18 In Guides + How-Tos/ Southeast Asia/ Travel/ Travel Talk/ Travel-isms

Guide to Hostel Living

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.

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» 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). 

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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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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Amy (Two Drifters)
    November 2, 2015 at 10:43 am

    I love hostels! I’ve had some fun and funny experiences in them of course. Like showers that only provide boiling water. Showers you have to hold a button down to use, the bottom bunk in a stack of 3! It’s definitely an adventure….and one everyone should have, particularly when you’re young. 🙂

  • Reply
    wild life photos
    November 2, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    I miss my hostel days!! 🙂 I guess I have to get back on the road again!! 😉
    great guide btw!! 🙂

  • Reply
    Meghan
    November 5, 2015 at 11:10 am

    Great guide and summary post, Paige! Is there a place (other than the Travel Talk section) where these types of posts are collected? I ask because I think you should feature them – they’re really valuable!

    • Reply
      Meghan
      November 6, 2015 at 8:21 am

      Additional thought – I bet having guides and how-tos somewhere would drive traffic to you blog since it seems like every travel blog I see nowadays has a “Guide for Paris” or something. But anyway, I mentioned it because I think these posts are so informative and a really great summary of the what to do and what to see. I love reading them!

      • Reply
        PaigeBrown
        November 14, 2015 at 9:48 am

        Thank you so much. I’m thinking of a good place to put them all now. I really appreciate your input and the amazing compliments. You’re the best!

    • Reply
      PaigeBrown
      November 13, 2015 at 11:30 pm

      Thank you, Meghan. I don’t really have them collected in another place. Perhaps I should do a few on my sidebar? Thanks for not only reading it, but for the idea! I really appreciate it!

  • Reply
    Leighann
    November 7, 2015 at 4:22 am

    Thanks for this! The other thing I’ve realized at hostels is not being allowed your own couverture! If you packed a small pillow or blanket for travel if it’s seen they may have you store it so they know you aren’t using it!!

    • Reply
      PaigeBrown
      November 14, 2015 at 10:33 am

      Thank you, Leighann! That’s a good tip! I didn’t have a blanket or pillow to learn that trick!

  • Reply
    How to Be More Spontaneous When Traveling - For the Love of Wanderlust
    November 17, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    […] the other nights! Then, you can move on to explore new towns along the way. Keep it cheap by using hostels or AirBnB rentals. If you love the first destination, then simply extend your accommodation. […]

  • Reply
    Heather Ditmars
    April 5, 2016 at 8:56 am

    I am an avid traveler and hostel dweller myself. This is very realistic and honest! The note about locks…ESSENTIAL. I learned that one the hard way. haha

  • Reply
    kbernard23
    April 5, 2016 at 11:10 am

    Solid post! I’ve written a few like this as well. All in all I think the pros of hostel life far outweigh the cons!

    Here’s what I wrote on hostels: http://godriftaway.com/2016/03/30/how-to-make-friends-at-any-hostel-in-the-universe/
    and http://godriftaway.com/2015/09/30/hostel-hacks-tips-and-best-practices/

  • Reply
    Tatiana Bastos
    April 5, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    I only had really good experiences in Hostels, but nowadays i only stay at them if the price is good and the quality as well. Otherwise I’ll go for an AirbNb and make friends elsewhere! But when I first started travelling I wished someone had told me the things you said on this post. Thank you ahahah!

  • Reply
    therookietraveler
    April 8, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    Ahh… Can’t wait to be on the road and “suffer” all this all over again :))))
    I think it’s stuff like this that makes traveling so interesting.. constant struggle, uncertainties and people with all sorts of backgrounds!

  • Reply
    rovingjo
    October 24, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    Great hostel guide for a beginner. I have not traveled using hostels in a long time but when I was younger and did backpacking it was very convenient. Like everything you find good ones and not so good ones.

  • Reply
    Laura
    October 24, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    Love this! It breaks it down a bit for people who are scared of hostels. I really like that you’ve laid out any questions people may have to calm their nerves down a bit. I personally love hostels and can’t wait to get back on the road! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Reply
    nycgingeronthego
    October 24, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    All good tips for staying in hostels, or just life in general. haha I love when I have enough time to set out clothes for the morning or bed time in advance. I have done my fair share of hostels and overall its a great way to travel on a budget. The weirdest one was when a mom had her 8 year old kid in our hostel room in Sydney. Just kind of awkward!!! I’ve also noticed theft not to be a major issue. The only thing I had stolen was a bottle of face wash in ireland.

  • Reply
    Thelittlelai: Beyond limits
    October 24, 2016 at 11:50 pm

    I’ve been traveling around the Philippines, but never tried staying in a Hostel at least now I know what to expect. I’m planning to have my backpacking in South East Asia soon and would love to stay in a Hostel. Thank you for this informative post of yours, very real.

    LaiAriel

  • Reply
    mappingmegan
    October 25, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    Great cover of the FAQ’s about hostel living – I really enjoyed my time in hostels throughout Europe, and I agree on traveling with a lock and a towel as most don’t include this. I think people underestimate booking a private room with a hostel – we’ve been doing this for years and it’s great 🙂

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