Hostel Livin’: Ins & Outs

Houston Hostel:

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What to expect: Hostels come in a variety of forms. Most common rented rooms have twin size bunk beds, a shared bathroom and shower, and generally 4-8 roommates per room but can be as many as 32! The typical room options are co-ed, same sex, or private rooms which are based on double occupancy so if you’re traveling alone and want a room to yourself you’ll be paying for a room intended for two or more people and be paying what would be their share of rent. You should be expecting to spend generally in the $20-$35 range per night per bed assuming you are not visiting during major holidays or events like festivals and concerts.

What you should know: Some hostels aren’t cheap and it’s almost always based off of location as well as what time of year you’re booking –  just like a hotel. I’ve even paid $224 to stay 5 nights in a hostel in Amsterdam for New Year’s! Most every hostel will be located near downtown where the attractions and more importantly the bars because they are generally getting travelers from Australia, France, New Zealand, London and of course the U-S-of-A who want to save in transportation, avoid a DUI, and plain and simple want to be in walking distance of everything including a night in the town.

For all your searching and booking needs check out Hostelworld! Make sure to focus on location, reviews, extra amenities like free WiFi and, of course, prices.

How to behave, how to prepare, and what to expect:

Don’t be obnoxious:

Don’t stare, unless you’re about to fight, then go Medusa on them.

Don’t invade personal space.

Be conscious of your breath and body odor.

Don’t be that person who gets sloppy drunk, although it’s happened to us all.

Be approachable, kind gestures go a long way:

Keep gum or mints handy.

Buy packs of handy toiletries like razors or toothbrushes in case someone needs a spare.

Buy a pack of earplugs to prevent insanity from your snoring roommates.

Be polite. Hold the door open, ask if a seat is taken before sitting down, say excuse me.

Put yourself in social settings: Join a bar crawl, spend time in the common rooms in your hostel, sit at the bar instead of getting a table for yourself.

Don’t walk around with a travel map sticking out of your back pocket. I have done this far too often, it just makes you look like a goofball to locals and easy prey for the pickpockets and crazies.

Offer to go out together to explore, for dinner, or a night out, Uber X charges the same rate regardless of the number of passengers unless it exceeds the car capacity. Uberpool offers to split the ride between multiple riders for a small fee.

If you’re going to take a tour stick to walking tours which are generally free besides tip.

Know how to strike up a conversation:

Smile!

Know personal boundaries.

Be funny without being rude or inappropriate.

Resist dirty humor.

Don’t bring up religion or politics.

Acknowledge all members of the party and keep them in the conversation. Know when to retreat, some people just aren’t interested in meeting others.

Common sense isn’t so common:

Don’t bring a significant other back, rent a private if you’re feeling some afternoon delight. Oh the explicit stories I’m tempted to tell….

The WiFi will always be buggy, dodgy, crappy, whatever regional term that is a synonym for sub-par.

Most hostels offer an adequate breakfast either complimentary or a small fee.

Several also have vending machines.

Often times lockers and towels are either complimentary or a low fee to rent.

Every good hostel has plenty of tourist maps and recommendations on where to go and things to do.

For whatever reason there is always a toilet out of service.

The “big question”: Is it safe for female travelers, especially solo ones? 

Here’s the blunt reality most hostels are perfectlt safe but if you’re unfortunate enough to be a solo female traveler and by just the (un)luck of the draw rooming with a dozen or so random male foreign travelers who like to party, I would recommend spending the extra money on a private room or at the very least getting the top bunk and buying some pepper spray. If you get a bad vibe don’t ignore it, take action.

Buy a quality lock, not the silly one with a dial you had on your locker in high school. You will be crying, as I’ve seen, when your backpack and literally everything from your passport to your Ipad is gone because you wanted to skim a few bucks on a lock. I stick to this Masterlock for only $10 because it’s heavy duty and impossible to cut with bolt cutters.

If you’re going to air dry your laundry or towels make sure to crack a window or turn your vent on so that your room doesn’t wreak of wet dog smell.

Label the food you put in the fridge or pantry!

Some hostels don’t take credit and some don’t take cash – do your research to avoid a needless hassle.

The Rundown: look for free WiFi, lockers, towels, and breakfast.

A hostel is a cheap place to rest your head and meet fellow travelers, not anything close to a luxury hotel.

Common sense and common courtesy are hand-in-hand.

 New Orleans Hostel:

Nashville Hostel:

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