When preparing for your first stay in a hostel, here are some tips on what to bring to keep down extra costs and secure your valuables.
Things to bring
Aside from the obvious things to bring while traveling (clothes, toiletries, etc.), it is a good idea to be prepared with the following:
Your own padlock(s): Provided lockers vary across hostels. Some hostels will charge for a padlock and locker rental, while others may not require your own lock. (In Oporto, Portugal, our awesome hostel had “watches” that acted as room and locker keys when you held them up to the sensor… how cool, huh?) For securing lockers, I would recommend a normal, thick lock and not a flimsy luggage lock which was all I had. The reason for that is: some of the locker knobs are prevented from being turned when a padlock is in place. If the padlock is not thick enough, it cannot prevent the knob from being turned, and your locker can be opened. However, luggage locks are also helpful for keeping your other items safe in your luggage. Understand that if someone really wants to break into a locker, a simple padlock will not stop this from happening, but locking your things will deter small pilfering.
Here are some examples of locks:
A towel: Most, if not all hostels, will charge you a few euros to rent or even to buy a towel for your stay. (To find out if your hostel will charge for a towel rental, read the amenities/services list when choosing your hostel.) I bought a cheap 3-towel set in Barcelona for only four euros, and I used them for all my travels. They were thin enough to take up little space in my backpack, but big enough to get the drying job done, and cheap enough to throw away before going home at the end of my trip. Definitely do NOT buy or bring a big fluffy towel! It will take up a lot of room and will take longer to dry if the towel is thick.
If you don’t mind the price, there is also the option of special towels such as these “DryLite” towels, which are compact and dry quickly:
Just be sure to allow time for your towel to dry, especially if you will be traveling early the next morning, otherwise you may be packing a damp towel with your things.
Someone commented to me that it is not worth it to take up luggage space with a towel, just to save some money. I would disagree with this if you are traveling extensively. Four euros may not sound like a big deal if you pay it once, but if you are staying in different hostels for an extended period of time, it will definitely start to add up!
Shower shoes and slippers to walk around in: Can you imagine having to walk around a shared bathroom in your socks, or worse – barefoot? If you wouldn’t do it in your freshman year dorm where you knew everyone, you probably wouldn’t want to do it in a bathroom shared with complete strangers.
I recommend waterproof flip-flops that can double as shower shoes and as indoor shoes, such as these from Old Navy:
If you really prefer something cozier for your feet for walking indoors, look for flat slippers like these:
They will keep your feet warmer than flip flops, and they can fit easily into your luggage.
Ear plugs and a sleep mask: It is inevitable that somebody in your room will be a loud snorer. It’s most unfortunate when that person is assigned the bed next to yours. In hostels, people may also arrive at any hour of the night. With doors opening and closing all the time, light from the hallway is likely to flood into the room. If you are a light sleeper, bring these items to prevent yourself from being woken up frequently.
The correct adapter for your appliances: You’ll be able to recharge any technology you bring. Research beforehand the type of plug/outlet for the country you are visiting. Also check that your appliance already has a converter box to properly convert the voltage. If it does not, you will also need to bring a converter. I recommend arriving with all appliances fully charged. Hostels may not have a lot of outlets so there probably will be competition for using the outlets. Once, there were four outlets for a room of twelve, and two outlets were broken — definitely not good.
A small flashlight: Having a light source makes it easier to go through your things if everyone is already asleep. You won’t have to turn the lights on and off constantly, which WILL irritate other people. If you don’t want to bring a flashlight or don’t have one, you can also use your cell phone.
A small bottle of hand sanitizer: Hostel bathrooms may run out of supplies, especially soap. I also consider hand sanitizer to be one of the daily essentials to carry in your bag.
Any other suggestions? Something I missed? Feel free to leave a comment!