For the well-traveled, we know the hostel environment all too well. Even still it can be a varied experience, anywhere from great to a virtual nightmare. Some people flourish and enjoy the experience/environment while others dread hostels and stick to private rentals or hotels.
We have compiled a list of some simple do’s and do not’s to help everyone have a better hostel experience. To the experienced travelers and frequent hostel goers this may be a walk down memory lane, a list of no-brainers or just some laughs… but remember, you once had your first stay in a hostel too. For you hostel newbies out there, hopefully this is some help to you.
Know the hostel rules and attempt to act accordingly: Hostels can have some strange rules or requests of their guests, but they usually have a reason for the rules. Trust us when we say that they do not want to regulate your life. The rules are often necessary to help the hostel run smoother. Being warned, fined or even asked to vacate could be embarrassing and even a loss of money. Be sure to read the signage and ask questions if and when you are in doubt. Getting a bit rowdy with the lads is a good time. However upsetting the staff or even worse, puking and receiving that $50 plus fine could put a damper on the festivities. I once saw a guy kicked out of a hostel for falling asleep drunk in the common area… beware.
Secure your valuables: This really could be said for all of your belongings but in the end don’t leave anything lying about that you’re not willing to lose. Hostels take all types, but unfortunately not all types can afford that beautiful Macbook Pro you’ve been leaving unattended in the common room. It sucks to say, but that great friend you made 4 hours ago might not be the one to trust alone with your stuff. Some hostels offer lockers or even storage for while you are out exploring. Bring a lock, put your nice stuff in the locker and explore with some piece of mind.
Be sociable: Some of the greatest (and not so great) conversations I’ve had in my life have been with fellow travelers. Late at night in the hostel there is nothing wrong with a couple of nice beers, some shared food and laughs. The Knowmad Lab itself has some friendships that were born in hostels. The folks you’re meeting are often like minded and inspiring, so get to know them. Don’t sit in the corner headphones on, catching up on Becky’s Facebook drama. Log off, tune in and chat with other travelers.
Compare prices: Hostels often offer services like laundry or tours. They might even offer beer, food or that precious clean towel. That said, hostels are a business at the end of the day. Some of them know damn well that they have a captive audience or one ignorant to local prices. In Ireland a bus to Kilkenny for the day was way cheaper than the day tour offered by the hostel and I was able to explore uninhibited. In Poland, the beers from the corner market were half the price of the hostel bar. In Ukraine, it was cheaper to buy a towel rather than rent one for my stay. Sometimes you might feel like a cheap ass but who cares? As the great Lil Dicky says… “Save Dat Money!”
Check for toilet paper before you sit down: This sounds silly until it’s too late. You’re not at home. Mom can’t rescue you. Having to break up your lucky pair of socks and leave one behind in the trash is a sad occasion. ‘Nuff said…
Relax, get comfortable and take advantage of the amenities: This is big one if you are out living that nomad life. If you have a month or more of just hostels and hotels in your future it’s going to wear you down. Living like Hobo Joe puts you and those around you in a mood. To avoid this take some time and relax in the common area or garden if your hostel has one. Drink that tea or eat that free breakfast in the morning. Use the footlocker or coat rack in the room. As much as you are living out of your backpack… you don’t need to feel like it all the time. There is a time to be shy about using included facilities or amenities and this isn’t it.
Be a slob: Personally, I love to find pee on the toilet seat. I’m super happy to scrub your burnt and grizzled pans left behind in the kitchen sink so that I can use them. Nothing makes me happier than tripping over your backpack at 5 AM when I’m leaving the dorm to catch a bus. Unfortunately not everyone is as cool with your mess as I am. Besides being courteous to others, being organized will help you in your own ventures. It’s reassuring to know where all of your stuff is when your alarm doesn’t go off and you have a bus in 30 minutes. Side note: This applies to your personal hygiene as well.
Get intimate in the dorms: I know you and Paco are in love. You’ve never met anyone like him and you’re the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. Now, just slow down, take a minute and think about having some courtesy. There are people asleep in that dorm and as quiet as you think you are being, you’re not. There’s nothing quite like waking up to your IKEA bunk bed shaking and realizing it’s not an earthquake. Even if the room is currently empty, who’s to say someone won’t walk in? Maybe staff? Also people arrive at hostels all hours of the day. Hostels often offer private rooms and in a lot of countries hotels are cheaper than you think. $20-$50 for a bit of privacy is well worth it.
Forget where you are: You’re not in your home or your home country. Different cultures have different customs, courtesies and expectations. A simple example of this is a coffee table. In the U.S. it’s often acceptable as a place to rest your feet. In some other countries the idea of putting your shoes/feet on the furniture is offensive. Another thing, that’s not your home refrigerator. Remember space is limited and don’t eat or drink what’s not yours without being offered.
Crank it to 11: Noise levels are a big issue in the hostel (as in any shared living space). The obvious issue is at night when people are asleep. However, in the day time some people might be trying to read, work or relax. Use your inside voice (especially when on a call) and keep your music at a tolerable volume. Others just might not be as into Bob Marley as you are.
Be confrontational: No one goes travelling to argue or fight with you. As stated before we’re all out here on the road for essentially the same thing. Most of us are very like minded and sensible. Somehow though, it seems that a lot travelers missed their callings as political science majors. Between drunk political conversations, Chad’s consistent one-upmanship, and people being discourteous, there are plenty of opportunities to get into it with someone. Take the high road and just let it go. There are others you can talk to and there’s a whole world to be explored outside those hostel doors. Get at it.
Break or damage stuff: Spilling someone’s beer is usually forgivable. Worst case scenario, you apologize and replace the beer. However, personal belongings and hostel property are another story. Breaking stuff in a hostel can be pricey. I’ve seen a group of partying Texans get held by police in Spain over a broken elevator. That cost them over $4,000 dollars (if memory serves me correctly) and rightfully so with how they were behaving. Not every situation is so cut and dry, however. Some things in hostels can be shoddily built or fragile. Fragile or not, you’re still on the hook for it if you break it. Examples: Don’t force jammed doors or sticking handles. Don’t lean too hard on that loose bathroom sink. Alert the staff of the issue and avoid the hassle.
There are plenty of differences in hostels and lots of things to be aware of out there. Hopefully you found this list helpful. Feel free to share some of your hostel stories with us. The funnier the better. Happy hosteling nomads!