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Hostel Etiquette : How to Stay in a Hostel & Not Piss off your Roommates

Hostel Dorm Beds - Work Exchange Placements are common in Hostels around the World

Hostels are one of the best accommodation options for backpackers and budget travellers.  However, although sometimes I may complain about #firstworldproblems, I have realised after 18 months of staying in hostel dorms that there are certain unwritten rules that apparently do need to be written down to make sure everyone enjoys their stay.  If we all follow this simple guide to hostel etiquette, we will all get along just fine!

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Here is my list of hostel dos and don’ts to make sure that you are not one of those nightmare roommates:

Don’t be a dick.  This is a general rule to live by, but specifically in hostels please try to be considerate to your roommates and fellow hostellers.  Don’t slam the door or turn on the light in the middle of the night when people are sleeping. Coming in drunk, laughing and shouting at 4am is another sure-fire way to piss them off, especially if they have to get up early to take a bus.  Have fun by all means, but know when to tone it down for the rest of the hostel residents.

Do pack your bag the night before.  If you have to leave any time before 9am, pack your bag the previous evening so the incessant rustling of plastic bags and zips zipping up and down for the millionth time won’t make your roommates want to kill you.

Hostel etiquette: pack your bag the night before you leave! How to stay in a hostel
Hostel etiquette: pack your bag the night before you leave!

Do bring a torch or headlamp and earplugs with you.  A torch to help you see in the dark when you kindly don’t turn the light on for your roommates, and earplugs in case your roommates aren’t as considerate as you!  Earplugs also come in handy if you have a snorer in the dorm room!

For more ideas on what to pack read : Essential Items for your Backpack

Don’t put your stuff on other people’s beds – including yourself.   Sitting on your roommate’s bed and leaving a sweaty ass-print really isn’t nice.  Equally laying all your stuff out like you own the place isn’t cool either.

Do take care of your personal hygiene.  I must admit I am more lazy than I used to be regarding hygiene.  When it is way past laundry day and I sometimes have to wear a dirty pair of underwear again, it is time to hand-wash some clothes!  Following good hostel etiquette means keeping anything smelly and/or gross outside of the dorm room.  Perishable food, smelly socks/shoes/clothes should all be outside away from sleeping places.  The same goes for you – please shower every day, if not for yourself, then for your roommates!

Don’t use the dorm room as your walk-in wardrobe.  Remember that you are sharing a room – just as you don’t want to see other people’s dirty undies, they don’t want to see yours!  Making someone climb over your backpack and piles of clothes to reach their bed isn’t the best way to make friends.

Hostel Dorm Beds - How to stay in a hostel & not be a dick: hostel etiquette 101
Try to keep your hostel dorm tidy for everyone’s sake!

Do be considerate to hostel staff.  Having worked in a hostel for 3 months I now appreciate how important it is to check out on time so the staff can change the bed sheets and clean up ready for the new batch of travellers.  Also, if the staff are volunteers and live there, try not to bug them on their time off.  If they are sitting with headphones in watching a film, that generally means ‘do not disturb’.  Find whoever is working and ask them instead. We all need time off, even if we live where we work!

Don’t steal other people’s stuff.  Again, you would think this is pretty obvious part of hostel etiquette, but unfortunately it happens.  From mobile phones left lying around, to rifling through luggage, to taking someone’s beer from the fridge, just don’t do it people!  There is nothing more frustrating than finding your leftover pizza has a bite taken out of it.

Do bring a padlock for the lockers, and do use them. If there aren’t lockers then hand your valuables to the reception to put in the hostel safe.  If someone really wants to steal your stuff they will, but if it is out of sight you cut down on the opportunistic thieves. That said, I don’t have too much faith in hostel room lockers after having all my stuff stolen from a hostel locker, so if you are worried about safety, either choose a different hostel or hand your valuables to reception for safe-keeping.

Do talk to people.  Your room mates, the guy at breakfast, the girl on her own, the staff…. Hostelling is a social experience, and although it can be nerve wracking at first, striking up a conversation with someone could make their day, and yours!

Don’t have sex in a shared dorm.  Seriously, I can’t believe this has to be said, but I have heard enough graphic stories on my travels to prove that this happens with gross frequency!  We all have urges, but no-one wants to see OR hear your amorous activities.  And a sheet hanging around your bunk bed does not make it soundproof.  Most hostels have private rooms to get busy in, or if it is your last option PLEASE use the bathroom.

How is this list, did I miss any key dos or don’ts for hostel etiquette?

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Last updated: February 16, 2020

12 thoughts on “Hostel Etiquette : How to Stay in a Hostel & Not Piss off your Roommates

  1. Alyson says:

    I honestly can’t imagine anything worse than shared dorms, ugg! My husband uses them all the time when he pops over to London, he’s always telling me of snorers, people waking up while most are still asleep and starting loud conversations, fights breaking out and idiots shutting all the windows when it’s stuffy , warm and smelly. I honestly don’t know how he puts up with it. He’s a very heavy sleeper and always exhausted though, I guess he just passes out. I remember in BKK once walking past the mixed dorm and seeing a near naked girl sprawled almost naked on her bunk in a very unflattering position, oblivious to the view everyone passing in the corridor was getting. We use private hostel rooms for 4 occasionally and I did once stay in couples dorm with the kids…that was just weird! A few people insisted on marching in and switching the main light on when we were already in bed, asleep. But for a family cheap guest houses and hotels are cheaper 95% of the time. I don’t think I’ve actually ever stayed in a mixed dorm, not in a lifetime of backpacking and 50-60 countries. I was booked into one once on a weekend away but ended up staying at a friend’s so skipped the experience.

  2. carla abanes says:

    Ooohh I hope my former bed bunk mate in Thailand is reading this. She has her stuff everywhere and all over our dorm room! Hahaha. But honestly thanks for sharing this!

  3. Divyakshi Gupta says:

    Some great pointers there. I haven’t stayed in a hostel before but I have shared a room on trips with people and I agree that packing stuff at night makes things easy. Also listening to music with ear plugs on and knowing when to leave the room to attend a longgg phone call is important 🙂

  4. Genie | Gallivanting Bean says:

    I’ve never stayed in a hostel before and your post has me a little anxious about staying in one. I always get up SUPER early when I’m traveling with my friends. and rustle around my bag to get out my toiletries. not sure if a dorm would be the best choice for me. although i would really actually love to try it maybe just once haha

  5. nisha says:

    I think you covered it neatly. I have changed my hostel in the past because of stinking peple and clothes . I have not seen people having sex in a dorm bed but I have heard it happen.
    My first reaction was why don’t they do it on the streets!

  6. Sandy N Vyjay says:

    Not been in a hostel for a long time. But reading your post brought back lots of memories. This is indeed a list, which I hope the frequent offenders are reading and mend their ways. After all living in a hostel you are living so close to each other, we need to respect each other’s privacy and dignity.

  7. christine says:

    Ha! I HATE when people pack when they have to leave super early or come back late and pack or worse.. turn the lights off after rollin in at 3am. SO many annoying things but I still love hostels. I love the social atmosphere and how much cheaper it is! 😛

  8. melody pittman says:

    LOL I got such a chuckle out of this because honestly they should teach these rules in high school so adults have no excuse. I loved “don’t be a dick”, which could be applied to so many life situations. Definitely the hygeniene factor and being courteous to the hosts is great advice. All around fun read. Thanks for that.

  9. Nathan says:

    haha- I love it. I feel like every hostel should make guests read and sign this upon checkin. I don’t use hostels anymore, largely for the reasons found in your post.

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