Hostels once held a reputation as cheap and grimy places to stay. Fortunately, while they continue to offer good value, many hostels have taken the quality of their accommodation to the next level.
At the same time, when you stay at a hostel, you are living in close proximity to many people, specifically travelers coming from different places, and you should follow a few basic guidelines for staying healthy.
Find the right hostel
This first tip is arguably the most important. Dirty rooms and bathrooms coupled with a high turnover of travelers can quickly add up to the potential for getting sick. Thankfully, it’s easy to research the condition of a hostel if you know the right places to look. For example, if I was searching for hostels in Barcelona, I would use an engine like hostelbookers.com where I can read reviews from previous guests and see a “cleanliness” ranking for each hostel. If a hostel is unclean in any way, you will hear about it on this site!
Control what you can
You don’t need to be a germaphobe, but there are a few basic things you can do to minimize the risk of getting sick in a hostel. For one, wash your hands often. Using a bathroom shared by multiple people and then eating soon after, well, we don’t need to say much more than that (for more detail, see traveler’s diarrhea). Other tips: use flip flops in the bathroom, use your own toiletries, and don’t share drinks with people.
Don’t overdo it
Speaking of drinks, hostels can be a great place for socializing and in some cases, partying. It can be easy to over-indulge. Know your limits. If you do have a big night out with new hostel friends, take the next night (or several) off and rest. One of the easiest ways to become run down is by mixing alcohol with a lack of sleep, proper eating, and hydration. Live it up, but take it easy when your body needs a break.
It never hurts to ask
Maybe you are in a dorm room with a really sick fellow traveler. Maybe the bathroom is not as clean as you would like. Maybe the air conditioning is turning the dorm into a meat locker. If something is not working out, talk to the staff. See if you can change your room, ask them to clean to bathroom, and tell them that it’s too damn cold! Don’t wait to write a negative review on the Internet, see if you can fix the situation while you’re still staying there!
If you have any hostel travel health tips of your own, feel free to share them in the comments below.