What is it with a lack of hostel dorm etiquette? I (Gemma) write this annoyed after yet another sleepless night in a hostel dorm. This time a chica dragged her rucksack in at 2am, opened and closed about twenty zips, seriously how many zips on that thing? Then she shines her iPhone torch all over the joint. We get it, hostels are a cheap form of accommodation which makes a budget stretch further but they are not a replacement for home so stop treating 8-bed dorms like your bedroom back at your mum’s house. Turns out I am not alone in the hostel hustle, I reached out to fellow travellers and we’ve put together a list of hotels rules and regulations to help everyone sleep better at night. Be sure to tell us any of your stories or hostel tips and tricks in the comments below!
What is a Hostel?
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Hostels are an economical form of accommodation which comes after camping and couchsurfing in the international hierarchy of budget travel sleeping arrangements. They usually offer some form of social setting whether that be a bar, garden or rooftop seating area, or even a swimming pool in warmer climates. Hostels are a great place to meet new travel buddies because there usually is an element of organised fun through quizzes, pub crawls, themed nights and even cultural activities like city walking tours.
What is a Hostel Like?
Contrary to belief, hostels are not just for party backpackers. They come in all shapes and sizes from dives to rooms fit for divas. Sleeping arrangements differ depending on the hostel. Some offer private rooms with private bathrooms, others have private rooms with shared bathing facilities. I’ve even been in hostels with outdoor sleeping options (in Budapest). Most hostels have dorm rooms in common.
What is a Dorm Room?
Forget North American sorority dorms and think more Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sleeping arrangements and you are halfway there. Jokes aside, dorm rooms are rooms with beds which are usually in bunk form (one up/one down) to save space. You can expect anything from a 2-bed bunk to 16-bed and the price of a hostel stay gets less the more beds in the room.
There should be a locker for you to place your belongings. They sassier hostels have lockers big enough for your 60l backpacks. Hostels are cosy, which means making friends is pretty easy. The more modern dorms have privacy curtains, alternatively, opt for the bottom bunk and hang up a large scarf or flag.
Are Hostels Safe?
Hostels are only as safe as you prepare for them to be. Just because someone carries a backpack like you it doesn’t mean they are not an opportunist. Now I am not accusing every traveller of being a thief, just have your wits about you and be wise. Tips – don’t leave out anything you want to keep from going walkies. Personally, I don’t even charge electronics unless I am in the room. Alternatively, charge a capacitor battery pack like our reliable Anker and use that to charge on the go.
We swear by the PacSafe net for keeping gear safe. We travelled with it through the Americas (North, Central, South) and Europe and came home target-free. To use, pack a day bag full of your expensive kit and passport then close it. Place the bag in the PacSafe net before closing tight, wrap the wire around something non-moveable like a bed frame and then clip the padlock (TSA approved comes recommended) closed with the bag securely attached to the frame. Now cover with a scarf.
There are now PacSafe rucksack alternatives which have slash-proof material if you are interested in investing more.
Most hostel buildings have call features at their front door to avoid anyone walking in and out. We’ve left our larger rucksacks in cloakrooms for days while out hiking and never faced any issues to do with security. You can read individual hostel reviews on the likes of Hostelworld which will help you also make a decision about each one.
Hostel Rules and Regulations
So now that we’ve covered the basics of backpacker accommodation lets move on with the tips for staying in a hostel. Whether you are staying in a hostel for the first time or you’ve racked up the party hostel passport stamps, there’s a takeaway for everyone.
Hostel Dorm Security
Staying in a dorm requires a few quick checks. Take two seconds to memorise the code for the door, or try your key in the lock to make sure it works – even if it’s open when you arrive. That door is the only security you and your fellow travellers have and it’s really important that you keep it secure.
Even if valuables are in lockers inside the rooms, most locker padlocks can easily be picked. So, make sure you always, always lock the door when you go out – that’s just good hostel manners.
By Danni Lawson | Live in 10 countries
Granted, a dorm is never going to be as quiet as a private room. Yet, a lot can be done to ensure the peaceful coexistence of all guests. One of the unspoken yet basic rules in hostel dorms should be that of keeping the level of noise to a minimum. Those checking out in the early hours should always make sure to pack their bags the night before, while nobody is asleep and preferably before 10 or 11 pm. By doing that, they will keep noise levels at a minimum while everyone in the dorm is asleep. It’s a simple, yet very nice gesture that doesn’t require that much effort and that goes a long way into making sure that even the most crowded of spaces becomes an oasis of peace.
By Claudia Tavani | My Adventures Across The World
Do Not Turn On The Lights Between 11pm-8am
One of the most annoying things a traveller who is staying in a dorm room can do is to be inconsiderate when they switch on the light after 11 pm, especially when someone is already asleep. Be polite, some people have an early flight and want their beauty sleep as much as possible or the ones who come home late from a party will surely not appreciate the bright light too early either.
If you need to do something, you can use the torch of your phone. It’s just a simple but nice act.
By Mary | A Mary Road
Put Your Phone On Silent
One of the best things you can do for the people in your hostel dorm room is to silence your phone. I have shared rooms with too many travellers who believe that everyone around them needs to know when they receive a text message or phone call, but it really just makes the rest of us stir crazy. It is understood that if you’re waiting on an important call, you turn your phone on loudly so you don’t miss it. But, if you’re casually texting, it can be done in silence (this includes turning off keyboard sounds on phones). In addition, it is also rude to have a conversation on your phone late at night or early in the morning inside of a dorm room. Most hostels have a social space or living area where you can take care of these matters – your bed is not the place to do it.
By Megan | Meganstarr
How To Deal With Snoring in Hostels
We get it, you’ve had a hard night on the sauce and you are prone to a little open mouth, blocked nose snoring action but pal, it really is not fair on anyone else in the room. Many of your dorm friends might be getting up a 3 am for a hike so your freight train breathing is going to ruin their paid excursion.
- If you are the guilty party, do everyone a favour and get a private room
- If you are the victim
1. Try moving the snorer. Reddit recommends throwing M&Ms at the perpetrator.
2. Pack and use earplugs like these reusable ones 3. Consider this headphone headband. Craig even sleeps with it home, I don’t snore, honest!
4. Be really rude the next day and get ready REALLY noisily next the to the snorer.
5. Complain – we had to do it in Toronto. Three of us left a four-bed dorm. Mass exodus!
Invest In Headphones
Listening to music and watching movies are great ways to pass time in the evenings or on a lazy day, but not everyone in a hostel dorm will want to listen at the same time. Especially at night when others are sleeping, hostel guests should do what they can to avoid disturbing others – including sounds from phones and laptops. Trying to fall asleep to the sound of gunfire in an action movie or a blend of three different people’s music at the same time is annoying and will surely draw complaints from light sleepers and people who like peace and quiet. Popping in a pair of headphones is an easy way to keep dormmates from holding a grudge. They don’t need to be expensive noise-cancelling headphones – cheap earbuds will do the trick so music or movies can be played all night if necessary.
By Kris | Nomad by Trade
Sharing Is Not Caring
Hostels can be a bit intimidating for first-timers but they are fun and inexpensive. One of the downsides of staying in a hostel is the fact that some people can be disrespectful and clueless. Paying for a shared space doesn’t mean everyone has the right to do what they want.
Asking yourself these questions:
- Do I enjoy the aroma of dead-rat smelling shoes wafting around with the aircon-breeze while I’m contemplating life?
- Do I want to see a naked lady changing bloody sanitary products while I’m thinking of what food to eat next?
The answer is always no! Most hostels have shoe racks outside of dorm rooms. Use it. Girls, there is a toilet just 5 metres away from your bed, insert there. It only takes a minute to spare someone from a life of tampon trauma. Be a hero and do your ladies’ business privately.
By Christine Rogador | The Travelling Pinoys
Save Your Smells
Dorm bedrooms are usually small, thus any smell inside becomes X times stronger than outside. Moreover, in AC rooms, all the smells are stuck in the closed space.
Bedrooms are mainly meant for sleeping, so it’s best to keep neutral/fresh scent there. That means eating spicy food or any types of snacks is not appropriate. There is a kitchen in any hostel, where you are more than welcomed to eat!
It’s also time to control your favourite perfume. Some people tend to apply more perfume since it becomes lighter outside because of the weather and wind. The air is still in the room, so all the sprays from all the guests will mix and stay.
If you are a smoker, hang-out outside for a while till the strong smell of cigarettes will reduce to the minimum. Many non-smokers are susceptible to cigarette scent and, most probably, they would not like it spread in the bedroom.
By Natalia |Mytriphack
Dorm Rooms Are Not Laundromats
Long-term travel can’t be non-stop awesome travel experiences. At some point, everyone needs to do their laundry. Many hostels have washing machines that travellers can pay to use. Unfortunately, some travellers decide to save money and hang their wet clothes around the dorm to dry. Some string a line from one bed to another. Others merely drape their wet clothes and towel over their bed and sometimes over other bunks.
This is not OK; having to navigate around someone else’s laundry is unpleasant. Rather than hanging or draping their wet laundry around the dorm to dry, people staying in hostels should always use the dryer or hang their clothes outside on a washing line if there is one provided. Hostel staff can always advise what laundry facilities they have available.
By James Ian | Travel Collecting
Don’t Leave Your Sh*t In Communal Bathrooms
Hostels are normally associated with youth, freedom and a laid-back life, but that is not to be confused with lack of respect and common sense. On the contrary, sharing space with others implies, or should imply, respecting one another and following unwritten rules of a certain kind of common sense which, unfortunately, not for everybody is “common”.
One of those rules concerns shared bathroom space. “Shared bathrooms” means that the bathroom is shared among many people and therefore it’s not wise nor respectful to leave one’s toiletries in the little space available, be it a chair, a shelf or whatever that is available.
That space is temporary for the person using the facilities at that time. Your toiletry bag is your storage, not the communal bathroom space. It’s easy to understand, there is simply no room for everybody’s stuff.
By Isabella Biava | Boundless Roads
Don’t Steal My Sh*t
Don’t steal other people’s stuff. You might think that this is obvious, but the amount of times things go missing in hostels it is ridiculous. From mobile phones and other valuables to dirty clothes, shoes and food from the fridge, why do some people think its ok to take other people’s stuff? It is never OK to take things that don’t belong to you. Even if you’re drunk, eating someone else’s pizza is not cool. Backpackers usually have a tight budget, which certainly won’t stretch to providing someone they don’t know with free food or anything else which takes their fancy! Buy your own stuff, or just go without.
By Claire Sturzaker | Tales of a Backpacker
You Can’t Sit With Us, Well Me (Name That Film)
For many travellers, staying at a hostel provides a built-in community on the road and potential new friends, which can be great – if you want that from your travel experience. However, for travellers who are a bit more introverted or shy (or simply prefer solitude and travelling alone), hostels can quickly become overwhelming environments when others approach them constantly to try and make plans together.
When you’re staying at a hostel, be mindful of people’s personal space and aware of the cues they may be giving you. If you sense that someone is enjoying being alone and isn’t looking for a new travel companion, respect their wishes. Don’t insist that you eat together, hang out constantly, or travel together to the next destination.
Travelling is an inherently overstimulating and often overwhelming experience, and lots of people are seeking solitude and reflection time (or need to work while travelling), not necessarily looking for a crew of new pals to hang out with on the road. That being said, there are plenty of hostellers who are happy to make new friends and pick up a travel buddy – look out for them and don’t hesitate to reach out when people seem receptive.
By Sierra Dehmler | Passport Voyager
Get A Room
I get it. You’re on holiday. You’ve found THE ONE. Or maybe it’s the beer talking. Anyway. Things get heavy. It’s time to take this somewhere… more intimate. That towel you’ve put up hanging from the bunk above will act as the perfect sound and light barrier, right? Surely no-one will hear you?
The answer, I’m sad to say, is no. Everyone will hear you. No-one wants to. Please, do everyone a favour and don’t have sex in a hostel dorm.
Unless you are:
a) The only person in the hostel dorm or
b)… to be honest, there is no B.
Just don’t do it. If sex is something you find yourself doing, get a private room, or find a private place that doesn’t have a bunch of other strangers lying in the dark listening to your magnificent sounds. However quiet you think you are being, and however fluffy that towel… they can definitely hear you. And no-one wants that.
This also applies to tents incidentally.
By Laurence Norah | Finding the Universe
Over 10+ tips later from angry travellers, I think we can all agree on this hostel etiquette advice and move forward in our quest to travel carefree and happily into the sun.