Hostel Etiquette 101: The Unwritten Rules of Staying in a Hostel

Hostels. They are a staple of the backpacking community, the go-to form of accommodation for those traveling on a budget (I'm actually writing this in one right now!). They are social hubs, where budget backpackers from all around the world come together to share stories, bond over travels, and occasionally get up to no good. Their quality ranges from flea-infested hovels to hotel-quality suites – and everything in between. While they are not yet as common in North America (due to our general lack of continental budget travel and the “vacation mindset”), every traveler worth their salt as spent a night in one – for better or worse.

While budget friendly, hostels do have their downsides: the clueless travelers who frequent them. While most backpackers are considerate and mindful individuals, there are always a few bad apples who make hostel stays almost unbearable. Do yourself a favour: don’t be one of those people!

But Chris, how can I be a considerate hostel guest?

Don't worry, you dirty little vagabond, I’ve got you covered! Here are my tips for staying at a hostel:

Hostel Rule #1: Keep your stuff tidy

Hostels can get messy fast. With handfuls of young adults living in close quarters, that isn’t surprising. Do you neighbours a favour and keep your shit together. Use a locker if they are provided. Don’t let your shit sprawl over the floor, and don’t “claim” every free chair, bench, or shelf for yourself. This isn’t your bedroom, so treat it like the common area it is. I’ve stayed in too many dorm rooms where one person claims all the shelves or all the electrical outlets or leaves their shit blocking the exit. Don’t be that person. Because you will be hated.

Hostel Rule #2: Do your dishes

I shouldn’t have to write this, but apparently some hostel goers think there will be staff dedicated to washing their dirty dishes. This isn’t The Ritz, folks, so clean up your own dishes. Clean the dishes you use. Wipe down the counter and the stove. Don’t treat this like your kitchen on a Friday night. If you make a mess, clean it up!

Hostel Rule #3: Respect the quiet hours

Most hostels have quiet hours, usually between 11pm-7am. Make sure you respect this because not everyone in your dorm is going to want to party like it’s 1999. Some important considerations:

-       Don’t turn the lights on during this time if folks are in bed.

-       Don’t listen to music without head phones.

-       Don’t make phone calls or talk on Skype.

In short, between 11pm-7am you need to treat this place like a movie theatre and STFU. If you want to be up all night then make sure you stay at a party hostel. Most hostels will have descriptions and reviews on websites like Hostel World and you can use those to decide whether or not the hostel atmosphere is what you are looking for.

Hostel Rule #4: Pack before hand

Leaving super early in the morning or super late at night? Pack before hand. Nobody wants to listen to you rustling through your shit at 4am, so use some common sense – and common courtesy – and do it before everyone is asleep. Trust me, they will hate you, so do yourself a favour and pack in advance. Yes, it requires some planning...but you're an adult. Deal with it.

Hostel Rule #5: Don't snore

Personally, this is my biggest problem with dorms. If it were up to me, snorers would be banned from hostels (or forced to stay in rooms with other snorers). Extreme? Maybe. But I’ve had far too many nights ruined by Johnny Snoreslot. So, if you snore you seriously should consider getting a private room because everyone in the dorm is going to resent your very existence. They might not say anything to you, but they will know. We all will. And when The Purge comes, you'll be first.

Hostel Rule #6: No sex in dorm rooms

This should be a common sense, hard and fast rule...but all too often it is ignored. Full disclosure, even I’ve ignored it…and boy was that an awkward time for everyone. So heed my advice! Wanna get it on? Book a private room! The rest of us don’t want to hear your squeaking bunk. And hey, you don’t want us watching you either, right?

Hostel Rule #7: Talk to other people!

Hostels are social hubs. Make an effort to talk to other people in your dorm, even if it’s just polite small talk. You are all essentially living in a big house together. Would you let someone stay in your house without saying hello? I didn’t think so. Shoot the shit, get to know one another, and even try going out and traveling together! It's the people that make the places, so try meeting some fellow wanderers...you just might like it!

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Remember, hostels are not hotels. You are not free to make a mess and do as you will. Hostels are shared spaces. You need to be mindful of your behaviour and how you affect those around you. Be considerate. Be mindful. That’s it.

Oh, and for the love of god don’t snore.