Back in the day when I was heading overseas alone for my gap year, my accommodation was pretty much exclusive to hostels. Financially, it was the best decision – but my family were more than a little concerned. The roughest family holiday we’d ever had was sleeping on the floor in a traditional Japanese guesthouse, so the thought of me sharing a room with total strangers and the savagery of communal showers was enough for them to stage a mini intervention. And fair enough, their concerns were valid, considering the legit horror stories circulating around hostels: roommates shitting everywhere, being eaten by bed bugs, unwashed sheets and mattresses giving people rashes, rats in rooms, people stealing from your bags, drunk people peeing everywhere, SNORERS, and that one old man who pretty much lives in hostels. When they brought this all up to me, I was determined to appear unfazed and convince them that that stuff doesn’t happen that often and I would be totally fine if I had to share my bed with a few bugs – what’s not to love about those creatures that suck the blood out of you while you sleep?? But really, they had rattled me…
But alas! Here I am 3 years later and the scars from the bed bugs are finally fading. jks. I didn’t get eaten by bed bugs because I took some simple precautions:
- Take a sleeping bag liner to sleep in: turned off by the thought of sleeping in sheets that potentially hadn’t been recently washed, I took my own sheet with me – not just an ordinary sheet, but the type that lines a sleeping bag. You feel like you’re sleeping in a clean little cocoon! (the cats know what I’m talking about). If you’re travelling in Summer, this is probably all you need to keep warm, however even in winter it puts a little more protection between you and the doona/blanket. Best part was that it folded down to the size of my fist, easily fitting into my crammed backpack. You can get them in silk or cotton.
- Ear Plugs: = lifesavers. There’s nothing worse than not being able to sleep because one or several of your dorm-mates have snoring problems. Enter ear plugs, who come in an save the day (and your sanity). They cost like $3 so get more than one pair just incase you lose one. This is also a better alternative than using music to keep noise out, as 1. the chord from your headphones could strangle you (worst case scenario) and 2. you will drain the battery of your phone or iPod which you might regret if you have a 15 hour train ride coming the next day.
- Research your hostels: don’t just read the information the hostel website provides. Go to a hostel booking site and check the ratings other travellers have given. People often leave comments which can be super handy and give you more of an idea of what to expect.
- Take locks: you should have locks for your bags anyway for when you’re in transit between destinations, so use those locks to keep your bag secure while you’re not in the room. Most hostels also have a safe which you can put some more valuable items (aka passport) to avoid risk of theft.
- THONGS: take thongs for the showers. You’ll thank me later when you don’t have foot fungus.