21 January 2016

Staying In A Hostel Q&A


If you're looking at travelling for more than a couple of weeks, but haven't done any sort of backpacking before, you may be a little nervous about the accommodation. I've noticed a lot of the time when people have "roughed it" they've told some sort of horror story like you wouldn't be able to handle it. Well, let me tell you: you got this. Staying in places for a matter of days and hopping around means that all inclusive hotels probably won't be on the agenda - Hostels, however, are a cheap option if you just need to find a bed for a couple of nights. So face your fears by taking the first step and reading what they're really like and how to get into one.

How do I find a hostel, and what should I look out for?
You can find and book hostels really quickly online using sites like Hostel World. It's good not to book the first thing you see, and as well as taking into account prices also look at what facilities are available and how many people you'll be sharing a room with. If travelling as a group, be sure to book together as spaces can fill up fast. Also, before booking check out the reviews. Not all can be what it seems online, so see what the people who saw it in real life had to say.

How far in advance do I need to book?
If you have all the places in advance planned out, you may want to book all of the hostels before you set off. For us, as soon as we arrived in a place we'd book the hostel for the next destination which was usually about 4-5 days later. You can always find space somewhere, but take in to account anything that may be happening in the city. For example, when I was in Berlin there was a huge football match on and so most places were booked and we ended up staying in a forest!

What are the rooms like?
Hostels will list the facilities they have on their websites, such as showers, how many people you'll be sharing a room with, whether it's mixed and if there's a kitchen. Typically we were sharing with around 6-8 people, staying in bunk beds. In Vienna, there were 6 of us to one room with a single bathroom, sink and shower which was on-suite. In Berlin, we paid a few euro extra to have our own room. If you go super cheap, you may expect to sleep in a dorm of around 20 people, so remember that you do get what you pay for. Also, consider that a kitchen might be a good option to go for as you can then save a bit of money going to the supermarket and cooking for yourself.

Sharing a room with strangers...?
In a hostel, there will obviously be other people you've never met before, usually from different counties who speak different languages. Some people might want to get to know you and start chatting, others may stay reserved and you might want to as well. Everyone will be travelling around and I found generally that people are quite respectful of each other, as you do all have a mutual understanding. If you're worried about your things, pretty much every hostel will offer a locker either for a small fee or a deposit. I kept my phone in my hand at night and my things to myself, but I did feel safe sleeping in hostels. The only thing to be worried about is the snoring!

Anything else?
A hostel is no different to any other situation - you have the right to report to the hostel staff if another guest behaves badly towards you. Also feel good in the knowledge if you ever truly do not feel safe somewhere you can always move on to another hostel or even to another place. The great thing about travelling is you do not have to tie yourself down.

If you do have free wi-fi in your hostel - which pretty much everywhere does, use it to find out anything you're unsure of, or to book your next hostel instead of wasting time on Facebook. Wash your clothes in the sink first thing in the morning and leave them by the window to air out properly throughout the day - some hostels do offer washing and drying machines for a small cost. Finally, the people who work at hostels are used to travellers, so ask them for directions, maps and guidance instead of struggling. Happy travelling!

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