I, along with many other backpackers, swear by hostels. I won’t explain the reasons here as I’ve already got a separate post dedicated why I think hostels are better than hotels. This post is for those who are ready to dive into the world of hostel accommodation but would like a few tips and tricks for an easier and better experience.

A Beginners Guide to Hostels

Talk To Reception

The guys at reception know what they are doing (most of the time). They are also usually very friendly and keen to help you and improve your visit. Hostels often have a map at reception and if you ask the reception staff will talk you through it. They will point out the must see spots and recommend good food or drink deals nearby. I often use this map when I want to just go for a wander around town. The hostel may also have great deals of their own so it’s worth talking to them as you could save money.

Bottom Bunk Goals

This isn’t often something you can control. Most of the times bunks in dorm rooms are randomly assigned or on a first come first serve basis. If you do arrive to a choice including both top and bottom bunks though, always go for the bottom bunk. If you are on the top bunk you will climb up to your bed only to realise you’ve forgotten something you want or need. Then you will have to climb back down to get it. This will happen at least 3 times a day. Also if you just want to sit down briefly you’ll have to climb up to your bed or sit on the floor. There are also occasionally really annoying people on the bottom bunk. These people put their bag at the bottom of the ladder making climbing up or down much harder than needed.

Spend Time In The Common Room

So you want to stay in a hostel to meet new people? Well that won’t happen if you stay in your room the whole time. Sure you might talk to a few people in your dorm, but there are only so many people you share a room with. Your chances are improved greatly by hanging out in the common areas. There’s also a lot more happening there then in your room. If I’m not sleeping or getting ready, I am in the common area. I might be reading, writing in my journal or just people watching but soon enough I will be talking to someone new.

When I was staying at a hostel in Beijing I was hanging out in the common area the night before my Great Wall hike. I got talking to a woman and her little girl who are travelling around the world together for a year. It turns out they totally want to join me on my 10km hike from the Wild Wall to a Restored section. I wasn’t going with a tour, it was just transport to and from the wall I had booked. But as I had paid for the vehicle it was the same price whether it was just me or three of us. So I ended up saving a bunch of money by splitting the cost with them. Plus I got great company for the day. All just because I wrote my journal whilst sat in the common room rather than in my dorm room.

Sunrise at Byron Bay


Hostels often provide lockers so that if you are travelling with valuables you can lock them up in your dorm room. Obviously lockers are only really any use if you’ve got a padlock to lock them up with. Hostels will often sell or loan them out but it will be cheaper if you bring your own. It means you can also lock up your bag when you are travelling in between hostels. Always get a combination padlock though otherwise you will undoubtedly lose the key. Then not even you will be able to get to your valuables. Also it’s worth noting you should have a TSA approved padlock if you use it whilst flying. This means if required they can check your bag without breaking your padlock.

Travel Towel

Hostels don’t offer the same luxuries as hotels and therefore you won’t be provided with a soft white fluffy towel. You will need to bring your own. Towels however can take up a lot of room in your bag and also take ages to dry. This is why many travellers opt for the travel towel. It is lightweight and takes up minimal space in your bag and dries really fast whilst still being a functional towel.


What are your tips for newbies to hostel life?