Now that I’ve done my fair share of staying in hostels, I feel like I can legitimately give advice about how to survive staying in them. First off, a few general reminders, remember that more expensive doesn’t mean nicer. The time of year and city you are in can make a huge impact on that so be sure to keep that in mind when you’ve paid 20 euros for a room expecting something relatively nice only to find yourself trying your hardest not to touch anything for the next 2 nights for fear of catching some horrible disease.
On that note, having less people in a room does NOT mean you are safe from the people/experiences I am about to describe. Sure only having 4 people in your room instead of 18 sounds awesome, but you never know who those people will be…
So here it is, my guide and advice for staying in hostels around the world.
Checking the state of the bed sheets is vital. Free is good (and should be mandatory in my opinion), but not always safe.
Solution: Use a sleep sack (basically a bed sheet sewn up on 3 sides) or a sleeping bag.
Don’t have either?
Solution: Sleep in said nasty sheets, then shower in the morning like your life depends on it. Sorry.
Keeping your valuables safe is a huge priority when traveling anywhere. Many hostels have lockers for you and are now also selling or renting locks as well. But sometimes they only have little cubbies like we’re back in kindergarten, not cool.
Solution: All valuables come with you into bed, I prefer to have them near my head. It’s harder for someone to steal something if it’s near my face.. is my logic. I also usually sleep on the top bunk. It’s super comfy I swear, and I feel really, really relaxed about how safe all of my stuff is and have a great nights sleep… *cough*.
If you’re lucky, the Hostel Gods might shine some light on 1 or 2 of your nights/stays and you might actually get some sleep. But this is not typically the case. And as you stay in more and more hostels you start to learn that there are a few very common events, by a certain special group of people, that can happen in any sized dorm room. Perhaps you have also experienced these? And if not, you are probably one of these people and any number of other travelers really dislike you.
1. The Partiers*/Late Arrivers: It’s the middle of the night and there they are rummaging through their stuff, talking loudly and turning on the room’s main light. Very disruptive for sleeping.
Solution: I usually use a few choice words to aggressively tell them that they should keep it down…in my head. It will end soon when they eventually make it into their beds, until then you just gotta deal.
2. The Never Ending Alarm: Also known as the I’m Going to Punch Someone in the Face if That Doesn’t Turn off in 3 Seconds. There is someone (perhaps a partier?) who is basically unconscience and even though their phone is probably right next to their ear hole, they don’t wake up. In my experience this usually happens at some ungodly hour, like 5 am which means two things are going through my head- first of all, I hate that I’m awake now, but it’s generally fine that an alarm went off, they will get it soon. 5 MINUTES LATER I feel like I’m about to pull all my hair out hearing the same 10 seconds of crappy phone music for 5 minutes…then 15 minutes…
Solution: The obvious would be to open your eyes, get out of bed, find that phone and throw it against the nearest wall. Or, you could execute the first 3 steps and then kindly tell that person TURN OFF YOUR PHONE!!! But really, I’ve never been able to get myself out of bed and neither has anyone else in my room. So the best I can give you is to try not to go insane listening to those same 5 notes repeatedly for 10 minutes and when it finally turns off let yourself sleep in a bit that morning. You can then complain to your other roommates over the free breakfast about how horrible your night was and maybe feel a bit better.
But you probably won’t feel any better.
3. The Snorer: Not just any snore. It’s a freakin’ fog horn in the bed next to you in a never ending drone loud enough that people 3 blocks away are complaing. After you realize you won’t be able to get back to sleep and you’re so tired that it’s giving you the same sensation as nails on a chalk board AND you realize you are not the only one being kept awake by this..noise…what should you do?
Solution: Ear plugs or Headphones might help. But eventually if you’re still waking up from the giant beast hibernating in the corner the only way to solve it is to leave. Perhaps the hostel could of put you in a different room (but then you risk becoming the Late Arriver) or perhaps it’s best to just go to the common room and start watching random late night British** TV shows with an insomniac. Crawl back into bed 2 hours later and I promise you’ll be so tired not even that snoring can keep you awake.
Now the real problem comes when you have a combination of any of these things, or if you’ve got some real bad juju, ALL of them in one night.
Solution: There is no solution. You will not sleep at all. Drink lots of coffee the next day and get out of that hostel as quickly as possible.
With all that being said, I’ve had some pretty stellar times staying in hostels. Hostels make it easy to make single-serving friends you never have to see or hear from again, and they can also bring life long friendships. I (mostly) love staying in hostels, just know what you are getting yourself into and try to focus on the awesome experiences you have in the city you are in instead of how horrible your night might have been.
*This is my public apology to the backpacking world, I have been one of these people before.
**I was in Brighton, England when this happened to be