I talked to my roommates in Dublin and began to compile things that I would have liked to know for my first stay in a hostel. I do highly recommend hostel stays—much cheaper, you meet people from all over the world, you can cook your own food and save money and there’s community if you want there to be.
Hope you find this list helpful. Please add to it in Comments as I’m sure I didn’t get it all as my hostel experience is limited to 2 hostels in Ireland.
Ten Tips for Making the Most of Your Hostel Stay
Do your research.
Check out hostels online using a site like http://www.hostelworld.com and choose one with high ratings and good reviews for the features that matter to you most. The best hostels are often not the most expensive.
Choose smaller rooms.
If it’s only a few dollars more than a larger dorm, choose a 4-bed, 6-bed or 8-bed room. You’ll have less of a wait for the bathroom and shower, it will be quieter and generally more secure.
Find an inexpensive nearby market.
Unless you plan to dine out all the time, you will need to buy some food right away. Most hostels provide a very simple breakfast of cold cereal and toast but you’re on your own for lunch, dinner and snacks. Things like single-packs of hot chocolate or microwave popcorn can be the perfect snack at the end of day of sightseeing.
Download a movie or two before you leave.
Sometimes you may want to just watch a movie. I found that the hostels’ DVDs didn’t work in my U.S. computer so I rented a couple of movies from iTunes. You can download them and watch them without wifi so you can watch them from anywhere. You can usually watch the hostel’s movie selection on the common area television and DVD player, but other people may be watching something else. It’s nice to have your own movies and mobile device. I also brought a splitter, which allows two people to plug in their own headphones so you can watch the same movie from your device with a friend.
Bring a device that has wifi.
I loved having my laptop but for some people that is too cumbersome. While other people had to wait for their 30 minutes of free internet per day on the hostel’s computers, or pay for time, I had unlimited access via the high-speed wifi available in the common areas. It gave me the freedom to research weather, sights I wanted to see, look for an apartment, watch a movie, etc. Most hostels will lock up your laptop or tablet, portable hard drive, passport and other valuables when you’re not using them.
Bedtime Kit. This needs to be accessible so that you can find it easily in the dark and contains your toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, face cleanser, moisturizer, washcloth, etc. for the times you come in after the lights are out in your room.
Morning Kit. This contains those things you need to get ready for the day. Often your roommates will be sleeping in and you will create less disturbance if you have a bag that’s easy to grab and go. Pack what you need for your shower, your makeup, skin care and your clothes for the day so that you can get dressed in the bathroom.
Wifi Access Kit. As a blogger, I found that I liked to have a bag that contained my camera wires to transfer pictures to my laptop, power adapters, headphones, etc. so that I had everything I needed when I used the wifi access that is usually only available in common areas, typically on the hostel’s main floor.
Ask your hostel staff for advice.
They know the area and they work with travelers like you every day. Email or call them in advance with any questions.
Talk to people.
You have the opportunity to live with, dine with and hang out with people that are, by the vast majority, friendly and trustworthy.
Save money by cooking together. If you find people that are at the hostel for several days, ask if they want to buy and cook food together. You’ll save a ton of money and create memorable experiences.
Mix it up.
If you’re in a group, invite another group to go with yours and take a walking tour of interesting places. If you’re alone, talk to other people who are on their own as well and go see the sights together. And don’t forget to meet local people. Most of your hostel mates will be from other countries or other parts of the country you’re in. Be sure to get out and about and talk to local people too. Strike up a conversation and learn about their country from their perspective. Maybe they’ll invite you to see the area with them, which can be much more fun and informative.