Whisper it quietly, but we might actually be moving towards a practical resolution to the lengthy COVID-19 saga. Vaccination efforts are moving steadily ahead throughout the world, and international travel is starting to advance in a more decisive way than we’ve seen for many months. Waves continue to wax and wane, admittedly, and things can certainly get bad again — but there’s plenty of reason to start feeling more adventurous.
For many people who’ve spent so long cooped up indoors or settling for middling staycations, this is sufficient motivation to get going. And if your friends aren’t quite ready to take that leap or you just can’t line up the scheduling to travel with a companion, you can simply fly solo. What better way to embrace your freedom than by adventuring alone? If you can work remotely (which is fairly likely), you can even take your work with you.
Solo travel generally means a restricted budget, which in turn brings hostels into the mix. Hostels don’t offer five-star accommodation, but what they do offer is convenience, affordability, and some measure of mystery. You never know who you’ll meet at a hostel, after all. You might make some great friends there and spend some time with them that you’ll never forget. Travel has a way of bringing people together.
But if you’re going to stay at hostels, you’ll need to know how to fit some sensible planning and consistency into your trip (however much you want it to be a spur-of-the-moment effort). For instance, there are certain things that every solo traveler should do when they arrive at a hostel — and we’re going to look at four of them here. Let’s get started.
Warmly greet the staff members
While it isn’t as common as some might think, it isn’t unheard of for fights to break out at hostels, or for guests to engage in unseemly conduct (to put it politely). And if something goes wrong while you’re staying at a hostel, you’ll likely need to turn to members of staff for assistance. If that happens, you’ll want to feel confident that they’ll view you positively and listen carefully to your explanation of what’s been going on. That isn’t a given.
If you stroll into a hostel with an attitude, speak to the staff very rudely, demand more than you’ve paid for, and generally prove awkward, you’ll likely be written off as an inconsiderate troublemaker and not someone to be given much time. This is a huge mistake! Imagine losing something important like your smartphone, or even being the victim of theft, and having no one else to turn to in a strange location — particularly one where you might not speak the language.
Make that great first impression and you’ll have a better time overall. They’ll be more likely to give you useful information, help you out, and be there in the event that something goes wrong. You may also become friends with some of them, which would be an added bonus.
Get familiar with the surroundings
Whether you’re staying for one night or an entire week, one of your top priorities should be surveying the surrounding area. You may have planned ahead and done a lot of online research, but no amount of looking at maps will fully prepare you. This is partially necessary because it gives you ideas for what to do, but it’s mostly necessary as a safety measure. Situational awareness is a valuable skill.
Going out and getting drunk is a common pastime for travelers, as is hitting up nearby clubs and parties — and one thing you don’t want to do is get exhausted at 3am and struggle to remember how you’re supposed to get back to your hostel. Local taxi services may be expensive, confusing, or both. Alternatively, you could go for a simple walk and get lost along the way. You might not think it’s a concern due to your GPS-enabled smartphone, but phones can break or run out of charge. Relying too heavily on technology is always a concern.
Check in with friends online
Even if you’re really keeping to yourself throughout your trip, and even if you don’t care about social media or generally logging your travels online, you should still let at least one friend know where you are, what your plans are, and that you’re alright. It’s really just good sense. That way, if something goes wrong, someone will notice and alert the authorities.
Getting online might be as simple as logging into a provided Wi-Fi connection, or it might be rather more tricky in an area with limited connectivity (it’s also true that free Wi-Fi can be a serious data risk). You can get mobile Wi-Fi hotspots that will make this easier: it’s as simple as paying for the data you need. In some places, though, you may have to contend with regional internet restrictions, with China being the classic example due to its so-called great firewall.
A VPN service will help here by masking your IP address and allowing you to route traffic via another country: there are free options available, though a free VPN will inevitably have limitations that may make it better to pay for something better. Here’s a strong lineup of paid VPNs that are ideal for use in China. Having a good VPN will also help with entertainment, of course: if you get bored and have data available, you can enjoy region-locked streaming media.
Share tips with other guests
Lastly, something that will make your trip so much richer is taking every chance to engage with other hostel guests. Aim to move past any feelings of intimidation: they’re probably no less awkward than you are, so make an effort to break the ice whenever possible and you’ll likely find that they’re great people to be around.
In addition to spending time with them, you can glean some fantastic insight into what to do nearby. This is particularly useful when you’ve just arrived and you’re speaking to someone who’s been there for a while. They’ll have checked out various sights and destinations, and can tell you which ones are overrated and which are worth special effort to experience.
So there you have it! Four things you should do whenever you stay at a hostel. Doing them won’t guarantee that your solo travels go well, but it will definitely help.