Travel Tips

What to expect staying in a hostel dorm room

Dorm rooms are fantastic for travellers. Not only are they cheap accommodation but they are a great place to meet people too. So how do you feel about staying in a hostel dorm room and sharing your space with complete strangers?

Sounds a bit daunting, if you’ve not tried it before. Not to mention all those hostel horror movies. Which I daren’t watch because I would probably never sleep in a hostel ever again!!

The best bit about dorm room is that you meet like-minded travellers almost as soon as you set foot in the room. And within 5 minutes, it’s the usual. ‘Where are you from? When did you arrive? Where are you going next?’

But hey nothing wrong with that to start the conversation. And pretty soon, you’re off exploring your new destination together, more than likely searching for food and drink!

‘the cheaper the accommodation, the more money you have to spend on experiences and adventures’

I don’t think I would have been able to travel to as many places over the last 8 years if I stayed in hotels all the time. For me, the cheaper the accommodation, the more money you have to spend on experiences and adventures in that country you are visiting.

Dorm rooms can cost as little $5, depending where in the world you are travelling. Even the more expensive countries, staying in a dorm room will make quite a difference to your budget.

So what is a hostel dorm room?

Dorm rooms come in all shapes and size. There are the cute 4 bed ones and then the massive 20 plus rooms. Most hostels opt for bunk beds as these simply take up less space but you might find the odd smaller one that has single beds. Are you a top or bottom bunk person? I have to admit both have their benefits but normally I opt for the bottom.

So that’s the logistics. Are you curious what it is really like? Check out my list of top 15 things you might encounter whilst staying in a hostel dorm room. And let me say, even though I have experienced all but one of these, none of them would stop me from booking a dorm room.

top 15 things you might experience Staying in a hostel dorm room

 

1. snoring

Yes, unfortunately you will hear this if you sleep in a hostel dorm room. You have found the perfect hostel, a comfy bed, now it’s time to sleep. But no, you have someone in your room that resembles a runaway train. I admit some tend to be louder than others, there are the little snorts that you can cope with. But if you are really unlucky there’s the snoring that you need to bury your head under pillow to block out the noise.
Becky’s Tip – Always keep ear plugs under your pillow. Sometimes the snoring starts at random times in the night so be prepared to block out that noise!
‘in the middle of the night. ‘I love you, I love you’, followed by some mmm noises’

2. Sleep talkers

Slightly less annoying than snoring but can be a bit freaky when you first experience it. Most are mumblings that makes no sense but I have shared hostel dorm rooms where full conversations occur. My most memorable was when someone started declaring their love repeatedly in the middle of the night. ‘I love you, I love you’, followed by some mmm noises. No guessing what they were dreaming about!
Becky’s Tip – As with snoring, ear plugs are great but sometimes  it’s more fun to listen and see whether they say anything interesting!

3. Hostel Dorm room power

By that I mean the electricity. Some dorm rooms, in particular the more modern ones have one per bed which is fantastic and saves a lot of hassle. But if you are in one of those dorms with one power point for the whole room, it’s an on-going queue to charge all your equipment. And lets face it, you don’t really want to leave a phone charging whilst you aren’t in the room.
Becky’s Tip – Read hostel reviews beforehand or simply find a plug elsewhere in the hostel so you can socialise and charge at the same time.  

4. Late arrivals

In a dorm room you can expect arrivals at all time of day and night. Especially in a city with an major airport eg Bangkok. It is normally the start or end of trip and can mean early or late flight times. Always a challenge arriving into a pitch black dorm room, trying to locate an empty bed and unpacking your essentials as quietly as possible.
Becky’s Tip – If your flight really does arrive at a crazy time of night, consider booking a private room  for the first night. A bit more expensive but means a more relaxing start to your holiday and guarantees you can have a little lie in to catch up on sleep.

5. Early leavers

Again similar to the late arrivals, except the challenge is trying not to wake everyone in the room as you gather your belongings and made a sneaky exit. This is where most belongings get left behind too. A top that fell behind the bed or book you had under your pillow. I managed to leave my travel towel behind on one early departure from a dorm, which meant for the rest of the trip I was using a t-shirt as a towel!
Becky’s Tip – Pack as much as you can the night before and try to just leave the essentials out. The beer can wait another 10 minutes! Also a quick scan with a torch around your bed to do a final check is always worth doing.

6. Plastic bag rustlers

Forget for one moment how bad these are for the environment. Actually don’t, I will discuss that in a minute. There’s always one person who keeps everything in plastic bags. Not an issue you would think.
But imagine snoozing in the early hours of the morning and all you can hear is some idiot rustling plastic bags in their rucksack trying to find something. All I want to do at this point is tell them to shut the @*&%$ up. Ok, I am not a morning person but still you have to admit it is annoying!
Becky’s Tip – Save our planet, use cotton bags. Much better for the environment. If you do need something waterproof try out some Dry bags you can pick them up at most outdoor shops.
‘Most drunken travellers staying in a hostel dorm room try to be quiet but normally fail.’

7. Drunken dorm mates

This is one that you will definitely experience. It’s the early hours of the morning. There are either giggles or bangs as someone tries to find their bed but walks into everything instead. Most drunken travellers staying in a hostel dorm room try to be quiet but normally fail. But pretty quickly they are passed out on the bed…. fingers crossed they don’t start snoring!
Becky’s Tip – Not that much you can do at the time. Ear plugs and eye masks might stop you from being woken up.

8. Mobile phone glow

It’s amazing how powerful our little phones are. That tiny screen is so bright. You’ve read how mobile phones are not great before bed, the blue light tends to wake you up instead of send you to sleep. But after a day away from the hostel, it’s the perfect time to catch up on Facebook or Instagram.
Becky’s Tip – Turn your brightness down to low so you aren’t dazzling fellow travellers. And if the light bothers you then grab yourself an eye mask or use a scarf.
 

9. Hostel Locker challenge

Living out of a backpack containing all your worldly belongings can mean you worry about losing items. Some people are forever playing the locker challenge. This is trying to fit everything they own into the dorm room locker. Now these lockers come in all shapes and sizes so can result in some serious battles to retrieve your bag back. There’s plenty of room at the end of the bed for your bag.
Becky’s Tip – If you are going to use the locker, save it for your valuables. Honestly, no-one wants to search through your (possibly) stinky clothes to steal your belongings. Trust your dorm buddies. I always have and its worked for me.
 ‘the dorm room resembles the Arctic as someone has turned the air con down low’

10. temperature control – Too hot or too cold

This is similar to the office environment. The guys are too hot and the girls too cold (well that’s true for me). Same scenario staying in a hostel dorm room. The temperature outside is 35 degrees, yet the dorm room resembles the Arctic as someone has turned the air con down low. And you know there’s no point in changing it because 5 minutes later someone else will have fiddled with it!
Becky’s Tip – Not much you can do if it’s crazy hot. You don’t want to open all the windows and let the mosquitos in. Then you will be really unpopular. I tend to sleep with a top or scarf to wrap round me if the temperature drops too much in the night.

11. Seeing things you don’t want to see in the dorm

If it’s hot, this generally means less clothes. But because it’s hot doesn’t mean everyone else in the dorm room wants to see your ass or even worse, as you trying to keep cool. I am still scarred from my experience in Buenos Aires, waking up to be met with EVERYTHING hanging out of the guys boxers shorts in the bunk opposite me. Not a pretty sight!
Becky’s Tip – Boys – boxers shorts that fit please or failing that wear some shorts. Girls – same again really, I know we are all gorgeous but I still don’t want to see it!

12. Hearing things you don’t want to hear

Yes I am talking naughty business here!! After 8 years of travelling and sleeping in dorm rooms, I can honestly say I have never heard anyone having sex in my dorm room. Maybe it’s just the amazing ear plugs I have or I have just been really lucky. But I am sure you have all read the stories where all of a sudden a pair get a bit carried away.
Becky’s Tip – Just get a room people. And by that I mean a private room and not a dorm room. Most hostels will have a mix of dorm and private rooms so all you need to do is ask. Failing that how about the shower. Well at least it’s private and the water can hide the noise.
 ‘if you’re going to have your underwear on show I guess it’s good for it to be clean.’

 13. is iT a hostel Dorm room or is it a laundry room?

 
It’s common for beds to be turned into fancy clothes driers. From the towels to underwear, clothes will be drapped across the beds in the on-going challenge of clean clothes. Well if you’re going to have your underwear on show I guess it’s good for it to be clean.
Becky’s Tip – Just be considerate where you are hanging your laundry. The steps to the top bunk are not great if you are occupying the bottom.

14. Questionable bedding

 Now please don’t cringe when you read this, but it does happen. You’re tired and just want to crash out for a bit. And that’s when you see it, the mark on your pillow or sheet. If you’ve travelled a while you become hardened to these type of things. It’s never that bad. Although I remember a very dodgy room in Thailand, thank goodness I was only staying one night.
Becky’s Tip – If it’s the pillow, just turn it over ha ha! I always travel with my silk sleeping bag liner. Sounds a bit luxurious for a traveller doesn’t it. But I promise it’s a great purchase so add it to your packing list.

15. Treating the Dorm room like your own personal room

One of the great things about dorm room is that you meet so many people. Sometimes you’ll meet people who have only just started travelling and others have been nomads for years. But how annoying is it when someone seems to empty the entire contents of their bag all over the room. You know there’s just a pile of crap creeping all over the place.

Becky’s Tip – A little bit of tidiness is always appreciated by your fellow travellers

Have you experienced staying in a hostel dorm room? Did you encounter any or these or maybe something I have missed off? Tell me about in the comments below

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First time in a hostel? Read about what you can expect staying in a hostel dorm room. Plus a few tips to ensure you are the perfect room mate.

Becky works full time in the UK; however her real passion is travel. She was a late starter, not going on her first solo trip until she was 32 flying off to Australia, which had been a dream since she was 9 years old. Becky has now totted up 40 countries across 6 continents. Becky has taken on several multi day hikes and summited Mount Kilimanjaro in 2012. She also has a love for wildlife, especially penguins. Follow her travels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest at Becky the Traveller.

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Comments (42)

  1. Hey Becky!

    Great tips, couldn’t agree more with that. Especially the silk sleeping bag is a pro tip. Got one for myself, needs almost no space in the backpack and I was always thankful to have it when things turn out to be a bit different than expected 😉

    1. Hi Thomas, thanks glad you agree!! Yes I love my silk sleeping bag liner, used it so many times too. Plus it does save your sleeping bag a bit, I bought a nice down one last year so make sure I sure my liner to keep it fresher!!

  2. That was hilarious. So glad I got to read that. Dorm rooms are so not my thing but I understand why people do it. Love all the things to expect because they’re so true!!! Great post!!

  3. oh wow .. I think I experienced all of the listed above during my one night stay recently in London.. the night was shorter than expected and the sleep the worst… I always stayed in hostels but I figured that I might be too old for a 16 bed mixed dorm now.. will go for the 4 bed dorm next time 🙂

    1. Wow Lena, that it pretty unlucky. I think I came close to experiencing them all in a huge hostel in Buenos Aires I stayed in. I mostly stay in 6 or 8 bed ones now but I think the experience depends on whether it’s a party hostel or not!!!

  4. Number 3 – my solution is to travel with a high capacity power bar that has at least two charging cables. That way, I can charge the bar during the ‘quiet’ times, and then use it to charge all my gear when everyone else is fighting over the one outlet in the room!

    1. Ah that’s a great idea, I have seen a few people with those but I always travel pretty light, my rucksack is only 55kg so that would get thrown out during the packing stages. Maybe I should try and find a small one?

  5. Very interesting! I have never stayed in a hostel before, I guess the closest I have come was a Fire Island share house. You do have lots of great advice, but I just feel like I wouldn’t really be able to relax with strangers sleeping in the same room and there are so many weirdos. I can see how you save a ton of money though!

    1. Ha ha Anisa are you calling me a weirdo for sleeping in a hostel!! Honestly, it is just normal people that want to save a few pennies. I don’t think I have met anyone that I would class as a weirdo on my travellers, everyone I have met has been lovely 🙂

  6. I’ve never slept in a hostel before – I must confess those horror stories you mentioned did put me off. Plus I’m a VERY light sleeper so I might struggle with them. But your tips in this post are totally useful… maybe ear plugs would be enough for me? Your article has convinced me that I should at least try one day 😀

    1. Yeah give it a go, it does depend a lot on what hostel you book. If it’s a huge one in the middle of the city centre that does beer pong games every night then yes you might encounter more of the things I mentioned but a smaller hostel would be ok. Go on give it a go 🙂

  7. I’ve definitely experienced all of these! One thing to add to the bright screen glow is the NOISY TAPPERS. You know, the ones who don’t put their phones on silent and then lay in bed all night long texting and all you hear is TAPTAPTAPTAPTAPTAPTAP BRRRING TAPTAPTAPTAPTAP oh my godddddd!! I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love hostels… but be considerate, y’all!

  8. To be honest I have never been to a hostel before but thats exatcly for these reasons loool I imagine it might be amazing to jave contact with like minded people but I know myself, and I know how picky I am and how easy it is for me to get annoyed 🙁

  9. Great tips. I’ve never been able to talk my travel companions into staying at a hostel, but I’m looking into it for some solo travel I have planned later this year.

  10. We used to stay in dorms a lot, and you got to the point! I am a light sleeper and never could understand why people stay in dorm rooms if they pack their plastic bags all night/being drunk and loud… not to mention the sex part. (I can’t stand earplugs…) Lately, we prefer private rooms (or 6-bed dorms at the top) where possible. We got old, haha 🙂

    1. Yeah I tend to pick slightly smaller dorms now but I defintely think it depends on the type of hostel you stay in, you can normally get a pretty good idea from the reviews people leave beforehand so I always have a quick look before booking anything 🙂

  11. I’ve always wanted to stay in a dorm room atleast once. It’s one of those things you know. Not that I haven’t lived in a hostel while studying. That I feel is a totally different experience. My fear… Getting robbed!

    1. Ah you should give it a go Penny, it’s a great experience. I have never, touch wood, been robbed whilst staying in a hostel. There are normally lockers for your valuables and really I don’t think anyone else would want what’s in my bag!! Hope you give it a go at least once 🙂

  12. Hahaha the snorers, sleep walkers and the plastic bag rustlers!! So true! Hostel dorm rooms are awesome – if you know what to expect (like your article helps us to understand)… then they’re fantastic ways to meet people and also really really fun.

    1. Yeah plastic bag rustlers drive me insane, at least if you’re snoring it’s not generally something you can control but plastic bags arhhh!!! Yeah I love hostels, great to meet new people and I have had some awesome fun with people I have met there.

  13. OMG the ear plugs tip is gold! I’ve never stayed in a hostel but I’ve heard just about every story from hookups to snoring to someone in the hostel with night terrors even.
    This was such an interesting read because I’ve never experienced hostel life before!

  14. Staying in two different hostels this summer and I’m a little nervous! I’ve always had great experiences in hostels, but I’ve never been in one during the busy season. Thank you for sharing these great tips!

  15. Maybe I’m horribly unhappy, but I’ve heard too many things I haven’t wanted to hear. My worst when I was sick in Barcelona and this girl woke the entire room up at 4am. So inconsiderate. Great tips!

    1. Ah that’s just the worst, you know it’s bad if they manage to wake everyone up. I think majority of the time I seem pretty lucky but some people do tend to go a bit crazy away from home. I am sure if people were staying with friends they wouldn’t go waking everyone up in the middle of the night!

  16. I have experienced nearly all of these things when staying in a dorm room, no joke! Although having ear plugs is literally the best thing you can do for yourself! I wouldn’t go anywhere without them. Great post and so accurate.

    1. Thanks Chloe, I can imagine but I think as long as you don’t experience them all on the same night then it’s not too bad!! I love my ear plugs they save you from all sorts, always take them on the plane too so I can get a good sleep 🙂

  17. Another great tip to avoid all of the above issues is rent the whole dorm, you can sleep in a different bed each night and no one bothers you like a hotel room with lots of beds

  18. This was really useful! It sounds a ton like college before you know your roommates enough to tell them to shut up or turn the AC down! :p Definitely helpful tips here and good to know about the lockers!

  19. This is fantastic! I’m taking my friend to her first hostel stay and have sent this to her for recon! Love the tips you include, because I’ve definitely experienced each of these during my travels!

  20. Great and comprehensive list 🙂 Sleeping in dorms has values and annoyances, but it definitely has some travel charm and saves you some money. I like the top bunk better since it’s usually quieter in the morning when people are moving around below.

    1. Thanks Inge. I know what you mean about the top bunk but I think I just love being able to get up without doing the ladder challenge every time!! Although I do prefer top bunk if the bottom one is really low 🙂