If you have never stayed in a hostel before, the prospect can be quite daunting. Particularly if you have coupled your expectations with horror movies with the same name. In reality hostels are a godsend for frequent, or budget conscious travelers. They provide the opportunity of travel for people who otherwise could not afford it. It allows a passport to the world for young adults and on occasion employment opportunity to a budget deficient global nomad.
Like hotels, the quality and price of hostels vary so you need to do a little research before committing to a booking. Additionally you mist remember that you are not staying in a hotel and thus some luxuries will not be available. Plus some etiquette is required when sharing a space with your fellow traveler.
Below is a survival guide for hostels.
Research, research, and research
Research the geography of the city you are visiting. Have an idea of what is available in the suburb, and know the places that you are wanting to go to. Every city in the world has some areas that are a 'no go' zones. In order to reduce the costs of running a hostel, they can often be set up in less attractive areas of the city. This is ok, as long as there are public transport directly available or the area isn't dangerous. Be sure hat the hostel you are about to book isn't residing in the middle of an undesirable zone.
Booking a hostel
Booking a hostel isn't as complicated as you think. There are a number of hostel search engines, like Hostel World, that provide you with a rundown of the hostel facilities, costings, pictures and customer reviews. Additionally, most hostels have a website available as well. Be warned though that you are renting a space. Like any real estate advertisement, they are going to put the best 'wide angle' image available up for viewing, so if you want to check their credibility, couple that with TripAdvisor.
Picking a room
Hostels usually offer a variety of room set ups to accommodate different people. The simple breakdown is Dorm vs Private room, or Shared vs Personal. Yes, you can have a private room in most hostels. It does cost more, but you are usually provided with your own bathroom as well. Dorms on the other had can vary in size and gender. I have stayed in everything from a 56 bed mixed gender dorm in a ships hull in the Netherlands to 4 bed female only dorm in a tree house in Thailand. Know what you are happy to reside in. Don't book a mixed dorm and then complain that boys smell. You had the choice.
Snorers beware! You have been warned
Be honest! If you snore or you suspect you snore DO NOT BOOK A DORM ROOM. Yes I am yelling this at you. Yes it sucks that you snore and that it is something that isn't within your control. But seriously. If you know you snore and you book into a dorm room to save some cash you will be faced with the angry faces of the sleep deprived room mates in the morning. Worse still, they will probably throw things at you during the night to make you change position leaving the both of you with a restless nights sleep. This is really poor hostel etiquette. Up there with farting on a plane, or taking a phone call in a church. You just don't do it.
This is a hostel, not your home!
Staying in a hostel means that you are sharing a space. The important thing to remember is SHARING. This is not your home and so you need to respect communal space. Unless you have managed to pack your mother into your backpack you will be expected to clean up after yourself. This includes picking up clumps of hair from the shower, and washing, drying AND putting away dishes and containing your things within you bed-space.
The etiquette of space and sound
Sharing a space also means being aware of the noise you create. It is great if you have a fun night at a club and are stumbling home in the wee hours of the morning, however the whole hostel does not need to know about it. Prepare ahead of your night on the town and leave your PJs and toothbrush on your pillow so that you can find them in the dark. DO NOT TURN ON THE LIGHT! It is a sure fire way to piss everyone off and when daylight hits they will not hesitate making excessive amounts of noise while you are trying to sleep off your hangover. Respect quiet hours and people will respect you.
Alternatively, if it is the middle of the day and you decide to have a nap in your dorm, do not get cranky at people talking in the area. It is the daytime...you should be exploring the city!
These are just some pointers to keep your head above water in the world of Hostels. If you decide to take the leap, it can open up a world of experience, new friendships and opportunities that you couldn't of dreamed of when you first hit the 'Book Now' button. So what are you waiting for?!