What To Expect from a Backpacking Hostel while Travelling

Take a moment to look back and think about how many of your friends you made while travelling? How many hours have you spent playing UNO & monopoly late in the night, or gone for an exciting day out in a new town with someone you just met! Backpacker hostels are a different world in themselves, I think we’ll all agree to that.

This hostelling travel guide is for all of you, those who have spent the night in a dorm bed more than their own, and those who have never been to a backpacker hostel and are faced with questions such as ‘what is a hostel’. Below are a few tips to help you out. :)

Communication is key

Solo-travelling for the first time? I know for a fact that going places all by yourself can be a little tricky sometimes as a solo traveller. It’s good to have some company while you’re at it. You can hang out with people occasionally and still enjoy the solitude you’re seeking by travelling alone. Zostel organises tons of social activities such as movie nights, workshops and meetups to get the conversation flowing. And that’s not all. We have board games to the rescue as well.

So, the basic rule at a backpacking hostel is: talk to fellow travellers, share stories, and bond over experiences to kickstart your stay!

Bunk bed partners can be your best pals while hostelling.
Bunk bed pals can be your best friends while exploring new places. Picture taken at Zostel Pokhara.

What should be in your backpack

For anyone backpacking India or anywhere around the world, or even travelling solo for the first time, the fear of overpacking or leaving important things behind is real, I know. Imagine waking up to hike to a perfect sunrise point when suddenly you realize you’ve forgotten your hiking stick back at home. Bummer, right? Below is an overall packing list of sorts you must keep in mind and probably set a reminder for, in your phone.

  1. Earplugs (for an uninterrupted sleep, anywhere)
  2. Hand sanitiser & wet wipes (need no justification, do they?)
  3. Fabric bags & Shoe covers (to keep things separate)
  4. Portable charger (it’s a need of the times)
  5. Medical kit (you know your meds)
  6. Flashlight (aka the underrated saviour)
  7. Travel size toiletries (cuts on the weight & space and don’t leave them behind at backpackers hostels!)
  8. Basic hiking essentials (sunglasses, waterproof jacket, hiking stick, this is subjective to the kind of trip you’re going for)
  9. Maps/ travel guide (If you’re staying at a Zostel, you’re likely to find one at the reception itself, so don’t bother about it in the packing list!)

Community kitchens & common areas

Undoubtedly the best thing about backpacking hostels, is the community that they help travellers build. And no better place to socialise than the community kitchen and the common areas. A lot goes on in Zostels when it comes to hosting weekly events that help to break the ice too. Other than their utilitarian benefits, these events are great to have a friendly chat with like-minded people over a few board games and coffee. :)

Common rooms are loaded with games to break the ice when travelling solo.
A few bouts of fooseball or Jenga and you're good to go. Picture taken at Zostel Panchgani.

Did you know?

  1. Hostels have private rooms too! I know it rarely crosses your mind but backpackers hostels have an array of private rooms as well which meet at the horizon of privacy & a social environment. So if you’re looking to get the best of both worlds, you know what to opt for. :D
  2. The local managers at backpacking hostels are often the ones running the show at backend. Most of our desk managers are a great company and know the city by heart. Nearby ATMs, bike rentals, popular cafes, monuments or art galleries- you name it and they know about it. They’re like the local guides you never asked for!
  3. You can be the icebreaker in the room & even organise activities. I know its a little overwhelming at first, but it’s pretty cool as you get comfortable with everyone. And if you fall in love with a place, you can stay for longer too as a solo travel guide! How? Volunteer with us and become local experts.

Do’s and Dont’s to follow

Can a room of, say, 5-10 people, usually strangers, achieve the ambience of quiet in early morning hours and later in the night as well? Let’s just be honest, it is difficult. There is always a person packing at the last minute, someone singing in the washroom, or even a group of chatties who will most likely blabber till dawn- titbits of hostel life, you know. And as polite as we can be, we try our best to adjust and just go with it? And on our not-so-great days, we may even end up losing our minds on it! Below are a few pointers to get you started.

Make a few bunk buddies and you'll be blessed with life-long travel partners.
When travelling solo, your dorm-mates can be your new travel partners. Picture taken at Zostel Mussoorie.

Early to bed, early to rise

A little schoolish I know, but utterly important- this rule is for everyone who has ever been traumatised by snoozing alarms in the morning or worse, lovers’ cries (and even sighs) in the middle of the night. It is important not to make other guests around you uncomfortable, even yourself. Most of us may have plans for the following day which will hugely depend on a good night’s sleep at the backpacking hostel.

Finders are not keepers

Yes! I said it! If you find a wristwatch on a side table or even a Marvel t-shirt in the washroom, please don’t keep it for yourself. If you’re travelling solo, ask your dorm mates or better, return it to the front desk. Travel karma is a thing I swear, so keep your conscience clean!


I honestly cannot emphasise on this point enough but PLEASE don’t be a Lazy Suzie when it comes to hygiene! Whether it is keeping your bed area clean or maintaining yourself spick n’ span, it is important to maintain backpacking hostel hygiene diligently since you are most likely to share a room with other people.

Even between all the mild inconveniences, the rewards backpackers hostels bring are matchless. Apart from meeting new people, you’ll end up saving money and also have an enhanced stay experience, don’t you agree?

So, there you go, fella; happy hostelling!

About Zostel

We’re Asia’s largest chain of backpacker hostels in India and Nepal, present in over 39 locations. Our purpose is to help travellers like you explore the country without burning a hole in your pocket, for we believe in affordable accommodations and a rich travel experience. And hey, we’re not just about bunk beds! Not a lot of backpacking hostels in India will give you best travel recommendations, everyday activities, gigs, and workshops all in one go. So we’re quite sure you’ll love us too. You can check our Instagram to know more.

Zostels are the epitome of vibrancy and give backpacking in India a new twist.
Vibrant exteriors such as these make Zostel stand apart . Picture taken at Zostel Jaisalmer.

P.S. If you're looking for luxurious stays at offbeat locations, you should also check out our 13+ ZostelX homes.

Writer, Kanak Kundlani, Pranavi Chhikniwala.