Hostelling: What to do, what not to do

Hostelling: What to do, what not to do

In some of my earlier blogs I’ve told you why I think hostels are the best places to stay while you’re travelling and some of the things you can expect to experience. The people you meet generally have the biggest impact on your stay, whether that’s good or bad. But you also affect their time as well. Things that you think are perfectly acceptable can be incredibly annoying to your fellow travellers. And that goes for the hostels themselves too. There’s a few basic things you expect from the place where you’re staying, things that are often seriously lacking. You all have your own ideas about what should (and shouldn’t) happen in a hostel so here are mine. Starting with…

The hostel facilities:

For me this always has a big impact on whether a hostel is good or not. One of the biggest areas for me are the showers. You’d think it’d be a relatively simple thing, but generally they’re substandard. The biggest, and seemingly most obvious problem, is not having anywhere to hang your stuff so it doesn’t end up in a soggy puddle. Then there’s there other issues like not enough (working) showers and is it too much to ask for a decent level of water pressure?

Wi-Fi is another obvious one. People staring at their phones and not interacting aside, having decent Wi-Fi is just one of the basic needs. I’m pretty sure it’s part of Maslow’s hierarchy.

Issues with a small shower in Slovenia
Small showers can sometimes can be big issue

Meeting your fellow travellers:

While we’re on that subject, don’t spend so much time staring at your phone. Staying in a hostel gives you a chance to meet people from various backgrounds and countries, all with their own reasons for being there at that time. So you might as well at least say hello. Find a common language and ask them about their lives, why they’re there, where they’ve been, etc. Unless you’re in a group, you’re going to be spending at least some time with these people. Whether it’s exploring the city, coming back from a bar at 7am, cooking a meal or just sharing a bunk.

Obviously not everyone is so friendly in hostels. Sometimes people just need a quiet evening after a few nights out and don’t feel like being sociable. Or you could end up with your own private dorm room (or an entire hostel as happened to me in Paraguay).

Dorms:

There’s a lot I could say about the dorms. Aimed at both other backpackers and the people who run the hostels. I’ll come back to travellers in a second, but as far as the owners are concerned another of my gripes are not having enough power sockets for all the beds. The best hostels usually have a charging point and lamp attached to each bed. In Argentina we had four sockets for six beds, while my friend apparently had six sockets for just four beds. Go figure! The worst was in a 16 bed Australian dorm that had about five sockets. Whoever got there last had the most charge on their phone by the morning.

If I have the luxury of choosing my own bed, I like to check where the sockets are first. Some hostels, especially the bigger or chain ones, assign everyone a bed before they arrive. Which isn’t great, particularly if there’s an empty bottom bunk you like the look of. I know some people who actually prefer the top bunk, but then you do meet some weird people while travelling. Speaking of the beds, the quality can range far and wide here too. From incredibly stiff mattresses to wobbly frames that make you wonder if the person on the bottom will survive the night. Offering single beds at least avoids the second issue, but then space is understandably an issue. I’ve also witnessed the other extreme too, having slept on the top bed of a three tier bunk!

Disturbing the peace:

Now for you other backpackers. Generally, at some point you’re going to have to check out early to make that flight or bus. And when you do, unless you’re lucky enough to have a private dorm, don’t switch on the light dumbass! Same goes for when you return late after a night out. At least check first to see if anyone is sleeping. You might be sharing that room for a few days or weeks, so it’s probably best not to piss everyone off. While we’re on it, try to pack most of your things the night before. Carrier bags, no matter how quiet you try to be or how slowly you move, will always make noise. Usually I’ll pack my things out in the hall or use the bathroom.

Do not disturb door hanger

Stealing:

One of the things I like about travelling is it’s like a kind of community. We’re all in it together so don’t go taking your fellow backpackers things. Whether it’s chargers, headphones, towels or even cheese. For some reason that always happens to a friend of mine.

Common areas:

Most of the people you meet are likely to be in your dorm room, but you could also make a new friend in the common room, kitchen or on a hostel bar crawl. One of my friends I met at breakfast just because there was a spare chair at his table. The better hostels make meeting new people easier. If there’s no common area to meet people, it’s much more difficult to get to know anyone and make the most of your stay. So give us somewhere to hang out! It’s not always easy to meet people in your room, especially if you arrive late and they’re already out or in bed, or your roommates aren’t the friendliest (see what happened when I travelled at Christmas and the ‘lovely’ German girls I met).

A camp fire in the middle of the Australian Outback
Common areas can be great for meeting people. Even in the middle of nowhere

Getting intimate:

You meet a girl/guy and want to take them back to your room. Well the other people probably don’t want to share that experience anymore than you want to share their snoring or farts. If you want to have sex in a hostel there are plenty of ways to do it without an audience.

Lazy Shag backpackers sign in New Zealand

Keep it clean:

No, not the same point again. Rather making sure your stuff isn’t flung to all corners of the room. Dorms are generally fairly limited on space so keeping your things together stops it looking like some kind of explosion just went off. I shared a six-bed dorm with three girls in Sydney and there was not an inch of space on the floor while they were getting ready for a night out. It also reduces the chance of any of your stuff going missing.

Breakfast:

We’ve all been there. Looking online at what the hostel offers and see breakfast is included. Amazing! Only to find out it’s nothing more than toast. Oh, the disappointment. Here’s some important information for hostel owners: toast is not breakfast! If there’s other stuff like cereal, fruit, cakes, etc. then fair enough. But just giving warm bread and tea or coffee doesn’t count as providing me with a meal.

Directions:

The last point is again for the people who run the hostels. So many times I’ve looked on the directions provided and either been given the most vague description of how to find the hostel or they advise me to get off the bus at such-and-such a street. I’ve never been to this town before and have no idea where the heck that is! At least give me a landmark or something to look out for.

Confusing street signs in Melbourne

Staying in hostels is a lot of fun. Just remember to think about your fellow travellers and the experience will be even greater for everyone. Have fun, make some new friends, don’t worry too much about the snoring and your only problem will be realising you have no idea what anyone’s name is.

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