/// Guide to Your First Stay at a Hostel
The primary benefit of hostels is that it attracts like-minded people from all around the world from every background sharing the common love for travel.-John Cain
The budget costs of hostels is not why they’re so attractive to backpackers and nomads.
It’s the extreme social factor of a hosteling lifestyle that a good one can facilitate. But it’s also this very reason why the first time could be difficult.
Dorm rooms, high energy, bunk beds, cultural diversity and where everyone seems to know each other, all in a home-like environment that’s nothing like a hotel.
That could be a bit intense for the shy and social-butterfly alike. But you can turn that nervousness and anxiety into excitement and just be yourself.
All the other guests will be just like you, a foreigner from a far away land looking for adventure. This universal commonality alone should make you feel like your surrounded with (potential) friends.
I took the photo below while doing a toast on my first night at that hostel. The 7 of us were complete strangers from 6 different countries that just met earlier that day. We all became friends in that time even before drinking those beers and Soju shots.
This is a common occurrence at hostels.
The Check In //
I’ve stayed at over 100 hostels around the world and the first hour or so at a new hostel after checking in is always the most exciting.
The actual check in is basically the same as a hotel with the exception that it’s usually genuinely friendly staff (often the owner) and sometimes a fellow backpacker filling in. A friend already made.
You may see other guests lingering and socializing, don’t mind them just yet. Get your things and self situated.
The Tour + Bed //
On the slow path to your dorm and bed, the staff will most likely show you where everything (kitchen, toilet, showers, laundry etc.) is as well as explain the rules and special events. Once you get to your dorm room, you’ll rather be assigned a bed or choose your own.
Bottom bunks offer less privacy but provides easier access, luggage space underneath and closer to power outlets. Avoid beds near busy doors.
If there’s anyone in the dorm at this time, put your things down and simply say “hello”. Whether it’s a single person with headphones on or a group in a conversation, they will respond. Guaranteed.
The next part is easy as 9/10 times the next question will be “Where you from?”. Then you can progress from there since the ice has been broken.
The Common Areas //
Now that you have your bed and unpacked, it’s time to venture to the common areas; den, computer room, kitchen, balcony etc. Many hostel first timers tend to hideout in their bed / dorm room, avoiding contact with other guests. Understandable but unnecessary.
Most people at hostels are there to meet others just like you, the cheap cost is secondary. Smile, be responsive and visible and you’ll make friends in no time.
Consider hostels like your home, shared with many others. So make yourself at home.
It’s no surprise seeing so many backpacks in a backpacker’s accommodation. But what may be surprising to a new hosteler is how they are often laying around unattended and unsecured.
Security issues and theft is actually quite rare due to the openness and sharing mentality of hostelers. But that doesn’t mean you should be careless with your belongings. Keep valuables in lockers (if provided) or away from prying eyes when not in use.
Generally speaking, your backpack will be perfectly fine sitting on your dorm room bed. So don’t go crazy worrying about it while you’re out exploring the city.
Backpackers look out for each other.
Like any large social groups of people, there may be cliques – this could be friends that travel together in the first place or people who just met.
But hostel cliques isn’t like high school, where it’s divided into the cool and uncool. It’s more about specific interests, nationality or the traveling route – whatever the case, there is a commonality for the love of travel.
So clique at hostels isn’t about excluding people, it’s open to all or any who shares common interests.
The Eating & Drinking
Trying the local foods while abroad is 1 of the 3 parts of the travel experience and eating with friends is always better than solo. Sitting alone in a restaurant or bar kinda sucks, besides, it tends to be cheaper with a group and you can sample eachothers’ foods as well.
The other guests will be eager to find others to eat and drink with. Nothing brings people together and closer than food, beer and travel.
As mentioned earlier, hostels are like homes (some are even built in actual houses) so everything is shared.
Like a very large family.
Although this is one of the ways hostels are so cheap and something a first time hosteler may be uncomfortable with, I see it as ample opportunity to get closer to other guests. Homely equals comfort.
With this shared concept comes responsibility. There will be staff to clean up but nothing like a 3+ star hotel where any mess will magically be gone later on.
Just be considerate and treat whatever or wherever you use like it’s your own thing or place.
As a vagabond traveling the world indefinitely, I’ve come to realize that hostels are often the most friendly and welcoming places there is.
So keep calm and hostel on.
-Read the “Hosteling Lifestyle” article to get a better idea of staying at hostels.
[The featured photo was taken at the Peter Pan Hostel in Andong, South Korea.]
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