Hostel life, getting used to it – is Part 1 of the Traveling realism’s series

Hostel Life.

One of the biggest adjustments to backpacking life will be getting used to hostel life and sharing dorm rooms. Before you travel thoughts like “What’s my hostel going to be like?”, “Will it be safe?”, “What are the people going to be like?”, “Will it be clean?”, “Will I get along with my Roommates?”, (I’m sure there are plenty more running through your head.)

hostel life


It would be easy for me, a long-term traveler who’s more used to hostels than my own house, to say they are not as scary or daunting as they first seem. I can tell you everybody in the hostel is a backpacker too and they were all in your situation at one point. Or most cases everybody is there for the same reason. However it would be grossly unfair to say that.

The uncertainty.

All those questions you have are justified because until you actually walk through the doors, you’re not going to know what to expect. In most cases you might do some research and book a hostel you’ve like the look of and hope for the best. (I use hostel world when booking hostels.) Even though you might have a vague idea of the place, two people can walk into the same hostel and have completely different experiences.


First reactions.

A first day in a new hostel can be like the first day in a new school. You might be excited, might be confident, you might have butterflies, might be nervous, or it might even be a little overwhelming at first. There might be some initial uncertainty, feel a little out-of-place but don’t worry it’s completely normal to feel like this.

As soon as you walk through the doors, your brain will start taking snapshots, trying to process everything. Your eyes will flick from left to right trying to gage an idea, is it big, small, social, clean, appealing? You’ll find yourself watching other backpackers; how they interact with each other, if they are friendly with each other, what the atmosphere is like and if you’ll fit in here. All of this will happen within the first few minutes and you might just find yourself in a bit of a daze.

What you might notice is, while you’re trying to take everything in, other backpackers have actually got their eyes on you, they will be wondering who you are, what you’re like. You will be the wide-eyed, fresh face ‘newbie’ and backpackers can spot a ‘newbie a mile off. Don’t worry we were all one once.

Dorm rooms.

If you’ve never had to share a room before, dorms can take some getting used to. There are so many different variables, like people having different levels of cleanliness. YES dorm rooms can smell; some worse than others! There will be people with different sleep patterns, some people will want the room hot and others cold. Some people will like it quiet, others will be noisy. You will have to get used to sleeping on a bunk bed, thickness’ of mattresses, will your bunk be sturdy or fragile, quiet or like it’s going to fall apart every time you move.

Then there’s the personal space; some people do not understand it! You should always remember, you have paid for the bed, not the room. The room is communal, so there is some hostel etiquette to bare in mind. Keep your bag(s) close to your bunk, don’t just dump them in the middle of the dorm. When you want to use a plug, charge one thing at a time not everything at once. Even though hostels are generally safe places, your own items are your responsibility so keep them safe. Respect others in your room, if somebody is sleeping through the day, keep your noise down.

Dorms are also great places to make friends. In most cases the people in your room will be the first people you meet, so don’t be afraid to say hi. You might find one of your room mates could turn into your guide for your first few days, they might introduce you to other backpackers, help you get settled and used to the place. However if there’s somebody who doesn’t want to talk, don’t take it to heart, they might just be having a bad day.

Sharing spaces.

Hostels are communal, so you will be sharing everything not just the dorm and this takes some getting used to.

Oh yes, that means sharing bathrooms and showers which is not always fun. You have to get used to timing when the best time to shower is so you can get hot water, remembering to not leave your toiletries lying around (they will get used.) Don’t get me wrong, some hostels are very clean, bathrooms are cleaned on a regular basis but you will come across some that are not well-kept. This is just one of those things about traveling you have to deal with (unless you want to clean it yourself)

hostel life

Most hostels come equipped with a kitchen; the place were most arguments and theft happens in a hostel. Sharing a kitchen can be one of the most frustrating things, especially when people don’t clean up after themselves. General rule of thumb; if you use it, clean it. Also even though the kitchen and utensils are communal, an individual’s food is not; don’t just help yourself to things that are not yours! If you want to borrow something, just ask. You will also have to get used to cooking around each other, there will be time you want to cook and you walk in to find the kitchen full, you just have to bide your time. The longer you stay in the hostel, you’ll start to learn when quiet and busy periods are.


In general hostels are very social places, there are different types of hostels that attract specific backpackers. You’ll know what type of backpacker you are, and what type of hostel you’re looking for, whether it’s a quite place, small and homelike, or if you want a party hostel.

It doesn’t matter what type you feel most comfortable in, there will always be a social aspect to it, some will just be in communal areas where you can meet and talk to other travelers. In others you just have to share a beer with another traveler to make friends.

There are plenty of hostels that organize events, trips, tours, nights out and even things like BBQ’s and movie nights at the hostel, these are great when your new to meet other backpackers.

Sometimes it can feel daunting to walk into a new environment and make friends with people, especially if others have been there a long time. And yes, some hostel friend groups can be quite clicky but don’t be afraid to try to make friends. Something I learnt a very long time ago, the easiest way to make friends in a hostel is to share a beer and talk about general things. Backpackers hate being asked the same recycled questions; How long you traveling for? What’s your route? Where have you been? …Blah, blah, blah… See to you these are all new questions, you want to know and find out so much as you’re new but to other travelers these are the same questions that get asked day in and day out. You will be in the same position one day, you’ll get used to it.

Be open-minded.

Getting used to hostels initially can be quite difficult, especially if you’re exposed to things you’re not used to back home. You will see and hear things, experience things that are not accepted in normal life. In a hostel environment you need to have an open mind, don’t be fussy about little things, don’t see a hostel as a hotel, things are not always perfect, things will break or not work properly so don’t be a hostel snob. There will be hostels you’re in where people are drinking and getting drunk from morning till night, people might be openly taking drugs, people will be having sex in dorms or in bathrooms; sorry but in hostels anything and everything can happen.

You might even stay in a hostel that has long-term, people who seemingly do nothing but lounge around the hostel all day. You shouldn’t judge or think less of them, maybe they have already done their travels and just want to relax now, or they simply just don’t want to travel anymore but at the same time they don’t want to go home. Everybody has their own story and own reason’s to why they are there.

Sometimes hostels can become a vortex, you kind of forget about anything going on outside, to some people hostels are more than just a place to sleep before they move on to the next place.

Before you know it, you won’t be getting used to hostels, they will just become a part of your travels. Some places will be just a flying stop, a bed to sleep in for a few nights and others will become like homes to you.


I hope this helps you get used to hostel life, I will be publishing a more detailed hints and tips page on hostel living in the future, which will be available to read on the 1st June.

In the meantime check out travel F.Y.I’s they will help you for your trip.

Let me know what you thought to this post, is it helpful? Is there anything you would like me to cover or think I’ve missed off?

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  1. I live in a hostel.The hostel is my home.The pictures you have put up looked so cosy which paints a very rosy picture of hostel life.Even though hostel life is tough and requires a lot of adjustment,it can be great fun and it gives you friends and memories which will last for a lifetime

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  3. So I’ve only stayed in a hostel a handful of times and it was never solo, and we barely spent time in except to sleep. This post comes with the good, the bad and the low down nasty that goes on! I don’t know if I would be okay with giving up personal space to strangers but I guess you definitely adapt and at some point just go with the flow! I also get very anxious socializing (which hasn’t been an issue yet since I’ve barely traveled solo), it takes me a while or a few drinks!

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  5. I’m actually the same as Medha above – I have never stayed in a hostel, and don’t like the idea of sharing a room. That said, I have got a room booked for a hostel in Iceland for December – so let’s see how I get on with that! x

    • Sharing rooms in hostels can go either way, a bit like marmite either love it or hate it haha. Saying that hostel experiences can be great, it’s more the vibe of the hostel, how social it is. In some countries I’ve had a better time in the hostel than with the actual place I’m in. I know it sounds weird. I hope you have a good experience in your hostel in Iceland 😀

  6. I have actually never stayed in a hostel before and I’m, unfortunately, not one of those who likes to share a room 🙁 Strangely, I’ve always had my own space, living at home with my parents or even after I started working and had to rent a house with a coworker. I’ve rarely travelled alone but now that I’ve started to, it’s something I have to consider, I cannot keep paying for a full room, it’s so much more economical to stay In a hostel. I am worried about adjusting to that sort of space sharing though, don’t know if I’ll manage. Your post will surely come in handy if I ever do !

  7. I don’t mind hostels for short bursts of time, but I always need to break it up with short stays in private rooms or else I go absolutely nuts! My least favourite things are there not being enough powerpoints for everyone to charge their devices, and how gross the bathrooms always are! I also think that bunks should always have curtains around them, it’s not that hard to install!

  8. I think the best thing about a hostel is the fact you can socialize with people in the lobby/living room or in the dorm room if you select that option. It is a great way of meeting like minded people who love to explore the world. I’ve found you can also pay a bit more and get a room for one or two people if you prefer sleeping on your own.

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  10. All valid points. Once I stayed in hostel in India and wrote about it on my blog. Hostel stay is totally different from hotel. If I get a clean and safe hostel, I prefer it any day to hotel because you meet and interact with people. This is one of the best experience, while traveling.

    • Hi thanks for the comment, and, yeah you’re completely right, I think sometimes people don’t realize that sometimes you will have a better experience in a hostel and with the people you meet over the actual destination.

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