Staying in a hostel is inevitable if you are travelling, unless, of course, you’re mega-rich! Often referred to as backpackers, there are quite a few differences between a hostel and a hotel!
Invariably staying at a hostel means sharing a room known as a dorm. Depending on the hostel you are staying at, the dorm could have 4 to 20 beds. Suffice to stay, staying in a 20-bed dorm will be cheaper, but will be noisier and harder to get to sleep in.
Personally, I wouldn’t stay in a room with more than 8 beds, as the chances of not getting a decent nights sleep increase, the more people are in the dorm.
There always seem to be at least one snorer in every dorm that I’ve stayed in and if there are a few people that snore then it can be a nightmare!
If money is tight then, by all means, stay in the cheapest dorm, but I’d rather pay a bit more for more space and fewer people. Plus earplugs block out the snorers and are definitely an essential item to have.
Picking a bunk to sleep in is a toss-up. It’s more convenient to sleep in the bottom bunk, but you can easily be woken up by people walking past and if you are close to the door, light shining in your face is annoying.
One clever way to combat this is to drape some of your sheets over the side of your bunk. Although it doesn’t completely eliminate any light, it does help and can give you some privacy.
Hostels normally provide linen and a blanket, if you arrive early this may not be done, but it depends on the size of the hostel.
Small ones normally have this done by midday while larger ones can take till 2 pm to sort your bed on occasion.
The majority of hostels provide lockers for your backpack and I would utilise these. You do not know the people you are sharing your dorm with, so, however, friendly they seem, make sure you lock all your valuables.
Although robberies are rare, a guy was caught stealing someone else’s phone at one of the hostels I stayed at. The person got their belongings back, but it proves that these things can happen.
So be extra careful with any expensive items and keep them in your locker when you’re not using and don’t leave them out in the open.
Almost all hostels are self-catering, a select few may provide food, but these are few and far between. The size of the kitchen depends on the size of the hostel. So a big hostel means a big kitchen and vice versa.
All kitchens are self-sufficient, so you have to clean up after yourself and keep the area tidy for other guests. Although, this doesn’t always happen, it’s just basic manners as far as I am concerned.
One thing I’ve noticed regardless of the size of the kitchen is that they are very busy around 6 till 8 when people are cooking tea. In some cases, you have to wait for a hob to become free before you can cook.
A place to store food is also provided and it is essential you label your food, otherwise, it will be eaten. In the bigger hostels, they will also throw your food away if the departure date you provided has passed. So if you extend your stay be sure to update your labels!
All hostels have communal bathrooms and some also offer en-suite rooms, although these are a bit more expensive than your standard room and it’s not worth the extra money.
The conditions in these communal bathrooms are not hotel quality, but they are better than you would imagine. No toiletries are provided so make sure you bring your own.
The bathrooms do get busy at certain times of the day, namely early morning. So make sure you account for this if you plan on showering at around 7-9 am.
Virtually every hostel has a social area, be it a TV room or a games room. Again, how big they are and what is provided normally depends on the size of the hostel. The majority of hostels will have a TV room and sitting area.
An example of what big and small hostels provide is from my experiences staying in Surfers Paradise and Brisbane in Australia. Both hostels were operated by the same company, YHA but had differing amenities.
The hostel in Surfers had a tv room, but it only accommodated 100 people, whereas the hostel in Brisbane held 500. As such, in addition to the tv room, there was a rooftop pool, pool table, Wii and rooftop balcony, plus a bar next to the reception. Generally, from my experience, the bigger the hostel, the more communal functions there are provided.
If you want to extend your stay at a hostel, then it best doing so in advance of your checkout date. Depending on the time of the year and where the hostel is located, some can be booked up for a few days. So it’s always best to check in advance beforehand, to avoid disappointment and being left without anywhere to stay!