Hostel Etiquette: What to Do and Not to Do in a Hostel

A hostel dorm full of bunk beds
Updated: 01/18/19 | January 18th, 2019

I’ve encountered a number of backpackers who believe that a ten-bed dorm means they’re the only one sleeping there. Or that their mom will clean up their mess in the hostel’s kitchen. It used to amaze me that so many people would be rude and inconsiderate to others in the hostel — leaving dirty dishes, having sex in dorm rooms, or being loaded, drunk, and uncaring then turning around and being angry if someone didn’t let them catch a moment of sleep.

Sometimes I think that before everyone goes away, there should be a class on how to properly behave in a hostel. That way you are remembered for being the totally awesome person you are instead of the jerk that woke everybody up at 3am. After years on the road and thousands of hostel stays, here are hostel etiquette tips to inspire love, not hatred, from your fellow travelers:

1. Be quiet – No one expects you to tip-toe around the room during the day, even if someone is taking a nap. There’s an unwritten understanding that during the day, the dorm room is fair game. However, after 10pm or 11pm, keep the noise down. People are trying to sleep! You love sleep, right? So does everyone else. Remember that. Dorm rooms are where the sleeping happens, not the party! It’s not cool being woken up in the middle of the night by drunks or chatty people. If you are going to talk, leave the room and do so outside.

In a large dorm, it’s hard to have perfect silence — people get that. That’s why we all carry earplugs. But if you are in a smaller dorm, your noise is going to be heard much more easily, and earplugs won’t always work.

And please, don’t shit in the room either!

2. Keep the lights off – Expanding on this theme, if it’s past 11 or before sunrise, keep the lights off. No one wants to be woken up by the light. Use a flashlight or the glow from your phone to find what you are looking for. There are people in the room who might not be able to sleep with the lights on. Please don’t disturb.

3. Keep the kitchen clean – Your mother is not here, and no one wants some crazy foodborne illness. I bet you don’t either. Wash your dishes when you are done with them, and by “wash,” I mean with soap, not just running your dishes under lukewarm water. If there is a still a film on the pan when you are done, it’s not clean.

And if you use the last pot, clean it, so the person behind you can start cooking their dinner without scrubbing your dishes. Don’t just leave it.

4. Keep the bathrooms clean – I bet you don’t keep the bathroom filthy in your own house, so why do it in the hostel? How many times have you walked into a hostel bathroom and nearly vomited in disgust? Lots. I know I have. That is how everyone feels when they use the bathroom after you’ve left it a cesspool and I need a biohazard suit to walk through it. Hell, I can’t for the life of me figure out how people get places so damn dirty. Throw your trash, toilet paper, etc., in the bin, don’t pee on the floor, and, if you have to throw up, do it in the toilet, not the sink or shower.

5. Pack up early – It’s hard to sleep in at hostels. Everyone is packing their bags and moving out. New people are coming in. The guy above you is snoring like a freight train. Anything that can help us sleep later is always appreciated. So travelers love it when people pack their bags the night before so as to minimize noise in the morning. Bags rustling and zipping can get annoying. I know you can’t fully get rid of the noise, but doing something to try to keep it down is goodwill that is greatly appreciated by others.

6. Avoid plastic bags – Even worse than listening to people pack their bag is listening to people rustle with the plastic bags they carry around. They make a lot of noise. A LOT OF NOISE! This is my biggest pet peeve. If the noise goes on for a while, I’ll even say something. So just like packing your bag, pack your plastic bags the night before. Because there’s simply no way to muffle that sound.

7. Keep it private – Don’t have sex in the dorm rooms. I mean it, seriously. No one wants to hear you faking it. There’s a right way to have sex in a hostel and a wrong way — and in the dorm room is the wrong way.

8. Turn off the dance party – As awesome as rocking out to Ariane Grande or something is, some people can’t fall asleep to music. While it is great that you can, and it certainly helps block out other noises, keeping it too loud disturbs others. I don’t want to fall asleep to the soundtrack to your life. Plus, why work on going deaf while you sleep? That’s more of a daytime activity. Keep the volume down.

9. Use headphones – If you’re making a call, chatting on Skype, or watching a movie you should be using headphones. The rest of the dorm doesn’t want to hear what you’re up to — day or night. If you need to make a call and don’t have headphones, go to the common room. You can make a call in the hallway during the day, but don’t sit in the hallway chatting away at night. Why? Because we can all still hear you. Be respectful of everyone else. Use headphones.

10. Don’t hog the bathroom – Most hostels have limited bathroom and shower space. Don’t spend 40 minutes in the shower and use up all the hot water. Be quick so that everyone has time to shower and get ready. It’s a shared space, remember!

11. Share the outlets – While most hostels these days have plenty of electrical outlets, some don’t. Don’t take up more than 1 plug so that everyone can use the outlet. Everyone needs their phone or computer to plan and communicate — just like you. Plugging in all of your devices at once so no one else can charge theirs is a jerk move. Don’t be a jerk!

***

None of this is difficult. You don’t have to stop being you, but remember what your kindergarten teacher told you all those years ago: play nice with others. Be respectful of people’s space just as you want people to be respectful of yours. Remember you aren’t the only one in the hostel. You are surrounded by people who have different needs. Be conscious of that.

All I remember about the people who woke me up or left the place dirty were that they were rude and not people I wanted to hang out with again. If I ran into them again, I would walk the other way. Don’t let that person be you.

Let people walk away with good memories of you by being an awesome and respectful traveler!

These are the websites I use to find great hostels and other affordable accommodations:

  • Hostelworld.com
  • Booking.com
  • Airbnb
  • Couchsurfing

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Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

  • World Nomads (for everyone below 70)
  • Insure My Trip (for those over 70)

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
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