Having over 10 years experience of staying in hostels, I feel that it is a great way of meeting new people, as well as having a cheap place to sleep for the night. Some of my stays have been pleasant, others not so. Here I have some tips about making your stay in a hostel dormitory a little more comfortable.
A lot of hostels have a choice of different numbers of beds per room and also mixed or female only dorms. Depending on the price, I will always opt for the least beds in the dormitory. This limits the amount of times in the night you will be awoken by people coming in.
Also as a female, if they do not charge more for a female dorm (sorry males, you don’t have this option), I will take it. In my experience females are less likely to snore although I have heard some bad ones in my time. However, if the hostel are going to charge a lot more for this ‘apparent’ luxury then I will not bother.
Most hostels have bunk beds. I would always opt for the lower bunk. I can write a whole post just on this subject but that really wouldn’t be that useful but here are just a few reasons why!
– when people turn the light on in the night, it’s not like someone is shining a torch in you eyes.
– you can make it a little more private using a towel or a sarong by hanging it from the bed frame above you.
– you have the floor to put your stuff at night whereas if they don’t provide a shelf on the top bunk, you have very limited space with the risk of your laptop or phone crashing to the ground from a great height.
Where in the room?
This is so important as this can make all the difference. First of all I look for plugs. Everyone has electrical stuff to charge and I want mine nearest my bed. I then check that I am not too near the door or the bathroom. That way you are less likely to be woken by noise or light pollution from people using the toilet or coming in late.
I also check out the space around the bed. Is there room for me to store my backpack or is someone’s backpack already there which means there will be rustling near my head in the night? Also I don’t want my head too near someone else whilst I am asleep. I find this weird.
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How to survive a hostel stay:
The top bunk
To prevent your stuff from crashing to the floor in the night try looping a bag onto the bars. I will add that this really shouldn’t be a plastic bag or you will be hated for being that ‘bag rustler!’
Alternatively you can put your stuff in your pillow
Use your torch or your phone to guide your way onto the top bunk so you can avoid annoying others finding your way up there.
The only advice I can give here is to throw something at them which will act as a ‘poke’. In Brazil I have to admit I lost my rag. We had a male staying in what was advertised as an all female dorm due to a mistake by the hostel. He woke up every single person in the room and I ended up shaking the poor unaware man till he woke when I grabbed hold of the bed frame and treated it as if I was shaking a caipirinha cocktail. Don’t become me, Don’t lose your cool, use something soft to be kind – a rubber flipflop rather than a rock 🙂
It is not just people who have had a bit too much to drink that turn on the dorm lights but I find these are the worst offenders. Although I do not like sleeping with an eye mask on, if I feel that this is going to happen then I will wear one when I go to sleep. Alternatively I will have one under my pillow, just in case. Or if there is any way of rigging up the trusty sarong to make a curtain around your bed, this is always the best option.
Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about the noise that drunks make, chatting to each other and falling over but ear plugs can also help. I find that by booking a female only dorm and one with fewer people tends to avoid this. Why? Well in my experience it is mostly males who get so drunk that they don’t care about their room mates although there are A LOT of exceptions to that rule. Secondly, if they have the money to spend on beer then they don’t have the spare cash to spend that little bit more to afford a 6 bed dorm rather than a 12 bed.
The bag rustlers.
My biggest peeve! This happens so much. People use plastic bags to separate their items in their backpack so when you are heading out early for a flight or a bus, you wake up the whole hostel dorm with your rustling. My advice for this . . . well it’s not like you can hide all the plastic bags whilst they are out (tempting I know). Therefore once again ear plugs are the only option. However why don’t you avoid becoming a bag rustler. Use packing cubes to separate your items! It also keeps your backpack compact and tidy.
See my My 8 top tips every traveller should know where I talk more about packing cubes.
The peeing men.
In Australia, a group of us took a trip to Fraser Island. In true Irish style, one of the guys got completely bladdered and needed the toilet in the night. With 6 of us in a tent, one of us was going to get the full hit from his bladder and as I was curled up in the corner of the tent. . . this was me! What do you do in these circumstances? Shout a lot, wake that guy up fully and NEVER NEVER let them live it down!
The food thieves.
It is amazing that you can leave your expensive camera on your hostel bed all day, but dare to leave your food for even a moment and it will be gone. I have a few tips on how to keep your food.
– Put it in an not so appealing package. If it is chocolate then hid it in a package that has pork scratchings, chicken feet or ox’s tongue as a label. Or if you are lazy then put it in a plain paper bag. People are lazy and will only take things that they can see what it is. Put your stuff out of reach, again due to people’s laziness.
Or try the sob story. Put your name on it and write a note “please do not eat me as I cannot afford to replace this”. Now who would eat someone’s only meal of the day?
Wear flip flops! Why would you want to tread in bare feet in a warm and wet environment where another 20 feet have been that day. If a hostel is a little dirty, time your showers so that the cleaner has just been in. If it is really bad, why don’t you ask for a free night’s stay in return for you cleaning them 🙂
More tips on staying in a hostel
A few more tips are to travel with a sleeping bag liner. It is very light and compact but it is great to use in those hostels which either have not so clean bed sheets or charge you for the renting of sheets.
I have also been told of people who travel with an extension lead. This reduces the problem of not enough plugs in a dorm for phone charging. I haven’t actually done this but I have been tempted to. If I could find a lightweight plug strip extension then that would be ideal; however I just find them so bulky.
Lastly, introduce yourself to your roommates. You are after all going to be living with them for X number of days. Ask them if they have plans that evening which you can join, if they would like to go to X place with you the next day. Learn about them and their country of origin. I promise you that you will make life long friends in a hostel.
This was one amusing read. Don’t have an hostel experience and this is quite educative. Food thieves and snorers! Oh god 😛 Snorers are a big big turn off and I agree with flinging stuff at such people 😀 Or going to sleep before them if thats possible :p
Your reasonings for choosing the lower bunk bed are awesome! Great tips. You have actually mentioned how to combat the problems including rustling, which may seem too minor till one experiences it 🙂 I’d suggest packing be done a night before to save the trouble!
I have to say that I’ve never actually stayed in a hostel! I am SUCH a light sleeper that I would basically stay up all night with even just a few people in the room (I was that person who detested having a college roommate even though I actually adored her as a person, so I cannot imagine sharing a room with peeing, stinky strangers!). 😀 That being said, if I weren’t such a light sleeper, and I traveled solo, I could definitely see this guide coming in handy. You definitely have some excellent, honest advice for others thinking about making the plunge into the world of hostels!
Love reading your tips about dorms, very accurate and useful. When I was sleeping (and working) in dorms I always charged during the day at some point. My biggest struggle was always getting the coldest place, opening all windows and turning on the A/C, LOL. Always a great adventure though. I always travel with an extension lead. 😉
There are some wonderful points here and I agree the bottom bunk is best! You explained very well how to put up with drunks, snorers, bag rustlers, light users etc.. all the problems which you’ll encounter. Unfortunately I don’t get the option to pick the female only dorm unless I’d pick it everytime! I was once in a dorm with a terrible snorer, I tolerated him but wish I had prodded him using your method!
We are headed to Greece soon and will be staying in a hostel for the first time. To be honest, I”m a little nervous. We are a family traveling with kids and all I’ve heard of hostels is loud/drunken/sex escapades!! LOL! So, why did I book one? It was honestly an accident. I went through Matt Barret looking for a hotel in a certain area and this one was the only one with availability. The photos are nice…and we’ll have our own room. Crossing fingers!!! Thanks for this informative post.
One of the most useful post I have ever read 🙂 You bring out very valid points and I learned a lot from them by reading this post. I never thought how benefitial it actually is to be sleeping in the bottom bunk. All the reasons why it’s better than top one are so on point. And the food part of the post is so funny! I like your style ofwritting a lot! 🙂