It's safe to say, most travelers share a love/hate affair with hostels.
We love meeting other wanderers. We love swapping stories over a few beers. We love the low-cost.
We hate having to queue for the shower. We hate that guy who – no matter the temperature – struts around the dorm in his boxer shorts. And, most of all, we hate not being able to get a good night's sleep.
Sleep, after all, is why we’re there. Yet whether it's creaky bunks, rattling coughs or lights being flicked on and off like a ’90s rave – hostel dorms seem to be calibrated to prevent us from getting any.
Fortunately, over my many years as a traveler, I've developed some simple – but surprisingly effective – ways to guarantee a good night's sleep.
1. Accessorize, Accessorize, Accessorize
Tired of pretending those weird grunting noises coming from the next bunk are just snores and not what they really are…sex noises? Yes, mom, it happens. Ear plugs are the solution for you.
Fed up with your dreams being turned into nightmares by drunken stumblers switching on the lights at 2 am? Well then, a sleep mask is your new best friend.
These two super-cheap and lightweight sleep aids are worth a hundred times their weight in gold. Both should be essentials in any travel kit. And if you have space in the bag, why not throw in a better pillow, too?
And no, using a sleep mask doesn't make you an old biddy – even if your Gran does wear one! It makes her a smart woman and you a savvy traveler.
Bonus tip: If you're so cheap you can't afford the two dollars an eye mask costs, just pocket the little travel kit you're handed on the plane. Don't worry; the airline wants you to keep it. I think.
2. Build a wall
Just bring along a sarong (if you're a woman) or maybe a clean travel towel (for the gents) and string it up over your bunk. Boom! Your own bedroom wall.
Not only will a bit of draped fabric turn your tiny space into something out of Arabian Nights, but it'll also block out the light and give you a little privacy from your bothersome dorm-mates. Good news all around.
3. Capture the light
Don't lie there like a martyr, inwardly cursing the world, while the light blazes above you like a thousand suns – take the initiative. If the room is empty just turn it off; if it isn't, ask those around if it's ok too. Worst they can say is no.
Those in the room will get the idea that you want to hit the sack. And if they want to carry on with their fascinating conversation about how Myanmar is like Thailand was 30 years ago…well then, they can take their insights outside, can’t they?!
And those entering a dark room will be less likely to make noise. Simple psychology.
Now, don't kill the switch at 8 pm because that’s a sure-fire way to get yourself branded as the hostel grump and treated like an outcast. But come 10 or 11 pm, the light is fair game. So switch it off and bag some shut-eye.
4. Get tired
The best cure for hostel-induced insomnia is not hitting the hip flask – although that helps – it's being exhausted.
If you have maxed out the day to your body's full potential then no amount of snores, creaks or kebab farts are going to stop your eyes from closing.
So get out there, wherever you are, and do and see everything. Laugh, drink, run to the top of that tower, swim, dance in the street – do it all. And when your head hits that lumpy hostel pillow, you’ll be in la-la land before you know it.
5. Do your research
My number one tip: Do your research.
The internet is your friend – use it. Check out the reviews of your chosen hostel online from previous guests. See if there are comments about the place being particularly loud – maybe the reason your bunk is so cheap is that it’s located in the middle of runway four.
Better still, check out the hostel's website. If they boast about their in-house bar and claim to be ‘the biggest baddest party hostel in town!', then chances are you ain't getting no sleep tonight!
On the other hand, if your intended hostel has notices about alcohol being banned on the premises or curfews, the chances are that it's on the quieter end of the scale.
6. Can't beat them? Then join them!
So this is my suggestion when all else fails: If you’ve neglected to follow Tip #5 above and do find yourself in a party hostel, unable to sleep, you might as well get some fun out of the night.
Get up, swap your pajamas for dancing shoes and make some memories. You can always move hostels tomorrow.
There you have it: 6 tips to help you conquer hostel-induced insomnia. If they don't work well, then it could be time to get a tent and head to the hills instead.
Sweet dreams, weary traveler.
This post was published in partnership with The Sleep Advisor.
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