Beat Hostel Anxiety When Travelling


If you’re like me, the thought of staying in a hostel is slightly terrifying.

It might seem like a really insignificant thing for some people – head off on your travels, save a bit of money by booking a hostel, meet a few people, have a few nights out and chill. To me, it’s an opportunity for my anxiety to convince me that everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

  • Of course I’d get lost, public transport is too complicated.

  • Of course I’d lose my bags and money, it’s bound to happen.

  • Of course nobody will talk to me, I’m kinda weird.

  • Of course someone will mug me, I have an expensive camera.

I can usually convince myself that I’m overreacting by using past experiences as evidence against myself. If I could work in London for months, backpack around Italy, and travel around Europe, I can stay in a hostel for a few nights. When I book travel nowadays, I usually mix between booking an Airbnb (when I’m feeling a bit flush) or bite the social anxiety bullet and book a hostel.  

I thought I’d put together a quick guide for overcoming accommodation anxiety. If not to help you, to help serve as reminders for me in the future!

1. Know your Travel Style

Communal Hostel areas can be a struggle!I’ve been to Magaluf, Zante and Ibiza with groups of friends so I do like to party but I’d never go to those places alone. I wouldn’t tackle New York solo either but some people can come out of their shell by challenging themselves to take on the subway or busy streets!

I know that for solo travel, I’d much prefer walking around a national park, hiking, taking a few pictures or browsing a museum. I like a night out but the thought of going to a bar/club by myself gives me heart palpitations!

2. Know your style of hostel

If you’re not like me and you love to party and go out every night, you’ll want to move towards party hostels. I know that my style of travel is more about having somewhere that I can unwind and chill after a long day of tours but also go out for a few drinks with new pals!

On my first solo adventure abroad, I stayed in a Guest House run by nuns. Ok, it was by accident because I never knew when I booked it BUT it turned out really well! I never once heard music or noise during the night and everyone was lovely!

When I’m booking a hostel from Hostel World, I usually filter by rating and never really book ones lower than 7 stars. Always read the reviews too! If there are pub crawls every night and huge dorms, I usually keep scrolling…

3. Choose a central location.

Before I go on any trip, I usually save some offline maps of the city and orientate myself using street maps or just scrolling round planning my walking route to each of the sights. I choose to stay in places a bit more central when I’m in a city. It helps ease that feeling of dread that I’m going to get lost and be stuck in the middle of nowhere! At least when I’m in a city, there are taxis and there’s normally people around to help if the worst happens!

4. Make sure it’s clean.

Ok this is a given. Nobody would choose to stay in a dirty room but the thought of complaining to the front desk about hair in my shower plug or dirty carpets makes me anxious. I’m not a fan of confrontation and the Brit inside me wants to be polite and not cause any fuss!


5. Choose Smaller Dorms

I’ve never stayed in a dorm room bigger than 6 beds. For me, it limits the chances of being stuck in a room with a big stag or hen party (nightmare!), or being woken up with early morning bag packers.

One of my pals told me that she stayed in a 30-bed dorm in Ireland and had a terrible time. I couldn’t think of ANYTHING worse! I usually choose Mixed Dorms too as I tend to become friends with women faster than with men (I also get anxious about coming out as gay to a room full of “lads”).

6. Join a Hostel Activity

Most of the hostels I’ve stayed in have had some sort of weekly activity schedule. I wouldn’t choose a pub crawl for my first activity (apart from when I was in Prague!), but something like a group tour would be my choice. It’s usually small group numbers, included in your hostel price (or cheap) and it’s a perfect way of making friends with people in your hostel or dorm.

I like that there’s no pressure to talk either. If your anxiety is acting up or you’re feeling a bit introverted, you can just keep yourself to yourself and enjoy learning about history while getting some casual cardio!

7. Take time to yourself

I always need time out to read, exercise or just do my own thing for a bit. Especially if I’ve been on a group tour all day chatting to people and being the social butterfly I pretend to be!

Sometimes, just having an hour to watch some youtube videos, edit some pictures or scroll through social media is enough to make me feel better and ready to head out to dinner with new pals. It just helps to recharge and that’s ok!

8. Others have done it and survived.

You’re not the first anxious person to backpack Europe or hike Maccu Pichu or stay in a hostel. Plenty of people have done it before you and have survived. Travelling has always been a fulfilling experience for me so why wouldn’t I do it again and again?

If others can do it, so can you.

9. Try to speak to people.

When I say “speak to people”, I don’t mean just walk into a room and command attention. I mean, just make conversation! When I was backpacking in Italy, I set myself a challenge of talking to at least one person on my second day of not indulging anybody in conversation. It could be about anything.

When I’m staying in Hostels, the one question that is asked alllll the time is “So where are you from?” and what usually follows is “where have you been?” then ”Where are you going?”.

They’re all conversation starters and enough to spark interesting chat. If you’re chatting to someone in a hostel, chances are that you both like to travel. There you go, there’s already something you have in common!


10. You don’t have to be friends with everyone

I usually put loads of pressure on myself to make friends with loads of people when I’m travelling because that’s what people do, right?

It’s true that I have met loads of amazing, inspirational people when I’ve been travelling but I also tell myself that I don’t need to talk to everyone. If someone is not on your level or you’re not feeling their vibe, don’t talk to them! You never have to see them again and you can spend your time chatting to people you actually like and want to hang around with!

What's your top tip for Hostel life?

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