A Beginner’s Guide to Hostel Living

Hostel living offers a unique and enriching experience, especially for those who love to travel and meet new people. Whether you’re a student, a solo traveler, or someone on a budget, hostels provide an affordable and social way to see the world. This beginner’s guide to hostel living will help you navigate the ins and outs of staying in hostels, ensuring you have a comfortable and enjoyable experience.

What to Expect in a Hostel

Hostels are budget accommodations that offer shared rooms, communal spaces, and a social atmosphere. Unlike hotels, hostels are designed to foster interaction among guests, making them perfect for solo travelers and those looking to make new friends. This guide to hostel living will cover everything from choosing the right hostel to making the most of your stay.

Types of Rooms

Hostels typically offer a variety of room types to suit different preferences and budgets:

  • Dorm Rooms: Shared rooms with multiple beds (bunk beds are common) where you sleep alongside other travelers. Dorms can be mixed-gender or single-gender.
  • Private Rooms: For those who prefer more privacy, some hostels offer private rooms, which can be similar to hotel rooms but often at a lower cost.
  • Family Rooms: Some hostels cater to families with larger rooms that can accommodate multiple guests.

Choosing the Right Hostel

Choosing the Right Hostel

Selecting the right hostel is crucial for a pleasant stay. Here are some factors to consider:


The location of the hostel can greatly impact your experience. Consider choosing a hostel close to public transportation, major attractions, and amenities like restaurants and shops. For example, if you’re into fishing, finding a hostel near a trout habitat can enhance your travel experience.


Hostels are known for being budget-friendly, but prices can vary widely. Compare different hostels to find one that fits your budget without compromising on essential amenities. Make sure you don’t stay at a place where you have to hire your own local electrical contractors or plumbers.


Look for hostels that offer the amenities important to you. Common amenities include free Wi-Fi, breakfast, lockers, laundry facilities, and common areas. Some hostels even provide unique features like a garage floor covering area for those traveling with vehicles.


Reading reviews from other travelers can provide valuable insights into the hostel’s cleanliness, safety, and overall vibe. Websites like Hostelworld and TripAdvisor are great resources for finding honest reviews.

Packing for Hostel Living

Packing for Hostel Living

Packing for hostel living requires some thought, as you’ll need to balance between bringing essentials and keeping your luggage manageable. Here’s what to include:


  • Padlock: For securing your belongings in lockers.
  • Towel: Some hostels provide towels, but it’s always good to have your own.
  • Earplugs and Eye Mask: To ensure a good night’s sleep, especially in shared dorms.
  • Shower Shoes: For hygiene in shared bathrooms.
  • Power Strip: Useful if you have multiple devices to charge.

Optional Items

  • Sleeping Bag Liner: Adds an extra layer of comfort and hygiene. The carpet at where you’re staying may not be comfortable, so this step is crucial.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Staying hydrated is important, and having a reusable bottle is environmentally friendly.
  • Laundry Bag: To keep dirty clothes separate and organized.

Making the Most of Your Hostel Experience

Hostel living is as much about the social experience as it is about affordable accommodation. This guide to hostel living emphasizes the importance of engaging with fellow travelers and participating in hostel activities.


Hostels are great places to meet people from all over the world. Here are some tips for socializing:

  • Common Areas: Spend time in the common areas where people gather to relax and chat.
  • Group Activities: Join hostel-organized activities like pub crawls, walking tours, or game nights.
  • Meals: Share a meal with other travelers. Many hostels have communal kitchens where you can cook and eat together.

Staying Safe

Safety is a top priority when staying in hostels. Here are some tips to keep safe:

  • Secure Your Belongings: Always use a locker to store valuables and keep your belongings organized.
  • Be Aware of Your Surroundings: Stay alert, especially in unfamiliar areas.
  • Trust Your Instincts: If something doesn’t feel right, remove yourself from the situation.

Hostel Etiquette

Good manners can go a long way in making your hostel stay enjoyable for you and others. Here are some etiquette tips:

In the Dorm Room

  • Be Quiet: Keep noise to a minimum, especially at night and early in the morning.
  • Respect Personal Space: Be mindful of others’ space and belongings.
  • Clean Up: Keep your area tidy and clean up after yourself.

In Common Areas

  • Share Space: Be considerate when using shared facilities like the kitchen and bathrooms.
  • Clean Up: Wash your dishes and keep communal areas clean for everyone.
  • Be Friendly: A smile and a friendly hello can go a long way in creating a pleasant atmosphere.

Utilizing Hostel Amenities

Utilizing Hostel Amenities

Many hostels offer a range of amenities to make your stay more comfortable. This guide to hostel living highlights some common amenities and how to make the most of them.


Most hostels have a communal kitchen where guests can cook their meals. This is a great way to save money and try out local ingredients. Remember to label your food, clean up after yourself, and respect other guests’ space and time.

Laundry Facilities

Having access to laundry facilities is a big plus, especially for long-term travelers. Make sure to follow the hostel’s guidelines for using these facilities and be considerate of others who need to use them as well.

Common Areas

Common areas are the social hubs of hostels. These can include lounges, game rooms, and outdoor spaces like patios or gardens. Use these areas to relax, socialize, and meet new people.

Local Experiences

One of the joys of hostel living is the opportunity to immerse yourself in local culture. Hostels often provide resources and information about local attractions and activities.

Guided Tours

Many hostels offer or can arrange guided tours of local attractions. These tours are a great way to learn about the area and meet other travelers.

Local Events

Check with the hostel staff about any local events happening during your stay. Festivals, markets, and cultural events can provide a deeper understanding of the local culture.

Budgeting for Hostel Living

Budgeting for Hostel Living

While hostels are generally more affordable than hotels, it’s still important to budget your expenses. Here are some tips for managing your finances while staying in hostels.

Accommodation Costs

Factor in the cost of the hostel stay as a significant part of your travel budget. Look for hostels that offer discounts for longer stays or memberships.

Food and Drink

Cooking your meals in the hostel kitchen can save a lot of money. However, don’t miss out on trying local cuisine at nearby restaurants or street food vendors.

Activities and Sightseeing

Plan and budget for activities you want to do. You’ll be able to take public transportation on your tours, you won’t run into poorly-made sightseeing experiences riding on an aluminum car trailer. Some hostels also offer discounts or package deals for local attractions and tours.

Working and Volunteering in Hostels

For travelers looking to extend their stay or reduce costs, working or volunteering in hostels can be a great option.

Work Exchange Programs

Many hostels offer work exchange programs where you can work a few hours a day in exchange for free accommodation. Tasks can include cleaning, reception duties, or organizing activities.

Volunteer Opportunities

Some hostels partner with local organizations for volunteer opportunities. This can be a rewarding way to give back to the community and enhance your travel experience.

Addressing Common Concerns

Hostel living can come with some concerns, especially for first-time travelers. Here are answers to some common questions.


Privacy can be limited in hostels, especially in dorm rooms. Opt for hostels that offer privacy curtains on beds or book a private room if privacy is a priority. Other structures such as sheds help improve this aspect as well.


While hostels strive to maintain cleanliness, the standards can vary. Reading reviews and choosing highly rated hostels can help ensure a clean environment.


Most hostels are safe, but it’s important to take precautions. Use lockers, avoid displaying valuables, and follow the hostel’s safety guidelines.

Beyond the Hostel: Exploring the Local Area

While hostels are a great base, exploring the local area can enhance your travel experience. This guide to hostel living includes tips on how to make the most of your time outside the hostel.

Public Transportation

Familiarize yourself with the local public transportation options. Whether it’s buses, trains, or trams, using public transport can be an affordable and efficient way to explore. No need to contact a train accident lawyer; enjoy safe and comfortable transportation on your travels.

Walking and Biking

Exploring on foot or by bike allows you to experience the local area more intimately. Many hostels offer bike rentals or can recommend nearby walking routes.

Local Attractions

Take advantage of your hostel’s location to visit nearby attractions. Whether it’s museums, parks, or historic sites, there’s always something to see and do.

Specialty Hostels

Hostels come in various styles and cater to different interests. Some specialize in particular themes or activities.

Eco-Friendly Hostels

For environmentally conscious travelers, eco-friendly hostels offer sustainable accommodation options. These hostels often use renewable energy sources, recycle waste, and promote eco-friendly practices.

Adventure Hostels

Adventure hostels cater to thrill-seekers and outdoor enthusiasts. They often organize activities like hiking, surfing, or kayaking and provide information on local adventure sports.

Boutique Hostels

Boutique hostels offer a more stylish and upscale hostel experience. They combine the social atmosphere of a hostel with the comfort and amenities of a boutique hotel.

Real-Life Hostel Living Stories

Hearing about other travelers’ experiences can provide inspiration and insight. Here are a few real-life stories that highlight the diverse and enriching experiences that hostel living can offer.

Backpacking in Europe

Maria, a solo traveler from Spain, shares her experience backpacking through Europe. She stayed in hostels in cities like Paris, Berlin, and Rome, where she met people from all over the world. “The best part about hostel living is the sense of community,” Maria says. “I made friends who I still keep in touch with today.”

Volunteering in South America

John, an American traveler, spent six months volunteering in hostels across South America. He worked in exchange for accommodation, allowing him to travel on a tight budget. “Volunteering in hostels gave me a deeper connection to the places I visited,” John explains. “I learned so much about the local culture and made lasting friendships.”

Road Tripping in Australia

Emily and her friends embarked on a road trip across Australia, staying in hostels along the way. They found hostels that catered to travelers with vehicles, offering amenities like parking and even garage floor covering for their car. “Staying in hostels made our road trip affordable and fun,” Emily recalls. “We met other travelers who gave us great tips and made the journey even more memorable.”

Incorporating Hostel Living into Different Travel Styles

Hostel living can fit into various travel styles, whether you’re a digital nomad, an adventure seeker, or traveling with family. This guide to hostel living provides tips for different types of travelers.

Digital Nomads

For digital nomads, hostels offer affordable accommodation and opportunities to connect with other remote workers. Look for hostels with reliable Wi-Fi, coworking spaces, and a quiet atmosphere conducive to work.

Adventure Seekers

Adventure seekers will find hostels to be a great base for exploring the outdoors. Many hostels cater to adventure travelers by offering information on local activities, gear rentals, and even organizing group excursions.

Family Travelers

Traveling with family can be enjoyable in hostels that offer family rooms and child-friendly amenities. Some hostels provide activities for children and spaces where families can relax and enjoy their stay.

Making the Transition from Hostels to Apartments

For travelers who plan to settle down in one location for an extended period, transitioning from hostel living to apartment leasing might be the next step. Here are some tips for making that transition smoothly.

Finding an Apartment

Look for local listings online or visit real estate agencies in your area of interest. Websites like Craigslist, Zillow, and local real estate sites can be valuable resources.

Budgeting for the Move

Moving into an apartment involves additional costs such as deposits, utilities, and furnishing. Plan your budget accordingly and save up while staying in the hostel.

Furnishing Your Space

Once you’ve found an apartment, you’ll need to furnish it. Visit local bedroom furniture stores for essentials and consider second-hand shops or online marketplaces for more affordable options.

Practical Tips for Hostel Living

To wrap up this guide to hostel living, here are some practical tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable stay.

Staying Organized

Keep your belongings organized to make your stay more comfortable. Use packing cubes or organizers to separate your items and keep track of your essentials.

Maintaining Hygiene

Good hygiene is important in shared spaces. Always clean up after yourself, whether in the kitchen, bathroom, or dorm room. Use a laundry bag to keep dirty clothes separate from clean ones.

Managing Your Budget

Hostel living can be affordable, but it’s still important to manage your budget. Cook your meals, take advantage of free activities, and use public transportation to keep costs down.

Living in a hostel can be an incredibly rewarding experience, offering the chance to meet people from around the world, save money, and explore new places. This beginner’s guide to hostel living aims to provide you with the knowledge and confidence to make the most of your hostel stay. By choosing the right hostel, packing wisely, and engaging with fellow travelers, you’ll create unforgettable memories and enrich your travel experience.

Whether you’re exploring a new city, staying near a trout habitat for some fishing, or just looking for a budget-friendly way to travel, hostels offer a unique and valuable accommodation option. With this guide to hostel living, you’re well-equipped to embark on your next adventure with confidence and excitement. Safe travels and happy hostel living!

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