Planning on staying in a hostel for the first time? Here are the hostel rules and etiquette you should know before you go.
Planning on staying in a hostel for the first time but not sure how it will turn out? I agree – the thought of staying with people you don’t know (yet) in the same room can be intimidating at first.
Weird and scary thoughts can cringe into your mind even when they’re not invited about everything that can possibly go wrong while staying at a hostel yet in all honesty, something can go wrong even when you’re staying at the most luxurious hotel – so pack back all those negative thoughts and wait to enjoy your first hostel life experience.
But we also know that staying in a hostel is a good way to travel on a budget and save those extra bucks for sightseeing instead of sleeping.
Even with that huge advantage plus meeting different people and making new friends while traveling, it can still be a challenge for newbies.
But what if I told you that it’s not rocket science to figure out the hostel life as long as you have all the necessary information!
So in this post, I will be detailing all the tips for staying in a hostel for the first time from how to choose the perfect hostel, what to expect, the essential hostel etiquette to observe to how to have the best out of your hostel stay.
Tips for staying in a hostel for the first time
How to choose a hostel
The first thing in your journey of testing out the hostel life is to choose a hostel. One of the best websites for booking a hostel anywhere in the world is Hostelworld. You can also find some listed on Booking.com but I’d still emphasize using Hostelworld as it’s all about hostel seekers.
There are so many factors that come into play when it comes to choosing the perfect hostel and before you lock in any particular place, below are some of the factors you should look at.
Just like hotels, all hostels are not equal. There are different types of hostels and it’s up to you to decide which one you will be comfortable at.
Most hostels have both private rooms with shared bathrooms and dorm rooms. Do you want to stay in a unisex kind of dorm room or you would prefer an all-female one?
Other than the room types, you also have to decide whether you want to stay up all night by opting for a party hostel, or a family-friendly hostel if you are traveling with your family or just a low key hostel.
All these can be found out when you read the reviews before you book and when you do so, you’ll be able to find the perfect hostel for the kind of traveler you are.
By all means, the hostel you choose should fit right in your budget. Check whether the price listed is worth what’s offered at that particular hostel and if you’re willing to stretch your budget a bit higher to get exactly what you want.
Also, remember that even though sometimes it can be true, cheap doesn’t necessarily mean bad, and not all the expensive hostels are perfect.
Other than price, the location of the hostel should be put into consideration. Do you want to stay right in the city center, near the major tourist attractions or you don’t mind staying far away as long as there is a proper transportation system.
Ideally, I’d recommend staying at hostels where everything is easily accessible; from public transportation to restaurants so that you don’t have to walk for an hour just to get something to eat.
Read more: Important things to know before any trip
The best way to know about the security situation of the hostel is by reading reviews of previous guests. You can be sure that if something bad happened at a particular hostel, people are more likely to write about it in their reviews than the good ones!
If you read something alarming or you suspect you won’t be safe, move onto the next place where you’ll feel comfortable instead of always being worried that any minute something bad might happen.
This is another great advantage of using Hostelworld to book your hostel as they’re always different reviews about literally everything.
Though nowadays hostels are upping their game by providing more amenities to their guests, many hostels still provide a few.
So be sure to check out which extra facilities are included within that Price. Does the room come with free breakfast? Is there a swimming pool (few of them are likely to have one though), are there laundry services? Is there a common room, a bar, or even a functional kitchen? Decide on which amenities are a must-have for you before you press the book now button.
Related post: Use travel tips and hacks you should know
What to expect while staying in a hostel for the first time
Meeting new people and possibly make long life friends.
Hostels are a perfect way for meeting new people while traveling especially if you’re traveling solo.
Most travelers that stay at hostels come knowing this so they are always open to socializing. If you’re shy or an introvert, do not be pressured to start a conversation but don’t just stay in the dorm room all the time – go to the common rooms or the kitchen and someone would be more willing to jump into a conversation with you if you show interest.
On top of socializing, you’re more likely to find other travelers who would want to go for a certain tour(s) with you in order to cut costs – after all, that’s one of the reasons why you opted to stay at a hostel in the first place.
Getting a little annoyed or uncomfortable
Hostels bring in people from different walks of life and no one first does a background check before they allow guests in their hostel.
This means that you’re going to meet people who have different ideas, who behave differently, who do things that might be considered “weird” by others but they personally don’t even know that they are. Expect all this to happen while staying in a hostel.
So what do you do when this happens? First thing is to understand that we are all different, perhaps someone else might also think that you’re behaving in a weird way.
When you understand this, you’ll realize that it’s not worth getting annoyed all the time because of it – just move on and appreciate the positives that they bring to the table.
Expect a little bit of mess
Just like in any place that has crowds, it’s very likely that things will get messy. And I am not saying that every hostel is going to be a mess, with dirty old showers, but also understand that so many people use the facilities and you’re likely not to find them sparkling clean like your home shower (assuming it is!).
Even though it is one of the hostel etiquette to do your own dishes after using the kitchen, some people might just not care ( do not be that person though) and if you’re someone who wants to have everything in order, you’re likely to be put off.
But if you go to the hostel expecting a bit of mess, you’ll do your part and try not to look so close at things you have no control over.
Read more: Step by step guide to planning a trip
Expect to feel like the new person in the area
Remember those days in high school where you went to a new school and felt like literally everyone is looking at you and wondering what you think? These thoughts might come back especially if you’re staying in the hostel for the first time.
Unless you’re a really bold and social person, you might feel like you’re trying so hard to find your place in a group of people who seem to have settled in and already figured out how this hostel thing works. But the truth is that it’s all in your head, no one is staring at you or even wondering what you’re thinking.
Some of those people could also be still figuring out how to make the hostel experience work and the good news is that travelers are very friendly and are always willing to interact with everyone if you could just loosen up, break out of the shell and go introduce yourself.
Hostel Etiquette you should know
No, I am not scaring you – there might not be any “formal” hostel rules and regulations but there are a number of hostel etiquette you should know before you embark on the journey of sleeping in hostels as you travel.
Do not be that guy everyone gives a side-eye just because you didn’t know the best practices on how to stay in a hostel. So here are some of the do’s and don’t of staying in a hostel whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned user.
Be mindful of other people’s stuff
In such an open space (especially dorm rooms), everyone’s belongings are likely to be out in the open but that doesn’t give you permission to start touching them while they are outside.
You’ve seen a nice top of one of your roommates? Good – compliment her when she’s wearing it not you trying it on to prove how good it actually is!
Don’t try on people’s shoes just because you think they might look good in your feet! No one likes their stuff tampered with, period.
Can we talk about the Kitchen!! This is perhaps where things are likely to get more serious. Most hostels have a common kitchen open to all travelers who want to prepare their own meals.
This means that everyone will have to buy their own food! The principle is, only use the things you bought! If you see something nice in the fridge, don’t eat it – go buy your own!
Generally speaking, only use things you bought unless someone is generous enough to share.
Don’t be the messy and un-tidy one
No, hostels do not have housemaids to do your dishes after preparing a meal! So instead of leaving the kitchen sink with piles of dirty dishes – for the sake of everyone, clean them up. Yeah I know, I also hate doing dishes but it’s all about being respectful and cleaning your mess.
Do not be that person that walks into the dorm room with shoes full of mud just because it rained outside. Everyone is aware it rained but how about trying to keep your current home clean!
Do not leave hair in the shower (this is so gross even imagining it)! Imagine walking into a shower with a stack of hair – (that makes me wanna throw up).
I am sure no one would want to see such a thing, as the old saying goes – do not do what you wouldn’t want others to do to you.
Don’t personalize everything
Hostels have communal places, the main word being “communal” meaning that everyone is free to use such services at any time.
So try not to be a hogger of everything! Try to prepare your meals fast so that others can also use the kitchen. Do not stay in a shower for hours especially during the times when most people want to use it.
Naturally, people will not tell you to leave the entertainment area so that they can also watch something but be considerate enough to let others also enjoy the space if you’ve been there for a long time.
I guess what I am saying is that, enjoy the services provided by the hostel but don’t use them unfairly at the expense of others.
Do not get overly drunk to throw up inside the dorm room
The best part about traveling and staying in a hostel is socializing and sometimes attending parties with a couple of your new friends or even alone since there might be a really nice bar down the street which is highly recommended and you want to check it out.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with partying the entire night but the problem comes in when you come back late in the night drunk and start throwing up on the dorm room floor.
Trust me if that happens, you’re gonna be “that guy” and I can imagine it’s not a good feeling when everyone in the hostel starts hating on you because you couldn’t keep it together.
Yeah I know things happen and sometimes things go wrong but when you’re “that guy” that no one wants to talk to because you puked in someone’s luggage, you’ll understand why such a thing should not happen.
Read more: Things not to do when you travel
Unless you’re sleeping in a private hostel room, you can make as much noise as you want but if you’re staying in a shared room, it’s important to be mindful of others by keeping the noise on the down-low.
Nighttime when everyone is sleeping is not the perfect time to talk loudly on the phone to catch up with your family back home – you can do that during the day.
Or even having late-night conversations with one of your hostel mates in the room might not be very pleasant for others – you can do that in the common rooms.
Playing music when everyone is sleeping is not really cool unless you want others to hate you. You don’t need to piss off others, just use your earphones and everyone will be happy.
And if you’re coming back to the room late in the night when everyone is sleeping, do not bang the door or better yet drag your shoes – eye rolls and side-eyes might await you in the morning if you do so.
Alarms can be a lifesaver especially if you have to catch that early morning flight but the truth is no one is going to understand the 1000 alarm beeps before you can finally wake up. Try waking up on the first beep not to wake up everyone in the room.
Do not get sexual in the dorm room if you’re traveling with your partner
Yeah, it looks like I have to say this as well. The world is changing that so many things are now considered ok in the presence of others.
To be honest, no one in the hostel room wants to know how much you guys can’t keep your hands off each other or how much you love each ( maybe they are happy that you guys are in love) but no one wants to see you getting sexual right in front of their bed. You can rent a private room for that!
Keep the lights off when everyone is sleeping
The lights out time of highschool also work in hostels. Of course, you’re an adult and no one should tell you when to go bed or even wake up but in most hostels, lights go out by midnight.
You might have that favorite book you want to read before you sleep, but how about all the other people that are already sleeping? Be considerate enough not to put on the lights or even go to the common room to read until you’re ready to sleep.
The same thing applies to when you wake up really early to catch that amazing sunrise that everyone keeps talking about and yes you need to prepare, find your clothes and all that.
But how about you use your headlamp for light instead of switching on the electricity. (the headlamp should also be used properly so that you don’t “torch” into people’s beds instead).
What you should pack for your hostel stay
Honestly, there is so much you need to pack for a hostel stay and even though I might not include everything in this post except for the essentials, I have a complete hostel packing list that you should check out to know all the items you shouldn’t miss.
Before I dive into what you need to pack, you need to know that packing for a hostel is a bit different from packing for a hostel.
Hotels provide a number of extras that hostels don’t provide and that means that you need to take your own. So here is what you’ll need. But as you pack, don’t pack to much staff. Read this post to learn how to pack light while traveling.
Toiletries are travel essential items but hostels don’t provide them. Don’t freak out or judge the hostel quality if you don’t find shampoo or shower gel in the shower, that’s how it is!
But if you’re lucky, some hostels will provide a hand wash and a piece of bar soap in the shower which also gets done quickly since everyone is using it. So it’s better to have your own toiletries. You can also buy this transparent waterproof travel toiletry bag to keep all your toiletries in order.
Some of the toiletries that should be in your toilet bag include;
- Body cream
- Dry shampoo
- Razors etc
TSA Approved Locks
Some hostels provide a safety locker for everyone for free but a padlock is not guaranteed. So if you check the amenities that the hostel provides and a locker is one of them, then don’t forget to carry a lock.
This is the Padlock that I recommend as its also TSA approved. You can also carry another one for your backpack since it’s always out in the open.
Lightweight travel towel
No, hostels do not provide towels unless on occasionally rare cases and some that do so make you pay for it. It would not be ideal to pay for a towel yet you can carry a lightweight travel towel to every hostel you stay at.
And remember that the idea is to reduce costs, so before you go, buy this microfiber travel towel, as it is lightweight and dries really fast – making it the perfect choice for your hostel stay.
Remember when we talked about keeping the music down as one of the hostel etiquettes? These earphones are the ones that are going to help you stay in good terms with your roommates when you want to listen to music.
Hostels really try to keep the showers clean but it’s not really cool and healthy to enter into a public shower barefooted. If you don’t have any shower sandals currently, grab these ones from Amazon.
A universal travel adapter
Different hostels in different countries might have different electric plugs and since it’s hard and not practical to buy one for each country, I’d recommend buying this universal travel adapter to be able to charge your electronics without any issues.
Read more: Things to pack for a road trip
Extra Hostel tips to know before you go
Hostels are generally fun but sometimes not everything goes according to plan. So, for some small issues, just comprise to have a better time.
Yes, be patient with people and you won’t get worked up about anything. Someone might put their stuff on your bed bunk but instead of getting angry, talk to them and they will remove them – perhaps it was even done in error.
This works especially for the common areas. Don’t try to enjoy something so much at the expense of others. You might have to let others use the Tv room as well and putting on loud music when others are sleeping is not cool.
Be friendly and polite
Hostels are a fun way of making friends and the best way to do this is by being friendly and welcoming so that it’s easy for other travelers to approach you.
Lastly, but not least, the best version you can be is yourself! Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not just to fit in. People are gonna like you for who you are – (well unless if you’re rude, then you need to work on that!) It’s ok to be shy or bold – whichever way, you’ll find people that will enjoy being around you.
That’s it friends! With this comprehensive hostel guide, I am sure you’ve now conquered the fear of staying in a hostel for the first time and ready to have a blast.
Do you have other questions about staying in a hostel? Leave them in the comment section and I will get back to you ASAP.
More travel tips to help you plan your travels better
- Tips for for first time flyers
- Things to pack for a beach trip
- Carry on essentials for long flights
- How to survive a long haul flight
- What to pack fo a weekend getaway
- Camping tips for beginners
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