What does hostel mean to you? For me who have lived far away from my parents since my teen age in a strict hostel (Dad jokingly told Mum that my school hostel is reminiscent of a jail with a Godzilla-like unmarried matron), it means discipline and high alertness.
If we were late to leave our room by 7 am, we would be locked inside the hostel and we would be marked as being absent in the school. Many nights, we were awakened by (faulty) fire alarm, that was sometimes used to punish students. All were punished for the mistakes of few students. Later on, I dreamed of fire alarm even when I was no longer staying in the hostel. Every weekday night, we had to study at the assigned classroom from 7 pm – 10 pm. I am grateful to the younger me who decided to utilize the forced studying hours for a good use — to really study, unlike some students who chatted / played and only pretended to study when the patrols appeared. Every day, I gathered knowledge that contributed to changing the path of my life for better.
Then, I stayed at the university hostel during my undergraduate study. It is a total contrast to my first hostel. The university hostel allows students to return, sleep or not to sleep at whatever time students want. Freedom! However, I believe that much greater freedom and independence come with much greater responsibility.
Next, it comes to finding a hostel while traveling. Before I turned 20, I booked my first UK hostel through a travel agent, when the internet was not providing as much information as today for consumers to make a judicious decision. It was a mixed sharing dorm and the guy who slept on the upper bunk bed snored so loudly! I should have bring my ear plug, but then one may be worried that he / she misses hearing the fire alarm if any. Perhaps, a noise reducer instead of a noise cancelling device is a better choice.
Another experience was that I had booked for a female dorm in Switzerland, but because there was a big group of school children, I was shifted to a 4-person mixed dorm. I tried to be positive but when I noted that a drunken man would be a roommate, I requested for a change. No more room was available! Fortunately, the hostel staff refunded my money and kindly walked me to another hostel.
Herein, we share our checklist (I hope that it is beneficial to you too):
# location matters! research using google map for traveling distance (walking / public transport) between hostel and places of interest
# check multiple sites including the hostel own website and third party booking sites for the most affordable price.
# check forums e.g. TripAdvisor for reviews
# ensure that free wifi is actually strong and works throughout the property, not only at the reception / common room.
# if you are a solo female traveler, choose female only dorm
# reception timing: 24-hour is the best.
# speed of response regarding booking, inquiry, etc
# bring eye mask
# bring ear plug in case you have a loudly snoring dorm / room mate
# bring a safety belt
# bring a sleeping bag so we can snuggle inside when the temperature is too low and we do not need to bother asking for extra blankets, etc.
# bring a padlock so that we can put our stuff inside a locker, sometimes no lock is provided for the storage compartments.
# bring a universal converter for our electrical devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops, camera batteries, hair dryer), check if you can use multiple plugs.
# is a power outlet available near your bunk bed? You may need to charge your device overnight and want to keep it close to you. While rare, many thefts are due to convenience.
# additional privacy / safety measurements e.g. lockable room (e.g. electronic key card), curtain, spacious room.
# ziplock bags / non-plastic organizers are better than plastic bags to prevent disturbing our room mates.
email of this post