Travel Tips for Staying in a Hostel for the First Time

If you've never stayed in a hostel before, it can be a bit daunting. There are lots strangers and you are likely not in your home country. Here are some tips for your first hostel experience.

Typical Hostel Dorm Room. Exploration Always
Typical Hostel Dorm Room.

So you're heading on a trip and wondering if you should try staying in a hostel for the first time. Chances are that you're nervous about it and you may not know what to expect. This is likely due to the fact that hotels advertise themselves as safe, nice, private, and luxurious. Although some hotels certainly are, I know there are many hotels that are none of these and that I've felt quite unsafe in. In contrast, I've stayed at lots of hostels and have always felt safe and comfortable. To understand the complete difference, check out Hotels vs Hostels

If you've never stayed in a hostel, you may have some worries and ideas about what hostels are like. Peoples' biggest worry is usually sharing a room and securing their luggage. While sharing a room is a new experience, it can be so much fun and it helps you meet other travelers. This is especially true when staying in a hostel alone. In terms of the security of your luggage, all hostels have storage lockers in the room to keep your luggage in. You can either bring your own lock, or buy/rent one from the front desk.

Choosing the Right Hostel

Hostels Could be in Any Type of Building. Exploration Always
Hostels Could be in Any Type of Building

There are all types of different hostels. There are luxury hostels, boutique, party hostels, and more. Websites like hostelgeeks have tons of reviews for different hostels and multiple hostels in different cities around the world. Learning how to choose the right hostel is very important and can make your travels even better. If you're traveling as a couple, you may not want to stay in a large dorm room like most people do. If you’re a female traveler, there are female only dorms and even some female only hostels. For solo travelers and small groups, you may want to try out a party hostel. They are exactly what they sound like and you can learn more about them by checking out our article on party hostels.

First Time Staying in Hostel as a Solo Traveler

Staying alone anywhere can be daunting for solo travelers, much less a place where you may share a room with others. However, it is important to know what most people staying in hostels are solo travelers. In addition, many hostels were specifically designed for solo travel. There are a few things to know if you are a solo traveler staying in a hostel for the first time. It is important to know where your hostel is and how to navigate to it. If you’re coming to a city by plane, train, or bus; know the public transport routes that take you to your hostel. Another thing that is important as a solo travel is language. In most hostels, both guests and staff tend to speak English. While it is nice for someone like me, it can be a disadvantage for many people traveling from different parts of the world. At European hostels, you won't have much trouble finding someone that speaks your language, if you're from another European country. However, if you’re from another part of the world such as Asia (including Middle East) and Africa and don't speak English, make sure to download a good translation app. Plus, Spanish and Portuguese are not very common outside of Iberia.

Airport Hostel in Barcelona, Spain. Exploration Always
Airport Hostel in Barcelona, Spain

Dorm Rooms

It may not be for everyone, but I actually love hostel dorm rooms. The reasoning for my staying in hostels is not really to save money, but to meet other travelers. Dorm rooms have both pros and cons. The pros are you get to meet new people, you have less of a chance of missing out on group activities, and you have place to hang with your friends. Some cons are that some people go to bed and wake up at different times, you have to share a bathroom, and some people are less "modest" than you may prefer. But for me, the only actual issue of a dorm room is that some people snore and I am a very light sleeper. But other than that, I love hostel dorm rooms. Some hostels will have the bed already set up but if not, they will have the bedspread ready to set up. Many hostels have a plug in the bed frames or next to each bunk.

Meeting New People

Hostel Friends in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Exploration Always
Hostel Friends in Dubrovnik, Croatia

The best and most exciting part of staying in hostels is getting to meet new people. The people that stay in hostels tend to be open minded, adventurous, and extremely kind. They are not however, always extroverts. This may be a surprise but many people staying in hostels are introverted and have trouble introducing themselves to strangers. But for anyone, meeting strangers in a hostel can be intimidating. If it’s your first time staying in a hostel, you probably don't know exactly what to do or what the etiquette is. You'll be glad to know that usually, it's as easy as going up to someone and introducing yourself. Almost everyone at a hostel is there to meet new people and chances are, they are just as nervous about coming up to you as you were introducing yourself to them. There’s absolutely nothing wrong or weird about asking them if they want to do something and it’s both acceptable and encouraged to be open and personal with them. I can't tell you how many amazing experiences I would have missed out on had I not introduced myself to new people. The only exception to this is that it can be difficult to interact with couples or some friend groups and it’s possible that they may be there to spend time with each other. But for the most part, people in hostels are excited to meet new people and are open to amazing experiences.

Hostel Activities

One of the coolest aspects you need to know about hostels is that hostels organize and plan activities for their guests. These activities can differ depending on the type of hostel, what country they are in, and what type of place they are located in (beach, mountain, valley, city, etc). Lots of hostels offer "family dinners" where you can either for free or a few dollars, eat a home cooked meal with the guests, volunteers, and employees at the hostel. Some places have tours and activities around the city or they can partner with them and may offer discounts. Party hostels tend to offer the most in terms of group activities. Some of these can be hikes, swimming, going to restaurants, and more. My favorite hostel activity was actually going to an abandoned bomb shelter that had been turned into a tea house in Bratislava, Slovakia. It was about ten meters underground and had different themed rooms and close to a hundred types of tea. I went there on a whim with people from the hostel I had met in the staircase about three minutes beforehand. I had such an amazing time that I even went back with a friend I met the next day. For almost all party hostels, the activities they’re known for best are parties (duh), pub crawls, and other drinking games like pong tournaments. Be sure to participate in hostel activities if you don't have something already planned. They are a great way to meet people and get comfortable at your first hostel.

Underground Teahouse in Bratislava, Slovakia

My First Time Staying at a Hostel

My first hostel experience was something truly special. I had just landed in Dubrovnik, Croatia after nearly 40 hours of travel coming from Phuket, Thailand. I had just left a group of friends and I was nervous about going alone to a new country and to stay in a hostel. The moment I walked into Hostel Angelina, I was greeted by welcoming staff and guests. Within fifteen minutes of arriving, I was heading out with people I had just met. While there weren’t many activities going on due to COVID, hostel staff did everything they could to make our experience memorable from giving us tips, recommendations, and putting us in contact with tour guides for things like island hopping tours, kayaking, and scuba diving. Not only did my experience there help me enjoy my time in Dubrovnik, but it shaped many other travel experiences.

Firstly, I ended up traveling other parts of Croatia with two of the people I met or I met up with them in other cities. One of my friends I went with to several national parks, bars, parties, and more all across Croatia. My other friend, gave me the amazing experience of dining at my first Michelin restaurant in Zagreb with her.

Second, the confidence I gained interacting with new people from just five days in this hostel was instrumental in giving me experiences in all other hostels I stayed in. I learned not to fear and be nervous around strangers, but to seek them out and create memorable experiences together.

Hostels have become an incredibly important part of my travel experience and hopefully it will be for you to. If you are planning to stay in a hostel for the first time, feel free to reach out to me or other people with experience for guidance, tips, and more. Be sure to check out more from Exploration Always and follow us on social media. Remember to explore and travel differently, your way.

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