How to Survive a Hostel When You're Over 30

Most people think of hostels as a place only for the young - loud, cramped, and cheap. As a solo traveler on a budget, though, they're often the only affordable option in bigger cities (tip: in more rural areas, go for the guesthouses!) I haven't stayed in hostels in a decade and was worried I would hate returning to dorm life at the age of 32, but it turns out hostels can be great for people of all ages - if you're prepared.

1) Don't choose a party hostel (unless you want to party) 

Every city has at least one hostel known for being the place to party - in many places, there's even a bar attached to the hostel. This makes for a short walk home if you're looking to get wasted. Or it makes for a lot of loud drunk people stumbling around and running into things in the middle of the night. Do your research and choose a place that reviews say is quiet if you value a good sleep. 

2) Do choose a social hostel. 

Aside from cost, the biggest benefit to staying in a hostel is the chance to meet other travelers, especially if you're solo. I thought I'd only meet young backpackers, but I've met everyone from college students to retired folks staying in hostels. Rooftop terraces, common rooms and kitchens are great places to strike up conversations, but not all of them are created equal - use resources like TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet to see what other guests had to say about the vibe. Seek out a hostel with good spaces for socializing and you might find yourself explaining Cards Against Humanity terms to a Czech gal, a Brit, a Frenchman, a Swiss dude and an Israeli over beers in Yerevan.

A big cyclist? Ask the cycling community where they stay in Batumi (hint: there's a cyclists' hut above the city with a sweet view and a free bed). Russian speaker? There's a hostel in Tbilisi that caters to you. Returned Peace Corps volunteer? Do some digging on Facebook or Peace Corps Wiki to find out where the volunteers stay when they're in the city. Choosing a place to stay based on your interests ups the chances that you'll find good activity buddies!

My favorite rooftop, at Envoy Tbilisi

3) Destination matters 

Going to Ibiza or Bangkok? A hostel might not be your best bet as an over-30 traveler. A place like Georgia tends to attract a slightly older crowd - it's not as well known and there aren't many study abroad programs. Off-the-beaten path or slightly more expensive countries will probably skew a little older, which might (though no guarantees) make for more pleasant space sharing.

Keeping it real: by "older" crowd, I mean that at 32 I was usually only a few years older than everyone else (instead of a decade) and occasionally I was not the oldest person in the dorm.

4) Consider a private room.

If you want to meet other travelers but don't want to share space with strangers, lots of hostels offer private rooms. They cost more, but will give you some privacy while still having the benefit of shared social areas to make friends.

5) Bring ear plugs and a sleep mask 

This should probably be number one, because no matter what you do there will always be a snorer, or someone turning on the light at 4am. Ear plugs and a mask will make it a lot easier to get a good night's sleep, which will also reduce your risk of killing the guy skyping in the bunk above you at 11pm detailing everything he ate today (yes, this really happened).

(Also bring shower shoes... cause communal showers are icky no matter how clean the hostel is.)

Sanity savers for less than $5

And if you've read this far - a bonus section: Bad Hostel Habits (a not-to-do list) 

10. Bring a suitcase big enough to fit a body inside and leave it in the middle of the floor; line all of your full-sized lotions (because just one full-sized lotion will not suffice) on the shared bedside table.

9. Put your smelly shoes and duffel bag right by your lower bunk mate's head.

8. Sleep through the middle of the day and act annoyed when dorm mates wake you up by doing normal things. It's 2pm.

7. Leave your shorts and toiletries in the middle of the floor. This is not an actual college dorm room.

6. Walk into a dark dorm room at midnight and loudly ask "Are people asleep in here?" Not anymore.

5. Spray Axe body spray in the dorm room. What, didn't everyone want to inhale Dark Temptation?

4. Turn off the air conditioning in the middle of the night when it's 90 degrees out and 8 bodies are packed into a room the size of a closet.

3. Walk around in common areas in just your tighty whities like the whole hostel is your living room.

2. Enter a dark room at 10:30pm, get in bed, and then Skype with your dad at full volume without leaving the room. Do it again the next night (sister this time), and get defensive when people suggest you finish the conversation outside the room.

1. Shave your back hair in the one shared sink for the entire guesthouse, during the morning bathroom rush. Come on over, you can brush your teeth right next to me.

Any good (bad) hostel-mate stories? 


Popular Posts