Those who have spent more than a few weeks or months on the road will know the feeling of living among strangers full-time. It’s fun, exciting and full of opportunity. It’s also exhausting, time consuming, and space restricting. After spending a few months living in hostels, we got good at it. It took a few weeks to adjust to living this way, but once we got into the swing of things, it got much easier and more enjoyable.

Plenty of earplugs/earphones

Personally, earplugs don’t work for me. I find them irritating and I don’t find they block out that much noise. It might have been the quality of the earplugs I’d bought with me, but it wasn’t a viable option for me. That’s not to say that they won’t work for you. My alternative was my Apple earphones. They fit perfectly in my ears, and listening to music or a podcast was really helpful in blocking out noise and getting me off to sleep. BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs was the magic formula on this trip.

Take a toiletries bag

Our friends Jess and Graham bought us hanging toiletries holders similar to this, and they were an absolute godsend. Not only does it make it easier when getting your toiletries in and out of your hostel locker, but it’s the perfect way to keep all your toiletries off the communal shower floor, and in one place.

Packing cubes

I’ll be honest; we considered these before leaving and thought we wouldn’t need them so went without. Boy, were we wrong. Hostel dorm rooms can be small. Really small. Being able to separate your clothes using packing cubes makes it easier to whip out whatever it is you might need that day. It saved so many people we met the stress of having to sort through your bag daily, which is something that became a huge chore for us.

View from Terra Brasilis Hostel, Rio de Janeiro
The view from Terra Brasilis Hostel, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Communicate with roommates

It might sound daft, but an open stream of communication where possible is crucial to living among others. We found that striking up a conversation with new roommates was key to a happier environment. It means you’re not getting (as) pissed off at each other when someone has left their towel on the floor, or someone has jumped in the shower just as you were about to. It also means you can discuss one another’s plans, so you’ll know when they’ll be using the shower, or getting up at the crack of dawn.

Be conscious and kind

It’s easy to blame lack of sleep and messy dorm rooms on other people, but it’s important to keep the peace from your side too. We met too many people who would complain about a roommate, and do whatever it was that had pissed them off the very next day themselves. Be conscious you’re living with others, be aware of your surroundings and your habits, and just be nice. It’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference.

Communicate with hostel staff

Flipping onto the other side of the coin, some people can be awful. If you’re struggling with a difficult roommate, and you’ve tried to (kindly) sort the issue yourself to no avail, tell the hostel staff. They’re used to dealing with hostel issues day in, day out, and will be better equipped to deal with it than you are.

Loki Jungle Hostel, Peru
Loki Jungle, Santa Teresa, Peru. Game #596 of beer pong

Take a break

As I’ve previously mentioned, living full-time in dorm rooms is exhausting, and it’s important to take a break. Dorm rooms are great social environments. It’s a great place to meet new people, find out more about the area, and find someone to head to the bar with. But sometimes we just need some alone time. We treated ourselves to a private room every 2-4 weeks for a few nights to recharge the batteries and just chill out. Even if you book a twin room with a travel buddy you trust, it’s important to take a holiday from the holiday.

All in all, hostels are a great place to hang out and meet people. We met some of the most incredible personalities while travelling, most of whom we met in the hostels we stayed in. For anyone who hasn’t stayed in a hostel before, and is considering taking the plunge, all I can say is do it. Sometimes you’ll have a difficult roommate, sometimes the hostel itself will be shitty, but hostels often are what makes a trip. Booking.com are listing more hostels by the day, but the best source for booking hostels for me, is still Hostelworld.

Casa del Pozo Hostel, Cartagena, Colombia
The pool area of Casa del Pozo, Cartagena, Colombia

If you’ve spent a long time living in hostels, what are your best coping methods? Also, where is your favourite hostel in the world! Comment below!


2 Comments

The 9 best apps for travel - Travel North East South West · 21st May 2019 at 4:35 pm

[…] podcasts I came across were available to download for offline use. Podcasts were a lifesaver for me when staying in hostel dorm rooms, and trying to sleep on buses, coaches and […]

A – Z of Brazil - Travel North East South West · 27th September 2019 at 2:52 pm

[…] Sleep – not something we got huge amounts of in Brazil thanks to noisy roommates in some places. Having said that, Brazil’s hostel and pousada game is much stronger than some of its South American counterparts. Favourites include the Terra Brasilis Hostel in Rio for its views, the Viva Hostel Design in São Paulo for its comfort, and the Pousada Ilha Verde in Itacare for all-round comfort and style. For tips on how to survive living in hostels, I have you covered! […]

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