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How to avoid being THAT guy/gal - Hostel Etiquette Guide

Miriam Jaffe
Miriam Jaffe
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Digital Nomad

How to avoid being THAT guy/gal - Hostel Etiquette Guide

Updated on: 
April 3, 2021
Reading Time:  
3
 minutes

As travel starts to open up more, hostels will hopefully become more and more crowded. Whether you’re a seasoned hostel stayer or have never stayed in a hostel before, we figure it’s never a bad idea to brush up on hostel etiquette for any upcoming travel.

If you’re looking to book a hostel, you can read up on available places to stay, as well as their reviews by visiting HostelWorld, to check if a hostel is a good fit for you. Without further ado, let’s dive into what you should (and shouldn’t) do when you stay at a hostel. 

A typical hostel bunk bed room
Photo by Marcus Loke on Unsplash

Dos and Don’ts in a Hostel

While it’s true that every hostel will have a different set of rules, with some being more strict than others, there are some baseline dos and don’ts that exist regardless of where you’re staying. 

You can also check out the r/solotravel sub on Reddit for more tips on staying in hostels, or to chat with other solo travelers about their various hostel experiences!

DO:

Clean up after yourself:

this applies to communal spaces and your area within your room. Be sure to keep your things within your space and not block walkways, or ladders for bunk beds. If your hostel offers breakfast or other meals, follow the procedures for cleaning up after yourself.

Be respectful:

If a hostel has quiet hours, make sure you stick to them in all spaces of the hostel. Don’t take phone calls in your room if others are in there without first asking if you can disrupt them, and listen to music/watch TV with headphones in so as not to disrupt your fellow guests.

Bring a lock:

Some hostels provide locks, but it is not a guarantee so to be extra safe with your valuables, bring your own so you can lock them up while you sleep and explore during the day. 

Bring shower shoes:

Especially if you’re staying in a hostel with a communal bathroom, shower shoes are a great way to put your mind (and your feet) at ease. They’re also nice to have if you need to get up in the middle of the night and the bathroom facilities aren’t attached to your room. 

Stick to your assigned bed:

Yes, it can be annoying to be assigned the top bunk, or perhaps you don’t want to be the closest to the door, but beds are assigned based on more variables than just your preferences. Taking someone else’s could cause confusion at a later date, and cause hostel staff to potentially need to do more laundry than necessary. If you’re truly unhappy with your bed assignment, be sure to bring it up with hostel staff before doing things on your own. This also applies to using other beds as storage - just because a bed is empty for a night doesn’t mean it’ll be empty for your whole stay!

Wear pajamas to bed:

We know that everyone has their own preferences when it comes to sleepwear, but hostels are communal spaces (unless you’ve reserved a private room with an ensuite), and some things are best left to the imagination. 

Read hostel rules:

This seems like a no-brainer, but since rules and restrictions aren’t the same across all hostels, it’s important to know what they are in the place where you’re staying. You don’t want to be the person asked to leave because you didn’t read through the points on quiet hours or guests, or have to pay for an extra night because you didn’t double-check the check-out time!

Read up on the hostel beforehand:

You don’t need to do dissertation-level research on any given hostel before booking it, but don’t book somewhere blindly expecting it to be a party hostel, only to find out that the vibe is the exact opposite (or vice versa). 

DON’T:

Make a lot of noise:

While you might be a deep sleeper, others might not, so try and be as quiet as possible when entering/exiting your room, and when moving around, especially in the later hours of the day and into the night. 

Snooze your alarm multiple times:

Waking up in the morning can be rough, and travel can sometimes wear you out, but for all the light sleepers in your room (assuming you’re not in a private room), set your alarm for a time when you know you’ll wake up with it, and then wake up with it. There’s nothing worse than being constantly woken up by a snoozed alarm that someone won’t turn off, or by someone who is too asleep to hear their alarm. 

Turn lights on when not needed:

If you’re sleeping in a shared space, keep the lights off at least during quiet hours (if applicable to your hostel), and try to do what you need to do using a flashlight app on your phone - or bring your own if you want! 

Leave your things everywhere:

This applies to your personal space within the room as well as in the common areas, especially in the bathrooms. It can sometimes be annoying to have to remember all your products and what not every time you head into the bathroom, but if you leave them in there, not only are you being messy, but they might not be there when you return. On that note as well…

 Hog the bathroom:

Communal bathroom setups vary from hostel to hostel, but don’t treat them as your own personal bathroom, especially if there are limited shower/toilet stalls. 

Hostel Dorm Etiquette for Couples

Traveling solo can be a great experience, but sometimes you want to travel with a friend or even a significant other. Let’s just dive in and address the elephant in the room in terms of hostels and traveling as a couple.

If you’re traveling as two people, you will need to reserve two beds if you’re opting to stay in a dorm-style situation (and make sure that you book the female/male/mixed dorm option that pertains to your situation), even if you plan on attempting to share one (knowing that many hostels have single beds in the dorms). Some hostels strictly forbid bed-sharing, for both couples and non-couples. If you want to do the shared single bed experience, keep in mind that PDA is not something that everyone is comfortable with, and the hostel experience is about being considerate to your roommates. If you’re wanting to partake in PDA (or anything more than that) as a couple, it’s a good idea to splurge a little in a private room. 

Also keep in mind that even if you don’t arrive at a hostel as part of a couple, but find someone you might want to have some fun times with while there, communal areas are not there for your own personal use. Be respectful of other hostel stayers, and your dorm mates before you jump into bed with another guest (both metaphorically and literally)! 

Can you Eat in Hostel Rooms?

The answer to this question is going to depend on the hostel where you’re staying. It’s always important to check the rules of any given hostel to see what their stance is on food in the rooms. Some will request that you don’t eat in your room, as you might leave crumbs and attract animals. This doesn’t mean that you can eat in your room even if you’re consuming something that you think won’t leave crumbs.

If food is allowed in the rooms, be aware of any associated smells that might exist with the foods you’re consuming since you’re sharing the space with others. Hostels will frequently have designated spaces where you can eat, either a kitchen, dining area, or plain communal areas. If the hostel doesn’t tell you what their rules are regarding food consumption, be sure to ask just in case!

If you’re planning on cooking food in a hostel, or keeping some food in a fridge, be sure to label it with your name. While this isn’t a foolproof method to avoid food being stolen (and don’t be the person who does that, please), it will at least minimize the chance of that happening.

A nutritious breakfast
Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Hostel Etiquette Snoring

Yes, snoring is a completely normal thing, and there’s no shame in it if you’re someone who snores! That being said, because dorms in hostels are shared with other people, it’s good to at least be self aware of your noise habits while you sleep. If you know that you’re a loud snorer, you might want to consider booking a private room, however, that’s not always in everyone’s budget.

Consequently, whether you’re a snorer or not, it’s good to come prepared with ear plugs, or headphones you can use while you sleep in case of noise (and we’re not just talking about snoring since people can be coming in and out at all hours - plus, headphones are a necessity if you’re going to be listening to music or playing games while in your room, too)! 

Staying in a hostel can be great fun, and is a fab way to meet other travelers. The most important thing to remember when you stay in a hostel is that it is not a hotel, and not your own private space (unless you book a private room, but communal spaces are still for everyone). If you follow our handy dos and don’ts list, and read up on the hostel’s rules, you’re sure to have a good time.

If you're excited to plan your trips and book your accommodations, be sure to check out our review of the Nomads list and digital nomad Reddit, the top go-to places for budget travelers and digital nomads to do research! Once you’ve chosen a hostel where you’d like to stay, head to Pilot for itinerary planning, ways to connect with other travelers headed to the same place as you, budgeting tips, and to help organize your dream adventure!