You can easily be a terrible hostel roommate. ESPECIALLY if you’re new to staying at hostels. However, just as easily as you can be a horrible roommate you can also be a stellar one. What it comes down to? Kindness, consideration, experience and a bit of empathy. Those are the pillars, but there are a lot of things in between that can help out. Sometimes figuring out those things in between can be a learning process, myself included. I think back to my first few stays at hostels and will embarrassingly admit there’s an 82% chance I may have done something that would put me in the terrible roommate category. In order to help others speed along through that learning process, I wanted to compile some key hostel etiquette tips for those of us that may be first starting out or others who may need a little refresher. Which is why I reached out to 19 of the most remarkable, well-traveled, unique, badass, bo$$ babe, female travelers I know and asked them what they thought a helpful bit of hostel etiquette would be. The results are bound to give a chuckle but also help you be a better roommate.
You know I had to come in here and chime in about the Kitchen situation.
You Are Not Gordon Ramsey
Let’s talk kitchen etiquette, I understand that you are in this new place full of flavors and ingredients that are speaking to your at-home chef but let me remind you, you are not at home. Which means that if you’re coming up with some grand plan of a meal, don’t use every pan you can find in the hostel kitchen. Don’t selfishly keep the cutting knife all to yourself when Backpacking Bobby is cutting his carrots with a butter knife because it’s all he can find. The cooking utensils in a hostel kitchen are often limited so it’s up to you to be considerate of your hostel homies trying to eat. You have to remember that there are other people staying there and that they want to cook their meals too.
When I come back to the hostel to make dinner, there’s a chance I just spent all day exploring and have been running on candy, granola and apples. You can imagine my frustration when I get into the hostel kitchen and find that the one saucepan I need to make my sad dinner of pasta is part of your 6-course preparation along with four other pans you’re using. This situation is a sure fired way to gain a one-way ticket to hangry central for me, transportation provided by the crazy train. Trust me you do not want to ride that one.
Kaya From Cruising With Kaya
Talk to People
Tons of people, especially solo travelers, love hostels because it’s insanely easy to make friends/adventure buddies. But not everyone who stays at a hostel has the desire to socialize. After all, it takes some amount of effort to create new relationships.
So how does one navigate forming connections with new people in a hostel atmosphere?
Try to be as sensitive and empathic as possible in order to pickup the hints. Usually, someone hanging out in a common area is looking to meet and greet their fellow hostel-mates. On the other hand, someone hanging out on their bed in a dorm room most likely wants some alone time and is not in a chatty mood. Still, don’t be afraid of trying to strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere. The key is to pay attention to things such as their eye contact, body language and tone. Also, notice if they are alone or with someone else, as this can also affect their desire to meet new people.
Usually, I’m a very social traveler, but my primary reason for staying in hostels are the low prices, so sometimes I just don’t really feel like talking to anyone. I’ve met travelers from all parts of the spectrum and the majority will be happy to play 21 questions, so don’t be afraid of initiating conversation with strangers in your hostel. Just try to tune in and notice when your potential new bff takes the bait or clearly isn’t feeling it and wants to be left alone. There’s always tomorrow!
Rebecca From Rebecca and the World
Get Your Things Ready Ahead of Time
So, first up, a confession: it’s been years since I’ve stayed in a hostel. It’s not that I’m a snob, but I’m now in my mid-thirties and married. I also like to sleep continuously throughout the night without the threat of a complete stranger waking me up while rustling through their bag or playing loud music or attempting to have sex with the hot chick in the top bunk next to me.
Having said that, hostels are where I’ve met some wonderful people who’ve completely changed a trip. I befriended some Swiss girls in a hostel in San Cristobal de las Casas who then became my travelling buddies through Mexico and Guatemala for the next two weeks.
But back to hostel etiquette. I could share many tips (and horror stories) but my main piece of advice would be to ALWAYS pack the night before.
There is nothing worse than being woken up at 4am by someone rustling through their backpack, throwing things around, re-packing items (that always seem to be packed in plastic bags) and muttering to themselves about where their other sock is.
To avoid this, organise your backpack the night before any early morning departure. Pack up everything and keep out only the things you need (toiletries, your towel and the clothes you plan to wear) for the morning. That way there’ll be minimal disturbance to your fellow dorm mates.
If for some reason, you feel the need to re-pack the bag or find something at the bottom of it, then for god’s sake, drag your bag out of the dorm room and do it in the hallway.
Somto From Somto Seeks
Kitchen Theifs and Outlet Hogs
Most hostels have a refrigerator in the kitchen for all guests to store their groceries and leftovers. Please be respectful of other guests’ food. You won’t believe how many people will go to the refrigerator and just take someone else’s food or drinks. At one hostel in Spain, I bought a carton of orange juice and stored it in the refrigerator. When I went to get it the next morning for breakfast, the carton was half empty! If you store something in the refrigerator, consider labeling it with your name. The food in the refrigerator isn’t for everyone to share unless the hostel managers say so. Although uncommon, some hostels put food and drinks in the refrigerator for all guests. They will tell you so when you check in.
Another important hostel etiquette is being mindful of home many outlets you use. I know you need to charge your laptop, phone, and tablet, but don’t charge them all at the same time. Other guests need to charge their devices, too. There are a limited number of outlets in the room it’s just not courteous to use all of them. Use the outlet closest to your bed and leave the rest for everyone else.
Justyn From JustynJen
Party Properly: Plan Head
The topic of my etiquette discussion is that of partying. I know that everyone enjoys a good night out, we are all travelers after all, but what’s a good night out for you might be an early morning tour for the person sleeping below you. That’s why I want to quickly share with you a few tips to behaving responsibly under the influence and in a bunk bed.
The most crucial step is preparing before you leave. When going out, you generally leaving a bit later, say 8 or even 9pm and you return anywhere from 1 to 6am. Instead of stumbling around like a drunken idiot waking everyone in your room, set up before you go.
- Layout your night clothes and toiletries so when you arrive home you can quietly grab them and dash to the toilet where you can get ready for the night in peace.
- NEVER turn on the light. Always use your phone flashlight.
- It also doesn’t hurt to place water in your bed before going out
- And make sure you have your phone cord for charging.
These simple things done before a night out can drastically change everyone’s experience with you in a hostel and quite honestly, when sharing a room, this is just common courtesy.
Michelle From My Little Life
Keep It Clean
One of the biggest complaints I had about the hostel we stayed in was the body odor, from one guest in particular. If you’re going to stay in a place where you will be sleeping in the same room as other people, one of the biggest things you can do to be considerate is SMELL NICE and SHOWER. And I don’t mean pull out your essential oils and lather on 3 layers of deodorant, because that just mixes really strong smells with more strong smells and nobody wants that. I mean rinse your body off with soap and water, and wash your hair once in a while. Strong smells, even if they seem good to you, may not be to other people. So, don’t dump on your perfume or essential oils, please wear clean socks, and keep your personal hygiene up including brushing your teeth. Another thing I would say is wash your dishes and clean up after yourselves, wipe of the table, etc. The kitchen was a little bit gross, but definitely usable. I did especially love how generous people were with their food. One guy was there with his mom from Italy, and it was really fun getting to know them and their stories. They had been living at the hostel for a bit and were traveling the world. I’d say be open to telling your story and get to know people. That’s one of my favorite parts about staying in hostels, is the opportunity to get to know new people who are having lots of adventures too.
Cass From Loving Life With Cass
Don’t Be A Slob
I think that one of the most important things to remember when talking about hostel etiquette, is to clean up after yourself in the shared bathrooms. The bathroom is not your personal space – actually the only personal space you are paying for at a dorm style hostel is your bed. If you are sharing a bathroom with others take the time to clean up after yourself. Don’t leave your bag of toiletries on the counter, don’t leave your towel lying on the floor, take your hair out of the drain and wipe your toothpaste from the sink. I’m not saying you have to find the cleaning products and Mr. Clean the whole bathroom, but be nice and clean up after yourself. We have all heard the saying leave a place better than you found it, and I think that saying should be followed in every shared hostel bathroom. Be nice and keep the hostel clean.
Flo From Pies Lies and Thighs
Keep Down the Noise
NOISE. The worst thing in the world is being woken up to the sound of two people in your dorm room packing, zipping and scraping their bags across the floor. It always puzzles me why you wouldn’t pack up the night before in a shared room. I guess we can’t all be that intelligent though. I mean, get your clothes out and everything sorted so you can literally pick up your bag and go first thing in the morning. Its bad enough that you’re gonna wake up the whole room getting off your top bunk and making your way down the creaky ladder, potentially even stepping on the bottom bunk’s foot, turning on the main light causing everyone in the room to wrap themselves up in their sheet to shield from this cruel act, then opening the bathroom door, accidentally letting it slam close, turn the water on full blast and then shout over to your mate for the toothpaste… then you empty the whole contents of your bag up, re-pack, stomp around back and forth to the mirror, oh and get stressed when everything won’t fit back in, then drag the poor bag across the room. Oh, and you forget to hold the door when you leave too… and let it slam. At that point, you’ve been awake for 45 mins listening to this drama and you have to get up cos who needs lay-ins anyways?!
Grace From Tenacious Gracious
The Welcome Wagon
Hostels are fantastic places to make new friends but they can also feel very lonely if you’re a solo traveller and it seems like everyone else already knows each other. My advice is: if you are in the hostel dorm and someone new comes in, juggling their bags, say hello to them, introduce yourself, and ask their name. Hostel dorm-mates have done this to me when I’m the new person checking in and always makes me feel at ease and at home. It’s wonderful to feel welcomed in a new place, especially by the people you will be sleeping next to!
Megan From Appalachian Trail Girl
Remember Your Manners
One of the most important things I keep in mind when staying at hostels is to be respectful to the people who work there. This means being friendly and saying “hello” and “thank you” to the person at the front desk or the housekeeper.
If you’re staying somewhere multiple days, don’t make the housekeeper’s job more difficult. Be out of bed by the time they show up to clean the room. Have all of your things neatly organized so they don’t have to clean around your stuff. If you make a mess in the kitchen or bathroom, tidy it up yourself.
Additionally, don’t be entitled and complain about small things. If you’re only paying $10 for a place to sleep, is it really a big deal if the wifi is slow at times? Probably not. You’re getting what you pay for.
Sometimes we get caught up with having a good time with other travelers that we forget that the people who work at the hostel are the real local experts. Ask for recommendations. Go check out the owner’s brother’s sister-in-law’s restaurant that they suggest. Or hit up their second cousin’s city walking tour. Travelers often worry about getting scammed by locals, but they wouldn’t be sending their guests there if it wasn’t any good.
Manners are everything, and going the extra step to be polite makes the hostel vibes better for yourself and future travelers.
Steph From The Broth Bros
Knock Boots Somewhere Else
I would say number one rule in hostel etiquette would be to r-e-s-p-e-c-t your roommates. Aside from the obvious unwritten rules of keeping your belongings neat and coming back from a late night out in a non-destructive manner, there is one rule that needs to be written in stone. Please, please, please, we as a community would like you to refrain from sexy time meetings on top bunks! I get it, you’re on holiday, you meet a cutie who “totally gets you” and you want to take things to the next level. By “next level” we hope you don’t mean the upper level of a bunk. I, for one, do not trust IKEA furniture and I definitely do not trust squeaky furniture with 250+ pounds of flesh slipping and sliding two feet above my sleepy noggin. Besides me making fun of your late night dirty talk and how long or short you last, I AM FEARING FOR MY LIFE. My mom worries about me enough while on the road. I sure hope she never gets the call that her little angel was crushed in an act of foreign lust. My advice: get creative! Show that cutie your moves in a sneaky and romantic spot away from 12 pairs of eyes and ears. Keep it intimate, keep it sexy, keep it less than 3 feet off the ground.
Joy From Joy Goes Global
The Golden Rules
Hello, All! First off, I want to say that I love staying in hostels! They are such an affordable way to travel, especially if you are traveling solo. If you have never stayed in one before, it can be kind of a shock. Sleeping in a room with strangers? Crazy! But the people are what make hostels great! My advice is: interact with others. You should eat in the common rooms, talk to your roommates, chat up the workers for advice, or go to an event the hostel has planned. My best experiences in hostels were the times that I got to know my fellow travelers! I have met people from all over the world and now I get to see their lives and adventures from all over the globe. My final tip would be to be courteous. Remember the Golden Rule! Be quiet when others are sleeping, and keep your clothes and suitcases to a confined space. Hostels can be an amazing experience. Find a hostel that fits you: some are quieter and family friendly, while some are louder and have a party vibe. No matter what type of hostel you choose, just remember to be mindful of others and be social!
Sam From Some Call Me Adventurous
Be Mindful of Your Crew
If you’re traveling with a group of people, it’s very kind to others to book a room just for yourselves. I’ve been in 4-bed or 6-bed hostel rooms where everyone in the room were part of a loud group of partiers and I was the only one not in their posse, which meant when they all came roaring in at 4am, super drunk, turning on the lights and stumbling over things to get into their beds, it’s extremely rude and I want to pull my hair out. I know it’s sometimes cheaper to do it that way, but if you know you’re only leaving one or two beds in the room empty to solo travelers, either be respectful of them and keep it quiet, invite them out with you on your late night romp, or book a private room you can all share together so you don’t ruin someone else’s night.
Joelle From Riding Around The Globe
If you haven’t stayed in a hostel at some point in your travels, have you even really traveled?! I looooove hostels. But also, there are definitely some general guidelines and etiquette rules I think everyone should try to follow. I would say that one of my biggest pet peeves is when people come in late at night and turn all the lights on. Like come on people, use your phone flashlight! Not everyone is up and most people probably don’t have eyeshades (which pro tip: eyeshades and earplugs when staying in a hostel.. Always). A second one is Face timing or talking on the phone in the room. Unless it’s the middle of the day and there is no one in the room, be courteous to others and take your phone calls in the common areas. Most people don’t want to hear how much you miss your boyfriend or pet. Hostels are such fun places! Get outside your comfort zone and mingle with others in your room or common areas. If you’re looking for a place to relax or get some alone time, it might be hard to find that in a hostel. But if you’re looking for friendly faces and people to hang out with on your travels, I’m sure you will make friends from all over the world in no time!
Annette From Annette With Love
No Outside Guests
This is not your apartment or your room. This is OUR room. How do I know your friend’s not a klepto? Imagine there’s a “Keep Out” sign on the door for anyone who isn’t paying to stay in the room. However, feel free to invite your guest to the communal spaces like the lounge or outdoor area.
Hannah From Bold Destinations
Food is a huge part of travel. When you explore the world one of the best ways to learn about a culture is through their food. That being said, sometimes that food doesn’t always agree with your stomach. At the same time, as a budget traveler, sometimes that food doesn’t agree with your wallet. Regardless, as someone who is recovered from an eating disorder, money and the taste of the food are not excuses to go hungry.
So what can you do to overcome these culinary obstacles?
First, let’s start with taste. When you are packing for an adventure, assume that you might not always have food readily available. Pack non-perishable snacks that you can keep for emergency snack time. My favorites are: Peanut Butter Clif bars, Fruits snacks and Justin’s maple almond butter packets.
These snacks will save you when you are in a pinch and can’t get to food right away.
As soon as you get to your destination, go to the grocery store and find some local snacks that you know you like. Buy some extra and keep them in your backpack as your go to emergency snack if the cuisine is not sitting well with your stomach.
Second, in regards to money. A lot of the time, when you are staying at hostels they will provide a free breakfast. It usually isn’t too fancy but if you know what to add to it you can make a great cheap and easy meal out of it.
I always have a jar of peanut butter or nutella with me to add to whatever I am eating. At breakfast time, I will grab a couple extra slices of the bread they provide and make myself a sandwich for the day. That way I get a snack or part of a lunch all ready to go and for super cheap.
PRO TIP: If they have any fruit, specifically bananas, grab one and cut up slices of banana to add to your peanut butter sandwich, it’s delicious.
Kat From World Wide Honeymoon
Don’t Sleep Nude
While I don’t spend too much time in hostels, especially dorm rooms, these days (unless I’m solo traveling to a conference), I’ve stayed in my fair share of bunk beds ranging from 4-20 occupants at a time. And the thing that drives me nuts? People thinking it’s totally fine to sleep nude in a room with other people they don’t know.
And oh boy do I have a story. I was sound asleep at an otherwise normal hostel in Nice, France while traveling with my best friend for the summer. Then, in the middle of the night, a drunken girl stumbled into our room, proceeded to strip down completely, and, thinking my bed was empty, hopped in. Luckily, I dove out of the bed before she landed on me, but I was so shocked I had no idea what to do! I ended up getting angry, promptly kicking said naked girl out of my bed and decided I was too tired to care about how gross that was and passed right back out. I’m not sure where the naked girl ended up, but I feel like it’s a bit strange being nude with people you don’t know.
In short, keep your pants on…you’re not actually at home.
Michelle From Full Time Explorer
Don’t Sleep on The Snooze Button
Hostels are great, but everyone is on a different sleep schedule. Some people have flights out in the morning while others are jet lagged and want to sleep till noon. It’s important to be respectful of everyone’s schedule as best as you can. One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone sets their alarm to a blaring volume at the crack of dawn for a flight and then hits snooze five times. Unfortunately, this has happened in a lot of the dorm rooms I’ve stayed in. Try to be considerate of everyone else in the room. Don’t hit snooze every ten minutes over an hour. You are literally waking up every single person, and you aren’t allowing them to go back to sleep. If you’re a heavy sleeper, try asking someone else in the room to wake you when your alarm goes off the first time. I’ve been asked to do that before and was happy to if it meant avoiding an alarm being snoozed multiple times.
Amanda From Arms Wide Open
Keep Your Feet Covered and Do Your Research
My best advice for staying in a hostel is making sure to always bring socks and flip-flops. Your bare feet should never ever touch the ground. The socks help you be comfy while chilling on your bunk while you’re hopefully chatting with the awesome people in your dorm. The flip flops are for the showers cause no matter how clean it looks I just can’t trust a bathroom that accommodates 10+ people a day! Lastly, go with your gut when picking a place, check to see if there are any images on Instagram of what it looks like and no matter what… HAVE FUN!
Lena From Lena’s Doodles & Blunderlust
Wash Your Dishes
Have you ever gone to cook a meal at a hostel, ready to prepare all the amazing food you’ve purchased from a local market ready to soak in all that local culture and finally live your Eat Pray Love moment – only to search all over for a saucepan to cook your freshly ripened tomatoes from the grandma who’d been growing them for 40 years.
Only to see it poking out from underneath 20 unwashed dishes? And
you’re shot back into reality.
At first, I’ll refuse to use/touch/have any part of cleaning someone else’s saucepan, out of sheer disgust and simply stubbornness. Then I realise that it’s the only thing standing between me and eating. Then, it’s personal.
I take the plunge and reach my hand into the unknown of slimy dirty-dish juice – their half-attempt of ‘soaking’ as I wince while you use the 3-year old moist remnants of what was a sponge, attempting to clean away someone else’s questionable food remnants.
Are these the real cultural travel experiences that define you?
Well, maybe you don’t like doing dishes. But neither do the rest of us. At most hostels I’ve been to, there is usually at least 3 hand-written signs (in multiple languages) telling people to do their own dishes, so how are people so blissfully unaware? And where do I sign up?
But how do people expect other people to do their dishes for them? And who do they think is doing them? So if this message reaches you, be a nice human, be considerate of others. PLEASE do your dishes. Signed, the rest of the world.
Have you accidentally broken any of these golden rules or learned a new way to be a better traveler? If so let us know in the comments! Happy Hostel’ing!