Hostel living is not new to me. I was introduced to it on a couple of tight-budget trips awhile back. I lived in a hostel or transient dorm-type home before in Baguio but the most number of nights I stayed in one is only 2 and it was with a couple of friends and another trip was with my brother. Also, most of the guests were Filipinos so the environment or ambience is not different from what I’m used to.
This time around, I was travelling solo and wanted to save a few bucks so I decided to stay in hostels.
Here are the things I’ve found out or should have known about living in a hostel prior to my trip to Cebu and Bohol in the Philippines.
1. There is a possibility that you will have to rent a towel.
Most hostels offer food and comfort but some don’t provide basic toiletries and towels. So if you plan on staying at one, it would be best to pack a light towel, a shampoo, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste (these are some of the things that you typically get at a hotel but not in a hostel). I didn’t bring any towel with me (obviously), so I had to pay to avail this basic necessity.
2. Bring your own padlock.
There are lockers provided to store your backpack while exploring. If you don’t have a padlock with you, don’t fret. There is a 90% chance that you can rent out a padlock from the reception desk or they will sell you one.
3. It is also possible that you will accidentally see someone naked in the shared room (may it be male or female).
The lack of privacy is probably one of the things I should have considered when I decided to stay at a hostel. There isn’t enough space for someone to change their clothes especially if the shared bathroom is occupied and he/she is in a rush to catch a flight or a boat ride to somewhere. It’s awkward to accidentally run into someone mid-undress inside the room and the feeling never grows old.
4. Bring a handful of good-quality elastics bands.
The toiletry bag I brought with me was the one my mom gave me on Christmas which came in a set and had no built-in hook that would enable me to hang it while I shower. Fortunately, when I rented out a padlock, the keys came with a rubber band so I was able to hang the bag on the stationary hook in the shower.
5. People walking around the hostel topless (men) or in bikinis is not unusual.
As Filipinos, we grew up being taught the conservative way of life so seeing this kind of behaviour is somewhat new to us (Disclaimer: This is only true if you were sheltered by your parents/guardians growing up and in a normal Filipino household). Don’t be shocked or offended when you witness liberal people walking about and minding their own business, instead take a page from their book and feel confident by your own identity. Afterall, topless men and bikini-clad women aren’t the weirdest things one can encounter if you choose this way of life.
6. Don’t make the mistake of storing perishable food in your locker.
Ants. You know it. Pesky-flesh-biting Ants. When I checked into the hostel from a long journey, I forgot I had 2 sandwiches in my backpack and without thinking, tossed it into the locker. 3 hours later when I got back to change clothes, those little devils were parading on one of my shirts. Trust me, just don’t do it – typical rookie mistake.
7. Bring an extension cord or a plug splitter.
From my experience, oftentimes there will only be two (at most) sockets that are going to be provided per bed. And in one of the hostels, I stayed in, this was true. I had more than two gadgets that needed to be charged at the same time – phone, GoPro, power bank, and my laptop. Having one or two of these is a great convenience and it doesn’t consume that much space in the backpack.
8. Wake up super early if you want to get Instagram-worthy posts inside the hostel.
8 out of 10 people will still be sleeping at 6 in the morning because they partied the night before. I had most of the common areas to myself for about 2 hours until some of the guests came out to get their morning coffee.
9. Unlocking the padlock of your locker at 6AM is the loudest sound you’ll ever hear, oh no wait. It’s the sound of opening the zipper of your backpack.
It was probably wise to have unpacked the clothes that I was going to wear the next day and get the important stuff that I needed out of the bag before I went to bed. There is nothing more annoying than a zipper opening and closing while you’re trying to sleep.
10. Bring an eye mask and earplugs.
I was working early the next day and had to get some much needed Zs after a tiring day of exploring. I got to bed at 9pm and I was the first of 8 people back in the room. Not everyone will be courteous to the people sleeping especially if they’re pretty drunk so having an eye mask and a pair of earplugs are very convenient to have an undisturbed sleep.
11. Bunk beds make for awkward sleeping.
There are bunk beds built into the wall and there are those standalone ones. As time passes by, the standalone bunkbeds will get wobbly. Unfortunately for me, the one I slept in was old. Sleeping in a foreign place is difficult already, but cosleeping with a stranger on the top bunk in a wobbly bunkbed is just annoying. You and that stranger will feel every turn and scratch. And then you have to wake up in the morning and try to act like it was no big deal that you involuntary kicked the wall while you slept because you fell in your dream. Awkward.
12. You will only be provided with one pillow.
I usually slept with three pillows minimum. It was a good thing that the mattress was made with memory foam so I did not feel the need to be surrounded by my pillows.
13. The standard size of the blanket is too small for me.
I am of average height, 5’7, but still, the blanket was short for me. I may have to add to my future packing list a lightweight blanket. (If you know where I can get one or if you can recommend a place where I can buy one, please let me know in the comments below!)
14. People will talk to you and don’t care if you look like a ripe tomato because of sunburn.
It’s amazing how it’s easier to make new friends in hostels where people won’t judge you just because you’re different. It’s cool. Because of this mentality, you learn how much one person’s uniqueness is and how he/she got started on his/her journey.
15. Most hostels will arrange daily tours at a low price.
I should have been more spontaneous and trusted my gut in NOT having an itinerary. It would have made my life easier and with fewer worries.
I admit that hostel living will not be for everyone, but for someone like me who likes people (generally) and looking to save a few bucks, it’s one of the top options when travelling. Thank you so much for reading until the end, if you have anything to add or a cool story about hostel living please don’t hesitate to share in the comments below or send me a message about it!