It's not unusual to spend a night in a hostel and wonder if you'll even make it out alive. Hostels that you see online often look a lot nicer than they are in real life. No amount of Internet research, or cut/discounted price, will prepare you for the harsh reality that is hostelling. Sharing a room with total strangers is always an adventure in itself - expect three-high bunk beds, questionable shared bathrooms and piles of backpackers, shoes and the occasional one-night fling.
Sometime, throughout all of the madness that occurs in hostels, and you reach your fifth or sixth hostel on your journey, it can be nice to just book a private room (still only about a quarter of the price of the local hotel rooms) and it allows you to have the appropriate night's sleep, alone time and peace and quiet for an affordable price.
Bring an eye mask and ear plugs
A simple solution to always having someone who wants the light on and having people trooping in and out of your room. They also come in handy if you want to catch an afternoon nap. If you are a snorer (there's one in every hostel dorm, we swear), then bring some earplugs to hand out to your dorm mates. Everyone is usually really appreciative, they don't want to be kept awake either.
Bring a standard-sized combo lock and a small luggage lock. Lots of hostels will give you a safe, drawer or locker, but it's up to you whether you use it - if it doesn't look safe, then don't. Lock your bag to the bed frame and use a small luggage lock or two to secure a few of your bag's zippered pockets. Most hostel people are honest but theft does happen, and will if you advertise or leave your valuables out, even if you're just popping to the bathroom. When you sleep, keep your valuables in your pillowcase so that should anyone want to rob you, they'd wake you up in the process.
Invest in some travel-size toiletries like soap, shampoo, toothpaste and other items. Wear light layers so you can 'layer-up' when it gets colder and double your day clothes as pajamas. By packing laundry detergent you can always wear the same clothes, just wash them instead of packing three extra tops and a pair of trousers - it makes sense, it saves space.
Forget personal hygiene
Not completely - a little bit of deodorant never hurt anyone, just don't expect to be able to luxuriate in a hot shower unless you're open to a real life peep show. Wash your hair in the sink, survive off of deodorant, wipes and dry shampoo or find a hostel with single-sex bathrooms.
Travel in a group
Avoid the weird dorm buddies by travelling with your own weird buddies. If you're surrounded by people you know well, safety and fun is almost guaranteed. Book a room in advance and fill the beds (you might also be entitled to some form of discount, it's always worth checking).
Bring a good attitude
People in hostels don't live life on anyone else's schedule, so they will shout, scream, have relationships, party, turn the lights on, undress, snore, shake your bunk and a whole host of other things. It's not just your space - this is the way hostel life is and it's easier to relax and embrace it instead of getting angry.
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