10 top tips for solo travellers staying in a hostel for the first time

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With cheaper prices and dorm style rooms, hostels are popular among those travelling for long periods of time, groups and of course, solo travellers. If you’ve not stayed in a hostel before and are planning to do so on a future trip, here’s my 10 top tips for solo travellers staying in a hostel for the first time.

1. Bring an extra padlock for locker use

Most hostels will provide lockers – some are even large enough for a hand luggage wheelie case or a medium rucksack. Lockers will either be located in dorm rooms or in communal areas. Some bunk beds will have lockers directly under the beds which I particularly like.

If you want to use one you’ll just need to remember to bring a spare padlock with you. A decent size one if you can. If you forget, you can of course just buy one or you can try the hostel reception as they may be able to sell or rent you one (not all of them will do that).


Yeah Barcelona - under bed storage
Under bed drawer - plenty of room

I usually carry a spare padlock with me on my travels anyway. That way I don’t have to remember to pack one each time as my accommodation isn’t always a hostel.

Plus Florence female dorm
A female dorm at Plus Florence with tall lockers

2. Earplugs

Now, if you’re a bit of a light sleeper you’ll definitely want some earplugs with you. You just don’t know who’ll you’ll share with. If there’s more than one snorer or someone with a cold in your room it may become a little loud….

I’ve only had one snorer experience issue. It was a mild hum rather than anything too loud (thank goodness), but I disposable earplugs with me.

I’ve heard some annoying stories of disturbed sleep from other travellers, so all you light sleepers out there, don’t forget those earplugs!

3. Send your bed request in advance

As you’ll most probably pick a bunk bed dorm room, you can send a request for your preferred bunk – top or bottom. You could even choose the middle because I’ve come across a few hostels when booking that have triple bunk beds.

Plus Florence - 6-bed female dorm
Plus Florence - 6-bed female dorm
Yeah Barcelona - 4-bed female dorm

In most cases if you put a request in early enough, you’re more likely to get your choice. Sometimes you’ll get a reply saying they’ll try to give you the bunk or bed you want – depending on other requests or how full the room is closer to the time. When I’ve asked for the top bunk in the past, I’ve been able to get my request every time.

Did you know you can book a dorm room that has a single or even double bed in them?

4. Be prepared to pay a fee or deposit for bed sheets

Although it’s becoming less and less common there are still some hostels that will charge you a fee or deposit for bed sheets to help with their laundry overheads. In some cases the deposit is refunded on departure or in others, it’s a non-refundable amount. 

A female dorm at City Backpackers Hostel
Female dorm at City Backpackers Hostel
City Backpackers Hostel 6-bed female dorm room
The 6-bed female dorm I stayed in at City Backpackers Hostel

When booking, make sure you carefully read the hostel policies, room description or payment details to confirm.  The fee may also be included within the cost of your stay or you’ll pay it in cash when you check in.

5. No iron, no problem

There aren’t many hostels that have an iron and ironing board facility in the dorm room, so if you have an item of clothing that’s gained some additional creases, it may not be a problem.  Just before you have a shower or bath, hang the item of clothing in the bathroom. The stream alone should help drop some of the creases. I did this once with a light summer dress and it was a lot better than it was without the bathroom steam method. 

Seriously it works, especially if the item is a lighter material.  

You could also try using a  hand dryer or hairdryer to get them out but be careful!

  • Make sure you use the hairdryer on the lowest possible heat setting.
  • Be very careful and DO NOT press the hairdryer directly onto the material itself as you will burn your clothing!  Hold it well above the item.
  • When using a hand dryer do not put your item of clothing right up against the dryer grill as it will get very, very hot.

Failing those ideas, you could just buy a mini travel iron if you have space in your case!  

6. Remember to take a towel with you

You may consider it unnecessary weight but remember to take a towel with you. Although more hostels are now providing services to match hotels, there are still a vast majority that don’t so towels do not come as standard. It sounds obvious, but if you’re used to staying in a hotel – where you don’t need to remember to bring one – it’s easily forgotten.

You can usually rent towels in some hostels for a small amount, but if you have space in your bag, just bring your own. I tend to bring a smaller, lighter towel with me that doesn’t take up much space. You can try lighter microfibre towels too. They tend to be thin and small and dry quite quickly.  If you’ll be by the beach but don’t want to take two towels with you, try this Cacala Peshtemal Turkish Bath & Beach Towel towel and beach bag combo which I have.

It can fold pretty flat and you can carry your beach gear as well as use it as a beach towel because the material is light and dry quickly.

Cacala Peshtemal Turkish Bath Towel & Bag Combo
Cacala Peshtemal Turkish Bath Towel & Bag

Microfibre towels
Microfibre towels – great as a lightweight travel towel

7. Check the dorm or room set up

Hostels now offer a wider range of dorm room layouts and types. You can choose from a mixed, female or male only dorm room, to a 3, 4, 6, 10, 12 and even 20 bed dorms.

If it’s your first time booking a hostel, make sure you pay attention to the set up and not just the price which can be really low especially for large, mixed room formats.

Plus Florence - 6-bed female dorm
Plus Florence - 6-bed female dorm

You may want to book a female dorm with a smaller number of beds. I tend to do that mostly and usually go for no more than a 6-bed set up. I’ve also stayed in a mixed dorm but make sure there’s more beds if you’re a solo female traveller. I stayed in an 8-bed dorm which gives more chance of at least one or two other females in the room. Note that this isn’t always a guaranteed method so check with the reception in advance.

InnPossible 6-bed female dorm

8. Check in-room facilities and amenities

In the majority of hostels a shared dorm bunk bed room would usually have a shared bathroom on the same floor. It’s likely to be used by other dorm rooms on the same floor.

If you’ve not shared with strangers before then you should also look for rooms that have an en-suite bathroom option.  A lot of hostels offer this on a few of their dorm rooms. 

Yeah Barcelona - bunk bed compartment
Bunk bed storage - Yeah Barcelona dorm room
Female dorm bathroom
Female dorm en-suite bathroom at city Backpackers
Yeah Barcelona - 4-bed female dorm
Yeah Barcelona - 4-bed female dorm

I’ve stayed in hostels with a shared bathroom that’s located on the same floor as well as being in a female and also a mixed dorm room – both with ensuite facilities. Personally, I’d opt for an en-suite bathroom dorm if there’s availability but it’s not a dealbreaker. If sharing a bathroom on the same floor suits my budget at the time or the hostel looks really good with amenities and facilities (and has good reviews) I’d go for that option as well.

Some have additional storage which can be useful for having your toiletries and personal belongings closer to you. Some have tables and chairs as well.

9. Take time out to make a few friends

Even though you’ll be busy with activities for your trip or out and about seeing the sights and surroundings but try to take part in a few activities where you’re staying.

Hostels are the perfect place for solo travellers to make a few friends. Being in a dorm room set up means you’ll mix with different people from all over the world.

Yeah Barcelona - dinner and open bar_RiA Vistas
Dinner and open bar at Yeah Barcelona
InnPossible - night out with friends made at the hostel
InnPossible - night out with friends made at the hostel

There’s usually a handful of activities and even common areas created to help people make friends. One hostel I stayed in had group dinners while another had movie nights or pub crawls.

10. Location, location, location

As with any accommodation, make sure it’s not too far out of the main town or if it is (or even if it isn’t) check that you have some amenities close by or transport connections.   If it’s you’re first time travelling solo, you’ll most likely not want to be in a secluded area. Make sure you stay safe and take as many precautions as you can for your solo travel trip.   Have a read of my safety tips for solo travellers.

So, are you up for staying in a hostel now you’re prepared?   I do enjoy staying in hostels now I’ve done so a few timed and know what to expect and look out for.   

Let me know if you plan to stay in a hostel or if you need any advice.

In the meantime to get prepped even further, read my post on how to make friends on a solo trip.

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