5 Things to Know Before Staying in a Hostel for the First Time

5 Things to Know Before Staying in a Hostel for the First Time

Just got into Austin last night and it is feeling so surreal to be back two years later, on such different terms. Kristin and I have an AirBNB booked for the majority of our stay, but I met the well-traveled owner of Drifter Jack’s Hostel in San Francisco a few months back and had been looking for a reason to come check out his community ever since. I like to ease into these new travel things (like my one-day toe dip into solo travel abroad, so a night before our conference adventure was the perfect add-on.

Writing from the kitchen dining table, the community here is really, well — community — and as a first-time hostel experiencer here are 5 things I’ve learned you should know before jumping in:

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1 – BYOT

Bring your own things. Every-things. Specifically, a towel, lock and toiletries. Unlike an AirBNB, couchsurfing or of course a hotel or resort, none of these things will be provided for you. Some hostels have them available for a fee. Others don’t.

2- The Less Stuff the Better

The rooms here at Drifter Jack’s are pretty spacious for 4 and have a stacked storage corner with enough space for full-size luggage with room and lock hooks, but not everywhere is as accomodating. Options vary at different places. Some hostels have options under the bed, other in a storage corner, one main room or no locker space at all (luggage locks come in handy here). Generally, the less stuff you have the better for everyone.

3- Arrive On Time

Because you’re walking into a community, be mindful that your actions are affecting others. Arriving late in the night may disturb those trying to sleep, and because of the nature of hostels, staff may think to give your room to a walk-in if you haven’t arrived at your scheduled time. Be sure to call if you’re running behind to alert them.

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4- Don’t Have Too Many Plans

The best thing about staying in a hostel (pooled opinions from the common room here) is the community. Drifter Jack’s has a board of activities and top local things to do, and a partnership with a nearby bar nearby for a free drink every night you stay (provided you tip your bartenders). The staff will mostly always be knowledgable of the area, and at minimum the other people staying before you a few days will have recommendations about the exciting things they’ve done and been able to see. Have ideas, but don’t overload yourself on a schedule that leaves you missing out on opportunities to connect with the group!

5- Bring Your Best “You”

Because the best thing about the hostel experience is the community (let’s face it — no one LOVES sharing a bathroom with 4 people), bring your best self out! Have an amazing music collection? Fill out the airwaves of the common room (provided everyone’s on board)! Make killer french toast? Ask if everyone wants to pool together for groceries and throw down an epic breakfast. Blessed with a beautiful voice? Share it! The more you put into the community, the more you’ll get from it.

AND, people are the best first-hand representation we can have of other places in the world outside of going there ourselves, so you’re representing your country! Leave your best impression for people to take away “man, remember that awesome guy from XYZ?!”

Mainly, the key to this hostel thing seems to be open-mindedness and positive energy — a necessary accessory for any traveler. Oh, and this place has some sick art throughout with murals from the local community:

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Off to check out the Graffiti Park and Rainey Street, and see what my AirBNB has in store for the next week! Any Austin must-do’s, please throw ‘em my way in the comments or on Twitter!

Alright team — what are some of your best hostel tips? Best/worst experiences? I wanna hear ‘em!

  • Great tips! It’s great to hang out in common areas. Even if you’re a shy person, someone will eventually approach you.
    Also, I think it’s OK to be a bit noisy when getting ready for your 6 am pickup when your roommates drunkenly barged in an hour or so before 😛

  • All my must-dos for Austin are places to eat! There are very few chains in Austin so each restaurant is a different experience. I’m getting hungry thinking about it.
    Oh dear how do I even begin?
    Veggie Burger at P. Terry’s
    Franklin’s BBQ
    Torchy’s Tacos
    KERBY LANE (literally everything on the menu is genius but I always get kerby caso)

  • breathingmeansmore loving all your tips from austin! by some strange turn of events there was no BBQ eaten at all — major shame. but that torchy’s queso was super good. put a little note in my phone with these other spots for the next time!

  • Marie @ Marie Away pahahah this sounds like a personal story 😉

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