Working at a hostel for the first time? What you need to know

You’ve arranged your first work exchange at a hostel, but you might be feeling anxious and uncertain about working at a hostel. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you get ready for this exciting adventure.

This article aims to offer insights to ease any apprehension you may have for your first time working at a hostel. It covers tips for pre-arrival, essential questions and provides general advice to ensure a mutually enjoyable working relationship.

My Personal Journey

When I embarked on my inaugural work exchange adventure, I was filled with apprehension. Working at a hostel was entirely new territory and I felt uncertain about what lay ahead. Not only was I tasked with mastering a new role, but I would also be residing there, which added a whole new layer of concerns. What if I didn’t quite mesh with them? Would the sleeping arrangements be comfortable? How many roommates would I have to share space with, and how might that impact my sleep quality?

In the end, my worries proved largely unfounded, as I had a fantastic experience and seldom encountered sleep disturbances. However, if I had had someone to provide insight into what awaited me, I believe I could have spared myself some needless anxiety. That’s precisely the purpose of this article!

How to prepare for a working at a hostel

1. Talk to your host

2. Ask questions

3. Do your research

4. Have a positive attitude

1. Talk to the hostel

Approximately one week before your start working at the hostel, I strongly advise reaffirming your hostel stay by sending a message or email to your host. This step ensures that there’s no room for misunderstandings regarding your arrival date and time. By doing so, you establish an initial connection with your host and gain a clearer understanding of their personality. I’d also suggest placing a phone call if your initial message doesn’t receive a prompt response. Hosts often juggle multiple roles, such as being the owner, manager, and receptionist all at once. Thus, a delayed response should not be interpreted as discourtesy.

During the phone call, inquire about the person you’ve been communicating by name. If they are unavailable, request to speak with the next responsible party in the hierarchy. Introduce yourself during the call and capitalize on this opportunity to gather comprehensive insights into your forthcoming work and living environment. Feel free to address any specific questions or concerns that may be on your mind. Most importantly, initiating a friendly conversation with your host beforehand can significantly alleviate any pre-arrival apprehensions.

2. Ask questions to the hostel

What’s the Most Convenient Way to Reach the Hostel?

Depending on your origin and mode of transportation, how you arrive at the hostel can vary. Whether you’re flying, driving, or using another form of transport to reach your destination, this question is essential. Its dual purpose is to inform your host of your plans, helping them anticipate your arrival. It’s worth noting that some hosts provide pickup services from airports, bus stations, etc., and they may proactively offer this information in their response. Additionally, this is an ideal time to inquire about any general safety recommendations for the area.

Will There Be Someone to Welcome Me at the Hostel Upon Arrival?

If you’re arriving during daylight hours, this concern may be less pressing as there’s likely to be someone at the reception desk. Nonetheless, knowing who to ask for upon arrival will bolster your confidence. This question becomes notably crucial if you plan to arrive late at night. Once inside, you’ll still need details about your accommodation, any curfews, or quiet hours in place, and other relevant procedures. By clarifying these aspects in advance, you can preemptively address potential issues.

When Is My First Shift?

Determine the precise commencement time for the initial work shift and if it’s scheduled soon after arrival, make a special effort to be punctual. In cases where unexpected situations arise (such as flight delays), promptly contact your host and explain the circumstances. Effective communication with your host is vital, as it is in most employment scenarios. If your host kindly grants you a few days off upon arrival, take advantage of this time to explore your new city. This is particularly important in a hostel work context because guests often seek your advice and recommendations regarding local attractions and activities. It’s advisable to keep pen and paper handy to jot down directions, door codes, notable landmarks for navigation, and other relevant details. Lastly, inquire about the most efficient means of contacting your host in case you encounter any issues after arriving in the city.

3. Do your research

If you anticipate being without internet access upon your arrival, remember to download maps and directions in advance for offline use. If you’re traveling to a foreign country, it’s also advisable to learn some basic keywords in the local language. This knowledge can be handy in case you encounter any difficulties while locating the hostel.

4. Have a positive attitude

Just like any other job, it’s essential to arrive with a positive attitude and a readiness to learn. Upon arrival, you’ll likely receive a guided tour of the hostel and be introduced to the staff. It’s courteous to greet everyone warmly and make an effort to remember their names and roles, ensuring you know who to approach if you have any additional questions.

During the tour, feel free to ask inquiries such as: What specific tasks am I expected to undertake, and will there be any training provided for these duties? Can I obtain a copy of my work schedule for reference? Where will my accommodations be, and who will I be sharing a room with? Who should I reach out to if I require assistance, and where can I locate them? Are there any general policies at the hostel that I should be aware of?

You’ll likely receive inquiries from guests regarding matters like age restrictions, check-in and check-out times, policies on alcohol and tobacco use, and more. It’s crucial to provide accurate and confident responses while also ensuring you don’t inadvertently violate any rules. What interesting historical details are associated with the hostel or the building itself? Take some time on your first day to engage in conversations with fellow work exchangers. Not only will you be living and working alongside them, but they can also offer invaluable insights into what’s expected during your stay. They can provide you with advice and information about specific aspects that are important to remember. F


It’s crucial to bear in mind that even though the work exchange arrangement involves collaboration between you and the hostel host, it comes with well-defined responsibilities agreed upon in advance. Expectations will be in place. While the work is typically straightforward, living where you work adds a unique dimension, as you represent the hostel whenever you’re on the premises or interacting with guests. Hostel environments generally have a more relaxed atmosphere compared to traditional workplaces, and you’re encouraged to engage with guests and have fun with them. However, remember that you are still an employee, and there may be basic guidelines governing your interactions with guests. It’s wise to inquire about these guidelines beforehand.

Even though you’re not receiving monetary compensation, you’re benefiting from the work exchange agreement, so demonstrating an appropriate level of gratitude and respect is important. A certain degree of nervousness when entering an entirely new situation is entirely natural, but hopefully, these tips will help you embark on a positive start. One last piece of advice: relax! You’re about to embark on a fantastic journey, and as long as you adhere to the rules and take pride in your work, you’ll do just fine! Check out some of the work exchange positions at great hostels around the world.