I remember one of the very first hostels I stayed in. It was in Costa Rica at Playa Jaco. There were two tiny cots in a room about the size of a closet. The mattresses (if you can call them that) were as thin as sleeping bags and had springs that had uncoiled and poked you if you didn’t lay just right. There was a tiny space, possibly a bathroom…only it wasn’t the size of a small closet and you could take a shower while peeing in the toilet. It was gross, it was rougher than camping, I loved it! I loved that though I was a recent college grad, with almost zero money, I could afford to stay on a beautiful beach in Costa Rica at nine bucks a night. It was wonderful, and I guarantee you, because I am such a light sleeper, I didn’t sleep at all that first night. I do remember the exhilarating feeling after surviving the first few hostels I stayed in. I felt adventurous and free.
I have stayed in quite a few more hostels since, and some worse off than that first one. I do like being comfortable though, I really do. The older I get the harder it has been to let go of my comforts while traveling and enjoy the adventure. And staying in hostels is quite an adventure in itself! You never know quite what to expect! And yet there are some things I wish I knew about when I first started staying in hostels, that would have made my experiences slightly more comfortable.
- Invest in a good pair of earplugs.
If you are a light sleeper like me, any noise can wake you up at night. Other travelers are always getting to the hostel late, either they just got there or they were out partying. Don’t think earplugs work for you? I didn’t either, until I moved to a new apartment which was made out of cardboard. After getting zero sleep for the first three nights because my upstairs neighbor participated in midnight zumba (and remember the floors are made out of cardboard), I went to the store and bought every kind of earplug they had. I believe it was 6 different kinds of earplugs. They were all crap! Except for one, and that’s all I needed. Mack’s Silicone Putty Earplugs have contributed to many blissful nights of sleep for me whether traveling or at home. Thank you Mack.
- You need an eye mask.
I know they look silly, but they have a purpose. You might end up by a window with no curtain and a beautiful bright lamp post, right outside. Also there are travelers who do not understand that in order to sleep some people need it to be dark. Then there are others that don’t arrive till late and need to unpack, so they turn on the light. That has been me on several occasions. I don’t like to wake someone else up so I will use my phone’s flashlight. Not all people are as considerate, and nor should they have to be, they are the reason you get a cheap place to stay. So don’t get all frustrated with your fellow travelers for waking you up. Invest in an eye mask, it will save you some annoyance for sure. Also try to get a comfortable one, not a cheap one. This eye mask is amazing! If you have to wear it all night it might as well be comfortable!
- A travel towel like this one from REI is such a luxury!
Ha! Can you imagine? Having a clean towel is a luxury! I LOVE mine, I bought it at REI and it takes up little space and I never have to worry about renting a towel or using a shirt as a towel. Sigh, it’s a hostel-stayer’s dream come true! I just wish I had known about these 10 years ago! Oh! And they also make robes out of this material!! Like this one. I am drooling over this! I would buy it instead of the towel. Perfect for shared bathrooms. Ha ha, though I am not sure I would wear the robe outside to get to the shared bathroom, but most people would, I am just weird like that.
- Buy a lock for safety.
Though sometimes you might have to rent a lock, because of the size differences of the lockers at hostels, you should be ok with just one nice lock. Take it with you, you’ll sleep better with all your valuables locked away.
- Flip Flops.
Dirty, slimy, fungus infested tile floors…need I say more? Don’t use a public shower without them.
- Headphones and a hat, at the same time.
There are going to be occasions that you don’t want to talk to anybody, you want to be left alone, you want to read, or write, or sit and dream about Jonathan Taylor Thomas or ice scream. Whatever the reason, nothing says “I need some quiet time” like a hat and headphones.
- Bring your own pillowcase.
You don’t have to bring a pillow. But depending on what hostel you stay at, if it’s a tiny bit on the dirty side and you’re just not sure if the pillow is, ahem, clean, it’s peace of mind to have your own pillow case.
- Get a small bottle of Lavender essential oil.
This is the last one, and you probably don’t have to have it. But I found it makes all my trips more pleasant and comfortable. If I am stressed, worried, or can’t sleep, I rub a bit of lavender oil on my neck or put some on my pillow. It may not make everything ok, but it does help relax you, and it’s known for helping people get some zzz’s.Hopefully these tips are helpful for your next adventure! I’d love to hear of anything else you’ve found essential for staying in hostels. Happy travels!