If you’ve ever thought of staying at a hostel or similar type of budget accommodation, odds are you’ve had the image of a cramped, dirty, and slightly ramshackle, overflowing building reserved for only the most budget-conscious travellers. Perhaps opportunistic pick-pockets have even swum, unbidden, into the back of your mind.
If you’ve ever actually stayed in one, however, it’s likely you realised fairly quickly that the rather mundane reality couldn’t be further from this dreary image. In fact, as travel becomes increasingly accessible to people of all demographics and locations, hostels are becoming a staple form of accommodation across the globe and are consequently expanding their appeal to reach groups far broader than the lone backpacker in need of nothing more than a bed and roof for the night, the image that has, somewhat erroneously, come to be virtually synonymous with the very word ‘hostel’ itself.
Indeed, aside from the uniting theme of ‘budget accommodation’, most hostels are now fairly adaptable, typically offering both dorm and private rooms, shared and private bathrooms, and sometimes even free breakfasts and entertainment in order to accommodate a wide array of guests with diverse travel needs.
This increased effort to appeal to a broad range of travellers, coupled with the vast number of hostels now available, make it fairly certain that most globetrotters will, at some point, come across at least one that appeals to them. Since the bulk of hostels offer reasonable, cheap accommodation that allows travellers to save money and thus see and do more on their adventures, we here at the Scrubba wash bag think it’s important to dispel certain preconceptions about hostels that may have scared you off in the past, and instead give you some tips to make your first stay as safe and cosy as possible!
Although hostels can be a little different from other forms of accommodation, we’re confident that these tips will equip you with all the tools you need to quickly and easily familiarise yourself with hostel-living. There’s no better time to jump out of your comfort zone and onto the hostel bandwagon, just remember to:
1. Pack a lock:
A great number of hostels now offer lockers for extra security as part of their general facilities, but often this service doesn’t extend to the fundamental feature itself – the lock. Although most hostels will sell locks at reception, you can save a little money, not to mention invest in a lock you trust and find easy to use, if you come prepared and bring your own! It’s only a simple precaution, but it might just help to dispel some of the fears about dorm rooms you’ve cultivated in the past, ensuring that you get to focus on the scenery and culture around you instead of panicking about the state of your valuables throughout the day.
2. Take a power board:
Some dormitories are incredibly well equipped, while others achieve a certain charm by demanding a greater degree of cooperation from their guests. This means that it’s rather likely you’ll eventually find yourself bunking up in a bustling room of power-hungry travellers who, due to limited supply, resort to scrambling over the handful of available power sockets every night. With the bulk of travellers now carrying multiple devices that require charging at the end of a long day, even a plethora of sockets can be quickly snapped up in the peak charging times that typically occur after dark, rendering a power board or similar device that is capable of charging four or five devices all from one socket, incredibly useful not just for you, but also for your roommates. Who knows – you might even make some new friends by offering some much-coveted power to your fellow dormers.
3. Bring your own amenities:
Although this doesn't apply to all hostels, the general rule by which I abide when staying in budget accommodation is: If it’s not bolted down, assume it’s not included. Typical, everyday items that are important to consider include sheets and pillowcases, bath towels, and toiletries like soap and shower gel. As with the lock, most hostel receptions will offer these amenities for an additional fee, but you can generally save money and play to your own preferences by planning ahead and bringing your own gear. Hostels that include bedding and bath towels in the price of the room seem to be becoming more common (especially in regards to private rooms), and in my experience it’s entirely possible to complete a lengthy trip without ever having to fork out extra for these services. Nevertheless, it’s important to familiarise yourself with your hostel’s inclusions to ensure you’re prepared for all scenarios. In the event that you do need to carry some extra gear, you can save space and reduce bulk by purchasing an ultra-portable and highly absorbent microfiber Scrubba travel towel.
4. Pack a pair of thongs/flip-flops:
This might not be as crucial if you’re staying in a private room with an ensuite that gets cleaned every day, but in the case of dorm rooms or other shared bathroom facilities, it’s incredibly important to both respect your fellow guests and take basic precautions against, for example, the sort of foot fungus that might just ruin your adventure by putting a huge dint in your plans to hike that mountain that's been on your wish list for about a million years.
5. Be mindful and respectful:
Hostels tend to be vibrant, pulsating places regardless of whether you’re staying in a shared or private room. After all, they appeal largely to solo travellers who love lounging in common areas and participating in planned entertainment/movie/game nights in order to meet people and make new friends, so you’re bound to cross paths with loads of other travellers during your stay. This heightened contact renders it particularly important to remain aware of your fellow guests and to consider their feelings when, for instance, setting your alarm at two in the morning to make that ridiculously inconvenient flight that only runs once a day at the least appealing hour! Late nights and early mornings are often unavoidable, but you’ll get along much better with your fellow guests if you minimise the disruption you make at these times by using a torch instead of flicking on overhead lights, and having your bag packed and ready to go the day before so that you don’t need to rummage around before your departure. Other common courtesies include ensuring that any mess you make in common areas or shared kitchens/bathrooms is promptly cleaned up so that other guests can benefit from the space. You should also stay mindful of how much equipment, from power sockets to cooking pots, you’re using at any one time, as there’s likely a queue forming behind you. Be sure to also respect people’s privacy, which means leaving their gear alone, but definitely don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and make friends, as that’s what hostels are all about!
As travel adapts and evolves to cater for more people, so too do hostels. This is, perhaps, the reason why this form of accommodation is now more in-demand than ever, appealing to those who are looking for basic services in exchange for low prices and, more often than not, great inner-city locations. With many hostels starting to offer more services and facilities, not to mention multiple room options, they often now also appeal to those who, although eager to save money and meet new people, aren’t quite cut out for the traditional hostel experience. A little different at first, but truly unique and rewarding, hostel travel is something that everyone should experience at least once. Just remember to follow these handy tips (available below in a convenient infographic) and to carefully check your hostel’s inclusions before making your booking! Good luck and happy travels.