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  • Writer's picturebrooke willenbring

Hostel life: what to know

What are Hostels?

Hostels are bed and breakfast with shared spaces. The most common options available are a single bed private room, multi bed private room, 6 bed female dorm, or 6 bed mixed dorm.


Benefits

Offer a budget friendly accommodation, great way to meet other travelers, have daily activities, have mixed amenities depending on which you book, and you have the ability to store your luggage there for free before and after check in times.


My experience 

The idea of a dorm hostel can be intimidating, you are sleeping in a room with a bunch of strangers after all. I have stayed in a whopping 17 hostels, in 8 different countries, have no horror stories, and can 100% confirm that I would rather stay in a hostel than an airbnb or hotel while solo traveling. Nowhere else in a city will you be able to surround yourself with solo travelers from every corner of the world. I’ve had insightful conversations, made a lot of great memories, and have met people that turned into long term friendships that I ended up visiting in their country a full year later. It is a cheap, clean place to stay, and you don’t actually spend much time there since most of the day you’re out touring and doing other activities.


What to look for when booking one?


1-location

On the hostel world app it will typically list the distance from the city center. A good rule of thumb is choosing one in the same district as a zara since they tend to be in the city center and have access to public transport nearby, and are in a walkable part of the city.


2- ratings

may seem obvious but read the reviews, see if the staff is friendly, rooms are clean, what activities or dinners they offer, if it is social or not, and other things to consider: how far the walk is from the train station, and if they lock you out of the rooms for cleaning at certain times of the day


3-the type of bed

You may think at the end of the day, a bed is a bed. But in my opinion the very best kind is the cubby style bunks that don’t shake or creak when going up the ladder, curtains (for privacy and less likely to wake up if others turn on the nights early in the morning) and the top bunks have chargers and reading lights




4-having kitchen access

I save a lot of money by cooking breakfast and lunch while traveling. I assumed every hostel had one until I booked one that didn’t. It is definitely a bonus. In hostel world you can filter which amenities are important to you. 


5-Bathrooms

for dorms, look for rooms with an in-suite bathroom. Some hostels have 1 co-ed bathroom with showers down the hall. Although I don’t mind co-ed rooms, communal showers down a long hallway isn’t ideal. But overall the communal bathroom are kept very clean since hostels are staffed 24/7.


6- price

I aim for $20-$40/night 

But you often get what you pay for, sometimes $45-50 is worth the additional investment for amenities like a rooftop pool and free breakfast.


7-age limit 

Hostels are for all ages, if it is a priority of yours to book a shared room with younger travelers I recommend booking youth hostels. It will either indicate it in the title or in the rules section that there is an age limit of 30/35.



General info


-check in at 3 check out at 11, ask front desk about luggage storage room if you arrive early

-towels are either included or available to rent for 2€, some hostels provide breakfast for free or around a 5€ fee, most pub crawls are 10-15€, and some have dinners for 5-15€, for all of these things, you will need cash. A lot of them do have card readers for the mainstay fee but they will be very stubborn about only accepting cash for these amenities. 

-Every hostel has lockers in the dorms, not all of them provide you with a lock so I recommend bringing one. I’ve never had anything stolen but it's not worth the risk of going without.

-Some hostels have bars and restaurants attached to the lobbies

-some have night clubs on the main floor, if you book these ones, know that you will not get a full night of sleep, but it is fun if you’re staying for 1 night.

-Some hostels offer authentic family style dinners which are a great way to participate in the culture, try new things, and meet people

-hostels with kitchens have large refrigerators, the general edict is to place your grocery items in a bag and label it with your name and the day you check out

-Hostel world has group chats that you can join 2 weeks before your stay, I highly recommend it for solo travelers specifically (can make plans with others before or during your stay). I've met up with other girls to get dinner or drinks through the app and have had good experiences.



Mixed dorm or female only?  (As a female)


Female dorm

-go to bed early and will yell at you if you turn the light on at 9 p.m

-aren’t as social in my experience, usually keep to themselves and aren’t in the room much

-may feel more safe or comfortable if it's your first time staying at a hostel

-cleaner in-suit bathroom, but also is occupied a lot more 

-less snoring 

-more expensive 


Mixed dorm

-more social —male solo travelers don’t plan as much and are more likely to join you out for dinner, drinks, karaoke on a whim and actually make an effort to start a conversation

-if you spend a lot of time getting ready/doing skin care, you are able to spend more time in the bathroom 

-cheaper

-almost always has 1 person snoring 


Pack

-lock

-ear plugs

-converter/adapter

-shower products (towels + linens available)

-cash

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