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Hostel Etiquette

Hostel Etiquette

Are there rules to staying in a hostel?

Hostel Etiquette 101: How to be a good guest and roommate

Rooms Barcelona Urbany

The other day when I was staying in a hostel with a friend, I was asked if there are rules to staying in a hostel.  After contemplating the question for a little while, I realized that there are not always exact rules, but there are a few that you can follow universally both as a hostel guest and a roommate to other travelers.

I have probably stayed in over 100 hostels to date and it always seems to amaze me the variety that one can encounter while staying at a hostel. When I speak of variety, I mean to refer to both the differences in hostel philosophies and the people staying in them. I have stayed in extremely nice hostels, which were reasonably priced, and really trashy hostels, which were well overpriced. I have had respectful roommates who became friend and others who nearly drove me insane with their rudeness.

The best house rules every written. This used to hang in my bathroom when I was a child.

The best house rules every written. This used to hang in my bathroom when I was a child.

When thinking of any experience in life we always tend to recount the negatives before the positives. That is why a customer who has a bad experience with a business is seven-times more likely to leave a bad review or tell people than one who has a good experience. In my mind, this same principle applies to the situation of roommates in hostels. I have had a few terrible roommates (which is inevitable while traveling) that have led me to write this guide to hostel etiquette.

First off, are there actually rules in hostels?


Technically each hostel has their own set of rules that you must adhere to when staying with them.  Generally, these rules are things like kitchen hours, music and tv hours, key rules, etc.  I have been to some hostels that actually had rule books that were left out on the common room tables. I have stayed at others who had rules clearly listed on the wall. In addition, I have been to some, which seemingly had no rules at all. This will be entirely up to the place that you choose to stay in, when traveling.

How not to be an aggravating A-hole when staying in a hostel

A List of Hostel Etiquette tips:

1.) Be mindful of your space.  Remember that hostels are shared, and although they are similar to a home away from home, all the space is not yours. Try to keep your stuff in a confined area near your bed or locker. Example of what not to do: Do not leave your things thrown out around the room. I understand the urge during a long-term backpacking trip to want to live like you are at home, spreading your clothes throughout the room, but resist it. It is not cool that your roommates have to hurdle piles of dirty clothes to get to the bathroom.

2.) Be mindful of your body.  Do you snore loudly or have any strange sleeping habits? Do your shoes smell funny? Have you showered recently? Do your best to minimize the impact that you have on others if you can or at least try not to bother other people. Example of what not to do: Do not leave your half washed underwear and socks hanging on a bed that is not yours or on something in the room that is used by other people. Instead, try and find a place where it would be acceptable to hang your wet clothes. Hostels often have clothing lines for drying.

hostel etiquette

3.) Ask if you need to move things around.  It is never a welcoming sight to anyone if you have moved, or tampered, with the personal possessions.  Be sure to ask others if there things are in your way. Example: Do not move someone’s backpack or personal effects unless they are physically in your bed or on your things. It is not a good idea to touch others things ever.

4.) Respect privacy.  Within reason, do your best to respect others privacy as best you can.  Yes, hostels are shared rooms and can be mixed sex, but a certain degree of privacy can still be maintained. Example: If you are in a mixed-sex dorm room, then it is never a bad idea to knock or give people a few minutes of privacy when they need to dress. A few minutes of privacy is hard to find on the road sometimes.

5.) Mind the hour. If you know that you will be coming into the room late at night, then don’t make it very difficult for you to slip into bed. Meaning, minimize the amount of noise that you will need to make late at night. Don’t turn on every light in the room. Don’t start organizing and packing your bag at 3 o’clock in the morning. None of those will be appreciated by others. If you must use a light, then I suggest carrying a small flashlight or headlamp with you while you are traveling. If you have to leave early in the morning, then try to pack your bags early and make it easy to get them out.

6.) Mind the fact that it is a shared BEDROOM. I’ll never forget the day that I arrived in Sofia, Bulgaria. I arrived in the midst of the morning and made my way slowly to my hostels when I arrived I decided to do some walking around the city before ultimately returning for a nap. A nap that was much needed after a supposed 7 hour train ride turned into a 12 hour train ride that left us outside of the city because the drivers were on strike. When I returned for a nap, I jumped comfortably into bed, only to listen to a most annoying roommate talk about absolutely nothing of importance. Unfortunately, he was American, so I understood every word that he was saying. He was drunk and on a Skype call with a “long-lost friend”, whom I gathered had dated him before. I listened to him babble about nothing for more than 30 minutes before giving up on taking a nap. I thought about saying many things to him, but decided against it due to his intoxication. Moral of the story: You are not the only one who needs to sleep in your room. If others are present, then keep in mind that they may wish to sleep.

hostel etiquette

7.) Keep promises.  If you promise something, follow through.  Let us say that you have a good time with fellow hostelers.  If you take any pictures together or promise to send contact information, be sure to do so.

8.) Maintain the golden rule.  If all else fails, ask yourself the golden rule.  In that you treat others as you would wish to be treated.  This is very broad and can range from keeping the room light on late into the night or hoarding computer time, to even being loud in the room.  Maintain a decent sense of mutual respect and you should be golden, no pun intended.

How to be a good hostel guest

I find that there are a few things one can do to become a good hostel guest also. The most obvious of which would be following the rules set by the hostel, if they have them. In addition:

1.) Clean up after yourself. After you cook, make a mess in your room, or drop things around the hostel, make sure that you clean it up. Outside of your roommates, the hostel cleaning staff will appreciate this also. Trust me, I was one. The difference between a tidy guest and one who is not can really make a difference.

2.) Make it really easy for the cleaning staff. For example, when I leave a hostel, I take my sheets off of my bed and pillow and either place them in the necessary bin or in a concise pile on the floor. I take my comforter (duvet) fold it, place it on the bed with the pillow on top. This makes it very easy for cleaning staff both to identify which bed is vacant and put new linens on a bed. Everything is where it needs to be. Also, throw away any trash that you will leave behind and physically put it in the trash. I’ve cleaned up a variety of things that I would have preferred not to. In addition, if you things that you want to leave, then try and find a lost and found or ask if anyone needs it.

3.) Check out on time. I know that it is difficult to meet the early morning checkouts, but from the perspective of someone working in a hostel, it makes it difficult to clean when people have not even left the room yet.

4.) Turn in all of the necessities in the same condition that you received them. Don’t forget to turn in any keys, sheets, towels, et cetera in the same condition that they were given.

Let me know what you think!

Have you encountered any rude people while staying at a hostel?  What was your experience like? Would you add any more rules to hostel etiquette?


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  1. I love reading posts about traveling, especially when I can’t. They keep me in the travel spirit.

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