Nightmare Hostel – Staying in a hostel can be a great way of traveling – it’s cheap, it allows you to meet other travelers, and they often have travel booking facilities so you can arrange tours with your newly made hostel buddies.
However, staying in a hostel can have its downsides too, especially for travel newbies and visitors who may have grown accustomed to the comforts of staying in a hotel.
While there aren’t many “nightmare” hostel stories – akin to those found in the movie Hostel – there are definitely more than a few “bad experiences”…
What is a Hostel?
What is a Hostel?
When you are out exploring the world on your backpacking trip, staying at hostels is the best way for you to live for many reasons, the main one being that they’re always a lot cheaper to stay at than in the traditional hotels.
Hostels are also a great way for you to meet fellow like-minded backpackers and make new friends, as normally you are sharing the room with 4+ people.
Most backpackers have a tight-ish budget to stick with and are always looking for the cheaper option.
When it comes to accommodation, hostels are known as the cheaper and more relaxed alternatives to hotels.
What is a Hostel Dorms
Most often you will sleep in a ‘shared dorm.’
These are rooms that you share with others, and are usually filled with bunk beds.
You can find anything from 4 to 20 beds per dorm.
Often you can choose (before you book) what kind of dorm you would prefer to stay in – most often the larger dorm (more beds) you choose, the cheaper it will be for you.
Females can sometimes also choose to stay in a dorm shared with only females.
A dorm is basically just a bed for you to sleep for the night.
You get your own bed and sometimes there are lockers where you can store your luggage and keep it safe.
Sheets or Sleeping Bag?
Sometimes the hostels provide sheets and pillows for free, but often you have to pay extra for this.
Sometimes they don’t even give you the choice but to pay extra, because they don’t allow sleeping bags.
This they will most likely inform you about before you book the room, and you can also find more info about each hostel via the online booking sites, where other travelers rate and rank their personal experience from each place.
Many hostels have private rooms you can choose, which can be a nice thing if you’re a couple travelling together and want some privacy.
You will find these are more similar to hotel rooms, however still a lot cheaper.
The only major difference apart from no TV, room service or mini-bar, is that the showers and bathrooms are normally still shared with the others from the dorms.
You can also book private room for more than two people.
This is aimed for groups travelling together.
Single Supplement Fee
This is a fee that solo travellers often are charged when booking a single room and staying in a room with more than one bed.
This is a supplement to compensate a hotel for their losses because only one person is using a room or cabin with more than one bed.
Nearly all hostel/hotel rooms are built with the assumption that at least two people will occupy them with prices based on that.
You can be charged all from 10 to 100% of the bed you won’t be using.
Eating / Kitchens
What is a Hostel kitchen like? At the hostels there is usually a kitchen where you can cook your own food.
This is a great money saver, as eating out everyday will add up fast.
Some hostels also offer a simple but free breakfast.
This usually includes tea, toast and a bowl of cereal with milk.
Meeting / Common Rooms
A hostel is a great way to meet other like-minded travelers.
Often there are common rooms where you can hang out, watch TV, meet others, make new friends and share travel stories.
backpackers use hostels as ‘friend-makers,’ so if you are travelling alone and would like to meet new people, staying at hostels is the way to go!
Do Hostels have Internet Access and WiFi?
Do hostels offer WiFi services?
Depending on the hostel and where you are in the world, the service is different.
They often have computers where they charge a lot of money for Internet connection.
Others will offer free WiFi.
Bringing your own laptop, tablet or smartphone will end up saving you both money as well as time.
We all like to have strong WiFi when staying in hotels and hostels.
Those hostels and hotels that are using Hotel WiFi Services will have strong reliable WiFi.
Check out our guide for How To Book A Hostel, where we share tips and links for the best places for you to find hostels.
Getting To Know Each Other A Little Too Closely
Getting to know other travelers is awesome, but that new bond of friendship can be stretched too far.
While there are often smaller dorm rooms, made up of four, six and eight beds, there are also much larger dorms that sleep twenty, thirty, and in one famous Fiji hostel, as many as one hundred people!
Sound like the best slumber party ever?
Perhaps, but when you think about sharing a room with 20 or so other people – many of whom are likely to be drunk, snoring, having sex, talking in their sleep and who knows what else – it might mean a less than restful night.
One of the worst hostel room mates we’ve had was a homeless and clearly ill woman who snuck into the room at midnight, sat down on one of the beds and started laying out all her possessions and then packing them up again into her many (noisy) plastic bags – she repeated the process throughout the whole night, despite everyone complaining.
We thought she was one of the guests until she finally turned off the lights and left at 5 am.
Lowered Hygiene Standards
Unlike most hotels, hostels are not always known for their cleanliness – there are endless stories of dirty bathrooms, toilets that don’t flush, bed sheets that are sprayed with air freshener instead of cleaned, unhygienic kitchens, bodily fluids where there shouldn’t be bodily fluids…
The worst hostel we ever stayed in had green and black mold everywhere in the bathroom – it was so disgusting we had to take a photo (see photo above!!)
Creepy Room Mate Stories
There is the story of a few backpackers who happened to be sharing a room with a very large, very drunk man who was ex-military.
The man spent most of the night alternating between yelling incoherently in his sleep, and waking up and telling the silent room to be quiet or he would kill them all in their sleep.
There is another story of a guy who went to sleep on his first night in a hostel, only to wake up and find a row of M&Ms at two-inch intervals all the way round his bed.
He was about to accuse his roommate, but saw he was just as freaked out as he was …
Learning About The Birds & The Bees
While most people would cringe at the thought of getting busy in a room full of other people, there is a surprising number of travelers who don’t have a problem with it.
It’s safe to say that the drink probably doesn’t help with the decision-making process there.
No doubt, there are many lovely stories about many lovely hostels in the world, however, there are enough horror stories to make most travelers want to pay a little extra and stay in a hotel!
Think about clean, fresh sheets, your own bathroom, no one snoring next to you or turning the lights on at 3am.
Basic Hostel Manners Are Important
When staying at a hostel and sharing room with a bunch of other travelers you don’t know, you can’t just act like you would in your own home. You may feel ‘at home’ – but you’re not.
Plus, half the purpose of sleeping in dorms is to meet some new cool people, and you don’t want to be remembered as the dude who made people tear their hair out of frustration by your obsessive noise with your plastic bags in the middle of the night, do you?
Some hostels have written rules which you have to agree with (some even make you sign a contract!), but aside from that there are some unwritten rules but just as important hostel manner rules which every guest should stick to and be aware of.
Basic Hostel Manners DON’T…
… keep your lights on in the middle of the night.
Everyone can’t sleep with the lights on and shouldn’t need to bring eye-masks.
… walk in and out of the room loudly all through the night.
… dig for stuff in your paper and plastic bags or in any way rustle with them.
Somehow this sound travels through walls, I wouldn’t be surprised if even a deaf person could hear it.
Snoring people always deny that they snore, just face it and do something about it – otherwise you’re going to make some enemies where you’re staying.
Sure we should all carry ear plugs around, but they don’t help much when the bed is shaking from the snoring…
… have sex.
I shouldn’t even have to mention this, but people still don’t seem to understand why people don’t want to hear them having a two people party under the sheets – Get a private!
… occupy the only shower for 40 minute shower first thing in the morning if it’s shared with other people.
If you need a long shower, wait until everyone is out.
Basic Hostel Manners DO…
… keep your music on a low level. Everyone doesn’t agree to your music taste, especially not in the middle of the night.
… Clean up after yourself.
Would YOU like to eat from a dirty plate or use a bathroom full of dried sticky hairy bits of wax in the shower?
… Pack up the night before.
You can’t fully avoid it, but waking everybody up at five o clock and packing for an hour is uncalled for – prepare the night before if you have to leave early.
… Be quiet. If you’re a party princess, there are party hostels you can stay at.
But if it’s not (which you will soon notice), show respect and keep it quiet at night time.
I don’t really mean to be a downer by sharing these, but once you have been on the road for a while, you will really start to appreciate a nice relaxing and quiet night in the hostel.
Lastly like I said before, if you really want to be out late, and party then you can also find the appropriate hostel for that kind of thing.
By going through the reviews you find which hostels worldwide are party friendly or not.
Hope this helps you out, and keeps you making friends not enemies while on the road!
Travel Etiquette Tips for Travel Hostel Newbies
A hostel is a great choice for the budget-conscious traveler or for those who want a sense of camaraderie with their lodging choice. Most hostels are conveniently located and are staffed by friendly, knowledgeable locals.
However, hostels can have a few drawbacks. For instance, a hostel is not a good choice for the person who prefers to travel in splendid isolation.
Privacy is at a premium, and shared bathrooms are the rule rather than the exception.
Travelers should be prepared to share sleeping space, which is a major consideration for the traveling companion who snores.
A hostel stay is a communal experience, but that doesn’t mean that we all don’t want to have a little space or even some quiet time.
Be aware when your fellow travelers don’t want to engage in conversation or are focused on a task.
If they are reading, working, attempting to sleep or just chilling, don’t interrupt.
Also, don’t hog spaces such as the bathroom, the bedroom, the kitchen or even a table or a computer.
You probably hated it when your kid brother borrowed your MP3 player without asking right?
No matter how friendly you’ve gotten with your hostel roommates, resist the urge to borrow their stuff without asking.
Travel Etiquette Tips for Travel Newbies
A little common courtesy can go a long way in such close quarters.
Same goes for items such as food, toothpaste, soap and other small items.
Hostel life is all about sharing so if you’ve got something yummy at hand, offer it around.
However, don’t expect your roommates to necessarily do the same.
Most hostel guests are traveling on a budget, don’t take their food.
Got the late night munchies?
Don’t wake people up with your eating habits or bring stinky foods into the common sleeping area.
Also, help out in the kitchen, don’t leave a mess after your eat and always do your own dishes.
We are all aware if we snore or not… or should be by now! If you know you snore, deal with it.
Buy sleeping aids, pay for a separate room or at least be upfront with your mates.
Don’t ever expect others to switch rooms because of your snoring and be sympathetic if you’re making them spend a sleepless night.
As hard as it is to be organized when traveling, it’s important to do your best to be clean and tidy in a hostel.
Don’t allow your personal belongings to spill off your bed or outside your locker.
Common areas can sometimes be cramped, don’t lay your stuff out when working and keep your personal space organized.
Do your best not to leave shoes, clothing, food, books or other items laying around, it’s rude to others and your belongings can easily disappear.
Most hostel “rules” are common sense, treat others the way you would treat family. Use the space as if it were your own, make your bed, keep the bathroom clean, pick up after yourself – be helpful, courteous and friendly.
Travel is about exploring, learning, making new friends and memories, staying in a hostel can give you all of this and more, make sure it’s a pleasurable experience for you and your fellow travelers.
How To Book a Hostel
While you are on the road, there are a few different ways of booking a hostel.
You can either book online, call the hostel or simply just turn up at the hostel and book directly with them.
Does it make a difference which option you choose?
It can make a huge difference.
The best, fastest and stress-free way for you to book a hostel is to do it ONLINE via a hostel booking service and many times it’s much cheaper booking online than with the hostel itself.
Here is a short story of why it’s better to pre-book online BEFORE you arrive…
While in Bali last year we stayed at a hostel that we really liked, so we decided to go back there a second time for a few days before leaving to Malaysia.
We figured there was no need to pre-book, but to simply showed up at the reception in the morning.
We were then told that the only rooms left that were available were the luxury suites, which turned out to cost a whole lot more.
So what choice did we have?
Well, we went outside, sat down at the porch next to the hotel security-guard, and used their free Wi-Fi connection from our laptop.
We saw that the cheaper rooms WERE available to book online for the next day, which was strange since the receptionist said they weren’t. We booked the next two nights online and went back inside.
The receptionist was pretty surprised, and maybe a bit embarassed as we caught him lying, both about the room availability and the obvious massive price difference.
All of a sudden there were cheaper rooms available for us today 🙂
Just as a side note, while staying there we saw no other people other than a family of four and a couple – the place was empty…
Lesson Learnt: It’s cheaper and easier to pre-book online!
Where To Book A Hostel – list of websites run a service connecting you to hotels
This is the one we use the most, and the first website we go to when searching for hostels.
They have no added booking fees, and heaps of choices all over the world so they always end up been the cheapest option.
This company is the biggest one, it often has more options, looks flashier and is easier to use.
When booking with them you also get a small guide of the town you’re staying in.
They do however add a booking fee, and many times they’re a bit more expensive than at Hostelbookers.
Hi Hostels – Hosteling International
Hosteling International is the brand name of more than 90 Youth Hostel Associations in 90 countries, operating 4,000 hostels.
If you’re a member of the association you get a cheaper price staying in their hostels.
You also get reduced-price admission to attractions and museums, discounts on meals, transportation and more.
If you want to read more about the membership and how it works, click here.
YHA -Youth Hostel Association
This is an association that is part of HiHostels.
There isn’t just one website that covers all countries, but one for each country, with the main one being Australia.
How The Online Booking Works:
The great thing about booking online is that you only need to put down a 10% deposit on the room, with the rest payable once you have arrived.
This is how the booking process works:
Once you have gone to one of the hostel services above, selected your hostel for the night, and which dorm you want – you put down the deposit using your credit card (don’t worry about this, they all have security protection against credit-card fraud) and then your booking is confirmed.
They will send you an email with this confirmation and also include directions telling you the best way to get there – which buses, and trains to take etc.
So Which Hostel Is Best?
The online booking websites mentioned above have short descriptions of each hostel, and most of them also have customer reviews you can check out.
This is probably the best way to get an idea of what the hostel is really like.
There are many customer reviews and they are completely honest.
Next to each hostel is a ranking system which is voted on by the customers, with details about how good the location was, how clean etc.
Lastly if you’d like a more detailed description about a specific hostel they usually have their own website, which you can check out via one of the sites above.