Just as a side note – I think I like this title as part of a series. What do you think?
Staying in a hostel is a unique experience in traveling. They aren’t as common in the United States as other lodging but they are, in general, a safe and budget-friendly alternative. That said, staying in a hostel requires more preparation than staying in a hotel. If you’re considering staying in a hostel for the first time, there are things you need to know, do and bring before arrive, including:
- Know what kind of accommodations you have. The type of room you will be in will determine what you need to pack. If you’re in a dorm room, you’ll want to bring a padlock to keep your belongings safe. If you have a private room but shared bathroom facilities, you’ll want to bring a bath robe and your own soap. You’ll also want to know what kind of breakfast they offer and if they provide any toiletries.
- Have zero expectations. Hostels can be quite a culture shock to newbie travelers. You are sharing a space with complete strangers, some of whom won’t share your hygiene habits. Your living quarters won’t always be clean. Your roommates will not always keep track of their towels and a clean bathroom is not a guarantee. It’s even less likely your bathroom will have toilet paper, soap and shampoo. These are some truths that you will have to accept if you’re going to embrace the hostel life.
- Don’t forget your flip flops. Even though hostels are like a home away from home that doesn’t mean you should walk around barefoot. You’ll want to wear shoes at all times while you’re staying in a hostel, but especially while in the shower. Foot fungi can spread like wildfire even among the most sanitary people. Despite a hostel’s best efforts to be germ-free you don’t want to take a chance on it.
- Location is key. You’ll want to stay in a hostel that is (a) in a decent part of town and (b) close to the things you want to do. A hostel’s website may do it more justice than it deserves, so once you’ve decided on a few possibilities I would suggest checking reviews. Reviews aren’t always 100% accurate but if you find common complaints among multiple reviews, it will give you an idea of things to look out for.
Staying in a hostel is a rite of passage for travelers, but it can become problematic if you don’t plan ahead. If do your homework, pack your flip flops, keep an eye on your towel and disregard your expectations, you’ll be just fine.