that could come with these hostels are:
- Free tours
- Bedside lamps
- Big lockers
- Free breakfast or free dinner
- Thicker mattresses
- Bed curtains for extra privacy
- Laundry facilities in-house
- In-suite or extra bathrooms
- Offers a great view
- Single beds
- Located in the heart of the city within walking distance to everything
What are the Rooms Like?
The rooms vary depending on which one you choose. The usual choices are all-female, mixed, and private. The private rooms will be the most expensive. The all-female rooms are usually more expensive than mixed.
The number of beds in the room will also affect the price. This can range from a minimum of 4 and I have seen them go up to 20 beds, although there are places that offer more than those.
There are also ensuite rooms, which could bump up the price a bit. This means that the bathroom is located inside the room and only the people assigned to that room can use it.
Your choices will boil down to the following options
All-Female – As a female, you are likely to feel safer surrounded by people who are the same gender as you. This type of room tends to stay cleaner than a mixed dorm. You will also avoid drunken couples who may have sex in the middle of the night as males aren’t allowed in the room.
Mixed-Gender – The biggest advantage of a mixed dorm room is that they tend to be the cheapest option. This is especially true when combined with the most number of beds offered in the hostel. This type of room is also best if you want to meet all kinds of travelers.
Smaller Rooms – Usually the smaller rooms range between 4-10 beds, which equates to 2-5 bunks. A room this size will help ease you in as you won’t have to share with as many people.
Bigger Rooms – Usually there are anywhere from 11 beds and above. If you are a social butterfly this is the perfect option. It’s also good if you’re traveling as a group. Bigger rooms will provide the cheapest option. Plus if the hostel is fully booked, this will most likely be the only option left. Please note that most of the time, a hostel room with this many beds only comes in the mixed-gender option.
Private Rooms – Hostels do offer private rooms for those who want a night to themselves. These rooms are perfect for those traveling as a couple or families on a budget. Keep in mind that you may still end up having to share everything else, except for the room itself. If having a private bathroom is important to you, check to see if they’re advertising an ensuite room. Otherwise, you will still have a shared bathroom.
How to Choose your Bed Once You’re Inside the Room
Pick a bottom bunk bed if available. The bunk above you can serve as a personal roof, which allows for a bit more privacy.
Plus, it will lessen your trip going up and down multiple times from the top bunk. This is helpful if you keep forgetting to grab anything you may need not existing on your bed.
If there are only top bunks left, try to be more strategic. Choose one where the bed is within reach to the top of the lockers as you will be able to use it as a table for your items. Also, be mindful of where the electrical outlets are located.
Please note that certain hostels do assign your bed for you. In this case, you may not have much of a choice. Although it never hurts to ask if it is a possibility that they assign you to a bottom bunk.
“If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.” -Nora Roberts
How to Choose Your Hostel?
- Price/budget – Hostels are the budget choice when it comes to accommodation choices. But all hostels are unique from each other. Prices range from as little as $5 per night to around $40-50 per night. Pick a hostel based on your existing accommodation budget. Couple this alongside the amenities you want to have during your stay.
- Amenities Offered – Do you want a little bit of extra privacy? Choose a hostel that offers curtains for each bed. Don’t want to use a flashlight at night to be able to see your things? Take a hostel that offers bedside lamps. Want to be a social butterfly? Check out if there’s a lounge and what type of lounge they offer. Want to go for a swim? Make sure that they have a pool. Want some great views? A rooftop terrace is exactly what you need.
- Safety – As a female traveler, I always prioritize my safety above everything. Make sure that the hostel you choose has a good reputation among other travelers. You can do this by reading reviews or asking for recommendations.
- Location – The best advice I can give you is to choose a hostel that is close to the city center or tourist area you want to be in. You want to be within walking distance of everything. This will help you avoid taking unnecessary transportation. Your chance of being lost will also diminish. Plus, everything will be conveniently located next to you. This is helpful for a visit to the grocery store when you’re craving a late-night snack.
- Free Luggage Storage Offer Day of Check out – This is handy if you have a late flight or would like to explore the city on your day of check out.
- Recommendation – Word of mouth recommendation is one of the best ways to get intel on the best hostels in the area. Facebook groups are a great place to ask travelers for recommendations you have yet to visit. Make sure to return the favor once you’ve navigated the hostel landscape in the future.
- Reviews – Every time I’m getting ready to book a hostel, I make sure to read a few reviews. This is to make sure that this is a good choice and that all of my requirements are checked off.
- Free breakfast provided – This is great if you want breakfast in the morning without cooking. There are only a few select hostels that provide free food so make sure that this is in their amenities list.
Reasons to Choose a Hostel for Your Next Travel Adventure
Are you looking for a place to stay but hotels and Airbnb just seem to be a bit out of reach on your budget. Hostels are the perfect solution. They are cheap, usually ranging from $5 with the most expensive around $40 per night. There are many options around the world so feel free to shop around.
Great Place to Meet People and Make Friends
Hostels are the perfect place to meet other solo travelers. There are plenty of people who stay in hostels who came there on their own.
Plenty of Organized Activities You can Participate in
Day tours, pub crawls, night clubs, and discounted day trips are a few things you can look forward to. Most hostels will arrange these for you, all you have to do is show up.
For that Unique Experience
When else can you say that you shared a room with 9 other travelers? Probably never, unless you’ve stayed in a hostel. The stories you’ll have after your first stay will give you that unique experience to share with people back home. Some of my best travel memories happened in a hostel.
Hostels will Push You Out of Your Comfort Zone
Staying in a hostel is something people don’t normally do. Sharing a room with strangers is more than enough to completely push you out of your comfort zone.
You can Work for Your Accommodation (Basically Meaning Free Place to Stay!)
There are plenty of hostels that offer a few hours of work in exchange for a waived cost on your accommodation. The work usually ranges from front desk, cleaning duties, to kitchen upkeep. Sometimes it will involve cooking, but that usually works with hostels that offer free breakfast.
Helpful Tips for Your First Hostel Adventure
- Explore the hostel. Check out the kitchen and their lounge area, some have pretty cool ones. There are a few that have rooftops, hammocks, gardens, a movie room, or a pool lounge.
- The bottom bunk is preferable (even better, find a dorm where there are only single beds).
- Always wear slippers, especially in the bathroom. Havaianas are my preferred choice.
- Bring personal toiletries. Make sure that you don’t leave them in the bathroom.
- Lock your most important belongings in the locker. Otherwise, you can hide them under your pillow (the perfect place for your belongings at night when sleeping).
- Don’t pass up the opportunity to get to know your roomies.
- Be considerate of others’ space and belongings.
- Do not turn on the light when everyone is still sleeping. Use the flashlight on your phone instead.
- Feel free to set an alarm and but for all the pancakes in the world, don’t hit snooze.
Hostel Packing List Must-Haves
- Padlock – Most hostels will provide you with a locker but no lock. They will sell one to you if you forget to bring one, but bringing one is a much better option. Padlocks are necessary if you plan to stay in a hostel. Having one ensures that you can secure your most important belongings. This is especially handy for when you’re not in the room or sleeping.
Hint: I use the same padlock in my suitcase. Just make sure that if you follow this, that you don’t leave anything of value in there.
- Flip flops – I will never walk barefoot in a hostel, especially in the showers. While you will see some walk around without flip flops on, I would still advise you to wear yours. Your feet will thank me for it later. I do suggest flip flops as they’re super versatile and they dry easily for when you get out of the shower.
- Shower shoes – see above, unless you want to designate one of your shoes specifically for shower only.
- Lightweight Towel (preferably microfiber) – microfiber towels are a lifesaver. They fit perfectly in your suitcase, they dry easily and they’re super easy to carry around.
- Earplugs or earbuds – This packing list item is even more important if you are a light sleeper. There will be many noises and distractions if you sleep in a hostel. The door will open and close constantly. Different people will set alarms for various times throughout the day. Some will pack early in the morning while others pack later at night. If you want a chance at a good night’s sleep, I would definitely recommend these. You can also play music through your earbuds to block out any noise in the room.
- Travel blanket – These are the ones you use on planes. For me, it’s never a bad idea to have an extra blanket, especially if it gets too cold at night. Some of the blankets hostels provide are paper thin so having that extra comfort can go a long way.
- Travel pillow – this is nice to have if one pillow isn’t enough for you to be able to sleep. Remember this is budget accommodation so pillows will be thinner than usual. Having an extra supplement could mean the difference in getting a good night’s sleep.
- Lanyard – While not necessary, this is something handy to wear. This helps ensure that you either don’t lose your key or lock yourself out of your room. Trust me, you don’t want the hassle of losing a key in a dorm room.
- Eye mask – In a hostel, you’ll never know when someone will decide to turn the lights on or off. There are occasions where one inconsiderate person will turn them on. Most of the time this is so they can find their bed when they stroll in at 3 in the morning after a night of partying. An eye mask will block out any light that comes to disturb your beauty sleep.
- Portable charger – You could choose to pick out a dorm with personal outlets in every bed. But, not all hostels will offer this. A portable charger will come in handy in charging your phone at night while keeping it by your bedside. The best ones are a bit of an investment, but you’ll be glad you got one.
- Refillable water bottle with filter – A water bottle by your bedside is handy if you get thirsty at night. A filter is even better as you can easily refill your water bottle in the kitchen sink. Be cautious if you are in an underdeveloped country as it may not be strong enough to filter out bacteria. But the simplest filters can get rid of enough elements in the water that it helps make it taste better.
- Passport for check-in – most hostels will only check you in if you have a passport as a form of identification. Keep this in mind before you book.
- Adapter – If you’ve managed to book an international hostel, make sure that you bring an adapter. It’s good to keep in mind that the plugs for each country will vary. I suggest getting an all-in-one adapter that allows you to charge your devices in any country in the world. This will ensure that you don’t need to worry if you brought the wrong plug along.
- Extension cord – You will become the hero of your room if you packed one of these. In most hostels, power outlets can be limited. Sharing an extension cord with others in your room will be extremely helpful. This is perfect for when you’re needing to charge more than two devices at a time and most of the plugs are taken.
- Deck of cards (or something entertaining) – A deck of cards is perfect because you can play it solo or with others in your room. A Netflix subscription and a laptop can help too if you find yourself unable to sleep at night.
- Mini toiletries with a bag – You will need to bring your bathroom essentials with you. A mini toiletry set all in one bag will help you carry everything all at once. It helps you organize and offers an easy grab out of your backpack or suitcase.
Experience the Hostel Life
I hope that the article above has helped you decide if you’d want to take a chance at staying in hostels. As a female traveler, I believe that hostels are safe, as long as you do plenty of research. Make sure to get recommendations from others as this is a signed seal of approval.
Feel free to ask me any questions in the comment box below.
Are you ready to book your next hostel trip? Check out Hostelworld for a list of places to stay during your next adventure.