Hostels are great, low-cost options for budget and solo travelers alike. The crowd will definitely be on the younger side and the amenities fewer, but the built in community often provides free travel advice, new friends, and even a few amenities (like a kitchen!!) that you’ll rarely get at a hotel. So what are the extra items you should (or shouldn’t) bring to a hostel?
Hostels are generally very safe environments, but you are generally sharing a room with strangers and there’s no guarantee for your valuables. If you book a private room, this doesn’t really apply to you, but better safe than sorry.
Nearly every decent hostel will provide lockers to store these items and will definitely have this posted as an amenity online, so double check before you book! These lockers vary in size from hotel-like safes that will only fit small electronics and documents all the way to full-size luggage lockers that can fit a backpack or carry on size suitcase.
What they generally won’t provide is the actual lock. Make sure you bring your own. Generally, the average gym locker padlock will do just fine. And if you find yourself in a place without lockers, luggage locks are usually a good backup. If you get a bad vibe from the place though, make sure you (securely) carry items like your passport with you when you’re out and about.
Staying in the community environment of a hostel provides lots of advantages, but also a few downsides, both of which you’ll want to prepare for. On the positive side, small games such as a deck of cards will help solo travelers easily meet new people. And on the other side, items for sleeping in a group environment, such as ear plugs and eye masks, may save you if you’re a light sleeper. There’s no guarantee everyone will be on your same sleep schedule, so be prepared. And if you know you may be the one with the super early departure time, consider using the silent alarm feature found on FitBits and other step trackers to spare your bunk mates.
The need to bring your own towels and/or sheets will vary by hostel and should be posted on their website. However, when they require you to bring your own, you can often rent linens directly from the hostel as well for a small fee. But if you don’t want to take the risk, bring your own. Compact, quick drying towels will help save space and musty clothes when you shower right before departing. And while sheets are more commonly provided, there are essentially sleeping back versions of sheets you can pack up tightly and not take up too much space.
You’ll almost always need your own soaps, body and clothing alike. Hostels won’t be providing you those tiny bottles of shampoo you’re used to from hotels, so make sure you have all your toiletries packed ahead of time. However, this one ends up in the maybe section since it’s often easier and cheaper to buy these items at your destination. Especially if you’ll be traveling for longer periods of time, just buy a normal sized bottle upon arrival rather than worrying about things exploding in your bag along the way.
Also for long(er) term travelers, you’ll want to bring (or buy!) your own laundry detergent. There’s no way you can pack a fresh set of clothes for a month so just accept you’ll be doing laundry and come prepared for it. Some hostels will have laundry facilities built in, but those without will definitely be able to point you in the right direction.
The Checklist: Hostel Add-Ons
Earplugs and sleep mask
Deck of cards
Baby shampoo/bar soap & shampoo