Hostels are an incredible option if you need to travel on a tight budget and don’t mind passing up a few amenities. It might be a little intimidating to not have your own room at first, but you’ll warm up to it quickly—especially when you remember how much you’re saving instead of staying at a hotel!
Do your due diligence. Hostels come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, so there’s something out there for everyone. Some are social hubs for travelers of all ages to connect and explore cities as a group. Others are little more than a collection of a few tiny rooms. Some hostels are run by bona-fide hospitality companies, and others are run by small families. Before you go, read all the reviews you can to get an idea of what you’ll be dealing with.
Make friends with other travelers. It’s likely there will be other travelers you can get to know in between your daily excursions. Talk about some of your plans and listen to theirs. Who knows, you might end up at nearby locations and get the chance to have some lunch together. Or, one of you may need some help that the other can dash over to provide.
Connect with the staff. The staff at hostels are typically very friendly and helpful. Even though they’re not having fun with you and the other travelers, make sure to catch their names and shoot the breeze a little bit. If you’re trying to get in past curfew, need an extra laundry token, or would like your sheets changed frequently, the staff will be far more willing to help if you’ve treated them kindly.
Make friends with the neighbors. Some hostels have permanent tenants. Others are located near homes or apartments. In either case, the locals may be hanging around and if they look friendly, they probably are. They may even approach you! Locals are usually interested to hear from travelers as it adds some extra color to everyday life. In return they might offer handy tips on what “secret spots” you could visit and how to avoid local scams.
Check out the neighborhood. When you arrive, your instinct may be to get started on your itinerary the moment after you’ve gotten your luggage settled. Resist this temptation and opt for a hike around the hostel’s neighborhood. This will help you get a feel for what resources may be nearby, like a market, laundromat, or breakfast joint.
Don’t get locked out. You’re away from home, so it’s going to be much harder to find somewhere else to go that won’t cost you an arm and a leg while you wait to get a new key or contact your hostel’s doorperson. Put a safety pin on your keyring and pin it to the inside of a pocket or another secure spot while you’re out and about.
Don’t get locked out in your underwear. If you have a personal room with a door that auto-locks, but the restrooms are shared and out in the hallways, you could set yourself up for a bit of embarrassment. Worst case scenario: you get locked out of your room in the middle of the night with nothing but your underwear, and the staff is unavailable to unlock the door until morning. To avoid this, employ a Pavlovian method: exit the room and as you touch the doorknob, ask yourself “Where’s my key?” Enter your room again and repeat this process ten or fifteen times. It may seem silly, but it’s not as silly as sleeping in the hallway in your skivvies!
Hopefully, if you’re in dire straits, staff will be available to help you out. Don’t be too embarrassed; your situation is probably nothing compared to some of the stuff they’ve witnessed!