HI Hostels Blog

A newbie’s guide to hostels

Writer, Gretchelle, shares her advice on staying in hostels for the first time

So you’ve picked your destination, booked your flight and now you have the daunting task of figuring out where you are going to rest your head after a long day of adventures. A hotel might be the obvious choice for first time backpackers but looking into hostels can benefit both your wallet and your journey.

Granted, hostels can be a bit intimidating for new travellers if you’ve never stayed in one before and they don’t always get the best reputation thanks to certain horror films. However, put those fears aside and you will find that hostels are a great travel bargain that often come with the same amenities of a hotel and a great built-in network of friendly travelers to welcome you.

To ease newbies into the world of hostelling here is a short guide to help you enjoy your stay:

Before You Go

Garry Knight/Flickr

Many backpackers might not book a room before arriving at the hostel as this gives them more flexibility while traveling. However, new travellers should book ahead as you don’t want to end up in a city only to find that several hostels are fully booked, especially during the busy seasons.  Booking ahead not only ensures you a bed but also a cheaper rate.  For even more discounts, try looking into hostel memberships cards such as the HI Hostels membership. You can get discounted rates at any of the 4,000 HI hostels all over the world as well as discounts on other travel-related spending such as activities and entertainment.

Always check out reviews of hostels before booking and look on different travel sites such as HIHostels.com or TripAdvisor. There are several things you want to look out for when researching hostels. First, you might want to check the room situation. All hostels have different accommodations; some might have only co-ed rooms while others might also have male and female dorms. Some hostels even provide private rooms but these rooms tend to be pricier and often booked quicker. Also check what the hostel will provide for you for free as this can vary from hostels as well. Remember details matter and finding out something as small as if the hostel provides WiFi will save you a headache later.

Location, location, location is everything for the novice hosteller. Hostel locations can range from city centers to the countryside. Of course the location of your hostel is all about what kind of trip you are taking but one important tip to keep in mind is to pick a hostel close to a bus stop, train station or subway entrance. You may take it for granted now but nothing will be more daunting than a long walk back only to find yourself lost in the middle of the night. Check out reviews online to find out how well the hostel is located to major attractions and how easily it can be accessed via public transportation.

During Your Stay


During your stay make sure you keep courteous of your fellow hostel-mates and keep some helpful etiquette tips in mind. Some hostels have a curfew that helps prevent someone coming in at 4:00 AM and waking up an entire room. If you plan on coming home late try to remember you are not the only one in the room and use a personal light if you need to look for something. You should always keep your personal belongings in your assigned locker and always respect your roommates’ belongings and space. Most hostels will have a dorm style shared bathroom but some might have an ensuite bathroom for roommates to share. Always cleanup after you use the bathroom and let your roommates know if there might be something wrong with the bathroom like a flooding shower or clogged toilet. Although some of these tips might be obvious, you’ll be surprised at how many hostel guests get a bit too comfortable during their stay!

While staying in a hostel is a great experience, it doesn’t hurt to keep cautious. In any reputable hostel safety is still always a concern. But making sure you bring your own lock and listening to your instincts when something is suspicious can help make sure your stay is not only fun but safe also.

What To Bring

Terminals & Gates/Flickr

Packing your clothes for your trip can be stressful and figuring out what to bring to a hostel can be even more stressful. To help ease your stress here are a couple items to throw into your packing list:

  • Travel towel
  • Sleeping bag or sheets (be aware that some hostels won’t allow you to use these)
  • Earplugs/eye mask
  • Locks
  • Flashlight
  • Outlet converters

After Your Stay

The traveling community, from backpackers to tourists, relies on word-of-mouth when planning their trips. Help out your fellow travelers by leaving an honest and through review of the hostels you stay in. Remember this can guarantee you some good travel karma!


Kevin Jaako/Flickr


Gretchelle Gretchelle Quiambao is writer living in Los Angeles and runs the blog, Oh,fancy. She is always looking for her next adventure and the perfect slice of cake. You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

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