I can assure you that most of your anxieties and fears about living in a hostel, if you are first-time hostel dweller, are going to be chalked up to your pre-traveling jitters. And if you feel the need to watch the movie Hostel before traveling (pro tip: don’t), then you are going to have a few extra ridiculous anxieties about the whole experience.
I loved the hostels I stayed in during my summer abroad, and not a single one of them seemed like they were laying the scene for a horror film. Each hostel seems to have its very own personality, so make sure you research your options before picking one! While I was in Amsterdam, I stayed in three different hostels–one Bulldog and two Stayokays. Each polar opposite of one another in character and overall vibe. I lived on Hostelworld before leaving to make sure I was picking the right hostel!
When I first arrived, I was situated in a Stayokay just outside of Vondelpark. My blue ribbon award of best hostel might be a tad biased because not only is it right along the fence line of my favorite park, but it is also in my favorite city. Even so, it’s a ribbon well-deserved.
Snug alongside Vondelpark, this Stayokay was exactly the kind of calm I needed to cure my jet lag and to make the eclectic personality of Amsterdam feel slightly less overwhelming. During my week bunking in this Stayokay I discovered some of the helpful hints I learned before I arrived weren’t so helpful, and some were exactly spot on.
Hostel Helpful Hints
#1: Ear Plugs. Ear Plugs. Ear Plugs.
These are a definite, 100%, no questions asked, kind of necessity. I almost didn’t bring ear plugs because I’m one of those sleepers that once I’m out, I’m out. I packed them only because my mom had bought me a bag.
Bless her dear, dear heart.
You could be in a room with three other people, or you could be in a room with thirteen other people, and the number won’t have anything to do with it. My worst night’s sleep came from my very first week in a room with just 2 other girls.
My sleep was interrupted by the harsh sounds of the German language as the girl in the bunk above me argued intensely with some poor, unknown soul in her sleep. I couldn’t even find any humor in the situation because I couldn’t understand a single world she was saying.
Ear plugs. Do it.
#2: Power Strip.
This tip is a hit or miss, honestly. Bring one, but be aware that the chances to use it might be slim depending on the nationality situation going on in your room. The thing about the power strip is that it is only helpful, and not obnoxious, if more than just yourself is utilizing it. Generally, I was the only American in every room I stayed in, and there were, on average, 3-4 outlets for every 5-10 girls.
The Bulldog Hotel in Amsterdam had an individual outlet next to each bed, which was incredibly convenient, while another hostel only had 3 outlets to be shared between 6 people.
Now imagine if there were a handful of Americans in your room and only 3 outlets…
Insta hostel friends comes with the power strip.
#3: Evening Etiquettes.
Download a flashlight app onto your phone if your phone doesn’t already have it built-in and start practicing the art of the tip-toe. A good rule to live by while staying in a hostel is that if it is after 10pm and you’re getting back to your room, assume a majority of your room is already asleep.
I’ve had enough roommate faux pas situations that I am incredibly conscious of other people I’m sharing spaces with, but I can’t say the same for some of the people I shared a room with while abroad. While my typical passive-aggressive, Minnesotan nature doesn’t call for much confrontation, there were other people in my room to quickly–and sharply–nip any undesirable behavior in the bud if there were more than 2 or 3 other roommates sleeping. To avoid getting a tongue lashing, keep your locker organized so you aren’t shuffling around too long at night and get a flashlight application on your phone. I promise that you won’t be able to turn on the lights, and god help you if you try.
#4: Hostel Storing Lockers.
Some hostels had cages and lockers big enough to fit my entire 90L backpack in, while others had lockers as narrow as the kind I used in middle school. For the latter, I was so glad I separated my clothes by style and packed them in gallon sized plastic baggies accordingly. Not only did it significantly help with utilizing the amount of space in my backpack, but this way I could stack my bagged clothes in those narrow lockers easily instead of shoving them in there haphazardly had I not organized them in the fashion I did. I could then store my empty backpack under my bunk, and my anxiety about theft couldn’t be fed.
#5: Locks and Towels
The two things hostels will charge you a little outrageously for.
Some hostels are nice enough to provide a towel or a lock that you may purchase and keep even after your stay is over. Others, charge a rental fee per every 24 hours. Little things like this can start to add up, so I would suggest bringing your own lock and a quick-dry towel.
The quick-dry towel is a worthy investment. They dry completely within the hour, so there will be no wet towel dampening other clothes in your pack, and no fears of any possible moldy situations.
I loved all three of the hostels I stayed at during my time in Amsterdam, and while the Stayokay by Vondelpark remains my favorite, atmosphere-wise, the Bulldog Hotel in the Red Light District had the most millennials. My generation. Every friend I made while I was in Amsterdam I met while staying at the Bulldog.
It also had the best view by far.