Sleeping peacefully in a hostel

Illustration by Travis Green

I spent my first night in Dublin wondering if I would make it through alive. A few friends I made on a study abroad program convinced me to stay the weekend in a hostel that they had researched on the Internet.

Picture a tiny whitewashed room with more beds than floor space, a co-ed bathroom minus doors for the stalls, and a set of drunken Dutch roommates. We were settling in to sleep when our new roommates told us in broken English that they were going to a discotheque.

As trashed as they already were, I was sure they were going to come back from partying at an ungodly hour just to steal all our stuff or to try to murder us in our beds.

Sharing a room with complete strangers is always an adventure. If you care about privacy, property, or personal safety, these tips can help you survive your stay in a hostel and save you tons of money.

Watch your belongings. Every­one travels with valuables: a passport, money, credit cards, cameras, and so on. Keep them on your person at all times. When you sleep, stick your valuables into your pillow­case so your hostel-mates will have to wake you up if they want to rob you.

Pack light. Carrying all your stuff on your back gets heavy. Invest in travel-sized soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and other items. Wear light layers to be ready for any weather. Double your day clothes as pajamas. Try packing some laundry detergent instead of extra clothes.

Forget personal hygiene. If you’re staying at the hostel for only a couple of days, ditch the shower. If you’re staying longer, try to find a hostel with single-sex bathrooms, or just wash your hair in the sink. Good hygiene is not worth being part of a live peep show.

Travel in groups. The best way to avoid creepy bunk buddies is to travel with a group of people you already know. Book a room in advance and fill all the beds. That way, you can leave some of your stuff in the room when you go out instead of carrying everything with you.

Eat the free food. Many hostels give a complimentary breakfast. If the local cuisine isn’t your priority or you just want to save a few Euros, stuff yourself on the free meal!

Like me, you too can survive your first night in a strange, foreign city with strange, foreign roommates. All I can say is, try it—you just might like it.

—Lindsay Stevens