Survival guide: Hostels

Staying in a dorm room gives you a possibility to meet more people but it can also be also be a cause of all kinds of trouble. Snores that don’t let you sleep all night, drunk people doing stupid things or beg bugs; it can be truly intimidating, so here are my tips for making your hostel experience more pleasant.

Survival guide: Hostels | The Cheerful Wanderer

1. Female only or mixed dorms? Small or bigger rooms?
Many hostels offer female-only rooms. If you’re a solo female traveller, consider booking one of those. They are usually cleaner and quieter, but that’s not the rule. Maybe it’s just my luck, but I’ve never had any problems with male travellers, so I usually go for mixed bedroom instead. They tend to be a lot of fun and you will meet and bond with other people much faster.

On the contrary to popular belief, smaller rooms are not always the best choice. When I was travelling to London with my friend we somehow managed to book seperate rooms. She was in 3-bed mixed dorm, while I ended in 9-bed mixed dorm. When we went ot unpack and see where we sleep, we seperated. Fifteen minutes later, when I was joyfully chatting with three Brazilian students, my friend came to our room and told us her dorm stinks and a guy who was taking a nap at that time, was snoring loudly.

I discovered I meet more people in 9-bed or 12-bed mixed dorm. However, I only booked 20-bed room and regretted it a lot, because there’s absolutely no way you won’t get waken up every hour when there are so many travellers sharing a room.

2. The centre of the city or a quiet area?
Staying somewhere further from the city center has its advantages. Prices are usually lower, there is less traffic and supermarkets are more common. It’s smart to first check the public transport connections. In London, for example, it’s not the most intelligent choice to stay in a hostel situated in Zone 6. Underground tickets are very expensive even without that. While in Barcelona I’ve found the cutest hostel 25 minutes away from everything. And if you plan to party all night, stay in the heart of the city. It’s better to be close to the club, when you’re returning to your bed early morning.

3. Invest into a fake wedding ring
If you don’t want unwanted attention, buy yourself a cheap wedding ring on ebay or aliexpress. You can get them for $1 and yes, they work.

4. Flip-flops are not just for summer
Something I learnt the hard way, unfortunately. Nail fungus is the consenquence I still have to deal with (I know, gross). Always carry a pair of flip-flops if you plan to use a communal shower or option two, don’t shower at all (please don’t go for option two). Believe me, foot conditions are not something you want to deal with.

5. Don’t take everything seriously in reviews
I consider myself clean and I’m used to living in a clean appartment. Often, when I’m reading a review, I’m asking myself if me and that traveller that gave the hostel one star, stayed at the same place. Unless you see several reviews in a row saying the hostel is extremely dirty, ignore that bad rating, because it’s probably submitted by some snob, who never travels or usually stays in luxury hotels.

6. If the hostel states they have wifi, they don’t always have it
Again: Check the reviews, pages of them, and see what other tourists are saying. Some hostels only have wifi avaliable in the common areas, while in other hostels you’ll see that certain floors get better coverage than the others. In that case, write a polite note requesting a room in a specific floor.

7. Never leave valuables on your bedroom
Have a copy of your passport, possibly more of them at different places. And carry the original with you, wherever you go. Or leave it in a locker. Same goes for wallet, mobile phone and laptop. If there are no lockers avaliable, if you’re like me and want to keep your mobile photo close at all times, put it under the pillow when you sleep.

8. Bring the essentials with you
– A padlock (for the hostels, who provide lockers, but don’t supply locks),
– Shampoo, shower gel (I’ve only stayed at one hostel that had them),
– Towels* (usually also avaliable to rent, but rarely free of charge),
– Earplugs (better to be ready than sorry).

* Microfibre travel towels dry quickly, so consider buying one.

9. Don’t be shy
Say hi to your roommates, intruduce yourself and invite them out with you. I’ve made some lifelong friends that way. If you see a group is intruducing to each other, don’t be afraid to join them.

10. If anything isn’t the way it should be, inform a staff member
Writing a bad review, when nobody even knew about your issues is silly. They can’t do anything about it, if you decide to keep it to yourself. Tell them there’s no toilet paper, something is dirty or that your sheets don’t seem to be washed. Anything can be solved, as long as you speak up.

11. Do the laundry using color catchers
Why paying for more if you can pay for one load only.

12. Write your name on anything you put into a fridge
Borrow a sharpie if you don’t own one and write your name and departure date on any product you have to store in fridge. It does not seem logic to everyone that the cream cheese you just bought, is not meant to be used by the whole floor. People will start preparing their breakfast, someone will take it out and it’s going to stay there until it’s empty. Seeing your name on top, will make people realize that’s not one of free products they can use.

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