You'll be staying in a hostel at least once or twice during your study abroad, so be prepared and review this guide before bunking up with a stranger.
1. Keep It On Lock But Pocket Your PassportGiphy
We've all heard that you need to watch over your belongings in hostels. Your hostel will have lockers or under-bed storage containers where you can lock your belongings away at night and during the day. You can usually only use these storage options with your own padlock or after buying an overpriced lock from reception. Always remember to have a lock with a medium thickness clasp so no one can cut throw it. I don't recommend you lock your passport in these lockers while away during the day. Pocket your passport in a purse with multiple zippers or another travel pack to take with you while out. Also, understand how your lock can be reset. I accidentally took a padlock from a Stockholm hostel that wasn't mine (someone who checked out had forgotten near where my lock was), and I was surprised when my code wasn't unlocking it. I quickly Googled the brand and popped the lock with a sharp bobby pin. I reset a new code before realizing it wasn't mine.
2. Check The MattressGiphy
I often forget to check my bunk bed mattress for bed bugs. Soon after drifting to sleep, I wake up with a phantom itch thinking about bugs crawling on me. Thankfully, this has never happened to me before. I hope it never will, so I lift up the bed sheet and pillowcases looking for any black specks or small bugs. Please do this quick check before you sit down or place your bags on the bed. If anything looks out of the usual, take a picture of it immediately and then tell reception.
3. Paying For Towels And Praying For ToesGiphy
My clothes for weekend trips during my study abroad were strategically stuffed into a medium-sized canvas backpack. There was often no room for multiple pants, so I never managed to pack a travel towel or shower shoes for my hostel visits. Most hostels will offer towels for rent, so remember to have some spare change on hand to pay. Try to remember to follow instructions on returning the towel after your stay, which is usually to just leave it in the room. I am sure the idea of being barefoot in a communal shower terrifies you as much as it does me. I am from Florida, so evolutionary speaking I have been gifted with strong feet. The shower mirrors would fog over with steam from how hot my showers were. I would burn off a few layers of skin but hopefully, wash threatening bacteria away too. Yes, I know this isn't actually beneficial for cleaning bacteria, but I will continue to tell myself this works until I invest in a thin pair of flip flops.
4. Don't Spray It Or Spread ItGiphy
It was kind of challenging for me to name this one, but basically be respectful of other people in your room by not spraying perfume or spreading your belongings beyond your personal area. Not everyone enjoys the sickly smell of your vanilla perfume, though we know you need it after backpacking from hostel-to-hostel. Even worse, strong perfume can trigger asthma attacks. It's best to spray body products in the bathroom areas. Be considerate with your belongings as well. I stayed at a mass female dorm in Stockholm where a woman obnoxiously rumbled through her things in the middle of the night. She sounded like she was crumbling plastic bags for hours on end. Hostels are intimate lodging, and you should respect everyone's personal space as much as you can.
5. Don't Be An Alarming BunkmateGiphy
I can full heartedly tell you that no one wants to be woken up by the fire alarm iPhone ringtone after a night out on the town. Please be a considered bunkmate and lower the volume of your morning alarm clock so that you don't wake anyone sleeping on the bunk below. There will most likely be a range of people sleeping in and waking up very early. Try not to be the one that wakes everyone up before their hangovers are ready. I also recommend attempting to enter the room calmly when returning late from a night out. I got back from a pub well past midnight at a hostel in Scotland. I managed to enter the room and change clothing silently in the dark, but harshly woke my three roommates after dropping my phone on the hardwood floor.
6. Get Off Your Phone And Order A DrinkGiphy
Common spaces in hostels, like cafes, kitchens, lodges, or bars are for social activities. Traditionally, hostels are spaces for like-minded travelers to share a chat and a pint. I recommend that you get off the hostel wifi for a few moments and try to make a new friend in these spaces. I was once traveling with a group of girls in Brussels, Belgium, and we stopped at the hostel bar to message our parents late in the night before bed. Our families were responding at the time because of the time change, but it didn't appear like this to a tipsy woman nearby. She leaned over the group of us with our noses pressed to screens and snapped "Get off of those!" We overlooked her rude tone, but we listened to her advice and logged off social media for the ideal social exchange: the clinch of wine classes amongst good friends.