And a quick introduction to Steve..
The look in her eyes was somewhere between sheer desperation and pure loathing, the poor German girl made her third pass down the hall trying in earnest to match her room key with the correct door. With a look of disgust she stepped over the now prostate and shirtless body of ‘Steve’ who was lying face down in a pool of his own vomit, snoring loudly…
I’d met Steve earlier in the evening when he went to sleep in the hallway outside my dorm door. He seemed like a perfectly good guy, he also looked to be of the age where drinking games are still considered a serious competitive sport and when waking up in a pool of your own vomit is more of an achievement than a negative.
As our tired and demoralised German friend had made her first pass down the hall, Steve’s ‘mates’ on the landing above fed him a cigarette and convinced him to roll down the stairs.. (ok so this was actually really funny to watch). After landing heavily in the hallway Steve unbuttoned his shirt, vomited all over himself then passed out in the foetal position with his face resting peacefully in 1cm of half-digested noodles..
I was staying in a particularly boisterous hostel in Sydney, Australia; you know the kinds of places that attract the more party focused crowds? I’m also going to assume that no matter how much our poor German friend loved to drink on a regular day; after a 20 hour flight, a 1 hour train ride, a 30 minute walk and 4 flights of stairs, being greeted in the hallway with Steve’s snores bubbling into what looked like a mix of Nasi Goreng and 3 litres of half-digested beer was not really what she had in mind when she booked the hostel online.
After snapping these two just fantastic pictures of the situation, I ended up helping the poor girl find her dorm, which happened to actually be 2 floors below us, (thanks idiotic Hostel staff, you dickheads).
So in the spirit of these hostel shenanigans (pun so totally intended), here are some tips and hints that a seasoned hostel-goer can relay to any hostel virgins out there. Hopefully these might go a way to helping to make your stay the more enjoyable… even if you’re staying with a stinky dog named Rudolph and his homeless owner in Portland.
Pete’s 13 Random Hostel Tips
1) Bunk-bed choice: Always, always, always pick the bottom bunk given the choice. If you’re like me there’s a 90% chance that you’re going to need the toilet at some point in the night and getting up and down a bunk bed in the dark can be about as much fun as being punched in the face, especially in those hostels that seem to have forgotten to bestow a ladder on each bed’s top bunk.. I’ve also seen firsthand some of the injuries that people have sustained in bunk-bed accidents in hostels, especially the ones in Eastern Europe where there’s no safety ‘fence’ on the top bed.. trust me, that 2 meter drop really, really hurts..
2) Bring the darkness with you: All my life I’ve been cursed with being a light sleeper. Someone stands on a creaky stair 2 houses over and I wake up, it’s actually ridiculous. So how the hell do I sleep in a noisy hostel dorm? Every time I bunk down for the night, I ensure that I have my trusty beanie or eye mask. Pull the beanie down over your eyes to dull any excess light to get some quality shut-eye.
3) BYO linen: Not all hostels have clean linen, some of them seem to enjoy torturing their patrons with bed linen that looks dirtier than a night out in Vegas. Here’s my solution, bring along a normal everyday sheet, folded in half then stitched up along 2 sides (leaving the top open). It’s a BYO bed liner that’s super easy to carry, clean and saves you from getting Herpes from the sheets (but not however what happens below them).
4) Thongs: (or Flip flops for the North Americans), even in a cold climate they’re good to use in the showers, it’s all too easy to pick up Athlete’s Foot or some other fungal infection (yum right?)via communal showers so I’d recommend using thongs when possible. In warmer climates these bad boys are pretty much also my go to shoe of choice.
5) Know your hostels: As our German friend above probably realised, this particular Hostel was firmly in the ‘party’ camp. You can generally tell from the hostels website but I’ve been surprised before. If you want to party, book appropriately and visa versa. There’s a very common misconception that all hostels are party central, not true at all, there are plenty with an older crowed who are more into reading leather-bound books by a fire in a room that smells of rich mahogany, than throwing up all over each other. A good way to gauge this is to simply check out the images on their websites or go over the comment sections of booking pages.
6) Always eat the free brekki: Most hostels will offer their patrons breakfast included in the price. It’s never fancy and generally takes the form of toast or cereal. But.. when you’re on the road long term and every cent counts getting 1 meal a day included with your accommodation is a big bonus. If you’re really tight, you might be able to pilfer enough bread to make sandwiches for lunch too.. stingy bastards!
7) Use the kitchens: A great way to save money as you travel is to make as much of your own food as you can. It’s tempting to buy food all the time given how easy it is but doing things yourself will save a lot of cash over time. The halfway step would be to (if it’s possible) buy food that just needs to be warmed up, I did this recently throughout the UK by living on veggie soup, awesome fresh bread and French cheese for less money than a dodgy takeout.
8) Don’t’ use the washing machines: Unless you want to put the hostel owns kids through Law School.. I’ve seen single washes at hostels cost up to 8 Euros.. what a joke, since there’s often a normally priced Laundromat just down the street, so load up your pack and head there as your first option before shelling out on overpriced monopolistic hostel washing machines.
9) Hostel etiquette: So I generally try and live by my ‘dickhead rule’ as much as I can. Which is basically this: Just don’t be a dickhead… It’s not that hard, a little common sense and a little consideration for others combined with always being polite and you’d be pleasantly surprised how far it can take you. Yep this means that if your dorms dark and there’s people sleeping in it don’t turn on the light, talk on your mobile phone or play music.. common sense really.
10) Ear plugs: For the inevitable snorer or for the odd dickhead who doesn’t follow the above rules.. as well as for the more common comings and goings of the night as people hit the bathrooms and so on. I use in combo with a beanie or eye mask to go to my happy, dark quiet place at night.
11) Pillow ammo: A less conventional tactic that involves asking for an extra pillow at reception, not to use under your head but rather to turn into a ballistic missile during the night aimed at the nearest snorer. Use as the first line of defense against snoring in combination with earplugs.
12) Staying at the hostel is a trap: Don’t get me wrong, sinking beers with new friends is fun but don’t forget that you’ve travelled a considerable distance to get there and you’re surrounded by an unfamiliar culture waiting to be explored.. make sure that you get out of the hostel and do some investigating. As silly as it sounds I know people who travel around the world and just stay indoors drinking and never actually see anything other than the hostel’s bar and bathrooms.
13) Use the lockers: What could be worse than having your brand new Macbook Air thieved out from under your nose in the night by some dodgy fellow hostel goer. It happens more than you think and yes it can happen to you. Use the lockers when you leave the hostel, it will save you from having the worst day of your whole trip. Trust me, I’ve stolen so many laptops like this and people always flip out!! Obviously I’m joking, but better safe than sorry right?
If anyone has any more please feel free to contribute in the comments.