‘I’m a travel pro – it’s easy to make friends in a hostel even if you’re solo’

Going on a gap year used to be the reserve of 18-year-olds, but in the last decade more and more Brits have been saving up to go backpacking around the world. Whether it’s interrailing around Europe or travelling through Asia or South America the best way to do it on the cheap is by staying in hostels.

Even holidaymakers who are just spending a few weeks away can do so on a budget by staying in dorm rooms in the cheap hotels. Plus, they create an environment where it’s super easy to make travel pals if you’re travelling alone or as a duo.

Hostels often have bars, common areas or shared kitchens where you can strike up a conversation – but committing a faux pas could see you being left behind when fellow travellers head out for a day trip or night on the town. Nobody wants that, so follow these hostel etiquette tips to make sure you’re someone hostel-goers want to be around.

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You might just make some new best friends, find a group to tag along with to your next destination or fall in love. For hostel-newbies and solo travellers, Marc Roebersen, Clink Hostels COO and travel expert, is sharing his top advice for making lifelong friends when staying in a hostel.

"The beauty of hostels is that they bring so many different individuals together and actively encourage interaction in a way that doesn’t happen in other accommodation types," Marc said. "If you haven’t stayed at a hostel before, choosing one for even part of your next trip will give you the opportunity to meet a great group of fellow and likeminded travellers – often the most exciting part of discovering a new destination. Having a positive and curious attitude is key, but there are a few other tips that can come in handy when navigating hostel etiquette and friendships, too."

Ice breakers

Don’t rely on others to come up to you to start conversations, instead come prepared with some funny ice breakers that will get the chats going. Start simple; when in your dorm be the first to say hi to your new roomies and ask where they are from. In social spaces, get talking to the people next to you and ask for the wifi password or ask for their recommendations of things to do in the city.

These little ice breakers can turn into a whole conversation and before you know it, happy hour has come and gone and you have a new friend!

Use the space

The biggest benefit of staying in a hostel over a hotel is the social and sleeping spaces that actively bring new people together. When selecting a room, make sure the specs work for you i.e. a female only dorm, or room with an en-suite. And bear in mind that for socialising, bigger isn’t always better… Perhaps go for a four or six person room rather than a 12 in order to really get to know your new roomies rather than being lost in the crowd.

The best hostels will also have social areas for you to work, eat and relax in. Take advantage of this and eat in the hostel when you can, especially as many have communal style dinners where you can sit next to new people and find out more about them and what they are getting up to in the location you are staying in.

Also, make sure to look out for any events run by the hostel itself and invite your roommates along. Discovering the hidden gems of a city on a pub crawl or dancing to a DJ mixing 2000’s classics with those you are sharing a space with is a sure fire way to make lasting friends.

When flying solo

Solo travel is a top trend that only seems to be growing in popularity. Hostels are the ideal place for a solo traveller to stay due to the way they operate – and many have been specially designed for those travelling alone.

If making new friends is a goal on your travels then flying solo is the way to go. With no one else to fall back on you will be sure to step out of your comfort zone and speak to the people around you and will likely end up exploring the city you are in with these new friends too.

Be prepared

When packing for your hostel stay coming with all the right gear, for yourself and for others, will go a long way. Make sure you have an eye mask and earplugs if you’re a light sleeper to avoid being woken up if someone in your room stays up later than you.

Conversely, if you know you like to stay up late, bring along a small light to use when navigating the room so you don’t wake everyone up by turning on the main lights, and maybe have a few spare pairs of earplugs to offer your roommates if you tend to be a snorer. Other things like a small quick-dry towel, packing cubes, and minimal baggage can help make the shared hostel experience better for everyone.

Hostel etiquette 101

As much as there are things you should be doing to put yourself out there and make new friends, there are also simple things to avoid so you don’t inadvertently do the opposite and become the most hated in the room. Basic etiquette for sharing a dorm is keeping your area and the spaces around it tidy, so don’t leave your dirty clothes or wet towel in a pile on the floor next to your bed.

The same goes for bathrooms, take your items back to your room with you after you use them and make sure it is left in a good state for the next person. Other hostel etiquette to abide by is to be mindful of speaking loudly or playing any music or videos out loud late at night, not bringing foods with a strong aroma into the room, and knowing when to give others their space.

By keeping to these basic rules and taking advantage of all the social aspects hostels have to offer, you will be sure to have not only a great holiday, but also meet new people and make lifelong friends, and there’s no better souvenir than that!

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