6 Tips for Getting Free Stays in Hostels

Pacific Tradewinds

6 Tips for Getting Free Stays in Hostels

If you’ve ever stayed in a hostel, chances are you’ve met people in the community who were staying for free. You may not have realized it but they were there. For many, being part of a community like this might seem like an amazing opportunity that’s unattainable to the average backpacker. BUT! If you’re friendly, helpful, and outgoing, you could have one of these opportunities in hostels, too. This post will tell you how.

Like most opportunities in life, finding a free stay in hostels usually comes down to one thing - who you know. This is good, because in hostels, it’s really EASY to get to know people. Those who have experienced hostels know that the lines between owners, managers, staff, volunteers and guests are very blurry. Although some hostels (especially larger ones) are operated in a very business-like fashion, in most hostels the atmosphere is like no business you have ever seen, and are instead a tight-knit community where everyone becomes super close super quick. Some might say hostel communities are akin to something like a hippie-commune because travelers are sharing food, communal spaces, and household responsibilities. 

Getting to know the hostel - first as a guest 

From the moment you walk in the door, let people know you are there to socialize and have fun.  Ask who’s around and what activities are planned at the hostel during the time you are planning to be there. Hostel staff LOVE meeting fun and interesting guests, so try to be this guest! Also, in a hostel, there is absolutely no reason to be shy.  People choose hostels because they want to be social. In spite of this, many travelers are indeed shy.  If you can be the conversation starter and the friendly person who makes the “social stew” stir, you will become ever so liked in the hostel. It’s not uncommon for hostel guests and staff to go out and see the sights together.  Always be open to inviting someone new on your outings.

2. Have a laid-back attitude

First and foremost, hostelers are independent travelers. That means they act like grownups and can take care of themselves. If you have a backpack that tends to explode because you can’t keep your belongings tidy you’re just making more work for everyone else.  Also, don’t drink too much. Most hostels allow for some social libations, but if you act like a drunk frat boy or girl and other people in the hostel have to take care of you, they’re not going to ask you to stick around.   

Getting the free stay - “the ask”

Once you have been at the hostel for a few days, applied the tips above, got a feel for the “vibe” of the hostel,  you can decide if it’s appropriate to ask for a free stay. Here’s the steps that have worked well for me. 

Don’t be ashamed about having limited funds. Most long-term travelers are always on a budget because the longer they can stretch their funds, the longer they travel. Let the manager and staff know you’d love to stay longer at this hostel and in this town but you also want to see as many different places as possible on your trip.  Tell them you are not limited by time but by funds, because once your funds run out you have to go home with the reserve money you have set aside for this purpose. This is important because it separates you from travelers who are destitute and need a free stay because it’s the only option for them. 

In some cases, after you have done all the above steps you can approach the manager privately and ask if there are any free stay opportunities.  Sometimes the manager is shy and afraid to ask you, but if you have played your cards right they will be happy you broached the subject.  

Remember, even if you follow all these tips, it’s not always going to work out.  Sometimes the manager does not have the authority to give free stays, or sometimes there are other factors at play that are hidden from your view.  Don’t worry. Make your plans for onward travel to your next destination and try again - with a smile on your face.  



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