Getting used to hostel life as an introvert can be tough.
Don’t get me wrong, hostels are great. As a budget traveler, I stay in hostels any chance I get (unless I can find a cheaper accommodation option). I’m a hardcore introvert, though, so hostels weren’t my first choice when I started traveling.
In the early days, I was actually really uncomfortable with the idea of staying in a hostel because I just didn’t know what to expect. If you’ve never stayed in a hostel before, don’t worry. Now that I have some experience, I can assure you that it’s not as much of a nightmare as you might think. In fact, they’re actually really awesome!
I lived in a hostel for 4 months, so that was sort of a crash course in hostel life. But as an introvert, it definitely took me a while to get used to it all.
Us introverts need our space. We need peace and quiet. We need time alone, away from other people. It can be hard to get these things when staying in a hostel.
Hostels are naturally very communal, social places. Budget travelers, backpackers, and a lot of young people stay in hostels, usually in dorm rooms. You have to share everything in a hostel, including your bathroom, your kitchen, and your sleeping space. You’ll rarely have any privacy.
I know that last paragraph sounded like an absolute nightmare to my fellow introverts. But trust me, you can learn to get by in hostels without throwing your sanity out the window.
If I can manage to stay in hostels while traveling, so can you!
Here are my best tips for surviving hostel life as an introvert.
What is an Introvert?
Introverts are totally misunderstood. There are so many misconceptions about what it means to be an introvert and it can be really frustrating. People think introversion means being shy or anti-social, but that’s not necessarily the case (although it certainly can be true).
Introversion and extroversion are just a way of explaining where people get their energy from—either from other people and the outside world (extrovert), or from being alone and reflecting on one’s “inner self” (introvert).
Introverts prefer to spend time alone and need time for reflection in order to feel energized
Basically, introverts need time away from others to recharge. We get our energy by being alone, whereas being around people drains our energy fast. On the other hand, extroverts feel more energized when they are in social situations and tend to get lonely much faster.
As an introvert, these things are probably true:
- You feel drained when you spend too much time socializing
- You don’t like crowds, big parties, or noisy places
- You hate small talk and find it’s not worth your energy
These are all things you should expect to deal with when staying in a hostel. There will be a lot of people, a lot of socializing, and a lot of small talk. But don’t worry, this guide is here to help you get through all of that.
Introvert’s Guide to Hostel Life
Adjust Your Schedule
When you stay in hostels, you’ll quickly notice a pattern. Most of the other travelers will stick to a pretty similar schedule throughout the day. There are busy periods when large groups of people are all using the same facilities at the same time.
In the morning, you’ll see everyone getting ready in the bathroom at the same time, fighting for the showers or mirror space. During typical meal times, the kitchen and dining areas will be crammed. In the evenings, you’ll find a lot of people hanging out in the common rooms. During the day, most people tend to go out and about to explore the area.
As an introvert, you can take advantage of this pattern! Adjust your daily schedule so that you’re not doing everything at the same time as everyone else.
- Wake up early so you can get ready and head out for the day while it’s still quiet.
- Have an early dinner so that you have space to cook on your own.
- Curl up with a book in your bed while everyone else is in the lounge room.
- Plan your day so that you can use the hostel facilities when things are a little more relaxed and quiet.
I’m not saying you should avoid people altogether. Meeting new people and socializing is one of the great benefits of hostel life. Make an effort to talk to others when you’re up for it, but you don’t have to be bombarded by people everywhere you turn.
Get a Private Room
A lot of hostels these days have private rooms. An introvert’s dream!
Most are geared towards couples, but you’ll also find plenty of single rooms, twin rooms, and even family-size rooms. Private rooms are the best way to get all of the benefits of hostel life (cheaper prices, a kitchen for cooking, a social atmosphere) without having to share a room with strangers.
I always look for private room options when booking a hostel. I especially love when hostels have single rooms, because they tend to be much cheaper than the average private room (they usually charge for two guests).
Staying in a private hostel room allows you to have your own space when you need to be alone and unwind from the day. Sometimes being in a crowd of people is just too much! At the same time, you can venture out to the common rooms whenever you feel like it and meet other travelers to hang out with.
Book a Smaller Dorm Room
If a private room isn’t available (or if you just don’t want to pay the extra money for it), book a small dorm room instead of the 10+ bed dorms. The less people you share a room with, the more peace and quiet you’ll have for yourself.
In my experience, small female-only dorm rooms are the quietest rooms. This is 100% a generalization and not an actual statistic, but that’s just been my experience (and most people I’ve spoken to agree). That’s no help to my male readers (sorry!), but smaller dorms are still the way to go.
I ALWAYS choose female-only dorms, and I am definitely quiet. There is still plenty of opportunity to socialize with your roommates, but the vibe of the room is generally pretty chill.
The other great thing about small dorm rooms is that it can be a lot easier to have deeper conversations with your roommates, since it’s just you and a couple other people. You can go beyond the general “hi, where are you from?” because you won’t have as much rotation in roommates (people are always coming and going in the larger dorms).
Find a Quiet Place
Every introvert needs a place to recharge when their energy starts to run low. If you booked a private room, you’re all set. If you’re sleeping in a dorm room, you’re going to have to look elsewhere.
You might find a quiet spot within the hostel—maybe there’s a reading or media room that doesn’t get much use. But often times you’ll have to search outside of the hostel for your designated recharging station.
I generally go to a nearby park or library when things get too busy at the hostel. Parks and gardens are a tranquil place to get some fresh air. Libraries are perfect because people are required to be quiet, there’s usually plenty of sitting room, they’re free, and you can often get good wi-fi while you’re there.
Other places to consider for your quiet place: a beach, a walking trail, a coffee shop, a museum. It’s nice to find a place you can return to as much as needed throughout the length of your visit.
Pack a Few Hostel Essentials
Since you won’t always get the privacy or peace and quiet you need as an introvert, you’ll have to pack a few things to help you survive the tough moments:
- Eye mask and ear plugs because not everyone will want to sleep when you do
- A book to keep you company when you need a break from socializing
- Noise-cancelling headphones so you can listen to music, a podcast, etc.
- Download a meditation app to help you clear your mind
Read Next: The Essential Hostel Packing List
Things to Check Before Booking a Hostel
The best way to survive hostel life as an introvert is to make sure you’re booking the right hostel. Which hostel you choose can really make or break the experience, so choose wisely!
Here are a few things to consider before booking a hostel:
- Check for private rooms, small dorm rooms, or female-only dorms
- Are there privacy curtains on the dorm beds?
- How many guests can the hostel hold? (less guests mean…well, less people)
- What’s the vibe of the hostel? Avoid party hostels!
- Don’t pick a hostel right above bars or busy streets. Find one in a quiet neighborhood.
- Always check hostel reviews to see if it’s a busy, noisy place
You can find most of this information on a site like Hostelworld. You can search for hostels by city/location, and then read reviews from people who stayed there. You’ll also be able to see star ratings, photos, and information about these little details. You can even book your hostel directly through the website if you want!
How to Make Friends in a Hostel
Being an introvert doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re shy, and it definitely doesn’t mean that you don’t like to socialize. Those are total introvert misconceptions.
However, when you need to spend a lot of time alone just to regain energy, it might seem daunting trying to make friends in a hostel setting. Especially if you spend all your time in your room.
Trust me, I know this from experience. Socializing as an introvert can be hard. But making friends in a hostel is actually really easy, even if you are a bit shy. It’s all about putting yourself out there and letting people know that you want to socialize. I think it’s easy for us introverts to seem standoff-ish at times, so you just have to let everyone know that you’re here to make friends!
But how do you do that?
- Once you’ve regained your energy, go hang out in the common rooms instead of spending every second in your room.
- Strike up a conversation with others while you’re in the kitchen cooking. Food is such a social thing in most cultures. By the time you’re done cooking, you’ll probably have someone new to eat dinner with.
- Join a hostel event or tour. A lot of hostels put on walking tours or host fun social events in the evenings. Don’t be afraid to join in on your own. You’ll have new friends before you know it.
- Body language really says a lot. If you want others to approach you, don’t stand around with your arms crossed. And be sure to smile at people when you make eye contact. This is a super general tip, but it still applies in hostel life!
- Introduce yourself to all of your roommates. Say hi whenever someone walks in and ask them about their day or if they did anything cool. And don’t be afraid to suggest going to dinner together or planning an activity for the next day.
Read Next: more tips on How to Make Friends in Hostels
When All Else Fails, Get Out of the Hostel
I know this post is all about staying in hostels as introvert, but I’m going to be super honest. Sometimes, the only way for an introvert to survive hostel life is to get a little break from it. I mostly stay in hostels when traveling (and I mostly enjoy it), but every once in a while I need to do something different.
For every few weeks that I stay in hostels, I give myself a night (or 2 or 3) in an Airbnb or even a nice hotel room. I love splurging on the occasional hotel room because it’s a chance to truly relax and unwind. It’s like a vacation from my “vacation” (people who don’t travel never understand this sentiment).
Staying somewhere a little nicer and more private is the perfect way to recharge those fickle introvert batteries. So don’t feel guilty for giving yourself a break from hostel life. It really is tough for introverts, and you should always put your mental health first. You do want to enjoy your travels after all!
Those are my top tips on hostel life as an introvert!
These are all things that have worked for me really well. Like I said at the beginning of this post, hostels weren’t my first choice and it did take getting used to. But now I actually love staying in hostels and generally feel really comfortable in dorm rooms.
And if you deal with anxiety, I wrote a post that will hopefully help you with that too!
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