Hostels of the World: What to Expect and How to Survive
things are as enjoyable as hanging out, local brew in hand, on the roof
of a semi-run down but really friendly and brightly painted hostel in
the middle of a major foreign city.
usually sharing laughs with like-minded travelers you met two hours
before. And, often, somewhere within a block or two, you can see the
brightly lit sign of a Hilton, Holiday Inn or other major hotel.
whether that hotel has a roof deck or not, chances are it’s not filled
with new friends buying each other rounds. And there’s no doubt, it’s 10
times as expensive as your friendly little hostel. To this day, I can’t
figure out why anyone would want to stay there.
there is, of course, a cost to staying in the middle of the Charles
River in the heart of Prague for $20 bucks a night: The Hostel Dorm.
Yes, to get that cheap rate you have to sleep with anywhere from four to 40 people. And not in the fun way.
But with a little preparation and the right attitude, the benefits far outweigh the meager costs.
What to Expect
if you’ve never stayed in one, it’s essentially a college dorm writ
large: Rows of three-high bunk beds, shared bathrooms and piles of backpacks,
lots of shoes and the occasional short-term relationship. Good hostels
also have lockers or lockable drawers to store your stuff.
Upsides and Hassles
upside of staying in any hostel dorm is the cost. Usually it’s half the
price of a hostel’s few private rooms and often a tenth or more of the
cost of staying in a traditional nearby hotel.
other upside is community. If there’s no hostel bar or community space,
the dorm is where everyone hangs out. It’s where you hear about that
local house party, the best club or the hike everyone is going on the
next day. It’s better than a guidebook, the social cloud info is free
and it’s a good time.
downside of all that community is, actually, all that community. If
you’ve been traveling for a while and this is your fifth or sixth hostel
full of new friends, it can get a bit claustrophobic. Everyone needs a
break from the madness eventually.
is noise. Fact is people snore. And snore loudly. You might even be the
snorer and not know it. But either way, someone is going to keep you
awake all night after you have been raging or traveling for 24 hours
dorm dwellers also often seem to forget that they are, in fact, dorm
dwellers. This usually increases proportionally to alcohol intake. Which
means they’ll come back to the dorm at 3 a.m. and immediately dive into
a club-level volume recap of the night’s events. Often with lights on.
can also be kept awake by the occasional dorm room tryst or the group
that has to catch a 4 a.m. train and forgets to pack the night before.
How to Survive and Thrive
over-abundance of community can begin to drive you nuts if you don’t
take a break. But lots of hostels are beginning to recognize this and
have started offering “chill” rooms. It’s just a dedicated space with
hammocks, bean bags, couches, whatever. But the difference is there is
no talking allowed. It’s a place for you to be in your own space. Alone
(kind of) and quite.
Just ask when you book if they have one.
You’ll also need – and these are vital -- an eye mask and ear plugs.
It’s a simple solution. But they really work. You can let the light and
madness shine on, while you remain blissfully in dreamland. An eye mask and ear plugs are also the only way to catch an afternoon nap or sleep late in a busy dorm.
if you are the snorer, bring some ear plugs to hand out. Seriously,
I’ve been in dorms where this was done and everyone was really
appreciative. The guy knew he snored but still wanted the dorm room
deal, so he made sure he didn’t keep everyone else awake. And it worked.
You’ll also want to bring a standard size combo lock and a small luggage lock.
Lots of hostels will give you a locker or drawer space but it’s up to
you to lock it. The cheapest hostels, however, just have beds. So you’ll
want to be able to lock your bag to the bed frame and to use a small
luggage lock or two to secure a few of your bag’s zippered pockets. Most
dorm dwellers are honest. But theft happens.
the best tool you can bring to survive hostel dorm life, however, is a
good attitude. People shout, have sex, turn the lights on, undress,
snore, shake the bunk and generally live there life not on your
schedule. It’s not your space. That’s just the way it is.
Private Rooms / Semi Dorms
final way to survive hostel dorm life is to, well, avoid hostel dorm
life. The best way to go about this is the semi-dorm. Lots of hostels
also offer rooms with four to eight beds.
if you’re traveling with others or meet friends along the way, invite
them to share a smaller dorm room. You’re still sharing your space, but
it’s still way cheaper than a hotel or private room. You’ll also likely
be on the same schedule as your roommates and you’ll know who is
sleeping in the bunk above you.
for the ultimate in comfort, there is always the hostel private room.
They are much more expensive than dorm rooms, but still a fraction of
the cost of a regular hotel. You also get to enjoy the friends, the
community and spirit of hostel life. You’ll part of the cloud, but have
your own space whenever you want it.
Make sure to book in advance, as private hostel rooms are few and far between and often occupied.So
despite the occasional restless night and bodily noises, dorm rooms are
definitely the way to go for the budget traveler. And if someone is
keeping you awake, you can always to go the roof-deck with a local pint
in hand, stare at the Hilton sign two blocks away and count the money