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The following tips will help you maximize your comfort and fun while staying at a hostel and ensure that your time there is not a waking nightmare or terror and hate. Just kidding…but the tips should help.
When you first arrive at a hostel you should know that you are staying in a place that is catering to all kinds of poor people. This should be your first reckoning. If you are not comfortable with this please either go somewhere else, or accept the fact that you are poor and this is your only hope of traveling on a budget.
Make A Reservation
Before you get to a city and start looking for a place to stay it is always a good idea to have a reservation at a hostel. There is nary a traveler alive who doesn’t have some sort of story outlining their hubris that they could just find a place to stay when they got there only to realize that there was in fact no place to stay and the park bench they slept on, and the guy they slept on it with were none too pleasant.
Most hostels will take reservations at least six months in advance to don’t be shy about staking your claim to a comfy bed as soon as you can. Some will require a 25$ deposit, or your credit card number. An inconvenience for sure but it’s just the business. Of course, if you can avoid giving your credit card to some random person halfway around the world, it’s best to do so.
Also, the earlier you reserve the better chance you have at scoring a single or double room, which will make your stay that much better.
Don’t Be Afraid to Leave a Hostel
Let’s say you get to a hostel and you realize that it is disgusting and you really would not feel comfortable staying there. Just leave. If you have left a deposit ask for it back. Most likely they will refuse but if you are nice and you explain your situation they might just let you off. If they don’t reconsider your disdain for the environment, and if you still don’t like it, leave.
You have traveled halfway across the world to have a good time and there is no use wasting a day worrying about your possessions being lost or stolen, or even worse, your body penetrated by some evil force. This also applies to people who have spent one night there and realized that they hate the hostel. It could be snoring person in your room, some other sketch-ball, or even an unpleasant odor. Just leave. This is your vacation, do what you want.
Know Your Rights
Different hostels have different policies and you should have a serious gut check if one of them doesn’t jive with your own sense of privacy. For instance, many hostels will require that you leave you passport at the front desk as a form of deposit. Many people find this practice very disturbing. Your passport is really the only thing keeping you alive while you travel so most people protect it with their life.
Don’t leave your passport if you don’t want to and if they refuse you entry, then don’t stay there. Generally your passport will be safe, any hostel caught mucking about with passports will bet in very hot water. But still if the guy behind the counter looks like he’s just salivating to take your identity and sell it Osama Bin Laden Jr., just walk away.
Downtown is Key
No matter which city you are staying in, hostel location is key. Ideally you will want to stay in a place that is centrally located. This is best for seeing the sights, for transportation and for drunkenly stumbling home. Also, hostels don’t usually make a lot of money, so many often are located in ’low-rent’ areas. Try and avoid these because there is not going to be a lot of stuff to do there anyway. It could also be dangerous.
Some hostels have a curfew and others do not. This can either work in your favor or it can be a huge pain in the ass. Firstly, if a hostel has a curfew that means that you won’t be able to check in until the morning if you arrive on a late train/bus/plane. This might result in you missing your reservation if you transport is late, and leave you sleeping out on the sidewalk until the place opens in the morning.
Some hostels are even more militant, and require each guest to be back, indoors, by a certain time as the place is locked up for the night. Anyone left out, must wait until the next day to get back in. These hostels are becoming more and more rare and I wouldn’t worry about them too much. But if you like to party they can be a real bother.
However, if you are up for peace and quiet, a curfew can be a blessing. They ensure that people will be well behaved and asleep for their stay there, thus leaving you ample time to sleep and enjoy your happy memories of the day.