If you’re about to embark on your first round-the-world trip or perhaps you’ve backpacked throughout Europe already, chances are you will or have stayed in a hostel.
Hostels around the world vary from super cheap and dirty in Latin America to spotless and minimalistic in Scandinavia.
No matter what the conditions are like, hostels are a great way to meet new friends, sleep off a massive hangover, or just a great way to save some money for more important things like beer and street food.
Just watch out because you might pick up something other than new friends or possibly a love interest while staying in hostels.
Hostels are often large and see a constant stream of people moving in and out of the beds in a short amount of time. As a result, hostels can be germ factories and no one wants to be sick while traveling.
Let’s look at a few easy things that you can do to help you stay healthy while staying in hostels along your journey around the world.
I know what you’re thinking. Who sleeps in a hostel?
However, sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health. While you’re sleeping your body is healing and repairing your heart and blood vessels and your brain is forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information.
However, sleeping in a 12-person dorm room is not easy. People wander in drunk at all hours, they snore, and they may even bring a new “friend” home for some late night fun.
Invest in a good pair of earplugs and eye mask and consider taking a nap when all your roommates are out for the day.
Still can’t get a good night of sleep? Herbal supplements like valerian root or melatonin can really help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night.
2. Wash Your Hands
You probably learned this in preschool, but washing your hands is one of the best disease prevention methods you can do.
Germs are everywhere and when you’re in close quarters with people from every corner of the globe, it’s easy to come into contact with new strains of viruses and bacteria that your immune system has not been exposed to before.
Combine that with a lack of sleep and lots of partying and you’re bound to develop a few sniffles here and there. Bacteria can live everywhere, but common places to pick up germs include door handles, the kitchen, and bathrooms.
Always wash your hands and carry hand sanitizer, as some hostels will run out of soap.
3. Drink Lots of Water
Stay hydrated. And that means with water and not beer. Your body is comprised primarily of water which means you need to stay hydrated to balance the water and electrolytes in your body that determines much of how your body systems function, including your nerves and muscles.
Many nutritionists recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces every day.
If you’re in a hot and humid country it’s especially important to stay hydrated with water throughout the day and night.
Your urine should be a pale or straw yellow. If your urine is a deep yellow, drink more water!
4. Check For Bug Beds
Bed bugs are a traveler’s worst nightmare! While you can’t predict where, if ever, you’ll find them, you can certainly take precautions against them.
Bed bugs are tiny, 6-legged flightless blood sucking insects that will definitely put a damper on your trip.
Bed bugs love to hide in little crevices and especially find mattresses a great place to live. They are nocturnal so don’t expect to see them during the daylight hours, but you’ll definitely meet them during the night.
One of the first things you should do when checking into your hostel is check your dorm bed for signs of bed bugs.
Check along the mattress seams, behind headboards, along the baseboards and along wall junctions for signs of bed bugs. Look for dead bugs or their fecal spots, which look like little black spots.
Bed bugs love hitching rides in your bags so if you happen to discover bed bugs during your stay, make sure to wash everything in hot water and dry in a dryer if you have access to one.
5. Practice Safe Sex
Let’s face it. Along your travels, you might meet that special someone that you want to take home for the midnight tango. Remember to use protection. No one wants to go home early because of STDs or pregnancy. It’s not rocket science!
Hostels can be a frightening place filled germs, blood sucking mini-monsters, and lots of late nights with no sleep, but they can also be home to some of your greatest travel memories.
Just remember these five tips and you’ll be healthy and ready for your next great adventure.
Katelyn is a freelance writer, healthcare analyst, and solo budget traveler currently based in Portland, Maine (USA). Next winter she is embarking on her Great Escape around the world and landing in Australia for a working holiday visa. Outside of her professional life, Katelyn teaches spin and boot camp classes at several location gyms and is a competitive triathlete finishing Ironman Lake Placid in 2013. You can follow her adventures on Diaries of a Wandering Lobster.