I spent a year travelling by myself when I was nineteen and stayed only in hostels. I can honestly say it was the time of my life. I made some awesome life-long friends, had some amazing experiences and learnt a lot about myself. I also got to experience what it felt like to be completely sleep deprived for a week, shower in some very questionable facilities and be constantly worried about having all of my belongings stolen.
Whether you’ll enjoy staying in a hostel comes down to what you want out of your travel experience. You won’t find five star luxury and unless you get a single room you won’t have privacy either so if that’s what you need to make your trip enjoyable then it’s probably not the best option for you.
To me the benefits of staying in these shared facilities far out way the disadvantages. Not only are they as cheap as chips but you get to meet some cool like-minded people from around the globe. It’s a great option to ease the loneliness for a solo traveller or with a group of friends it’s generally a fun chilled out environment.
Sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw as to who you’ll be staying with and how this will affect your experience but I find the more you prepare for a hostel stay the better it will be. By packing a few essential items it can make the difference between having the best time of your life or a miserable one. Here’s my go to list for everything you need for your next hostel stay:
Earplugs. Repeat after me: Earplugs! These are my number one essential item and a complete necessity for any hostel stay. Some hostels will provide them, but I wouldn’t rely on that option. It’s not just the token snorer you’ll want to be able to block out. There will be the drunken giggler who bangs into everything on their way to bed at 3am. To be fair- that’s generally me, but apparently people don’t find me crashing into the door as funny as I do. There’s always the two best friends on their first international trip who want to talk ALL night about how much fun they’re having. The early riser who’s all about seizing the day and will want to be up for a run at 5am, also try and avoid letting them talk you into it too. If you are really unlucky you’ll have the two shaggers in the bed above you who fell asleep in the “what not to do in a hostel” class. Do not skimp when it comes to ear plugs- if there is one item you are going to spend money on it should be this. You’ll want high quality ones to drown out as much noise as possible, because trust me there will be lots.
Sleeping mask- This will come in handy for all those annoying light flickers who just “have” to find something at the bottom of their bag in the middle of your slumber, or for when you have a big night and just need a bit of a sleep-in the next day. I guarantee they’ll come in handy on numerous occasions throughout your stay.
Sleep-sheet- If only I was aware of these wonderful little inventions before the great bedbug disaster of 2004. These are a handy sheet which is sewn into something resembling a sleeping bag that you put inside your blankets. Most hostels won’t actually allow sleeping bags and some don’t provide linen for free. Not only can you rest easy knowing that you’re using your own recently washed sheet, but it can save you money as well. It’s as simple as sewing a queen size sheet together on one side, or if you are lazy like me you can find them in $2 shops or on Ebay for about 10 dollars.
Shower thongs/flip flops- I learnt from a quick stay in a certain Melbourne hostel just how important protecting your tootsies are in these shared germy environments. I will spare you the details, but trust me it’s better to be safe than sorry. A cheap $2 pair will be all you need to shower in.
Padlock- Most hostels will provide a locker but won’t provide you a padlock for it. It goes without saying that you don’t want your dorm mate wearing your favourite jacket for the next leg of their journey. You can pick one up from pretty much anywhere for about five dollars.
Bathroom items- Shampoo & Conditioner, face wash, soap, moisturiser and sunscreen. Try and only buy ones in the size you’ll need depending how long you are away for you. You don’t want these items taking up too much space.
Towel- most hostels will provide towels at a cost, but if you can fit one in your luggage then I’d highly recommend it. You can get travel towels that are smaller and dry quicker, but I find a lightweight small one from home is fine.
Toilet paper- Best to bring a roll with you- just in case. I’ve came across many hostels who didn’t replenish the supply regularly and I don’t need to explain how uncomfortable that can be.
A travel light- A little light or a torch will come in handy for when you want to read or get around your dorm when lights are out.