Hostel Work: 10 Things to Know Before Starting

Hostel worktrade at the Ember Hostel in Denver Colorado

Could you last a couple months living in a hostel? By the end of this article you should a better idea if you could last a couple months living AND working in a hostel.

There are 10 things to know before working in a hostel. The 10 things to know include new people daily, 24/7 social interaction, work/life balance, the art of no, randomness, being that guy, cleaning, money, low days, and privacy.

Working in a hostel is a great way to gain valuable life experience. If you are considering it, reach out to hostels and start the conversation. Visit the hostel you are thinking about working at so management can see your face. If you happen to get the gig, congrats! I have been living and working in a hostel for a little over 6 months now and want to touch on what to expect.

New People Everyday

A hostel is a hotel, the difference, a hostel is cheaper and has dorm style rooms meaning multiple people in one living quarter. The average length of stay for a hostel guest is between 2-5 days. Sometimes you get a guest who stays for 2 weeks. With that amount of turnover there is always going to be a new person coming through the front door. You will have the same conversations many times: “What’s your name?”, “Where you from?”, What do you do?”, “What brought you to (the hostel)?”

Try not to lose your sanity, use this as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes. People love to tell stories about themselves, guide them with questions, and listen. You will gain valuable insight on topics such as travel, cheap travel, places to stay, life lessons, and much more.

24/7 Social Interaction

I would like to consider myself as an introverted extrovert. I enjoy my time alone and can spend hours without talking to anyone. In contrast, I understand that we are social animals, and having a social life is important for overall well-being. What has helped me is scheduling my day, in the morning it’s my time. Whether I go to a coffeeshop or not, I can get what I need to get done (writing, reading, workout, etc.), and later in the day is my social time (interacting with guests, cooking, activities, etc.). The days vary based on my work schedule, my recommendation, buy a calendar white board to help you stay organized.

Hostel Work/Life Balance

There is no better example of work/life balance then living and working in a hostel. You are apart of the guests, but you work there. You are an ambassador of the hostel which can cause some dilemmas. Can you be friendly when you are having a rough day? Do you hook up with guests? Cannabis is legal in the state, do you smoke? How much should you drink?

Once guests know that you work at the hostel, even when you are not working you will still be asked questions. A big question is, do you hook up with guests? My answer is, you can but. This is a tricky situation, everyone is going to be different. You want the guests to have a memorable experience, not an uncomfortable one, don’t be weird. No means no. When it comes to drinking and smoking, know your limit.

The Art of No

Learning to say no is a very valuable skill. Every day there are going to be new people where it is day one of vacation for them. People like to be friendly, asking if you want to drink or have a smoke. If you said yes to ever person, you will probably start an unhealthy habit, especially if you have an addictive personality. It is alright to say no.

This can pay back in the long-run. Saying no allows you to concentrate on what really matters for you. If you say yes to everything you leave no time left for yourself. A “maybe” almost always means no, say no with confidence and respect. With your white board calendar, schedule your days.

Randomness of a Hostel

Weekends can take place at any time during the week. For example, it was a Tuesday and the entire hostel was partying out on the patio. Later that week on Friday, the hostel was dead. Be volatile and prepared for anything.

Being That Guy

While you are working sometimes you will have to be that guy. A guest is acting up and other guests are getting uncomfortable. You are the one that has to handle the situation. Pulling them aside and giving them the bad news, “Hey i’ve been getting some complaints about your behavior, if it becomes more of a problem I will have to ask you to go to bed.”

Sometimes guest will laugh at you. Or, get angry at you when they don’t follow the rules and you let them know. Be stern, it will be great practice for other situations in life. You will gain confidence.


Honestly, a big part of working in a hostel is cleaning. If you are the person that leaves dishes in the sink for days, oh buddy. Although it is your home for the time being, it is also a professional establishment. You will be cleaning up after people. My advise, do not procrastinate.


A hostel work opportunity usually requires you work about 3 shifts a week and sometimes a cleaning shift. You do not get paid for these shifts as they are required for you to stay for free. Within the first week of arriving to the Ember Hostel I got another job at a sub sandwich place. I was working over 50 hours a week on average between the two jobs. It was draining, and I didn’t have a lot of energy left to do what I wanted (read, write, hangout with guests). I quit the sub place after a few months and had enough money that I knew could last me the entire summer comfortably. All I was paying for was food which came to be an average of $12 a day.

There was $1,200 in my bank account when I left the sub place. After my trip to San Diego I had $375 remaining, not enough to last the remainder of my stay. I picked up more hours at the hostel to get paid. Also, I started an Upwork freelance account to gain some money as well. I am learning how to budget, which is not always easy to follow, but i’m working on it.

I wrote an article on navigating the hostel world landscape which you can read. The article talks about how to travel affordably.

Low Days

We all experience happiness and sadness, what to do when your feeling low in a hostel? A couple habits I am going to talk about that help me are meditate, exercise, journaling, talking.

Meditation is becoming increasingly popular and for good reason. It gives you a chance to calm the monkey mind. Our thoughts like to tell stories creating feelings of all sorts. Taking at minimum 5 minutes a day to close your eyes can pay dividends, and improve the quality of your life.

Just walk your way out. Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel good. Walk around, do some pushups, stretch. Exercise has always helped me in times of stress.

Journaling is a mental dump. Write about whatever is on your mind. It can help you solve problems and work through situations. I bought a mini pocket journal and write in it whenever I feel needed. Sometimes thats 3 times a week, sometimes it’s 1 time that month.

Talk to other people, the other worktrades at the hostel are going through the same experience as you, talk to them. Talk about what’s on your mind and how your feeling.


There is not much privacy in a hostel. If you get lucky and your hostel has privacy curtains on the beds that helps. When I want some privacy, going to the park or to my bed and closing the curtain has helped. You will be sleeping in a room with other people so get comfortable with people hearing the noises your body makes.

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