The shrilling alarm reverberated throughout our darkened room. “Shit” came a voice from above, and groans came from every corner of the room. Yes, another eventful day in the life of a traveller staying in a hostel dorm had begun.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think hostels offer some great advantages to travellers. They are cheap, they provide some valuable travelling tips, have many necessities like showers, fully equipped kitchens, laundry, etc. and are a great way to meet other travellers. But when awoken from a peaceful sleep at 5.30 in the morning because another occupant of your room has to catch a train or bus or whatever, you totally forget about the advantages and vow tonight you will stay in a room on your own. But when night comes and you are posed with the choice of either spending your whole week’s budget on a single room for the night or having enough cash to last the whole week then you will usually choose the second option. Thus you spend another night in a hostel dorm.
Dorm living is an experience if you aren’t used to it. You will be sharing with people you’ve never met before and sometimes will have to be very tolerant. Be prepared for people changing in front of you, people coming in late and getting up early, zippers zipping, bags rustling, alarms going off, snorers, talkers and even bonkers (who are usually embarrassed in the morning!).
Most dorms are same sex dorms, but there are some hostels that place you in a mixed dorm. I remember arriving in Darwin after an 18 hour bus trip from Alice Springs only to find I was shoved into a four-bed dorm with three guys. I was too tired after such a long trip to worry about it and hey, the guys turned out to be alright. But if you would prefer to share with people of the same sex remember to mention this when you book or check-in. In most cases you won’t be spending much time in your room anyway, but the time you do, you want to feel comfortable.
Another thing to consider is the number of occupants in each dorm which can range from the average of 4-6 people to those where you find 8, 10, 12 or more. If you don’t think you’d feel comfortable in a dorm with a dozen people, request to be in a smaller one.
Even though some don’t mind staying in a huge dorm cause it can be cheaper, I have met people whose health has been affected. A male friend always seemed to have snorers in his dorm and he was becoming crankier and crankier as the days passed because of lack of sleep.
Although some hostels will assign you a bed, most travellers choose their own, and you won’t find many that will swap if you don’t like y ours. It is usually first in, first choice of bunk. Lower bunks seem to go first. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is because of consideration to other travellers as you don’t make as much noise when getting into a lower bunk as someone who has to climb to the top bunk. Also, they are easier to get into if you have partied too hard, and easier to get out of it you have to make a quick dash anywhere; just watch your head!
Now with your bunk chosen there comes the question of bedding. Some hostels provide bed linen and blankets while others prefer you have your own, so check this out before you book in.
A good thing to look for when living in a dorm is the security of your belongings. Sometimes it is not professional thieves you have to worry about, it can be your fellow travellers. Yes, we all know about those transients who steal your jewellery or camera and sell them quickly, but take care of items such as that expensive shampoo and conditioner you’ve just bought to bring your hair back to life, or that new deodorant, or that souvenir t-shirt.
Even though there are down sides of dorm living, if you asked me would I stay in a dorm again, I’d say, you bet I would!
If you are interested in staying in a hostel during your travels, or even working in one, check out Hostel World. This booking engine allows you to book your hostel stay.