Staying in hostels when you travel nearly always means sleeping in a bunk bed. Jane Clements, founder of the blog: Scarlet Jones Travels shares her insight into sharing dorm rooms and most importantly how to survive hostel bunk beds.
Staying in dormitories in hostels often involves a bunk bed and as I always wanted to sleep in a bunk bed as a child I am more than happy with this arrangement. But choice for me is a bad thing. I can never make up my mind. Take the issue of which bunk to choose for example.
First there are the logistics of getting up into the top bunk. Contrary to logic you will often find top bunks in hostels without ladders. Dormitory etiquette says that you should never sit or stand on any bed (or person in it) which is not your own without an invite but it is quite beyond my physical capabilities to haul myself up or flop back down in anything like a ladylike fashion without trampling over the poor stranger who is attempting to sleep below when there is no ladder.
Anyway, assuming that you do end up in the top bunk my top tip is to prepare a little bedtime bag. The little cloth bags with a drawstring are perfect – you can loop the cord around the bedpost or your ankle so that it doesn’t fall out and you now have easy access to a torch, water, book or your locker key which can reduce those annoying treks up and down to terra firma.
Apart from the nuisance of a bathroom run in the night there is also the obvious hazard of falling out. Contravening common sense many hostel bunks do not come with any form of barrier or side bar and I have heard of several occasions when drunk or mobile sleepers have plummeted off.
I also know of one instance when the top bunk collapsed (there were three people sat on it at the time watching a DVD). I always make a quick check of the slats underneath to ensure that they have not migrated off their tracks – and this will hopefully minimise the risk of a swift descent in the night or worst a severe squashing.
If you end up in the bottom bunk lets assume that you have a courteous guest above who is not going to trample you or fall on you in the night. You have the floor where you can store your things you need for bedtime and it is a whole lot easier to go to the bathroom in the night.
But be aware that if you're in a party hostel, you could find yourself getting more than you bargained for if the person sleeping above you comes back drunk or worse still decides to hook up with another traveller and have sex in the hostel. Top or bottom bunk there is always the potential to crack your head on the ceiling or the underside of the bed above so if you suffer from night terrors and you have an inclination to sit bolt upright in your sleep, calculate the clearance space before settling in.
And don’t think that bunk beds come as standard either. Some dormitories offer triple tier beds, some have a double width bottom bunk and I have even been in one hostel where both the beds, top and bottom were for two people. There's also some very unusual bunk beds out there too from small lofts to a tree trunk bunk bed. Some of the most comfortable beds that I have slept in have been bunk beds, and some of the highest, with no safety rail and that wobble with every breath that you take have been the scariest.
Some of the best dorms have rigged up little curtains around the beds which allows for a bit of privacy in a room, and some have individual reading lights, fans and electrical sockets. Space is usually at a premium in dorms where sometimes you are crammed in like the proverbial sardine, but generally the more beds in a room the cheaper the price. You have to weigh up all the options when deciding which room and bed to opt for, although you can never outguess what sort of guests will be occupying the other beds.
If there is a ladder I always opt for the top bunk. Make your choice wisely.