Depending on where you go, jet-setting abroad can be pricey, so if you’re planning on spending most of your time outside your room, a hostel may be the best affordable option for you. It'as also a great way to make friends while traveling solo. That being said, sharing a space with strangers with minimal amenities requires a certain level of preparation, and that’s where some handy hostel travel tips come in.
To find out more, we chatted with traveler insiders to give us the lowdown on their hostel experiences. Here’s what we gathered: Some raved about making new companions or about saving major cash renting a bunk for a quick overnight stay. Others warned us to be cautious since hostels are usually located off the main drag to keep costs down (they also gave us great advice on how to stay safe). When it comes down to it, hostels can be a great idea as long as you know what you’re getting yourself into and do adequate research.
Read on to see how to make the most out of any hostel stay.
Do Your Research
Hostels are not one-size-fits-all. They range from minimal (you get one bedsheet in a plastic bag and maybe a towel) to those that offer ensuite bathrooms and complimentary breakfast. Some nicer hostels require reservations, so make sure to plan accordingly.
We strongly recommend vetting potential accommodations on HostelWorld before booking (the website provides verified guest reviews on more than 35,000 properties). It’s also ideal to decide which amenities you think are worth paying for or worth sacrificing (don’t take things like air conditioning for granted because they’re not a given in most countries). When in doubt, look it up.
Pack the Essentials
Once you choose your accommodations, now’s the time to see what you’ll need to bring with you. Since it’s best to travel light, you don’t want to pack things the hostel will provide. Most won’t give you toiletries and towel availability can be iffy (sometimes they’ll even charge you). Shower flip-flops are key since you definitely don’t want to pick up a fungus from a shared bathroom. And when it comes to bedtime, an eye mask, earplugs, and some sleep aids may come in handy, especially if you’re in a dormitory-style room.
Side note: A padlock is 100% necessary to protect your passport and other valuables, but we’ll touch more on that later.
Take Safety Precautions
Whether you’re in a shared room or not, bring your own lock. Most hostels offer lockers to store your belongings, but most won’t give you a lock. While sleeping, you can keep valuables like your laptop, cell phone, passport, and wallet in your pillowcase (someone would physically have to steal them from under your head).
Make New Friends
Dormitory-style hostels with bunk beds tend to be good social environments, so if you’re looking for a group of people to talk to, it can be a great outlet. Some hostels boast communal space, others host happy hours, and some even organize sightseeing trips. It’s an easy way to connect with people your own age, so take advantage of being in close quarters with others.
Know How You'll Get Around
Inform yourself about the area because hostels are frequently located further from the center of town (meaning there’s usually less security in the neighborhood). Also of note: Your accommodations may not always have a 24-hour concierge, so be particularly careful if you are coming home late at night. One expert said she got ripped off when a cab found out where she was staying and immediately knew she was a tourist. Try to plan your transportation ahead of time to avoid scams or confusion.
This story was originally published on August 11, 2017, and has since been updated.
Up next: The safest country to visit if you’re traveling solo.