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Hostel Etiquette

hostel etiquette

Hostels are perhaps the best way to meet friends, dive into the travel environment and save on accommodation when travelling alone. Hostels don’t come without their downsides. You are sleeping in a room with anywhere from 4 to 12 people (depending on budget). This comes with it’s downfalls; no privacy, no way to choose to be alone, noisy and disrespectful travellers and so on. If everyone simply followed the hostel etiquette those things wouldn’t be a problem. So I have put together the ultimate list of hostel etiquette to make the rules or should I say “etiquette” clear.

In the dorm room

Unpacking/Packing your bags

I am sure we have all been guilty of this. I know I was until I had been to a few hostels and learnt the hostel etiquette. If you have to leave the hostel at 6 am the next day, pack your pack beforehand. Don’t be that asshole who turns the lights on, opens the creaky metal under the bunk lockers to get your bag and start packing at 5 am. It just isn’t fair.

Keep your space clean

The way I see it, if it’s on your bed – fine, your problem. If I have to step over all of your things – my problem and I’m not happy about that. If your stinky shoes are in the open for everyone to see and smell – yukky! If my first impression of the room is “this si a dump” it is unfair. Keep all of your things in your area and try and keep it clean. Walking into a room with everyone’s suitcases exploding makes the room smelly, look small and uninviting. f you have the bottom bunk don’t hang your clothes and towels on the stairs unless you want the person in the top to stand on them.

Don’t snooze your alarm

Get to that ringing alarm FAST!


Small snoring is okay. If you are disturbing the sleep of others and sounding like a chainsaw – get a private room.


Okay, each to their own but some people feel a little intimidated by people getting naked and openly changed. Waking up naked may also make your dorm mates feel awkward.

After 9am

Some say 8 am, some say 9 am… I will put here 9 am as it’s better to be safe than sorry. After 9 am you feel to stop holding your breathe and do as you must. grab your bag, get changed etc by 9 am your roommates should be up and at it… if they are sleeping off their hangover, it is kind of their problem. You deserve to get on with your day.

Lights, air conditioning and window curtains.

Controlling the rooms temperature and windows should be a group decision. Ask first. This goes for things like putting music on etc. Lights – as above, don’t be the asshole who turns the lights on when people are sleeping – common sense and courtesy.

If you arrive at 11 pm and everyone is asleep, don’t turn the lights on. quietly use the bathroom to get change. Store your bags and go to sleep. Or check out the communal room. But the lights stay off!

Parties in the dorm room

This is only ever okay if everyone that is staying in the dorm room is partying with you. Otherwise, take it to the communal area.

Sex in the dorm room

This is NEVER okay! NEVER NEVER NEVER! Do NOT be that ASSHOLE! Here is a list of ways to have sex in a hostel

Talking on the phone in the room

Honestly, I can’t stand people talking on the phone in confined public spaces such as trains, buses, dorm rooms etc. I don’t want to hear your conversation and I don’t want to feel like I can’t be in the room cause it’s your space. Wait until everyone has gone. Perhaps take the call to a private space somewhere. I understand that you miss your loved ones. We all understand, but try to understand and be respectful to others as well.

Night Whispers

Thanks for trying to keep quiet, but we can still hear you. Go to the common room, or go to sleep.

Smells and sprays

I can’t tell you how many mixed dorms smell of a cocktail or cheap ladies perfume and over applied men’s perfume (mixed with stink shoes and farts, as well as body odours of backpackers who don’t believe showers are important (they are). Do not over apply your body sprays, oils, aftershave etc… it’s just not nice. Keep your smelly stuff in a draw. Wash your clothes. etc

Dirty Laundry

Please, please please, keep your dirty laundry somewhere else. I don’t want to see your underwear, socks, etc Keep it confined to your bed space.

Plastic bags suck!

This is one of the top ten hated items in a dorm room. They are noisy and annoying.

Don’t bring strong smelling food into the room

Eat that 5 am kebab before you get to your room!

In the Kitchen

When Cooking

Hostel kitchens are great! They enable you to be able to cheaply cook, allowing you to save on your budget. They are a place to get to know other hostel visitors and they even allow the wonderful tradition of group meals! However, When cooking, keep it simple. Try using one-pot meals and things that don’t make too much mess or take hours on end. Nobody wants to wait for you to finish cooking your roast pork. Stick with pasta and rice but keep it to one – two pots/pans minimum. Allow others to use the equipment by keeping your time down.

After Cooking

If you are cooking at home, you can leave your mess and enjoy your dinner before cleaning. In a hostel, clean your mess as you go or before you eat. Nobody wants to have to clean your dishes. In fact, this isn’t just for cooking… clean ALL of your own dishes.

Offer Food

Now, this isn’t a hostel etiquette. It’s simply a nice thing to do. If you made too much food, or want to share, go for it. If someone comes in saying “oh that smells nice” it’s time for you to say “oh would you like to try some?” If you don’t have enough to give away, that is fine. Sharing food is one of the best ways to build a friendship.

Don’t abuse the freebies

Some hostels have communal kitchens with freebies… tea, coffee, milk… some go as far as to provide pasta and rice etc… don’t be a scab and take more then what is needed. If you don’t need it, don’t take it. It isn’t far to other guest.

Wasting breakfast

So your hostel offers a buffet breakfast for free. Just the basics, toast, ceral, cold meats and so on. The general rule is to not take extra to make yourself a packed lunch. Now I know some hostel goers ignore this rule as its set up by the hostel staff – guess what! It is also a bad hostel etiquette.

Stealing food makes you an asshole

Just because it is in the communal fridge, doesn’t mean it is yours. It’s not okay in the office space and it’s not okay in the hostel kitchen either. If it is communal or freebie food – you will know it. If you have to guess, don’t take it.

Tea and coffee
Leave the kettle refilled after you use it and always ask if anyone else wants a drink when making one.

Meeting people 

Know when someone wants to be alone

There are signs for this and getting good at reading people will not only help you in the hostel, but in life. If someone is reading or clearly answering in one or two words or doesn’t look at you when they speak – they don’t want to talk.

Generally, if the conversation is flowing well, then you are fine.

If the conversation goes like this:

Person 1: Hey hows it going?
Person 2: Yeh good thanks *looks back into book*

Person 2 wants to be alone

Person 1: Hey hows it going?
Person 2: Yeh good thanks. How are you?

Person 2 wants to talk

Person 1: Hey hows it going?
Person 2: Yeh good thanks. You?
Person 1: Good, just got in how long have you been here?
Person 2: About 2 days but I’m leaving tomorrow morning so tonight is my chill time, I’m exhausted
Person 1: Ah cool, well I’ll leave you to it. Have a good one

Person 2 wanted to be alone and person 1 is great at picking up on vibes

Person 1: Hey hows it going?
Person 2: Yeh good thanks. You?
Person 1: Good, just got in how long have you been here?
Person 2: About 2 days
Person 1: Awesome, whats your fav thing to do
Person 2: Ah yeh, its all really good. You should check wikitravel, its all great *looks into book*
Person 1: Did you check out the church of 1,000 windows?
Person 2: “Yeh it was good” *looks into book/phone/computer etc*

Person 2 probably wants to be alone but is playing nice

Don’t stick to your group – socialise

Okay so you came with your 10 besties and you guys are going to have the best time. But your presences probably bugs everyone else because you are all so dam loud and clicky. Hostels are a social place. This is’t so much a hsotel etique – it’s more a suggestion. Don’t stick with your group, say hello to someone, just one or two people… invite them into your group perhaps

Taboo Subjects

Growing up I was always told “never talk politics and religion” I feel like this sometimes still stands for me. Try to not offend people. Keep your talk positive and upbeat.

Alcohol and its limits

I won’t say “don’t get drunk” hell, I’m normally the first person in a hostel drunk. But keep your respect about you. Don’t be that person who vomits all over somebodies bag, pees on the floor, sleeps in the wrong bed or stays up past lights out and not respecting the rules. If you have hit that level of drunk… go check out the nightlife, stop drinking and make sure that you are not turning on the lights at 4 am when you get home or bring back a random for some action.

In the bathroom

Don’t use other peoples toiletries

Much like the fridge situation, just because it is in the communal area doesn’t mean it is communal

Don’t leave your toiletries around like it’s your person bathroom

In saying that don’t leave your toiletries around. Keep all of your things inside your space, in your bag.

Clean after any number 1 or 2 or 3’s

This is kind of common sense in any situation.

Get in and get out! Timely Fashion

Don’t hog the shower. We all want to get on with our day.

For the love of god clean up your hair!

My personal pet hate in the womens bathroom. Nothing worst then going to shower and being greated with a clogged up sink of long black hair

Hostel Staff

Respect the hostel staff and the rules

The hostel staff can be the coolest people you will meet. They are most likely travellers as well. They have inside knowledge of the local area and can really help. But they have a job to do. They will tell you when you are being too loud. They will set the boundaries. respect those.

If, on the other hand, the staff are complete douche bags, be sure to write a review and warn others.

Where to find great hostels

I don’t generally look past Hostelworld for hostels. I have been using it since I started travelling and can’t imagine using anything else. However, on our ultimate travel resources page, there are dozens of great accommodation websites you should check out. You can click here for a list of favourite hostels.


Look, I totally get it, you are free! Travelling! Moving on! You will never see these people again and you don’t really even need to care about them. But don’t forget the age old rule of doing one to others as you want done to you. Also, you may see these people again and if you learn to live by these above “guidelines” you might end up becoming amazing friends with these people. Exercise common sense and common courtesy. Understand you are surrounding yourself with various cultures, personalities and attitudes. Also, if you still are just the kind of person who can’t get along with others or show any courtesy – book a hotel.

What’s your best or worst hostel experience? I would love to hear from you in the comments. Or join the female travel community and lets chat.

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