How To Survive A Hostel: Tips for Introverts

An introvert walks into a hostel.

It sounds like the start of a joke, right? One of the hallmarks of introversion is a need to have your own space to retreat to after a period of socializing. By that definition, spending the night with twelve roommates crammed in a small room wouldn’t be an introvert’s dream. Far from it.

As a self-proclaimed social introvert, I took it to the next level by living in a 12 bed dormitory for 6 months in Galway, Ireland. Hey, a girl has to sleep, and paying for a private room every night is not an option for a lot of us. To make your life easier, I’ve compiled a list of hostel tips for introverts. These are all the things that helped me stay sane when the world got a little overwhelming.

View of the beach from Lahinch Hostel
Some days you may luck out and end up staying right on the water! Lahinch Hostel, Ireland

Read hostel descriptions carefully.

Even before you book accommodation for your trip, you can start running defense so things go as smoothly as possible. Check hostel descriptions for places that have designated quiet hours or curfews. Even better look for places that actively state they are not a party hostel. These places really do exist! Social hostels are wonderful in their own way, but it obviously isn’t what we need right now. You can check reviews to see if the place is noisy, too. That can vary depending on the guests at any given time, but any place with a more strict noise policy is a good sign for us. A more low-key atmosphere is just what we like.

Check the price of all room sizes.

Sometimes the price of a smaller dorm will be the same or only slightly more expensive than larger rooms. I have also found a few random places where smaller, single sex dorms were cheaper than the mixed ones. That’s not always the case, but it is worth exploring your options. Forking over an extra two bucks a night for a room of eight people rather than twelve can make a huge difference to your state of mind.

When I am feeling more introvert-y, I usually go for all female dorms. I mean, I constantly live in fear of the day I end up sharing a room with a huge bachelor party, but also I went to an all girls’ high school, so it just feels more familiar for me. Comfort is key here.

Hostel room in Kilkenny, Ireland
Finding out you have a whole room to yourself is one of the best feelings when you’ve been travelling for a while. It’s part of the reason why travelling in the off season is pretty great.

Scarf + Bottom Bunk = Victory.

The biggest trick I picked up living in a hostel is using a large scarf or towel as a curtain. This saved my soul so many times. The biggest issue about living in a hostel is not having anywhere to retreat to when things become too much. I know for me, that can happen at the drop of a hat. In a hostel your bunk is the only place you can call your own. Even then other people will be moving around you, and you’re bound to make awkward eye contact with someone when you just want to be on your own. Hanging something up and creating that isolation feels magical after a long day. Other people know you are either sleeping or don’t want to be bothered, so you can just curl up and watch Youtube in peace.

Sound-cancelling everything.

In theme with the last one, earplugs or sound cancelling headphones can also help. The idea is to create a magic bubble to retreat into. Scarves block visual stimuli, and a good set of earplugs can keep noise to a minimum. Load up some Enya on your playlist and zone out. At least, that’s what I’d do.

Artwork on the front of Abbey Court Hostel, Dublin
It’s hard not to love the front of this hostel in Dublin. You might be surprised to find out just how big it is on the inside. Always do your research to avoid unexpected surprises.

Avoid the kitchen at peak times.

If the hostel you are staying in is really busy, I’d avoid the kitchen when everyone is trying to cook. This might be inconvenient for you, but huge groups of people stuffed into small rooms can be hella stressful. If you don’t mind cooking a little early or late, it can save a few headaches. Plus you won’t have to fight for pans.

Don’t be afraid to say no.

When you are feeling taxed, don’t feel bad about saying no to things. People may be confused about why you don’t want to go out, but that’s on them not you. A simple but firm “I feel like staying in tonight” can do wonders. With everyone cleared out, you may have the place to yourself anyway. Win-win!

Selfie in front of Slieve League Cliffs
I’m just a simple introvert trying to see the world. And sometimes I want to do that on my own.

Splurge every few nights.

If you are travelling for a week or more, it might be worth spending a little extra every now and then to get a private room. You don’t want to burn out halfway through your vacation. When my sister and I went on our three month backpacking trip, we alternated staying in hostel dorms, private rooms, and even AirB&B apartments. You can find some pretty cheap places on AirB&B, some of which are entire flats to yourself. Knowing that you have a set date when you will get alone time can make the rest of your trip easier.

Use this link to get $35 off your next AirB&B reservation (and give me a treat too!).

Listen to your gut.

Hostel living is not for everyone. It may end up that staying in big dorms is not for you. That’s okay. There is nothing wrong with wanting privacy. When it comes to your travel budget, you may have to cut back in other areas so you can splurge on a private room. Perhaps you won’t be able to travel as long, but at least you will enjoy yourself more. In the end, this is your trip, so you should be doing everything in your power to make yourself happy.

Hot chocolate in Irish cafe
When I feel super overwhelmed, I always head to the nearest cafe and get myself a hot chocolate. Everything feels better with a warm mug in your hands.

You Do You.

Living in a hostel was an incredible experience. I learned so much about the generosity of strangers and met some wonderful people. I was able to live in the middle of Galway without the price tag of an apartment. But, I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t always easy. There were times where I felt seriously drained. Hostels make travelling on a budget so much easier, so it is hard to avoid them. I hope my tips have given you a few ideas to make them seem less intimidating. Let me know how it goes for you!

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Do you have any tips for avoiding social burn-out while traveling?

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