Hostel Etiquette 101

If you’re preparing for your first stay in a hostel, read the following tips first:

Note: This text was originally included in my earlier post Tips for Staying in a Hostel.


My hostel in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Greet those staying in your room. You don’t have to introduce yourself and chat if you don’t want to, but a simple “hello” goes a long way in diffusing the awkward tension of being around strangers and instead pretending they are not there. And remember, you are acting as an ambassador of your country when you travel. Imagine that you are the only American someone meets on his/her travels. You act rude towards this person who then may stereotype Americans as rude. Represent your country in its best light.

Unless it’s an emergency, you absolutely should NOT turn on the lights in your room if you arrive late at night and people are already asleep. This is the fastest way to piss off the people you’ll be staying with, so just don’t do it. A good rule of thumb is lights should stay off after 11pm and until sunrise.

If you notice that someone is sleeping, keep noise to a minimum regardless of the hour. Whisper, take your luggage outside if you have to sort through it at great length, and don’t continue to unzip and re-zip everything. If you have to, put a finger on the leading side of the slider and teeth, and move it slowly — this will help to soften the noise. Don’t snooze your alarm five times, and definitely do not let the door slam on your way out. One tip for closing the door silently is to keep the knob turned until you have the door completely closed, and then letting go. Sometimes the locks will stick, creating a loud noise when the door clicks with the frame.

If you’re going to hook up with someone, please don’t do it in the dorm room. It’s really awkward for those of us who wake up in the middle of the night, or wake up early and find your guest still there. Also, don’t do it in the bathroom — those of us who actually need to use the toilet don’t appreciate walking in on the scene, especially if you are taking up the only stall. (Related post: Nomadic Matt’s “How to Have Sex in Hostels.” He brings up ways to get around what I complained about, but having been witness to these encounters I still don’t agree with (small) dorm room/bathroom.)

Unplug appliances immediately once they are fully charged. If you leave something charging all night long, don’t be surprised or angry if you wake up to find it unplugged. It is better not to overcharge your batteries anyway, but if you are taking up a valuable outlet, someone else will unplug your item. Also regarding outlets, don’t unplug someone’s item because you think yours is more important to charge. One morning a girl unplugged my camera battery because she wanted to charge her phone. She apologized — only after I caught her. If you really need to use an outlet, politely ask to use it for a while.

Remove your clean laundry promptly. It’s the same as the above. If you are taking up an amenity that someone else needs, that person may very well remove your clothes if s/he is in a rush. Be considerate of your fellow travelers and understand that they have other things to do, not just wait for the laundry machine to free up.

Don’t hog the bathroom. The bathrooms-to-guests ratio is a bit low in hostels. I’m a night shower-er, which worked in my favor since it seemed most people liked to shower in the morning to start their day. If there’s a long line of people waiting to use the bathroom, don’t spend 30 minutes showering. If you’re slow in the morning, it helps to get up a little bit before everyone else to get first dibs on the bathroom and finish before everyone wakes up; I usually didn’t have a problem if I was awake before 9am.

Don’t hog the shared computers, either. If you’ve been online for a while and notice that a lot of people are coming around to see if the computers are free yet, that’s your signal to say goodbye to your friends on Facebook or Skype, or whatever you were doing. Common computers are for everyone.

Clean up after yourself. It’s good sense to be considerate of other guests. Keep your part of the dorm room tidy – nobody likes to be around tossed food wrappers or dirty clothes. Also clean up when you use the kitchen or common areas. After you finish cooking and eating, wash your utensils, don’t just rinse them. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen people do this…. sigh. Another tip is to wash the items before using them, if you’re paranoid about how clean they are.

After your stay, review your hostel. If you used Hostelworld or Hostelbookers, they will kindly send a reminder e-mail to leave a review. Please do it! Travelers rely on past reviews to determine if a hostel is good, so pay that forward to others.

For more tips from the staff side of hostel living, check out this great post by Kirsty who is currently working in a hostel.

Any other suggestions? Something I missed? Feel free to leave a comment!


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