A Newbie’s Guide to Staying in a Hostel For the First Time
Once upon a time, before I was The Hostel Girl, I was a fresh graduate a few hours away from staying in a hostel for the first time.
Looking back now, I’m not sure who decided that we would stay in hostels. But one person in our group of cash-strapped Uni students decided that it was the only way we could afford a week in Morocco. And it sure as hell wasn’t me.
Since then, I’ve learned a lot. Most of which I share on this blog, under the Hostel Life category.
But if you’re looking for the basics to prepare you for staying in a hostel for the first time – this is it!
A Newbie’s Guide to Staying in a Hostel For the First Time
How To Book a Hostel
There are so many incredible hostels in Europe – you can read my hostel reviews to see some of the best. But there’s also a few rubbish ones out there.
To find the perfect hostel in Europe, there are a few things to consider:
- Is the hostel easy to get to from the train/bus station or the airport?
- Is the hostel close to great transport links (i.e. the metro) so you can get around town easily once you arrive?
- Is it in a safe area of town if you’re arriving after dark?
- Does the price per bed, per night fit into your travel budget?
- Does the price include breakfast?
- Are you budgeting to stay in a dorm room or a private room?
Dorm Rooms vs. Private Rooms in a Hostel
3. Type of Hostel
- Are you someone who prefers to get up early and be active, or party all night and sleep all day?
- Are you looking for a family-run hostel or a professional chain?
- Would you rather stay in a traditional youth hostel or an independent backpackers hostel?
- Does the hostel offer personal lockers in the dorm rooms?
- Are there female-only dorm rooms available if you want one?
- Are there laundry facilities so you can wash your clothes?
- Does the hostel run or recommend great tours and activities to get to know the destination and other guests?
- Have you checked reviews of the hostel on Hostelworld.com and Booking.com?
- Have you read any reviews by bloggers?
Hostel Reviews by Bloggers
How To Pack for a Hostel
Packing for hostels is slightly different to packing for hotels, as there are a few amenities that hotels have but hostels don’t. Toiletries are the best example, but here is a full list of things you might forget when staying in a hostel for the first time – but that you will definitely need!
Toiletries: There are exceptions to the rule, but if you’re using shared bathrooms in a hostel there’s a high chance there won’t be any shampoo or soap in the shower stall. So make sure to take your own!
I love: these Paris-Themed Toiletry Bags – from £8.38 on Etsy
Padlock: Most good hostels offer locker facilities, but few will also supply locks free of charge. To save money, make sure to pack a padlock before you travel!
My recommendation: ABUS 165/40 Combination Padlock – £11.30 on Amazon
Towel: Very few hostels offer free towels to guests staying in dorm rooms.
My recommendation: Large Bodhi Microfibre Towel – £9.99 on Amazon
Flip Flops: When you’re sharing showers, walking around the bathrooms and corridors bare-foot is just a little bit gross. Think of others, and your own foot hygiene(!) and grab some flip flops!
My recommendation: anything made by Gandys! – from £14.95 on Amazon
The items I’ve listed above are the items most likely to be forgotten when you’re staying in a hostel for the first time, rather than a hotel. But if you’re looking for a more in-depth packing list for your first time staying in a hostel, click here: The Essential Hostel Packing List.
What To Expect in Your First Hostel
Not all hostels are created equal
Some hostels will be cleaner than others, some hostels will be more fun than others, and some will offer better value for money than others.
Sharing a dorm room
This is a topic I get asked often. “Is it safe to stay in mixed dorms“ or “Will my stuff be safe in a dorm room”. Sometimes even “What if the people in my room don’t like me?”
My best piece of advice for your first time in a shared dorm room is to just be yourself. If you’re exhausted because you’ve been travelling for hours and just want to get an early night – don’t care about whether your roommates will think you’re boring! If you’ve had a few too many beers and they hear you singing your very best rendition of the intro to The Lion King – don’t worry! They might even join in!
When it comes to tidiness, you may have to get used to stepping over a few people’s bags and sliding their towel out of the way so you can climb up into your bunk. This may be a shock for those of you who have never shared a bedroom, but overall it’s a lesson in patience. It’s also a lesson in learning to talk with others and make compromises: “Hey, do you mind hanging your towel at the foot-end of the bed rather than on the ladder, because it’s a slip hazard when I go to bed!”
Meeting people from different walks of life
This is my favourite part about hostel travel.
Budget travellers, business men and women, digital nomads, families, adventure-seekers, bookworms, yoga-nuts, climbers, musicians – these are all examples of people I’ve met in hostels. Not to mention the range of religions and nationalities that walk through hostel doors every day in Europe.
Hostels attract so many different people that you’re almost forced to have an open-mind in order to have a conversation. And when that conversation starts you’ll be amazed at the things you can learn from others.
Top 3 Tips for Hostel Newbies
1. Be willing to listen and interact with different people – even if their opinions differ from yours.
2. Be considerate of the people in your room. Switching on the light and having loud conversations on the phone in the middle of the night is a big no-no if you’re sharing a dorm with others trying to sleep.
3. It’s okay to be shy! If you’re nervous to walk into a room and start a conversation with a bunch of strangers that’s fine. Chances are there will be someone in the group who will start a conversation with you instead, and just let it flow from there. Tell them you’re staying in a hostel for the first time – they’ll be more than willing to welcome you into the hostel world!
Found this guide useful? Pin it for later…!
Still have questions about staying in a hostel for the first time?
You might find the answers here: What Is A Hostel? The Ultimate Hostel Guide to Hostels in Europe.
P.s. this post contains a few affiliate links. You won’t be charged any extra if you purchase through them – but I will earn a few pennies to help towards the cost of running this blog.
Lots of love,