I was pretty new to hostel living when I went to Southeast Asia. I had heard all of these crazy concerns like Where do you keep your stuff? Won’t someone rob you? You’re going to get dressed in front of strangers? along with many others. There are simple answers to all of these questions and more.
⋙ WHAT TO EXPECT
» WHERE DO I PUT MY STUFF? Every hostel I stayed in had lockers available that were definitely big enough to hold my valuables, and usually were big enough to keep my whole pack in. Although, the more comfortable you get in hostels, you’ll find that the only things you actually lock up at night are your valuables. No backpacker wants to add weight to their pack with your clothes or toiletries.
* NEED TO KNOW – Locks are not provided. Pick up a small lock at home before you leave, or ask your hostel if they have any for sale. I bought my teeny lock in Siem Reap for $1. Towels aren’t always provided either. Often you have to rent them or you have to put some sort of deposit down. I didn’t bring a towel, but I didn’t spend a fortune renting one either. I liked not having to tote around a damp towel.
» NOISY NEIGHBORS Let’s face it, it’s inevitable. Backpackers aren’t all alike. Plain and simple. Some people stay out late and party, some people want to catch the sunrise, some flights land at 3am. You should, of course, try to be courteous, but don’t necessarily expect it.
» SMALL TALK You will ask and answer the same questions over and over and over. Where are you from? How long have you been / are you traveling? Where have you been / are you going? It’s the go to small talk of backpackers. You’re fully into it at the beginning and then by week 3 you’re a bit sick of this conversation. When you’re lucky though, you meet amazing people, have brilliant conversations and create lifelong friendships. Dig deeper, you’ll want more eventually.
» KNOW WHAT’S INCLUDED A lot of hostels will include a breakfast, have amazing happy hour deals, have free airport / bus station pick-up or tours. Even if the meals aren’t free, you will often get a huge portion of food for a small price. Happy hours are anything from $1 off cocktails to 50 cent beers! Hostel tours are a great way to meet some of your hostel mates and you can end up spending more time with them all over the world!
» LITTLE PRIVACY That is true, but it’s kind-of one of those things that you think, Duh! If you’re sharing a room with 8 people chances are you’re going to see them change and they’re going to see you change. The good thing is you have options in most places: girls only, mixed gender, private, 4-bunk, 18-bunk and everything in between. The other thing is, no one really cares. You don’t have to be shy, but if you’re super worried about it there are always bathrooms that you can change in, but it’s a pain in the butt.
⋙ HOW TO BE A BETTER HOSTEL-MATE
Actually, it’s more simple than you think – to put it simply, be mindful of others. Here are some examples how:
» Remember not everyone is on the same schedule. If you come home at 2 am others are probably sleeping. Have your pjs on your bed, or crawl in in the clothes you’re wearing.
» Going to catch the sunrise? Have your clothes laid out for the next day, your daypack set to go & put it at the front of your locker so you can grab it and go.
» Early flight? Pack everything you won’t need that morning the night before and then drag it out in the morning, along with the stuff you haven’t packed, into the hall. Get ready & finish packing out there so the light doesn’t disturb everyone.
⋙ MISCONCEPTIONS or TRUTHS?
» THEFT I’m not saying that theft never happens, but I can tell you that in 101 days, in hostels & meeting friends all along the way I only heard of one story where a girl had her cell phone stolen. Obviously, be smart and lock up your valuables, but don’t be constantly paranoid.
» SHARING BATHROOMS I guarantee that you will see far worse bathrooms out and about than those that you share with your hostel-mates. Plus, you know that someone is cleaning it on a semi-regular basis. Even staying in an 18-person shared dorm I never waited on the bathroom or shower. It’s really not so bad.
⋙ STILL NOT INTO IT?
There are still budget options for you to look into if you don’t want to do the dorm thing:
» PRIVATE ROOMS You still get the benefit of the social common areas, but the privacy & luxury of your own bathroom.
» GUESTHOUSES These are still budget options (sometimes even cheaper) and you have private rooms. These often feel more like a hotel with few frills.
» HOMESTAYS Homestays are part of people’s homes, budget-friendly and in my experience have all included at least one meal. These can vary greatly from a private room with a patio to a 4-person room in a barn-type home (I’ve experienced both).
Alright, fellow-backpackers, any other tips or pieces of advice? I’d love to hear them and perhaps add to this guide.
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