45 Things To Take To Hostels: Ultimate Hostel Packing List (2024)

Wondering what things you need to take to a hostel?

You’ve come to the right place as I’m a full-time budget traveller and I stay in hostels everywhere I go.

Before staying in a hostel for the first time, it can be intimidating knowing what to pack and what to leave home.

Especially since people always preach about not overpacking- but if you’ve never stayed in a hostel before, how can you know what to pack?

Don’t worry- that’s where I come in. I’ve created a list of all the must-bring hostel essentials, so without further ado, let’s get into it.

Things To Take To Hostels

I created this list based on everything I bring with me to hostels except two things: clothes and electronics. I didn’t see a point in including these because I don’t you’re going to turn up to a hostel in your birthday suit or without your phone and its charger.

So unlike other blogs, I won’t waste your time telling you to bring trousers, and to bring t-shirts, and to bring jackets or bring travel insurance. How can you bring travel insurance? Anyway, I’ll just get straight into the nitty gritty.

1. Sleeping mask

One of the most important things I take with me to hostels is a sleeping mask. If everyone had good hostel etiquette, I wouldn’t need to bring one, but unfortunately, not everyone does.

Some people will inevitably be really inconsiderate with the lights and turn them on when you’re asleep, so one simple way to combat this is to wear an eye mask. It’s a life-saver.

But it will come in handy if you’re trying to get an early night while people are still awake, or if you’re trying to catch some rest on a long bus ride or something throughout the day.

Sleeping masks are one of the best things to wear while sleeping in a hostel, no doubt about it.

Man lying in bed wearing a sleep mask, a practical solution for sleeping in a hostel. An eye mask is one thing you need to take to a hostel.

2. Earplugs

It takes practice to learn how to fall asleep in a noisy hostel room, but thankfully, there’s a quick solution which is to use earplugs.

Just like with the face mask, people should be considerate about noise levels while you’re trying to sleep, but there will always be that one person who doesn’t know how to whisper or open a locker door without creating a racket, or the inevitable snorer…

Earplugs won’t block out every single noise, but they will definitely muffle the noise and make it easier to fall asleep.

I’m not sure if I somehow wear them wrong or if I randomly decide to pull them out during the night, but I never wake up with my earplugs in. But at least they help me get to sleep!

Close-up of a person's ear with an orange earplug, an essential thing to take to hostel life.

3. Padlock

People always ask me “Are hostels safe?” and I always say yes, as long as you use common sense and follow basic safety rules.

One of these rules is to keep your belongings in a secure place, and in hostels, that’s usually lockers.

Hostels only provide the lockers though, the lock itself is (usually) on you. So make sure you always travel with a padlock. Most hostels will probably sell padlocks or allow you to rent them, but it’s cheaper to just bring your own.

Learn from my mistakes and take a padlock which has a code on it rather than a padlock that uses keys. Trust me, those tiny keys are easier to lose than you’d think.

A combination padlock with a black exterior and white numbers on a dark desk surface.

4. Universal Travel Adapter

There’s a high chance that if you’re staying in a hostel, the sockets are probably different to the ones you have at home.

Which means that all of your plugs for your chargers won’t fit the sockets in the hostel. So you need an adapter, right?

But rather than buying a simple adapter, I recommend buying a universal travel adapter which will fit any socket in the world.

It’s especially useful in Southeast Asia and other regions which use more than one different socket type within one country. Plus, it’s pretty convenient to be able to plug the USBs straight into the adapter.

A TESSAN travel adapter with multiple plug options for different countries, essential for international travel.

5. Microfibre Towel

Some hostels will provide towels, but depending on where you are in the world, most won’t provide a towel. And they’ll charge you to rent one.

So to avoid paying a fee at every hostel you turn up to, simply bring your own towel. But instead of carrying around a big bulky towel which takes hours and hours to dry, buy a microfibre towel.

They’re small and compact, so they don’t take up much room in your bag, and they’re lightweight too, but they also dry extremely quickly.

I’ll be honest, they don’t dry you quite as well as a normal towel, but the trade-off is worth it in my opinion. It’s only really my hair which I find is still a bit damp but the air quickly sorts that out.

A hand gripping a folded microfibre towel, demonstrating the compact and lightweight nature of travel accessories.

6. Flip flops

If you’re visiting a warm country, you’ll probably want to bring flip-flops anyway. Or thongs/sandals/pluggers/jandals/slops/whatever else you want to call them. But they’re also one of the best things to take to a hostel too.

They’re really good for just lounging about in. For example, if you’re settled in the hostel for the night and you’ve changed out of your heavy clothes and boots from the day but you want to go and make dinner in the kitchen or chill in the common area, then whack some flip flops on and you’re good to go.

But the main purpose of flip-flops is to wear them to the bathroom. It’s no secret that the bathrooms in hostels aren’t quite as clean as everyone would ideally want, so wearing flip-flops helps to keep your feet off of the dirty floor, and the shower as they’re waterproof.

A pair of white Adidas slide sandals with black stripes, casually placed on a textured grey carpet.

7. Day Bag

When you’re travelling on a budget for a long period of time, you probably have a decent-sized backpack which is quite heavy to carry about.

And let’s be honest, no one wants to carry a 20kg bag around all day every day, do they?

So bring a smaller day bag. Personally, I use my camera backpack but I only have that because of my job as a travel blogger, most people opt for a drawstring back or a small backpack.

This means you can take things you need with you for the day, and leave everything else back at the hostel in your locker.

Whether you bring your passport with you during the day is up to you. I don’t but I know a lot of people do.

8. Passport/ID

Just like with a hotel, you need your passport or ID to check into a hostel, so make sure you bring it with you.

But if you’re staying in a hostel, the chances are that you will have it with you anyway as you are travelling.

A British passport placed in a holder with a houseplant in the background.

9. Toiletries Bag

Hostels don’t provide toiletries like they do in hotels, so you need to bring your own stuff with you. I always opt for travel-sized toiletries so they can go in carry-on luggage in my backpack.

To make your life easier, you’re going to want to get a toiletries bag so you can keep everything in the same place.

You’ll thank me when you stay in a hostel where the bathroom is a bit of a walk from the bedroom.

Plus, it means you’re less likely to leave something behind. Unfortunately, hostels have a “finders keepers” way of life, and it’s one thing I don’t like about hostels.

10. Travel Laundry Detergent

When travelling for a decent amount of time, rather than bringing a new outfit for every day of the month, just bring a handful of outfits and you can wash them while you travel.

Most hostels will have a laundry room where you can do your laundry, but just like with toiletries, you’ll need your own laundry detergent.

And again, just like toiletries, I opt for a travel option rather than carting a kilogram box of laundry detergent around with me.

Or if you can’t be bothered, you can usually find laundromats near hostels which will do everything for you pretty cheaply.

11. Plastic Bag

One of my favourite backpacking tricks is to take a plastic bag with you. Just like the kind you get in supermarkets.

They’re so multifunctional and you never know when they’re going to come in useful.

But to give you a few examples: the laundry you just did, you need something to transport it when it’s wet. Or coming back from the beach, you need somewhere to put your wet swimming stuff. Or if you nip to the corner shop for some snacks.

They take up basically no room in your bag but come in useful so often. You may as well bring some with you.

12. Cash

Particularly in Europe, you might have to pay a tourist tax for staying in hostels (or any form of accommodation) and usually, this needs to be paid in cash, so make sure you always have some cash on you.

But it’s always a good idea to have cash in hostels anyway, especially if the hostel has a bar or anything you can spend money on, particularly in countries like Thailand where cash is king.

It’s always a good idea to have cash anyway as a backup or in case of emergencies. I’m not saying to carry around (the equivalent of) $100 in cash everywhere you go, but $10 or $20 is enough.

British pounds sterling notes fanned out on a textured surface.

13. Travel Pillow

If you’re travelling along a backpacking route such as through South America or Southeast Asia, then you’re going to be doing a lot of travelling.

By travelling I mean, sitting on buses, trains and planes for hours on end. And eventually, you’re going to get tired and want to rest.

That’s where a travel pillow comes in. At first, they seem a little expensive but the comfort they add to long journeys is priceless. Trust me- you’ll be so grateful you buy one.

But where they come in useful as a thing to bring to hostels is that if your pillow in your hostel is as thin as a slice of paper, you’ve got a travel pillow which you can sleep on and get a comfortable night’s sleep.

14. Packing Cubes

Packing a bag in a hostel is never good fun. I’ve done it hundreds of times and I can assure you it doesn’t get any more fun either.

It’s so dull and boring and unless you’re really excited to go to your next destination, it’s usually sad too as it’s time to leave.

That being said, using packing cubes can make it that little bit easier, as it’s much more organised and everything has a place, meaning you can get it done quicker.

Plus, it usually allows you to fit more into your bag too, which is always a nice bonus.

15. Reusable Water Bottle

Travelling on a budget means you want to save as much money as possible, and buying bottled water all the time is a quick way to ramp up your expenses.

A quick way to combat that is to buy a reusable water bottle. Not only does it save you money, but it’s also better for the environment too.

You should only use this if you’re in a country where tap water is drinkable such as Iceland, and definitely don’t drink tap water in countries where it isn’t clean such as Vietnam.

However, if you buy a filtered water bottle, then you can drink water anywhere as the bottle will filter out all of the bacteria which could make you sick. No one wants Bali belly on their travels!

A person holding a blue LifeStraw water bottle, which features a built-in filtration system, against a neutral background.

16. Bug Spray

One of the only downsides of travelling to exotic countries like Brazil on a budget or even Australia or pretty much anywhere that’s warm is the bugs.

Midges, mosquitos, you name it. They’re going to want to bite you because, well, that’s kind of their entire existence.

To avoid getting eaten alive, buy some bug spray. It’ll save you from (the majority of) bites and allow you to enjoy your trip without having to bend down and itch your ankle every 30 seconds.

17. Snacks

I don’t know how many people I’ve met while travelling and they’ve said something like “Ooh I’m really craving [insert snack which you can buy anywhere in the world like chocolate]” and I’m just sat there like “…go and buy some then?”

Just because you’re staying in hostels and travelling without luxuries doesn’t mean you can’t buy some snacks every now and again.

I don’t know about you but whenever I’m travelling, I don’t eat as much during the day as I do at home, so I’m usually hungry at night in hostels, so snacks are very much desired.

Also, I walk so much too that I don’t have to worry about eating something unhealthy once a day. So treat yourself every now and again! (pun 100% intended)

A variety of snacks including chips/crisps and nuts on display in a supermarket near a hostel.

18. Wet Wipes

Wet wipes (or baby wipes as we call them in the UK) are very much like plastic bags: you never know when they’ll come in useful.

The smudge on your shoes that you want to get rid of but doesn’t warrant a full clean? Use wet wipes. Spilt something in the common room? Use wet wipes. Need to take your make-up off? Use wet wipes (I think…).

Treat a hostel like you’re living at home, everything you need – and I emphasise need – at home, you’ll need in a hostel.

19. Small Games

Games like UNO or something as simple as a deck of cards can create hours of entertainment in hostels for both you and the other people in the hostel.

A good hostel will have its own games and will have proper board games like Monopoly etc., but it’s always a good idea to bring your own thing too. Not like it takes up much space!

One of the biggest advantages of travelling solo is that you can meet new people really easily, and a simple game is a good way to make new friends.

A hand holding a red UNO card game pack against a wooden backdrop, highlighting the "Now with customizable Wild cards!" text.

20. Tupperware

One of the best ways to save money while travelling is to make your own meals in a hostel kitchen rather than eating out multiple times each day. Not to mention it’s probably healthier for you too.

A simple way to be more efficient with your cooking is to bring Tupperware with you.

Let’s say you want to make a tasty pasta for your dinner one night, then just make a little bit more than you need for that meal, put it in some Tupperware, and you can take it out with you to have for your lunch the next day.

21. Small Torch

It’s considerate not to turn the light on in a dorm room at night if others are sleeping, but you’ll probably still want to be able to see where you’re going or get anything out of your bag if you need to.

That’s where a small torch comes in handy. In fact, I actually recommend a head torch because then it can double up and be used if you go on any hiking or trekking tours which are at nighttime.

And remember to bring your sleep mask so you aren’t disturbed if anyone else uses a torch. But even if you are disturbed, it’ll be nothing compared to turning the lights on.

22. Power Bank

To stay safe while travelling in the modern world, you need a phone which has some battery life left in it. Whether it’s to use Google Maps to get to your hostel, to stay in touch with a relative, or use any of the other apps I recommend for solo travellers.

But it’s also a good thing to take to a hostel as when you’re in the common room you might not always have a plug, or if you get a bunk bed that’s not right by a socket, you’ll need a way to charge your phone, and a battery pack is exactly that.

And of course, you can take it with you throughout the day to ensure your phone is always charged and you can stay safe like I said above.

A black, rectangular portable battery pack on a desk, connected to a cable, showcasing its use for charging electronic devices.

23. Books

Even though hostels are a great way of meeting new people and even making friends for life, you do still have a fair bit of downtime and time to yourself.

On top of watching Netflix or listening to music on Spotify, you might want to read a book. Or you might not, in which case I’d say fair enough, I don’t either.

But for those that do love to read, don’t neglect your books just because you’re travelling. Bring them with you!

You can always trade books while travelling with other people so once you finish a book, you can get a new one. I’ve stayed in hostels before which have a library corner too.

24. First Aid Kit

One thing which people always forget to bring with them while travelling is a first aid kit.

Now I’m not saying bring enough to qualify yourself as a paramedic ready to save someone from a heart attack, but just take something which has plasters, blister cream, and things like that.

And if you take any medication at home, don’t forget to bring it with you while you’re travelling. Although I hope you don’t need me to tell you that.

While travelling, you can’t enjoy yourself if you’re sick, so make sure to look after yourself so you can allow yourself to make the most of your experience.

25. Journal

Travelling creates memories to last a lifetime, there’s no doubt about it, but unfortunately, you can’t and won’t remember every fine detail or every amazing person you meet.

A journal is a great way to put those memories into writing and ensure you won’t ever forget that kind man who helped you at the airport and paid for your taxi to the hostel, or the delicious street food you had on your fourth night in Costa Rica.

A journal also helps with mindfulness and reflection and all those other fancy words which in short mean you become a better person and appreciate life more. And it’s true – a journal will completely change how you look at things, both while travelling and while not.

A travel keepsake journal with a world map cover design. A journal is a great thing to take to a hostel to remember the finer details of your travels.

Here are some other things people take to hostels, which I don’t personally take but I can see why others would want them. So if you want to bring everything you could possibly ever need, here’s a continued list. But I will say that I don’t recommend bringing everything– you won’t use most of it and it will just take up room in your bag.

  1. Laptop
  2. Camera
  3. Yoga Mat
  4. Instruments
  5. Laundry Bag
  6. Sleeping Bag Liner
  7. Swiss Army Knife
  8. Security Belt
  9. Cable Locks
  10. Travel Hair Dryer
  11. Pillowcase
  12. Travel Utensils
  13. Travel Washing Line
  14. Mosquito Net
  15. Extra Pillow
  16. Pegs
  17. Air Freshener
  18. Spices and Seasonings
  19. Post-it Notes
  20. Extension Cords

Hostel Packing Tips

While I’ve just given a complete list of things you need to take to a hostel, I understand you might still be wondering how to pack your bag. Don’t worry- no one knows at the start. To be honest, I still don’t. I just go with what I’ve picked up along the way. So here are some tips to get you going:

  • Backpack over suitcase: I have no idea how people travel with a suitcase when they are moving between places. It’s so much easier to have a backpack on your back than to haul a suitcase from your hostel onto a bus then onto a train then onto a tuk-tuk and then into another hostel. Suitcases will be the bane of your existence.
  • Use packing cubes: I know I said it earlier but I want to say it again. Packing cubes will make it so much easier for you to pack. It will mean your bag is more organised, things are easier to find, and you can fit more into your backpack too.
  • Pack the night before: This one applies if you’re leaving during the night or early in the morning to move on to your next destination. It will save you a lot of stress in the morning, but it also means you aren’t making a racket which will annoy your dorm mates.
  • Keep it basic: When you’re travelling long-term, you want to keep your clothes as simple as possible. If you’re wearing a plain white t-shirt with shorts every day, people probably won’t bat an eyelid. But if you’re wearing a very specific Elvis Presley t-shirt with dungarees every day, people will start to notice.
  • Don’t overpack: You’ve probably heard it before and I’ll just be another person telling you, but don’t overpack. I know what you’re thinking, “Yes, I know. I’ve heard it a thousand times.” But trust me, you’ll probably still overpack. I remember someone saying to me once, “Whenever you’ve finished packing, half it.” And I think it’s true. You don’t need to bring everything you could possibly ever need- the truth is you won’t use half of it.
  • Bring a hoodie: If you’re travelling somewhere warm and exotic you probably won’t think to bring a hoodie. A hoodie is great for the evenings when it gets a bit cooler and they’re also really comfy to just lounge about the hostel in. Or if nothing else, you can use it as an extra layer in your bed at night.
  • Be smart about footwear: Travelling is tiring, and the last thing you want is blisters on your feet (although you’d have blister plasters in your first aid kit, right?). Be smart about your shoes. Vans are a common option, as are hiking boots which some people wear for every occasion but personally, I want them off after like 2 hours. Also, be clever about what footwear you wear on the plane. Wear the heaviest and bulkiest shoes!
  • Remember you’re sharing spaces: When packing for a hostel, you should always keep in mind that you’re going to be living with other people. This means that you should consider the impact of your item on others. Are your light-up plugs really needed more than a normal plug? Or those headphones that glow in the dark? Yes, I have seen both of these in hostels.

I also have some tips for backpacking in general to help keep your costs down while travelling on a budget.

Hostel Packing List: FAQ

Below are some questions related to things to take to hostels along with my answers to each question.

What should I carry to hostel?

You should take a sleep mask and earplugs to a hostel to improve your sleep experience. Take a padlock to ensure your belongings are secure in a locker. Take a microfibre towel as they are lightweight and dry quickly. And take a universal travel adapter so you can use sockets anywhere in the world.

Do I need to bring sheets to a hostel?

No, you do not need to bring sheets to a hostel. Hostels will provide bed linen as a bare minimum, including sheets. Some people do choose to carry a sleeping bag liner in case they want an extra layer to sleep under, or if the bed linen is dirty.

How do you pack a bag for a hostel?

To pack a bag for a hostel, you should use packing cubes. They make it much easier and allow your bag to be more organised as you can have a cube for t-shirts, a cube for underwear, etc. They usually mean you can squeeze more into your bag too.

What can you not bring to a hostel?

There are few things which you can’t bring to a hostel (obviously you can’t bring anything illegal), but there are some things which you don’t need to bring. You don’t need to bring bedding or a sleeping bag, you can bring travel toiletries rather than full-sized toiletries, and you don’t need to bring a big towel- bring a microfibre instead.

What To Bring To A Hostel: Conclusion

And there you have it, a complete list of what to bring to a hostel to ensure your stay goes as smoothly as possible.

Remember you want to pack as little as possible as overpacking is one of the biggest mistakes people make when going on their first backpacking trip.

Now that you know what to take to hostels, I’d recommend reading some quotes about hostels so you know what to expect for your first stay.