How to Hostel

14 June 2018

The first time you spend time at a hostel, you’ll quickly come to realize that hostelling is more than just about finding a place to sleep at night. When you hostel, you’re choosing an experience that is social, that lets you explore a new destination beyond its typical tourist attractions, and that allows you to be an eco-conscious, responsible traveler. With more than 50 hostels across the country and a decades-long history, HI USA has the quintessential hostel experience thing down and we’re a good place start if you’re not sure how to handle your first-time stay. Take a look at some of our unofficial (but essential) rules for hostelling like a pro.

Follow the hostel on social media before you go 

phone scrolling through social media

Get yourself psyched for your trip and learn more about where you’ll be staying by following the hostel on Facebook and Instagram before you go. You’ll get a sense of the activities offered, the cool things to do nearby, and the overall vibe of both the hostel and the destination. Plus, if you have any questions, you can leave a comment for fellow travelers or the hostel to give you handy tips. 

Stay in a dorm 

dorm room at HI Sacramento Hostel

If you’re traveling alone or with a group of friends, a dorm is definitely the way to go. You automatically get to meet new people, and sharing the space means that you’ll get to know each other better and quicker than usual. Just remember to bring an eye mask and ear plugs if you’re a light sleeper.  

Eat breakfast 

breakfast at the cafe at HI New York City Hostel

At hostels, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and not just because it’s a free way to fuel up for the adventures ahead. Breakfast is where plans are made and great tips are shared. Maybe you end up next to a person who also planned to see all the museums, so now you have a buddy to go with. Or maybe someone’s already seen a part of the city you wanted to explore and they have good information on where to go and what to do. Breakfast is where the magic happens. 

Put your phone down 

A group of women at HI Washington DC hostel

The free Wi-Fi at HI USA hostels definitely comes in handy when you want to talk to friends and family back home and share your awesome photos. But it’s also important to get off your phone to totally immerse yourself in your surroundings. Talk to the people sitting in the common room instead, ditch the apps and ask the front desk staff for suggestions and directions, or do some people watching if you happen to be out and about. You’ll have better memories of your trip this way, and more meaningful conversations with interesting people since you’re not locked in your own personal world. 

Join a tour or hostel activity

Two women looking at the events board HI Point Montara

Kill two birds with one stone and make new friends while getting to know a place a little better on a hostel tour or activity. HI USA’s free walking tours and pub crawls take you to big sights and tucked away neighborhoods with a local guide full of knowledge and insider tips. In-house activities, like hostel dinners and welcome receptions, are a great way to break the ice with fellow travelers. 

Talk to the staff 

Checking in at HI SF City Center hostel

If there’s anyone who can help you with the big and small questions while you’re hostelling, it’s the friendly front desk staff. Need a charger or a place to store your extra luggage? Ask the staff. Wondering where to grab lunch nearby or which ferry to take so you can see the Statue of Liberty for free? Ask the staff. Hostels are manned by in-the-know locals who want to help you make the most of your stay, and for a lot of travelers, they end up being a highlight of the whole experience. 


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