Budget hotels & cheap hostels: Top 10 survival tips

You can’t be a budget traveler without staying in hostels or budget hotels. These are the places we either love or hate, where we find our new traveling pals, old friends from back home, clubbing buddies, future partners, roomies and, in some situations, our future spouses. By spending less on our beds when w travel, we hope to focus more on the local culture.

In this blog article you’ll find 10 travel tips to make your staying in hostels or budget hotels even better.


Getting used to hostels & budget hotels

The quality offered by hostels or budget hotels is not inherently determined by the creature comforts it has, such as high-pressure hot showers or cable TV. What makes them special is rather the individuals, both members of staff and fellow travelers, who make your stay there unforgettable (albeit brief). Anyone who has spent a long time living in close proximity with other human beings will appreciate the physical and emotional adjustments that come with it. You’ll figure out how tolerant you truly are and seek out new ways to make things better.

You may have shared a bedroom with a sibling as a child, but it doesn’t really equate to sharing one with the opposite sex for the first time, and from two or three people up to 20 or more. Many travelers just starting their journeys will be surprised and terrified at the idea of dressing and undressing in front of an “audience”, let alone putting up with all the various habits of their new roommates. But after a few months on the road, everything becomes second nature.

Recently, there has been a real revival in the European hostel and budget hotels sector, with owners discovering that there is no longer any value in offering substandard accommodation. Thanks to the internet, backpackers will share their bad experiences and warn the rest of the world to avoid a place like the plague. Occasionally, though, you’ll meet a lot of people ready to stick it out in small quarters with less than sanitary toilets, and outright creepy kitchens just for the social environment. They just like who they’re sharing with.

A single-sex dorm is typically the first choice for many first-timers, but don’t be fooled. When sharing hotel rooms, even those people you deem to uphold a fair level of communal courtesy can turn out to be practically feral, girls/women included.


hostels or budget hotels reception

Top 10 travel tips for staying in hostels & budget hotels


1. Keep an open mind when it comes to sharing

Small dorms are better than big ones, even though they are more costly. You get to know who you’re traveling with pretty easily, and roommates are possible gold mines for additional travel details.

Bonus for girls
Sharing a dorm with guys can be an advantage. They usually know where all the fun is. And the new male friends you made at the hostel/budget hotel can shield you and protect you from any unwanted attention from other guys.


2. Pack a sarong when you leave home

For those who are trying to preserve some sort of privacy, hanging a sarong or a large towel from the bunk above as a curtain is definitely a great option, provided you have the bottom bunk. The sarong is certainly preferable because it is light to carry, so it won’t occupy too much room in your luggage. And if you just take a small travel towel when you sprint to the bathroom for a shower, it’s a bit better if you can wear the sarong as a wraparound. It can even double in some places as a shower curtain. The sarong is a very versatile piece of fabric!


3. Wear flip-flops in the shower

Most popular budget hostels will make sure that the showers are washed at least once a day. But, as you remember the high number of travelers using them, there is a risk of coming into touch with a foot fungus. Not especially fun or easy to get rid of, especially while traveling. So beware of the shower floor even in the popular cheap hotels!

The flip-flops will keep your feet off the shower’s floor, and ideally away from any chance of getting any ugly infection. It’s a precautionary measure you should take even in the best cheap hotels!


4. Keep some ear plugs handy

This travel tip is for those who are light sleepers or become homicidal ax-wielding maniacs at the sound of ear drum-smashing snoring. 🙂 Also brilliant on long-distance flights, earplugs may just save your sanity when the guy/girl from the bunk above sounds like a chainsaw on full blast at 4 o’clock in the morning.


5. Carry some kind of pocket knife

These days with tightened airport security, this may sound like the wrong suggestion, but if it’s packed in your checked luggage, it should be ok. Some hostels and budget hostels have kitchen equipment, but some essential utensils might be absent. Tin openers always never work, sharp knives are nowhere to be found, and even something as basic as a teaspoon may be absent. A pocket knife with a decent length of the blade and a can opener are invaluable! Shop around for a versatile Swiss-army knife before your trip.


6. Use the safety deposit boxes at hostels/budget hotels

Okay, not every roommate you’ll have while staying in hostels or budget hotels is going to be a thief.

We all like to think that all our fellow travelers are just like us, out there to explore the world, make new friends, discover new cultures and traditions, finding new horizons, and for the majority that is about right. Most anyone you’ll come into contact at hostels and budget hotels will have the same attitude to travel as you and will never prey on a fellow backpacker.

There is, however, a group out there that can make life uncomfortable for the majority of us staying in hostels or budget hotels. If you’re staying anywhere with people coming and going every five minutes, just leave all the important stuff behind at the reception for some peace of mind. It makes sense when you head out, too. Just take with you only what you’ll need (money and other valuables).

Most hostels and budget hotels have safety boxes for free or a small fee.


7. Bring your own padlock from home

Some hostels and budget hotels have lockers among their amenities, but they offer the padlocks for a fee. You may also want to consider some sort of backpack chain to tie it to your bunk if there’s no locker available and you don’t trust the place where you’re staying. Some are some chains like fishing nets built specifically for luggage. They are very light and fit over your whole backpack or suitcase. Just don’t forget your keys!


8. Bring along a bungee cord, also

It may sound strange, but this elastic cord can be extended to create a clothesline or a curtain rail. It’s really nice if you have to wash your clothes and you can’t use a dryer while staying in some of the best discount hotels and hostels. It just needs to be around 1 meter long and, ideally, with clips or hooks on each end.


9. Pack a bed sheet and a pillow case

The best budget hotels and cheap hostels provide the linen for an extra fee or sometimes included in the price. However, it’s good to have a bedsheet in your luggage just in case that’s not available where you’re staying.

Some shops sell bedsheets that are pre-treated to deter bed bugs. You can also make your own by stitching a double sheet down on one side. Smaller and lighter than carrying a sleeping bag and easier to wash, it is suitable for summer travel through hot destinations.

A pillowcase can be helpful for making a pillow, too. Just fill your pillowcase with clothes. Another use is as an emergency towel.


hostels and budget hotels experiences
You may just meet your next best friends while staying in hostels and budget hotels!

10. Embrace all the differences

Hostels and budget hotels come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. You’ll find good and bad hostels/ budget hotels in big and small destinations.

A big and famous hostel or budget hotel in the city may have a livelier atmosphere than a small pension in a remote village. You will find that the pub, the party crowd, and the DJ downstairs are difficult to say goodbye to after a week.

You might also learn that the cool Aussies, South Africans, and Canadians you’ve been sharing a room with for a month want to go see the Pyramids in September, which is exactly when you want to go and they have transport.

You might also discover that your roommate has more dubious personal habits than you do.

All these experiences help us learn more about ourselves, which is why we set off to see the world in the first place.


My last statement is not a tip, but the eleventh commandment: you’re not to bring a noisy plastic shopping bag of any kind in your luggage. Even the mildest-mannered, easy-going, and placid individual would be itching to through a meat cleaver between the ears of someone rummaging through their plastic bags. Particularly if it’s 5 am in the morning and all they can hear is a demented rustling of that plastic. If you must carry that awful thing with you, at least take your backpack outside on the corridor to find what you’re looking for and leave your roommates to sleep in peace. They’re going to thank you for that. 🙂

Bear these travel tips in mind and whatever you learn through your experiences in hostels and budget hotels, about yourself and your fellow travelers, the good and the ugly, they all will become an enjoyable part of your travel adventures.

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Budget hotels & cheap hostels tips by…

Mirela Letailleur The Travel Bunny

Mirela Letailleur is a Romanian travel blogger living in the South of France. She writes on The Travel Bunny travel blog about affordable travel in Europe, creator of unique free travel guides, local travel expert. Problem solver. Wannabe coffee guru.

Read more about Mirela Letailleur

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