There are undeniable perks to staying in hostel dorms when backpacking and even more so in the case of solo travellers.
They are a great place to make new friends and swap travel tips. They are also the obvious cheaper option when it comes to travel.
I am glad my days of 24 and 16 bed dorms are over (I am too old and life is too short for that nonsense) but some things never change, even in a 6 or 8 bed dorm. And while I have been lucky enough to stay in some great hostels with exceptional dorms and even better people during my time, there’s just some things that keep cropping up over and over to grind my gears.
For example: when all you want is a quiet nights sleep but the rest of your dorm is on an all-night bender. When every single plug in the room is being used, constantly. When the bathroom is always full JUST when you need to go but empty at all other times of the day.
The inconvenience is real as you will discover below.
The ‘turning off the light’ debacle
Everyone in a dorm is going to go to bed at different times and the majority of these people have never even spoken to each other. So the questions constantly raise themselves.
Who will turn off the light? When is an appropriate time for the light to go off? Is it okay to turn on the light when you return if it is already off? Who has the balls to actually switch it off in the first place?
Who knew a light switch could be such a minefield.
I can’t blame people who snore. They can’t help it and it’s not like they are purposefully trying to ruin my life but wow, I have witnessed some loud snoring.
Especially from men.
Every second man I have shared a dorm room with has been a snorer (sorry lads) to the point where I almost sigh in exasperation when another one checks in.
I also book into female only dorms when the opportunity presents itself for mainly this reason.
The plug situation
Some hostels have an individual plug beside each bed. Most others not.
Some have stray plugs strewn across the room but certainly not enough to have one per person. And once a plug is claimed that is absolutely it, you cannot venture near that plug for fear of a pathetic altercation over a plug.
The lack of reflective surfaces
This might not bother a lot of people but it desperately bothers me. I find the lack of mirrors in hostel dorms in South America is exasperating. Being a person who is accustomed to checking herself from head to toe before leaving the house every single time, this is a particular treachery for me.
My dissatisfaction with this set-up was clarified recently when I went to leave the hostel with my shorts on backwards. Luckily a compassionate fellow traveller felt the need to inform me before I took to the unsuspecting streets of Lima.
The lack of privacy
I don’t like everyone being able to see exactly what I’m doing at all times in the day. No, you do not have the right to know what I am watching on Netflix but if you must know it’s Queer Eye and it is amazing.
But seriously, I was so exalted by a hostel that had curtains on the bunk beds that I would give it a glowing review just for that alone.
Communal bathrooms don’t bother me too much but I do hate when they are located miles from my room. My midnight pee becomes the greatest trek of my life especially if I have been rather unluckily located on a top bunk.
You certainly appreciate the luxury of a private bathroom and shower after a few days of sharing.
The inevitable shameless couple
I actually cannot believe how many people get it on in hostel dorms in full view and audio of everyone around them.
While the story of a bra dropping from a top bunk as she tried to sleep was a reality for a friend of mine, my worst experience was staying in a six bed dorm completely on my own except for a young couple who insisted on sharing a top bunk.
When it became clear I was about to become witness to coitus centimetres from my head with all parties being completely sober, I stormed out of the room in a rage. I am too old for this crap.
Letting them fester in the fear that I might be complaining, I re-entered ten minutes and did not hear another peep from them. Get a room, literally.
The equally inevitable difficult roommate
There is often times when people have zero respect or consideration for people’s personal space. There are also people who are just on a complete different buzz to you, namely those groups who are on a two week holiday rather than travelling long-term.
When two of my travel companions were struck down with a vomiting bug, the Brazilian contingent staying in our room certainly had no sense of compassion for them.
Constantly blaring music and blundering around the room at all hours, one friend opened her eyes to find a Brazilian man leaning over her, blaring music from his phone.
“Are you sick?” he asked her as she lay sweating on her bed in a foetal position. Yes was the obvious answer.
This same unlucky friend also woke up to a total stranger casually stroking her foot. Not. Okay.
Being on a top bunk
Everyone opts for the bottom bunk if they have the choice. That’s just a fact.
So odds are, depending on your luck, you will end up spending a lot of time on a top bunk.
I cannot describe the absolute despair when you finally crawl up to your lofty hovel for the night to realise you have forgot something on the ground. There is no greater cruelty.
If you do want to make the best decision when it comes making a decision on where to stay, here are 8 things to consider when booking the perfect hostel.