As a solo female traveler, I have stayed in a number of hostels, I have even lived in a hostel for a month in Berlin while I was looking for a place and settling in. People (by people I mean Americans) who have never stayed in a hostel often share their concerns on hostel living with me,
“Are people going to steal my stuff?”
“Are men going to look at me naked?”
“Will I get cut up and murdered like in the movie hostel?”
My answers are no, no, no.
If you have not stayed in a hostel before, don’t be scared, it is nothing like the movie. Hostels are actually my preferred form of accommodation as they are clean, CHEAP (I stayed in a hostel in Berlin for a month for 10 Euro a night with breakfast included), and full of other young-English-speaking people and other solo travelers. I have made long term friendships at hostels, and found people to go on little day trips, do some sightseeing, or party with for the night.
The beauty of staying at the hostel is that you can be as social as you like. If you want to sleep, sleep. If you want to party, you can party. There will likely be someone there for you to get along with, and if there’s not, people are always coming and going, and you never have to see them again if you hate them!
Remember that everyone is in the same situation with privacy and concerns about their belongings, so as far as I have experienced, everyone is respectful, and will mind your space if you mind theirs. I have never had a problem just locking my suitcase during the day, I figure if you want to steal my entire suitcase, so be it. There are also lockers available, and if you bring your own padlock, or rent one, you can lock your valuables away securely.
If you are a woman, there are all female dorms available, however, I have never had a problem in a mixed dorm. The guys staying in the rooms have been fun and social, and aren’t trying to look at you naked, unless you are a willing of course. The bathrooms are divided by sex, so you can shower and change there if need be. But a lot of times, there is no one in the room, and you can go ahead and change quickly. I pick out my outfit before the shower so I am not digging through my bag.
If you stay in a hotel, as opposed to a hostel, you will not meet anyone. People at hotels are not looking to meet other travelers, and most likely everyone staying at hotels will be 30 years older than you. Hostels allow you to get the best of the city, with other young travelers, and will allow you to create important travel networks, and lifelong friendships.
But, you will need to pack a few things you may not have to pack for a hotel:
Here is what to bring:
- Towel (this I always forget, you can often rent this)
- Flip flops for the shower
- Hairdryer (you can also usually borrow from someone or the reception)
- Outlet converters
- A padlock
- Locks for your suitcase (multiple keys in multiple hidden locations)
- A small first aid kit (optional but probably a good idea)
Some General Advice:
- Book your hostel on hostelworld.com, but also check the hostels website itself because I have found cheaper rates occasionally on the hostel’s website.
- Do a little research, if you want to party, google “best party hostels in CITY NAME” or quietest, most central, etc. Read people’s reviews and decide from there.
- Check how far your hostel is where you are staying. Get online and figure out where the hostel is from either the train station or airport depending on how you are arriving. I usually draw myself a little map with directions on how to get there in case I can’t get on wifi.
- If you can’t check in right away, you can stow your bags at the hostel and head out to the city. Same goes for checkout day. Hostels are more than accommodating with check in and check out times.
- Ask for city advice at reception. They will be able to give you a little map and tell you what the best sites are to see. Often there are “free” walking tours (you give a tip at the end) leaving from the hostel. This is a perfect way to orient yourself with the city and they have been very informative.
- Organize and lock your things. You will want to keep your stuff organized, locked, and put away. I usually leave out my sleeping clothes and toiletries for when I arrive back at night so I don’t have to shuffle through late at night while others may be sleeping.
- Sleep next to your wallet. I usually put my wallet and valuables on my bed right next to my head just to be safe. I attached my suitcase key to my wallet, and knew that it was secure there as well.
- Make friends at night. Go down to the hostel bar and start talking. This is a good way to make plans for the next day if you are traveling solo and want some sightseeing buddies. It is also the best way for you to go out that night and have a great time! You never know who you will meet, and I have been introduced to interesting nightlife this way.
- Cook for yourself. There is almost always a little kitchen where you can cook a basic meal. This saves money, and the sometimes loneliness of eating at a restaurant alone. But mostly, the money saved is huge!
- I hope these tips were helpful, and you are able to take advantage of the wonderful hostel life. I have stayed in hostels in Europe and North America and have only gotten one bad one, and even that wasn’t so bad. There is always the opportunity to move if you really hate where you are staying, or if you are uncomfortable in your room reception is very accommodating. Hostel travel will save you a ton of money on hotels, and allow you to have a more authentic visit to the city you are in while meeting other like-minded travelers.