In this post, you will learn how to find the right hostel and be a better hostel guest in the following areas:
- Dorm Room Etiquette
- Bathroom Etiquette
- Kitchen Etiquette
You will also get Pro-tips so that you will be more prepared and thus a better hostel guest which will result in:
- A more enjoyable stay
- Better interactions with other travelers
- More friends and invites to go to fun places
Why You Should Listen To Me
As an avid traveler and former hostel employee, I have spent countless nights in hostels all over the world.
I’ve battled bed bugs in shoestring budget hostels, enjoyed the trappings of party hostels and savored the relative luxury of boutique hostels.
I have also been on the otherwise as an employee and had to deal with all sorts of travelers, both good and bad.
First Let’s Talk About Generalities
There are obviously different expectations when it comes to the type of hostel (e.g. boutique vs. party), but there are some universal rules that I believe you should be mindful of.
It’s important to note that most of the etiquette is directed at travelers staying in dorm rooms but much of this advice is still applicable to private room dwellers.
Hostels are generally more social than hotels and many spaces are often shared (e.g. kitchens, TV & gaming rooms, bars, social areas, etc.).
I can already hear people saying…“bUt WhAt AbOuT PaRtY hOsTelS?! cAn’T i MaKe a LoT oF nOiSe AnD dO wHaT i WaNt?!
First of all, calm down child.
Secondly, specifics vary from hostel to hostel and some are much more lenient than others. But you can’t run a business with anarchy – there will still be rules to follow.
Before You Book Your Room…
- Ask yourself what kind of experience do you want
- Do you want a raucous party hostel? Are you looking to relax around a tranquil pool and drink fruit juice? Maybe you want a classy boutique hostel? Or do you just want the cheapest room you can find?
- Next, check the reviews and descriptions on 3rd party sites such as Hostelworld or Hostel Geeks
- This will give you an idea of what you might be getting yourself in to
If you don’t know what you want, that’s okay. Consider where you are in your trip…
- Are you just arriving after a long flight? You probably want a quiet and cozy room so that you can recharge. Maybe skip the party hostel until you’ve recharged those batteries
- Maybe you’ve been hitting the tours hard and you need to unwind a little. Perhaps it’s time to stay in a party hostel and let your freak flag fly
By defining these few parameters, you’ll put yourself and your mind in a position where you already have an idea of what to expect when you show up.
But at the end of the day, there will still be rules to follow and people still need to sleep and feel comfortable. So, don’t be a selfish shithead.
The overarching principle is: Be mindful of your impact on others
In other words, be respectful to other travelers and the employees.
Okay let’s get into the specifics that will help you be a better hostel guest and roommate.
By following these guidelines, you’ll be more likely to make friends, be invited places, and less likely to have problems with hostel staff.
Dorm Room Etiquette
Don’t turn on the room light in a shared dorm in the middle of the night
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a shared dorm, when the door is thrust open at 3AM and the main overhead light is flicked on by a drunken troglodyte who proceeds to clatter around like they own the place.
I can promise you that no one in that room will be happy with you.
Some rooms come with personal lamps, so at most, use that. But I recommend the following Pro-tips for a smoother reentry:
- Pro-tip #1: Use a headlamp or the flashlight feature on your pocket computer (cell phone)
- Pro-tip #2: If you’re going out for the night, leave your bedtime essentials (e.g. toothbrush, toothpaste, sleep clothes) easily accessible so that you can quickly and quietly transition to bed.
- Pro-tip #3: Use ear plugs and a sleep mask to mitigate any chance of disturbance by others coming in
Keep Your Mess to a Minimum
Space is limited in a shared room. You have multiple people in a relatively small space and they all live out of a bag.
When you treat the room as if it’s your personal drying rack, it becomes awkward for your roommates to move around and especially difficult to climb into the bunks. It’s also much more difficult for your fellow travelers to relax when there’s nowhere to sit because your socks and underwear are draped on every square inch of available real estate.
By all means, hang up a couple of items to dry if you absolutely need to, but consolidate the rest of your meager possessions. Put your bag and belongings in YOUR locker or under the bed and out of the way.
- Pro-tip: Always travel with a small bag for dirty laundry so that you can keep them consolidated and separate from your unsoiled wears.
This should be obvious but for some it’s not. Don’t be the smelly person.
It’s harder to make friends when you and your sour depravity enter the room. Your roommates will struggle to relax when their gag reflex is being triggered by a mere waft of your body odor.
That means, take a shower. With soap. Add deodorant afterward.
If your shoes smell, leave them outside or somewhere that won’t get them incinerated.
If your shoes smell, there’s a good chance your feet smell too. So, go wash them again in the shower before getting into bed. Sleeping near someone with trench foot is a miserable experience.
Keep Your Noise to a Minimum
This is especially important late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. No one wants to be rudely woken up with unnecessary noise.
Want to have a late night conversation? Take it outside.
Want to play music? Consider the context; Is it too late or are people getting ready to go out for the night?
An easy way to find out is to ask your roommates if they mind if you play music.
If they don’t mind, ask your roommates if they have any input on the music – this will help them feel included and you might make a friend or two.
Snoring is a tricky subject. It’s hard to control. But if you know you’re a heavy snorer, you should probably get a private room because subjecting a room full of people to your imaginary tree sawing is downright objectionable. Plus the result will likely be a room full of people who, in the morning, are tired, cranky, and don’t want to be your friend.
Pack your bag the night before
This applies if you’re leaving early the next morning and you’re in a shared dorm.
If you forget or don’t have time, quietly take all of your stuff out of the room and pack.
Just ask yourself:
Would you want to be woken up by people talking and packing loudly before running to their 6 AM bus? No of course not.
Then consider that you might have just gotten to bed at 4 AM after a raucous night and now you have people bumbling around with zippers, plastic bags, and lights. Yeah, it’s terrible. Don’t do it to other people.
Snoozing Your Alarm Clock
Either get up when your alarm goes or don’t set one. Repeatedly snoozing your alarm is a surefire way to piss everyone off.
Pro-tip: If you’re going to set an alarm, make sure it’s not full volume and keep it close so that you can turn it off quickly.
Not everyone wants to see you naked. That means don’t walk around your dorm in your birthday suit and definitely don’t pose like an old man Captain Morgan in a gym locker room – you know the pose – leg up on the bench while you let your jewels dry.
This can also send the wrong message and attract unwanted attention.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to pretend to be a puritan and change clothes behind an iron curtain. It just means, be more discrete and considerate. Not everyone wants to live in a hippy commune.
This also extends to proper sleeping attire.
I’m not saying you need pajamas. Personally I can’t stand pajamas; they make me feel like I’m in a poorly designed straight jacket. Just avoid walking around in your underwear and definitely don’t sleep in the nude unless you have your own room.
This is simple. Don’t have sex in shared dorms. It’s not cool. No one wants to hear nor be in the presence of your short-lived fluid swap. Get a private room; it’ll be more fun that way anyhow.
This also applies to overly mushy Public Displays of Affection (PDA). It’s great that you and your new fling are so lovey-dovey, but it’s uncomfortably distracting for others. It’s a shared space, so act like it.
Don’t be a creep
This plays in with some of the previous points and again, it should be obvious but unfortunately there are creepy people in this world.
Guys, understand that male/female power dynamics are different – it’s easier than you think to make a woman uncomfortable.
That means, don’t ask too personal of questions, maintain personal space, and absolutely do not touch other peoples possessions.
Some of the Dorm Etiquette applies here as well; i.e. nudity, cleaning up your mess, being a creep. But here are some actionable specifics:
Take short showers. Long showers are extremely wasteful (water is precious! You don’t pay the water bill – hostels do and they generally don’t make huge amounts of money.
Additionally, some hostels are in drought stricken areas and you are putting unnecessary strain on their resources.
Also, consider that other people want to shower as well. When everyone is trying to get ready for the night, it’s a sure way to irritate your fellow travelers. Get in and get out.
I can’t believe I have to say this but I do. Guys, please don’t jerk off in the shower. It’s disgusting – it’s a legitimate biohazard. It clogs up drains and someone has to deal with it.
Next, I can’t recommend this enough, wear sandals.
This goes two ways:
- It helps reduce the likelihood of you spreading foot fungus
- It helps reduce the likelihood of you getting foot fungus
If you need more incentive, read the preceding bullet point about guys jerking off in the shower.
Know that plumbing in some countries can’t handle toilet paper being flushed.
So, that means you need to put it in the trash can. This can be a shock to travelers from industrialized nations but I promise you will cause blockages if you insist on not following the local customs.
Trust me, you’ll get used to it.
- If you cook, clean up your mess as soon as you’re done eating
- Label your food and do not take other peoples food
- By all means help yourself to the free food bin – most hostels have leftover goods from previous guests.
- If you cook a big meal, try not to take up the entire kitchen. It’s inconsiderate. If you are adamant about using lots of space and tools, cook when it’s not busy.
Follow the Hostel Rules
I know, I know. You’re a rebel and you do want you want.
But, think about it; Your decisions impact others and these hostels are independent businesses run by hardworking people.
If you act up, a hostel employee now has to deal with your nonsense and enforce a rule that they’re honestly not paid enough (or at all) to deal with.
You can absolutely be kicked out/removed from a hostel and blacklisted from further stays there.
If they’re a chain, there’s a good chance that you’ll be blacklisted from their sister hostels down the road.
- Pro-tip: Most of these hostels keep some sort of file on their guests and so your reputation can stay in their system for years
Remember, you are a guest and you share a space. If you want to be a self-entitled half-wit, then go spend big at a resort or hotel where you can sort of pretend like you own the place.
This may all seem like a lot but it really isn’t. Most of this should be common sense and fairly easy to implement if you are remotely considerate.
Just about every hostel in the world has some sort of rules for their guests to follow. Read them, ask questions if you have any, and try to be a mindful person. Your fellow travelers and hostel workers will be most appreciative and you’ll be more likely to make friends and get invited places.