If you’re travelling on a budget, staying in hostels or camping can often be a cheaper option of having a place to stay. But, regardless of price, sometimes your peaceful night’s sleep can be interrupted by loud residents, lack of facilities, or just plain not getting what you paid for. When travelling on a budget you expect to stay in less-than-luxury accommodation, but especially as a first time traveller the little things can sometimes be make-or-break between having a great time or wishing you were curled up in your favourite blanket at home. From personal experience, I’ve put together a hostel survival kit to help make it though some of the less perfect places you might stay.
At some point on your trip, there will probably be a time when you want to sleep and someone else doesn’t. If you’re staying in a dorm, the likelihood of noise while you’re sleeping is increased. You can combat this with ear plugs – really un-trendy, but they do the job. While staying on Koh Tao, I ended up sleeping in a hostel right above a bar. I’d just got out of hospital and wasn’t in the party mood, but spent the night listening to Thai karaoke through the floorboards beneath my bunk. I wish I’d had some earplugs then!
Try this pack of 20 ear plugs*, Amazon, £2.28
You don’t have to be a Hollywood diva to rock an eye mask! I absolutely swear by eye masks as sleeping in a light room can disrupt your sleep and, even if you don’t make the connection, leave you feeling drained during the day. This isn’t ideal when you have loads of fun activities to be getting on with! Eye masks are also great for sleeping on bright planes, busses, over-night trains… I might look like a bit of an idiot, but once I’m blissfully asleep I certainly don’t care.
Try this jersey eye mask, Muji, £3.95
Sometimes hostels don’t give you pillows, or, if you’re camping, you may not want to lug a travel pillow around with you. A thrifty solution to the lack-of-pillow problem is to stuff a pillow case with any soft clothes you have with you, and use that to sleep on. Carrying a pillow case around is way less bulky than a regular pillow, plus, you could use it to store clothes or other items if you’re not using it – just make sure to wash it before you sleep on it!
Try the DVALA set of 2 pillow cases, Ikea, £3
Travel towels are weird. They have a strange texture and are kind of thin. But, they’re multipurpose items and shouldn’t be overlooked. Aside from its obvious use as a towel for drying yourself (and for lounging on beaches!) a quick dry travel towel can be used as a blanket too. In Thailand, hostels often provided one thin blanket, or in some cases no blanket at all. If you’re in a dorm with fans or air-con that you can’t control, it can get chilly at night. This is where your travel towel transforms into a blanket and you can be that little bit warmer.
Try this travel towel* by Yellowstone, Amazon, £8.02
Water and rehydration salts
On the flip side to being too cold, being too hot isn’t fun while travelling. Becoming overheated leads to increased sweating, and that can dehydrate you more quickly than you may imagine. Take it from someone who has been to hospital due to dehydration – keeping properly hydrated is something to take seriously. If your hostel is boiling and there’s nothing you can do about it, make sure you have a bottle of water to hand, stored in the coolest place you can find. Rehydration salts are helpful in replacing any important substances your body has lost from sweating. I always use Dioralyte when I can – I think the taste is yummy!- and one sachet a day should keep you healthy. Rehydration salts can be purchased from most pharmacies, and some 7/11s across South East Asia.
Try Dioralyte, Boots, £3.79 for 6 sachets
Some people aren’t precious about toilet paper, or lack there of. If you’re happy to, ahem, let nature take its course, or, if you’re travelling there, try Asia’s infamous ‘bum guns’, then keep on at it. It’s definitely cheaper! If you’re not, then stock up on some toilet roll on your way to your hostel. Take out the cardboard tube down the middle and press the roll from the side so it is like a chunky flat square to make it easier to fit in your backpack. Hostels don’t always provide toilet paper, restaurants don’t always provide toilet paper… If you’re not up for any surprises, then always carry toilet roll, especially in South East Asia.
This may seem a bit extreme, but we know a few people who got ill travelling simply from having dirty hands. From personal experience, even some hospitals in Thailand don’t have hand sanitizer. Your hostel may not have any sort of soap for you to wash your hands with. Don’t underestimate how easy it is to get ill abroad and get yourself a travel bottle. You don’t have to use much each time and a small bottle should last for a while.
Try this hand gel* by Cuticura, Amazon, £1.79
Pack of playing cards
The biggest perk of staying in hostels is the community around you. I’ve met some amazing people while travelling, and most of those I met in the hostels I stayed in. So, to aid in sociability (and drinking games!) take a pack of cards on your trip. When the weather turned to monsoon in Koh Rong, we spent a lot of time playing cards and getting to know the people staying in our hostels. Plus, if you have any bored time alone, you can always have a game of Patience!
Try these plastic coated playing cards, Leisure Fayre, £0.67
What do you have in your hostel survival kit? Share your suggestions in the comments below!