Hostel Hacks – How to survive hostel life

After living in hostels for quite a while on our east coast trip we’ve got some tips and tricks to make the most out of living in a hostel! It’s not a glamorous life, but if you do it right it can be one of the best experiences of your life. So… here we go!

Bring Earplugs!
I repeat, bring earplugs! They are so necessary for when you have noisy roomies or an unholy snorer in your room. It’ll save you from listening to a choir of loud snores and spending hours staring at the celling contemplating your life, wondering what you did to deserve a front row to the symphony snore-chestra…

Bring an eye mask
Hostels vary from place to place and you might not be guaranteed good curtains, so if you’re a sensitive sleeper I’d recommend a sleep mask. It’ll save you from the early mornings and rude wake up calls from roomies who turn the light on at 3am to pack their bags!

Bring a portable charger
This is a staple for me in a hostel; it means I never have to leave my phone in the room on charge alone; instead I can wander around the hostel charging it in my pocket. It’s come in handy so many times!

Buy an extension lead
You can pick these up everywhere for really cheap. We’ve been to too many hostels where there is only one plug in a room for 6 people! Eeek. Having an extension lead means your roomies will instantly love you and you will be able to have a plug at your bedside – so handy!

Bring a lock
Get yourself a little pad lock to use on the lockers in your room. It saves you from the constant worry about leaving your valuables unattended in the room. Don’t buy a huge padlock because most hostels only have small lockers and it won’t fit through the hole!

Don’t get complacent
Just because you’ve lived in a hostel for a while and trust the people you’re sharing a room with, don’t become complacent. While you may trust your current roomies, there’s nothing saying you wont get a new one while you’re out exploring, or that one of your roomies won’t forget to lock the door on their way out. We’ve heard too many horror stories of people putting their phones on charge in their rooms while they’re out and coming back to find it’s no longer there. Always lock up your valuables, simple!

Create yourself a little den
While hostels are great for meeting new people they don’t give you very much privacy. If you’re the sort of person who sometimes enjoys a bit of solitude, create yourself a den! It’s easy to do and really quick, we’ve made ours in the past by getting an extra sheet from reception or tucking our towels under the mattress above. Even if you’re on the top bunk it’s nice to drape something over the bars so that people can’t see your oh-so attractive sleeping face.

Work for accommodation
This can be a really quick and easy way to save money on accommodation. It usually involves working anywhere from 2-4 hours a day in exchange for a free night. Work can include cleaning the kitchen, cleaning rooms, doing laundry, running the shuttle bus, cleaning the bathrooms or doing maintenance. We once earned ourselves a free night for washing the hostel’s hire cars!

Store your bag while you explore
Sometimes hostels don’t allow you to check in until 2pm, if you arrive at 10am it can be quite frustrating. Most hostels have secure storage cupboards where you can store your bag for the day while you explore. Sometimes you can drop on and get this for free, but if you do have to pay, normally it wont cost any more than $5.

Buy yourself data
If you love social media it might be worth getting a pay as you go sim card. Wi-Fi availability and cost can vary from hostel to hostel, sometimes it’s free, sometimes it’s limited, and sometimes you have to pay per half hour. It soon adds up. We got free Wi-Fi in Cairns but the signal was awful, when we were in Airlie we got free Wi-Fi in a certain room but if you wanted it in your bedroom you had to pay and on Magnetic Island (Bungalow Bay) we got no free Wi-Fi and had to pay $2.50 per half hour for the privalege. Getting a sim card can save you money in the long run and it comes in incredibly handy when you’re exploring an unknown area as you can always let Google maps find your way home. You can also use your phone as a hot spot if you have a laptop, meaning you can have Wi-Fi on your laptop anywhere you go.

Buy your own knife
If there’s anything I can tell you about using kitchens in hostels, it’s that most of the time they’re awful and ill equipped! I don’t think I’ve ever used a sharp knife in a hostel, so if you want to save yourself a trip to hospital with blunt force trauma to your hand then a sharp knife is a must! You can pick up cheap knives from any shopping center, I recommend getting one with a cover so you don’t have to worry about it stabbing you when it’s in your bag.

Ask for an empty box
You can normally get an empty cardboard box from reception to store your cupboard foods in. We only really recommend this if you’re staying in a hostel for a while. It was our saviour when we did our farm work in Coffs Harbour. While living out of cool bags can be handy for travelling around, they are quite annoying to live out of long term, normally you find that you buy too much and it wont zip up anymore. A box means you can stack tins and give yourself a bit of organisation while living hectic hostel life!

One pot pasta
This is the best dish in the world! It saves you from having to wash up millions of pots and pans, and saves you the worry of there not being enough pans to go around. There’s nothing worse than starting to chop your veggies and then having to wait half an hour for a pan to cook them in! The best part is they are cheap and easy meals for the money conscious backpacker too! I’ll link some of our fave recipes below.
– One-pot pasta alla puttanesca
One-Pot Tomato Basil Spinach Pasta
One-pot spaghetti alla puttanesca with chickpeas

Check for special offers
Sometimes hostels have certain nights of the week where they offer discounted meals or homemade food. At a hostel we stayed in they alternated each week between $5 BBQ, $2 hot dogs and $5 Sunday dinner! It can save you the hassle of cooking and can sometimes work out way cheaper.

Join in with activities
Most hostels have daily activities, which are free of charge or cost a couple of dollars. We’ve done all sorts, from stand up paddle boarding on the creek, to seeing kangaroos at emerald beach. It’s a great way to meet new people and good way of getting to see a place and having new experiences.

Use couple rooms
If you’re travelling in a couple like we are, sometimes it can work our cheaper or a tiny little bit more expensive (we’re talking $5-10) to get a private room for two. The price of a double room can vary wildly; in Cairns we dropped on one for $44, which was only a dollar more a night than sharing a 6-bed dorm. You’d be mad not to! Whereas in Airlie it wasn’t a feasible option, at over $90 a night for a double room. However it is something to keep in mind if you want to give yourselves some privacy in a hostel from time to time.

I know this is advice for hostels, but on our travels we found that, as a couple Airbnb can be a way cheaper option. In Noosa the Nomads was $44 a night, for an 8-bed dorm, EACH! We managed to find an Airbnb for under $500 saving us a good chunk of money, they also sometimes come with free use of bikes which makes getting around way easier. We love Airbnb and recommend it to anyone; it’s a great way to get insider knowledge about a place and to meet the locals. Use this link to get $40 off your first stay through AirBnb!

Have fun!
The most important thing is that you always try to see the positive in every situation, living in a hostel can be annoying after a while but it’s so great to meet new people from all over the world. You’ll make connections you never even imagined and find friends you love with all your heart!

Let us know in the comments if there is anything that helped you to survive hostel life, we’d love to hear from you.

A bunch of great people we met at a hostel in Coffs Harbour!

Kay and Dom

*All views and opinions are our own, we are not sponsored by any company(s) we just want to give our advice so that people can get the best experience whilst backpacking!

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