Friendly tips on making your hostel stay more comfortable. Addresses both safety and practical issues like snoring roommates.
Traveling can be stressful. You’re sleeping in a strange place, eating strange food, getting used to a different time zone. You’re swamped with new people and new experiences and although budget friendly, hostels can be particularly nightmarish.
They don’t have to be.
Here are some top tips for staying sane and safe while staying in hostels, anywhere in the world.
Keep your valuables safe
This may come across as obvious, but a lot of people completely ignore this rule, so don’t look at me like that. It’s worth saying it again.
Everyone seems nice in the hostel, and they all leave their stuff lying around. There’s a laptop on one of the beds when you check-in, and a cellphone charging in the hallway. It’s fine. Or is it?
Usually, it IS safe. However, all it takes is one thief to find an open door. There’s also that person with a criminal mind and a plane ticket that afternoon. Suddenly, all that stuff is gone.
Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t make it safe.
Everything will be okay – until it isn’t. The day will pop up where everyone in the hostel loses their belongings, and you have to buy a new laptop, phone, or replace your grandmother’s necklace. (Obviously, don’t travel with your grandmother’s jewelry, or anything else you aren’t prepared to lose in the first place!)
Simple solution? Lock up and hide your valuables, or keep them with you. The most stolen items are usually phone chargers, battery packs, and adaptor plugs.
While those aren’t the most expensive things, it’s important to keep them safe too because there will be added inconvenience and cost if you lose them.
The easiest way to do this is to carry small padlocks. Most hostels have lockers to match each bed. If yours doesn’t, then you can at least lock up your valuables in your luggage. That will at least help deter most opportunistic thieves.
Now that your stuff is safe and sound, what about your mind?
Staying in hostels can drive you crazy. People are snoring or even singing while you’re trying to sleep. Cars are honking, and it’s hot and sticky. You’re paranoid about bedbugs. You have no idea if your room is actually clean.
It’s an alien place, and you’re not used to it. Science says that the first night you sleep in a new place, only half your brain goes to sleep. Even on the tenth night, other guests might home drunk and turn on the lights, or start to have sex right next to you. Yuck.
So after you’ve thoroughly checked and convinced yourself you don’t have to worry about bedbugs, you have two key weapons in the battle for your sanity: Earplugs (or even better, over ear headphones), and an eye mask. These are invaluable for getting a good night’s sleep, and sleep is vital for, well, everything.
Before you go traveling, test out some earplugs. Make sure you get good ones that you don’t mind wearing. You should know how to use them correctly too. Blindfolded and exhausted, they shouldn’t be difficult to insert. Personally, ear plugs bother me and I prefer to use something I have on me anyway – over ear headphones. I can play some soothing sleepy time music (yes, that is what I call my playlist) and it gives a clear signal to my brain that it’s bedtime.
For most people, any old eye mask will do. All that matters is it blocks out the light. While you might be able to sleep at home with flashing lights or hot, bright dawns, things are different when you travel. I actually just use a soft t-shirt (even at home!). There is something about having the light soft pressure over your eyes and as a bonus, if you are chilly you can drape some over your neck for added warmth.
Use both of these tools and the quiet darkness, while not perfect, will help ease you into sleep. You’ll wake up refreshed, ready to explore.
If you have any REAL problems, speak to the staff. If it’s a problem with another guest snoring, the staff can usually move you to another room without any drama. It happens all the time. If it’s a more serious problem, they can either help or get help. That’s their job.
Speaking of the staff, they are also an immense source of knowledge. They’ll know about the area, events, restaurants, tours, and the other guests (for example, if that cutie in the other dorm room is single). All sorts of useful things.
As with all people, be nice and treat them like humans. If you get in the staff’s good books by chatting with them, things will be easier for you if you ever do have a problem. You might even score a free drink or a private tour, if you’re lucky.
Another easy way to stay sane is to keep your things clean and tidy and don’t be a slob. This isn’t only for the benefit of any other guests that might be staying with you.
Keeping your things organized will help you feel organized. In control. Stress-free.
If you know exactly where your blue shirt is, you won’t stress out about it. Packing light is the easiest way to do this, but either way, keeping tidy is essential to staying calm.
If you’re staying in dorms, now and then it can pay to get yourself a private room. This will be a nice little mini-break and relieve some stress if you’re having an especially bad luck day (they do happen!). A bit of privacy and alone time and in some cases aren’t much more money than a shared room – especially in economical countries like Thailand.
Finally, yes this needs to be said too – don’t drink too much and be “that person.” Not only do you want to try and keep everyone else happy in their travels too, but you’ll be doing yourself a favor. You can’t keep yourself or your belonging reasonable safe if you’re wasted.
In the grand scheme of travel, all of the above are really just minor and hostels are fantastic ways to meet new people and travel on a budget. While they can be stressful and occasionally risky, it’s fairly easy to stay safe and sane if you just use some common sense. Happy travels!