Hostel Life: A Beginner’s Guide to Hostels

spellbound travels hostel life a beginner's guide to hostels

If you’ve ever travelled on a budget, you’re likely to have come across a hostel or two! Staying in a hostel is one of the best ways to travel cheaply, as well as make friends when you’re travelling solo. Today I’m going to walk you through all that hostel life entails so that you might feel more comfortable with staying in a hostel next time you travel!

What Are Hostels Like?

Every hostel is unique and different. Some are more like a homestay where a local has turned all or part of their home into a place for backpackers to stay. Some, on the other hand, are more like hotels! While I love staying at hostels, I’ve come to learn that you never truly know what you’re going to get until you get there. Reviews are great but sometimes fake so you often have to take a leap of faith when booking.

Hostels are usually uniquely decorated and some will have a theme. Sometimes you’ll find families staying at hostels but that’s few and far between. It’s most often filled with travellers between the ages of 18-35/40 which makes for a fun place to stay, especially if you’re a solo traveller.

Hostel Life Pros

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While I’m not entirely sure if I was forced into liking hostels simply due to the price tag, I’ve come to really enjoy most hostels I stay at!

PRICE: So to start, hostels are INCREDIBLY cheap and that’s probably the biggest reason people stay there. I’ve stayed at a $2 hostel dorm in Vietnam with an ocean view, a $10 hostel in Sri Lanka with free breakfast and yoga and a $25 hostel in Melbourne, Australia with great city views. The average price will differ greatly depending on the country you visit (as seen above) but it’s almost always going to be the cheapest option for solo accommodation!

ATMOSPHERE: Hostels also provide a really great atmosphere when it comes to making friends and partying. Not all hostels are party hostels but most are social at the very least!

KITCHEN: Depending on the country you’re in, hostels will usually have a shared kitchen. This is great because you can get your own groceries and make healthy and delicious home-cooked meals when you’re away from home.

ACTIVITIES: Another aspect of hostel life that I LOVE is group activities you can join. There’s usually a free walking tour or free events within the hostel but there are also paid excursions which can be great if you’re a solo traveller. If you’re on a tight budget, just know that most hostels will charge much more for these trips than if you were to find a tour operator in the city.

MAKING FRIENDS: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again โ€“ staying in a hostel is the best way to make friends when travelling solo! You’re always going to have new people to meet and do things with.

Hostel Life Cons

Although some of my best memories have come from hostels, hostel life isn’t always everything it’s cracked up to be.

RUDE PEOPLE: Most people are great but you’re bound to come across a few people that are loud or obnoxious and not considerate of other people. It’s not usually too big of an issue and if things ever escalate, hostel staff can take care of it.

MISHAPS: With that being said, I’ve seen some interesting things go down at hostels. I went to Iceland with a girl who tried to attack me, punched the front desk worker and then got arrested and two girls in a Sydney hostel peed the bed BUT that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Hostels are certainly not for the faint of heart!

CLEANLINESS: Some aren’t very clean but that’s often due to people in dorm rooms making a mess. Always check hostel reviews when it comes to their cleanliness. Of all my hostel-going years I’ve only encountered bed bugs once (thank God ๐Ÿคž๐Ÿผ) and all of the others have been well kept.

DIFFICULTY SLEEPING: If you’re a light sleeper, you might struggle to get a good night’s rest in a dorm room. Always pack earplugs or book smaller dorm rooms (~4 people) to ensure you can fall asleep!

INTERNET CONNECTION: For those in need of reliable wifi, hostels aren’t always the best. Some won’t have wifi in the bedrooms but it will be available in common areas, meanwhile, others have a great connection. It really differs from place to place. If you need reliable wifi for work, always look out for cafes nearby just in case.

While there are a few drawbacks to staying in hostels, the pros always outweigh the cons for me!

Where to Book Hostels

The first place that comes to mind when I think of booking a hostel is HostelWorld. If I had to guess I’ve probably been 99% of the hostels I’ve stayed at through HostelWorld or directly through the hostel’s website (sometimes the latter is cheaper). HostelWorld has endless filters to find the best hostel within your budget. is another great spot to check for hostels, especially if HostelWorld options are sold out for the dates you’re in that particular area. Remember to check hostel reviews before you book! If a hostel has less than 50 reviews, I’ll often skip it and choose a more established hostel so that I know the reviews are real.

Hostel Location is Everything

When choosing a hostel, you should first consider where you’re going to be spending most of your time. Are you going to be in and around the city most days? Laying by the beach? It’s not always easy to pick a great location but you can always lean on reviews and check the map on HostelWorld!

Always look out for hostels that are easy to get to by public transit or ones that have airport shuttle services to make getting to the hostel easy.

Choosing the Right Room Type

If you’re a first-time solo female backpacker, you might want to take a look at female-only dorms, if available. That’s how I started out in hostels to gain confidence and become comfortable being in a dorm room. Eventually, I branched out to mixed dorms because I enjoyed a mixed environment with men and women.

You might be surprised to find out that some hostels have private rooms. If you’re not down to share a room with other people, that’s totally fine! Just know that it will cost a LOT more than dorm rooms and you probably won’t end up meeting as many people.

Where to Keep Your Things in a Hostel

If you’re worried about where to store your luggage or important documents such as your passport, don’t worry! Almost every hostel has lockers inside the dorm room for you to use โ€“ just make sure you bring your own lock. Some hostels will also have a small lockbox near your bed to store important items.

I think generally, people in hostels aren’t trying to steal but you never know. That’s simply a risk that comes with hostel life.

Hostel Etiquette

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After staying in probably 50+ hostels, I can tell you with certainty what you should and should NOT be doing during your stay!

Hostel DOs

  • Be friendly and open to meeting new people
  • Get up as soon as your alarm goes off
  • Prepare the clothes and belongings you’ll need the night before so you don’t need to rummage through all your things in the morning and wake people up

Hostel DON’Ts

  • Get too drunk
  • Be too loud if you come back into the room past midnight
  • Turn the lights on in the room when you come back past midnight. Instead, use your phone flashlight if you need to see!

Hostel Life Pro Tips

Before you head off, here are a few pro tips to keep in mind for when you book a hostel!

  • Always look at the check in and check out times beforehand
  • Bring earplugs if you’re a light sleeper
  • Some hostels won’t provide towels or linen so do your research beforehand or pack accordingly
  • Make sure you have flip flops handy for the shared shower
  • Have tupperware and/or reusable bags handy for leftovers and grocery shopping
  • It’s never hard to make friends with a deck of cards or speaker handy!

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Amy xx

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