Did you even know there is backpacker hostel etiquette?
Let me guess, the first you said as you read the title was “hold up it’s a hostel what the hell is backpacker hostel etiquette?”
Well that’s the thing, so many first-time backpackers have no idea of those unwritten hostel rules and definitely don’t have a clue about backpacker hostel etiquette.
In this post we dive into and cover what backpacker hostel etiquette actually is and what are those unwritten rules are so you’re in good stead not to the douchebag backpacker that ends up pissing off the other guests. Keep these hostel etiquette in mind for your first hostel stay.
Backpacker hostel connoisseur
Backpacker hostels have pretty much been my choice of accommodation since I first started traveling way back in 2010. I’ve stayed in all types of backpacker hostels all over the world. When It comes to backpacker hostels, shit I may as well be a hostel connoisseur.
Why are backpacker hostels my preferred choice of accommodation? Because hostels can be much more than just a place to sleep. They have been essential to my traveling life; they have been hubs for me. They’ve provided me with much needed comfort and sense of home at times and of course there’s the social side.
If you didn’t know, backpacker hostels are great places to make friends and meet other backpackers. They can be social hubs, providing events, parties, tours, and even work when you need it. But above all they can just be a fun place to relax, let your hair down and forget about everything for a while. But you do have to be aware of Backpacker Hostel Etiquette.
Backpacker hostel etiquette are the unwritten rules of backpacker hostel behaviour
This might sound a little contradicting but of course most backpacker hostels will come with a set of guidelines or rules to follow. You will find them printed up all around the place and be made aware of them by staff on checkout. However a lot of the times those written rules are mostly loose guidelines to follow. The rules you really have to pay attention to are the unwritten rules; the hostel etiquette.
Those unwritten rules are were you have to keep an open mind. Why? Because yes, those rumours you might have heard are true. Different hostels have their own hostel etiquette, some you’ll need more of an open mind than others.
Anything can and does happen in backpacker hostels
Within the walls of a backpacker hostel, no matter what type of hostel it is; anything and everything you can imagine can happen. There can be drinking, people getting drunk and partying at all hours of the day, drugs can be openly used in some, there can be people hooking up and having sex in dorms or bathrooms. Now before you get too afraid of them, I’m not saying that happens in every hostel all the time, just be aware it could happen.
The unwritten rules and Backpacker hostel etiquette will largely depend on what type of hostel you stay in. A lot of first-time backpackers are not aware there are different types of backpacker hostels, but you can easily fin ones to suit your own needs. If you’re not sure where to find backpacker hostels, HostelWorld and Booking.com are great places to look.
So what is backpacker hostel etiquette I hear you asking. Well in a nutshell is making sure you’re not the douchebag in the hostel, it’s being able to use your common sense and not be the one that pisses other backpackers off by your actions. You may be laughing at that, but trust me, ask any backpacker and they will tell you there is always one or more in every backpacker hostel.
Backpacker hostel etiquette: What you need to know
Hostel etiquette starts in the the Dorm room
Some people don’t get it, they just can’t comprehend the fact that when booking into a hostel dorm, you are not paying for the actual room, you’re paying for the bed. Yes you’re allowed to use all the facilities all over the hostel but it’s the bed/bunk you’re paying for. It’s not a hotel and yes you will be sharing that dorm with other backpackers. Everybody has equal rights in that room, the same access to anything that’s for public use.
Hostel etiquette in the dorm – Don’t leave your shit lying around!
First and foremost, as I mentioned you’re paying for the bunk/bed not the room, It’s not your bedroom back home, you can’t just dump your stuff wherever you want. Most hostels provide you with a locker, sometimes storage space for your backpack. Lock your valuables up in your locker and if for any reason there isn’t a storage locker for your backpack, keep it close to your bed. Don’t just leave your stuff lying around in the middle of the room, that is not your storage space. It’s a sure fire way to piss people off if you do.
If you arrive in a new backpacker hostel, and you know you’ve not done your laundry for a while, then don’t think it’s ok to just empty your smelly clothes and stink up the entire room; either keep that shit to yourself or do your laundry!
A huge pet peev for backpackers is coming across the selfish backpacker who thinks it’s ok to take over the power sockets because they need to charge all of their devices at once. A few things here, if somebody else Is charging something, don’t unplug theirs. If you are that desperate to charge everything together ask the others in the room if its ok first. Most hostels now come with individual sockets just charge your things one after the other.
Lights out and noise are important hostel etiquette
As innocent as this may seem, turning lights on when others are sleeping has the power to explode into full blown arguments between backpackers. Nobody is telling anybody that they have to sleep at a certain time, however if it’s past say 11pm and the lights are off, don’t walk in and turn the lights on. All you have to do is use the torch on your phone. And if you need a light in you bed, most bunks are fitted with individual reading lamps now days so use them.
The same goes for talking, if you know there are other people sleeping but you want to chat to someone, either face to face or on the phone, don’t think it’s fine to just sit there talking, that’s bad hostel etiquette; leave the room, head into a common area and talk till the cows come home; just don’t do it in the room. If you do that’s another sure fire way to piss even the calmest people down.
Late night packing
Late night packing is another no, no! If you know you’re leaving in the early hours, make sure you’re packed and ready before people want to turn lights off. Don’t start packing after midnight while people are sleeping. If you do need to pack in the early hours, take your bag and your belongings outside and pack away from the dorm rooms. Just a tip too, plastic bags are the scourge of ruining a backpackers sleep.
You can’t have complete silence
At the same time though, remember it is a hostel, there will be some noise going on, you can’t expect total silence. There will be people coming in and out of the dorm as you try and sleep, there will be some whispers and rustles going on and there will be snoring. If you’re a light sleeper is a good idea to have ear plugs, plug your earphones in and listen to music to drown out the little noises.
If you are a heavy snorer, either take precautions to minimise it, or don’t check into a dorm room. If you do, you risk people kicking you, throwing pillows and shoes at you. Just saying.
The hostel etiquette is to be polite to newcomers
There is absolutely no need to be rude or awkward to a newcomer to the room, I’m not saying you have to be best friends with them instantly and there will be days you’re down in the dumps and can’t arsed talking to anybody. But a simple smile, or a hello can go a long way in making somebody feel welcome, especially if they’re shy or awkward in new surroundings. You never know what that simple smile or hello can do for that other backpacker.
If somebody does look quite uncomfortable or nervous have a little chat with them I don’t mean have the whole backpacker chat but help them feel at ease a little. Give them a heads up on things you know about the area or the hostel.
Getting drunk/high in dorms
I ain’t gonna lie, it happens, backpackers get drunk and get high at times. There will be times you find yourself drinking or partying with your roommates or in another dorm. If however others are uncomfortable with it, or they’re sleeping, the hostel etiquette is to just do the simply head to a common area or terrace and continue there.
Also and this is easier said than done, but if you get drunk or high and head back to your dorm, remember there will be others sleeping, have respect for them. Don’t start shouting or making noise and try your hardest not to disturb them. But number one thing, remember which one is your bed, don’t just fall into the first bed you see. That can become a very awkward situation very quickly.
Sex in dorms
Just like people getting drunk and high, people have sex in dorms; it happens. If you find yourself in a situation where you are, the hostel etiquette is to be a little mindful. Yeah it’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and we all know when sex is involved all other thoughts and considerations are out the window.
But if there is a chance, put a blanket up over the side to give yourself some privacy, try to be quiet as you can (easier said than done I know) have a warning system in place so others know not to come into the room, (works a treat if all roommates are on the same page) Or if you can, try finding a private area somewhere else in the hostel. And for fucks sake, don’t leave used condoms just lying around.
Now there are probably some of you that are disgusted by the thought of having sex in a dorm room, and you will feel like that until that person is you, trust me seen it happen. But if you happen to walk in on people having sex, don’t cause a scene, either leave the room or have a word with the guilty party afterwards.
Smelling and bad body odour
There’s that’s age-old misconception that we backpackers stink, that we don’t wash, we’re unhygienic, we don’t do laundry. Well for the majority of us, that’s a load of bollox. However there are some that do fucking stink. When they come into a dorm room, you know they’re there.
If you’re one of these few, go have a shower you dirty fuck! Seriously, there is no excuse for any backpacker not to have a wash of some kind.
However more realistically, if you find that you have smelly feet, or your shoes stink,the hostel etiquette is to leave your shoes outside the room, or if there is balcony pop them outside to get aired out.
The cold hot argument!
Some people like to sleep in the cold, some people like to be hot, in a backpacker hostel you’re always going to get backpackers on either side; you have to find a compromise. Remember it’s not your room, you’re sharing it. So if you need the air con blasting or if you need the window wide open remember there are others that need them closed. On the other hand, if you need the room to feel like a hot oven the same applies to you. You need compromise.
Hostel etiquette in the bathroom
A backpacker shared bathroom, the sight of horror movies, disgusting, rancid places with all kinds of bodily fluids all over the place; is that what you’re thinking? Well let me shock you, no they’re not. Hostel bathrooms are actually well kept and clean. Ok, most of them are. I’ll admit, over the years I’ve seen the best and worst of them.
There are though some backpacker hostel etiquettes to keep in mind.
Although most hostels do their utmost to keep bathrooms clean and are cleaned on regular basis, if you make a mess, spill something, just simply clean up after yourself, and take your personal items back with you. If you leave them lying around in the bathroom, especially in larger ones then one of those unwritten rules comes into play; you’re left items are fair game. For some reason It’s only left items in the bathroom that are not considered stealing.
If your shaving, again just give the area you’ve used a little clean up, don’t leave your hair laying around the place. It’s not going to hurt you.
Ok this may sound trivial and sometimes you need a longer shower, but don’t take the piss. Don’t spend hours in the shower using up all the hot water. There are some hostels that come with signs telling you that exact thing, there are some places that only put hot water on for certain amounts of time or have limited amounts of hot water; just don’t use it all.
Hostel etiquette in the Kitchen
A backpacker hostels kitchen is where almost all arguments kick off, It’s like all hostel etiquette goes out the window. They normally revolve around the same things – stealing food or not cleaning up after themselves.
Clean up after yourself
Most hostel kitchens are covered in signs like “Your mum isn’t here to clean up after you”, Or “Respect other guests keep the kitchen clean.”
These signs are there for obvious reasons. If you cook something, if you use a any utensils, if you spill something or make any type of mess, just clean up after yourself. Don’t leave your pots and pans lying around for somebody else to wash up, and whatever you use, just put it back where it came from.
The other major etiquette in hostel kitchens are – DON’T FUCKING STEAL OTHER PEOPLES FOOD! It doesn’t matter what it is, if you need to use something just ask, don’t take without asking, especially if you don’t know the person you’re taking from. I’ve been involved in and seen fights breakout from backpackers trying to steal food.
Most hostels provide some kind of common areas, they can be a TV room, lounge areas, some open space, a reading area, a courtyard, a terrace, a rooftop, or a garden area.
They’re great places to meet other backpackers away from your dormmates. But, again just be mindful of other guests, if people are watching a movie or TV don’t just walk in there and demand to change the channel, don’t interrupt others if they’re having a deep and meaningful conversation. Don’t just barge in on a group and make yourself the centre of attention. If people are drinking and you don’t know them, don’t just help yourself to the alcohol; ask first.
This isn’t a hostel etiquette as such, but some sound advice, at some you will hear of, and will experience then soon after get fed up of the backpacker talk. When you’re looking to make new friends, don’t lead in with the backpacker talk, it can be the biggest conversation killer.
Don’t be a backpacker hostel snob
Hostel snobbery comes in more shapes than one. I’ve been guilty of it myself at times. Backpacker hostel snobbery can be anything to forgetting you’re in a hostel and not a hotel to complaining about the stupidest things. Bear this in mind, it is a hostel, there are all types of people staying there, young or old and shit happens. You can’t expect hotel quality from a hostel, things will go wrong, things won’t work all the time, the internet and power may go down, you just have to suck it up for a while.
If you see or hear things you’re not comfortable with or you disagree with, then simply just remove yourself from the situation. Find another area where you are more comfortable. Nobody is forcing you to do anything you don’t want to, and judge others for whatever they’re doing. And if it’s that bad, check out and find another place. You are free to do so. Those things that you’re uncomfortable with happened in that hostel before you chose to stay there and will happen long after you’re gone.
Follow your hostel etiquette & don’t be the hostel asshole!
Along with being the hostel snob and not going along with backpacker hostel etiquette you run a high risk of becoming the hostel asshole – don’t be that person. A few tips as well, don’t be obnoxious, don’t be pretentious, do not walk into a hostel and show off about your own travels, nobody gives a fuck.
We’re all travellers, we’re all doing similar things and most importantly, don’t be two faced, trying to stir trouble for your own amusement, just be cool, enjoy yourself and keep in mind the backpacking hostel etiquettes and your stay in hostels will be far more enjoyable.
BUT ABOVE ALL THE NUMBER ONE BACKPACKER HOSTEL ETIQUETTE – DON’T FUCKING STEAL FROM OTHER BACKPACKERS, IF YOU DO YOU ARE SCUM!
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