When people think about budget travel, often, what comes to mind is the Hollywood idea of young people with large backpacks and dorms rooms in hostels. There is some truth to this but hostels are also filled with such a variety of people of all ages, races, yet all share one thing, they are travellers.
Hostels can be very social places, but they can also be very unsocial. Especially at night when you are in an 8 person dorm and you will have someone snoring so loud, you could mistake it for a train going through the halls. Dorms can be a range of sizes, everything from 2 up to 24 or beyond. Each size has it’s own pros and cons, the smaller ones have much more of a private feel, while you wont get that much interaction with other guests, you will have a bit more space to yourself as you will only have a few other people to contend with. I normally find that a 6 bed dorm is a good medium as you still have your own space when everyone is out for the day, but you will also have a decent enough chance to meet others there. One hostel I stayed at in Birmingham when I first arrived was Hatters Hostel. It had one of the most unique layouts I have ever seen for a 24 bed dorm. Each set of 4 beds had 3 walls around them, the fourth being the side with a swing door. The advantage was that you were separated from the larger group making the room a little more private, however, 3 saloons down, the snorer was in action. You could still hear and get the vibe of the hostel in this setup and it was certainly a different style of dorm room.
There are more than enough positives for it to be some of the greatest memories you will have. Free breakfasts are a frantic time at the hostel, where people are up much earlier than they would like to be, just to have something to eat before they set off on their day exploring. These breakfasts won’t always be a fantastic meal but an apple and some toast, with a tea or an instant coffee is much better than nothing. This shared experience of struggling to get through the early morning will often end up with you sitting at a large table where someone will start up a conversation. These chats can lead to spending time with this person later that day. These people who will be sleeping next to or across from you will potentially become your best friend for the day, or even a week. I’ve never feel alone in a hostel, this is the biggest difference I noticed from a hotel (besides a shower that doesn’t go cold), where you would be locked in your own room without the company of others.
You do have to be brave in a hostel, to walk up and talk to someone is tough, but without a doubt you will find someone with shared interests to you who will be just as willing to share a meal or an experience with you. I have found out about so many cool places and things from people in hostels and have had options I hadn’t even heard of told to me through this. When you make these friendships you will most of the time end up at a bar at stupid o’clock drinking and talking about travel, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a night with people you have just met.
A few hints I would give to anyone staying in a hostel, as they can change between each place but overall these are the hints that I would recommend to anyone.
- Always take flip-flops (thongs to us Australians): You will need these for the shared showers, trust me, you will thank me later.
- Take a travel towel: Not only is it light weight, but can also be used to help dry clothes if a towel is provided by the hostel.
- A flat sheet or what works just as good is a sleeping bag insert, which is both smaller and lighter. There are quite a few hostels that will charge you for these. It also helps to always sleep on your own/clean bedding.
- A lock for lockers, same as above. It is better to have them than not because you will be locking your valuables in the lockers available.
- Some headphones or earplugs for the snorers that you will have in your dorm room.
- Being friendly, there is nothing worse than being in a dorm with someone who isn’t friendly and a constant pain.
- Don’t be messy! the amount of times I have walked into a dorm room and it looks like someone has opened their suitcase and it has exploded everywhere. Remember you are sharing with others.
- Be smart with your belongings. Phone chargers and travel adapters seem to have legs, so keep tabs on yours or you might find it is no longer with you. Also, when tucking in for the night, consider the position of you and your phone/laptop/camera or any valuables. I usually put a bag with my valuables between the pillow and the wall, so any wandering hands would have to climb across me to get the goods.
- Keep Hostel World at hand, a great place for finding the next hostel.
If you are looking at your next trip give a hostel a try, you might be surprised and will hopefully meet some great people!
Stay Safe and Travel Far…