So you want to stay in a hostel? Allow me to lead the way! I have stayed in my fair share of hostels, and these are some of my tried-and-true tips to get you staying in a hostel like a pro. I made the mistakes so you don't have to! This will be my first post in a series of articles to give you the insight you need to make staying in a hostel a breeze, even as a first timer!
1. The Hostel In The Forest- Brunswick, Georgia
No two nights in a hostel will ever be the same. My first time I went to The Hostel in the Forest I stayed for two nights, and by the time I left I was glad I stayed both nights because they were so different. When traveling solo, hostel experiences largely depend on the group of people who are staying there with you. My first night at The Hostel in the Forest I was with a loud, boisterous, group of people. Everyone was playing games together, we stayed up all night getting to know one another and telling our stories around a fire. The second night I was there, a Sunday night, was also fun, but very different. It was more of a low-key group of people as some guests from the night before had left, and there were some new people in the mix. We stayed up late again, but didn’t get as rowdy, and spent most of our time by the fire relaxing. There were qualities about both nights that I loved, but I also realized you can’t really go to a hostel with an expectation for your experience, it is all variable depending on your attitude and the attitude of the people around you. Read about my time at The Hostel in the Forest here.
2. St. Vincent’s Guest House- New Orleans, Louisiana
Always bring water with you when you go to a hostel. I didn’t realize I didn’t have any water with me until waking up the first morning dying for something to drink. There wasn’t anywhere to get any that I knew of, and I did not particularly want to drink out of the faucet in the shared bathroom (although I’m sure I would have survived). When I got up all I could think about was why somebody else’s clothing was hanging from my bunk bed, the guy snoring across the room, and how thirsty I was! Also, keep in mind that this was my first, true hostel experience, so I was naturally a little apprehensive about it and wasn’t sure what hostel etiquette was (clothes hanging from the bed is a hostel trademark). I was nervous to get up and wake people up, nervous about using the bathroom, and I’m sure there may have been a kitchen somewhere I could’ve solved my dehydration issue at, but didn’t know who to ask or where to look. It felt like the first time you spend the night at a new friend’s house in Jr. High and you wake up before your friend does. I ended up taking a shower and getting ready for the day, and as it turns out, I didn’t wake anybody up, everybody has to get up eventually! Also, I remembered there was a coffee shop directly across the street! So, after making a new red-headed friend from Tennessee, I went across the street, bought some water and a bagel, and everything turned out fine, I had survived. Now, whenever I go to a hostel I always bring water with me so when I wake up I can take a drink right there from my bed, no need to find a kitchen or a coffee shop anymore! For the record, I had a great experience here, the staff was so kind, and gave me a place to stay during Mardi Gras, read about it here.
3. SoBe Hostel- South Beach, Miami
ALWAYS check with the front desk about local events and good things to do in the area. My best friend and I took a trip to South Beach for my 22nd birthday and we stayed at the SoBe hostel. We got there without a plan, and the front desk staff had all the local information on what to do and even hostel events going on. This should be the case at most hostels. People working at the hostel live locally and are most likely pretty familiar with the area. You can read about my birthday trip to Miami here.
4. Rocking J’s Hammock Hotel and Cabinas- Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Never be afraid to make friends! This was my first hostel on my solo backpacking trip in Costa Rica and Panama and had made up in my mind before I left that I would be making friends when I got there. I literally flat out introduced myself to the first person I saw there sitting alone. I introduced myself, asked where they were from, and asked about their trip. Just be assertive, it can be intimidating, but usually people at hostels are really friendly. I mean, you kind of have to be to stay in a hostel! As a result of this one introduction, I gained 3 new friends (he introduced me to the friends he was with) and some very valuable travel advice that led me to a hostel in Boquete a couple weeks later, a city I hadn’t planned on staying in. Also, from then on I was totally confident introducing myself to anyone anywhere I went! Here you can read Rocking J's and my first day in Puerto Viejo!
5. Mondo Taitu- Bocas Del Toro, Panamá
Don’t just believe everything you read online. Mondo Taitu is a legendary backpacker hostel in Bocas Del Toro, so I was really excited to be checking in here as my first stop in Bocas. Unfortunately, it seemed as though Mondo Taitu was passed its prime, or at least in a time of transition. The staff was great, but the hostel not so much. As a girl traveling solo I was hoping to meet new people in my hostels, and with online reviews and a website boasting of the popularity of Mondo Taitu and their famous themed parties, it was the place to go. Unfortunately, aside from the staff it was almost empty (and the kitchen was no bueno). It wasn’t awful, but there are a lot of other hostels in Bocas, where you could have a better experience for around the same price. I wouldn’t advise anyone not to stay here particularly, they were doing renovations while I was there and apparently going through a bit of a change in staff, so I would say to just check it out before deciding to stay there. In the future, I will pay more attention to recent reviews, and maybe try to get in touch with people who have visited the destination recently.