The word ‘hostel’ might suggest images of dank rooms, ramshackle beds, and dodgy characters, but , many hostels offer similar amenities and comfort levels to hotels. Oftentimes, you can easily find hostels that are on par with a mid-range hotel, especially if you nab yourself a private room. Hostels are a great way to not only keep down your travel costs, but organize trips, get useful and free information, and meet other like-minded travelers.

Of course, there are things to remember and look out for, so here’s a handy guide for keeping safe, happy, and thrifty on your budget travels:

  • Affordability vs. Privacy

This is the biggest decision you must make when it comes to booking your hostel. Your choices (from priciest to cheapest) usually go like this: private room with bathroom; private room with shared bathroom; shared room 4 beds, 8 beds, 12 beds. The more people you share with, the cheaper it will be. But here you must decide the price of your privacy. The more people there are, the higher the risk of being woken/kept up, your things being stolen or used, and overall lack of privacy.

  • Bring basic amenities

Check when you book what your hostel provides in terms of towels and bathroom supplies. Either way, it’s a good idea to bring a small bag of toiletries and supplies with you. Shampoo and shower gel are easy to pack and essential for travel. If you can fit a small towel it comes in handy, otherwise you can usually rent one at your hostel. Flip-flops are key to a clean shower and to ensuring your feet don’t touch the floor that many before you have walked on. Don’t forget your earplugs; if you’re sharing a room, they are a must for those pesky snorers!

  • Etiquette

There are certain dos and don’ts that mean the difference between being liked and hated in a hostel, especially a shared dorm. Be as quiet and respectful as you can in the dorm, especially at night. If you need to be up early, wake up at your first alarm, use a flashlight, and make sure your bag is packed the night before. Turning on the light or rustling around for ten minutes can really tick people off. If you’re a snorer, get a private room or let others know to wake you if you’re making noise.

  • Socialize

Take advantage of the flow of other travelers in your hostel. Want to grab a quick beer at the local bar? See who’s hanging around the common room area and ask if anyone wants to go with you. Trips are often organized by the hostel and if there are others going too, it’s a chance to get to know another like-minded soul, not to mention someone to snap photos of you if you’re traveling solo.