Written by Jess Signet – Photos by Jess Signet
Hostels in Europe are on the rise. With so many people jumping on the trail and heading off to experience everything this wonderfully varied and vibrant continent has to offer, the dorms are filling up and new and exciting hostels are springing up all over the place.
However, for those new to traveling in this way, this influx in hostelers could pose a bit of a problem. Navigating your way through the streams of experienced travelers and ensuring you have a worthwhile and comfortable stay requires a few pointers…
Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of some essential tips and tricks to consider, and live by, when hosteling in Europe. No matter which country, city or point of the compass you decide to travel to, these essential factors will help ensure that you survive your stay, no matter what happens!
Tips on Surviving the Hostels in Europe
What to Pack
The first trick to surviving hostels in Europe is packing for them! There’s a delicate balance, when traveling by any means, between packing light and making sure you have everything you need. This is especially true when hosteling. More often than not you’re bundled in a room with several other people and very little storage space. You may be provided with a locker but in most cases that will be it.
Trying to narrow down your list to the bare essentials, things that you can re-use regularly and things that save space is an important practice. There are many great hostel-packing lists available on the internet, so do your research and make sure you have it honed down as much as possible. Not only will this save you in the hostel, it will also be a godsend when lugging your backpack around the cramped rail networks of Europe!
A Lesson in Valuables
Whether to bring valuables along with you when traveling is always worth consideration, particularly when staying in hostels. As much as the majority of people you stay with will be honest, genuine and good, you can never be 100 percent certain, so it’s always worth being cautious.
Some valuables, such as passports and travel documents, are unavoidable and there are some great benefits of traveling with a laptop, tablet or camera. So, if you do decide you want these bits of technology in your arsenal, be sure to keep them to a minimum and avoid having them on display (such as in obviously designed laptop bags). Also, try to aim for hostels in Europe with lockable storage or ask the reception desk if they can look after items for you when you leave the room.
It’s also important to protect yourself virtually when hosteling, as shared WiFi systems are unsecured. Be sure you have good anti-virus software and a Virtual Private Network (VPN) installed on to your device. Both of these programs help protect your data from malicious hackers and could save you from a digital disaster.
Picking The Best One
There’s a delicate art to choosing the right hostel for you. Alongside the obvious price range and location, things to consider include the size, the atmosphere and the activities on offer. Some hostels have reputations for being “party hostels,” which is great if you want to focus on meeting new friends and trying the local alcohol, but not ideal if you’re looking for a relaxing and quiet time away.
Similarly, some places are overtly family orientated while others cater for lone backpackers, so finding the right atmosphere is important. There are many hostel comparison websites, such as Hostelworld, that allow you to search all the hostels in any one area and notate ratings on certain elements, such as cleanliness, value for money, etc. They also provide a detailed list of facilities, allowing you to target hostels in Europe that match your needs and have reviews from previous guests to help you get a feel of what your time there will be like.
To Dorm or Not To Dorm
One of the biggest elements to consider when booking hostels in Europe is whether you want to choose a dorm room or not. It’s definitely true that the 10- to 12-bed rooms are a lot cheaper and a much better place to meet a wide variety of people; however, they’re usually the noisiest, messiest and the most likely place for your possessions to go walk about!
On the flip side, staying in a single room—although it guarantees you a certain level or privacy—sometimes isolates you from the hostel environment and often results in you missing out on experiences and the opportunity to get to know other travelers. Many hostels offer a midway option that involves rooms for 4 to 6 people, so it’s best to consider what’s most important to you and make an informed decision.
A lot of the time it’s possible to switch between rooms, so if you arrive and find you’ve made the wrong choice, then simply inquire with a staff member to see if there’s a resolution.
Getting Enough Sleep
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, no hostel visit is perfected without a few tactics on how to ensure yourself a good night’s sleep. As previously mentioned, hostels have the potential to be very loud. Whether it’s the group arriving back from the local bar crawl in the early hours or the people in the beds next to you getting up at 6 a.m. to get themselves packed and ready for their journey to their next destination, living with such a large amount of travelers is bound to result in one thing: noise.
Even if you opt out of the dorm rooms, the banging of doors and wandering up and down corridors in the night can be enough to affect your sleeping patterns. If this is something that really matters to you, there are some hostels that employ specific curfews for this reason. Otherwise, investing in a good pair of earplugs, and maybe even a sleep mask, should be enough to block out any nighttime disturbances.
The popularity of hostels in Europe can be a nightmare, but with a few simple steps and inside advice, you can quickly and easily learn to survive AND thrive as a backpacker. Most importantly, you’ll be able to focus on the part of your adventure that really matters: ENJOYING IT!
If you have any more tips for hosteling in Europe, then be sure to leave a comment below and help fellow travelers improve their own journeys!
Jess Signet is an avid traveler and enjoys writing about her adventures. As a budget traveler she is no stranger to the hostel scene and hopes these tips will make your adventures even more enjoyable. Read more about her adventures around the world on her site – Tripelio.