I have written about my love of hostels before, and for solo travellers (especially those with budgets), I truly do believe that hostel hopping is the best way to see the world. However, it is true that regardless of how brilliant a hostel may be, sometimes you can encounter other hostel-goers that just are inconsiderate or just downright rude, and unfortunately there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it.
Alternatively, there are also some (often newbie) hostellers that are not be well versed in good hostel etiquette and may not actually be aware of how their actions affect other travellers.
Here is a quick rundown of basic hostel etiquette that every traveller should try their hardest to follow. After all, you really don’t want to be that person that everybody thinks is a dick!
Once I was staying in a fully occupied 12-bed dorm in Paris, and for three nights in a row, a group of five female travellers would arrive back at the dorm between 1am and 3am, proceed to turn on every single light in the dorm, unpack and repack their suitcases, talk as loudly as they wanted, clip their toenails and just generally do everything they could to make me borderline homicidal.
I can handle a bit of noise – earplugs are a travellers best friend – but having every light turned on, that I just cannot handle. I put up with this incredibly rude behaviour for two nights, but on the third night I went absolutely bonkers. I got out of my bunk, confronted them and told them in no nice way that they were the most incredibly selfish and stupid people I had ever had the displeasure of sharing a dorm with – with more expletives thrown in than I care to admit. Now, this was far from a good way of handling the situation, but having night after night of disrupted sleep, a girl can become more than just a little bit cranky.
This particular situation is extreme, but unfortunately, the action of switching on lights at night is not all that uncommon. Believe me, we all understand that arriving in the middle of the night sucks, but instead of being an asshat and turning on all the lights, use a torch or the flashlight on your smartphone. Even if you do still inadvertently wake people up, the fact that you tried to be inconspicuous means that nobody will be tempted to slap you when daylight comes around.
This should go without saying, if you want to call or Skype people, go ahead, but if anyone else in your dorm is obviously trying to sleep, be considerate and wander out to the common areas. People often take themselves just outside into the hallways, but most hostels have paper thin walls, so while the effort is there, the end result is that your dorm (and possibly other dorms) will still be able to hear you loud and clear.
So if it’s after dark, be kind, ditch your dorm and head to the hostels lounge or kitchen and Skype/call to your hearts content.
Once when I stayed in a 20-bed dorm in the Philippines at like 10pm at night, someone thought it would be a great idea to start playing Zombie by The Cranberries on his phone, but minus the headphones. While I too dig the Cranberries, it definitely wasn’t the time or place. Just put in your headphones!
If you find yourself drinking with new friends from your hostel (whether you are at the hostel bar or at any other watering hole) do not be the guy who happily drinks whenever anyone else buys a round and then magically disappears when it is his/her turn to do the buying. This is just not cool!
Now, if you aren’t into doing rounds, no dramas – you don’t have to participate, but make sure you let the people you are drinking with aware of this so that they don’t end up all paying for you to have a good time on the cheap.
Ins & Outs
Another way to be a frustratingly annoying dorm-mate at night? Constantly going in and out of the dorm! If you have forgotten something and have to go back in once, that’s no big deal. But opening and closing the dorm door (which will let light in and most likely ‘bang’ when it closes) every five minutes for over an hour – that is just inexcusable.
To me, getting allocated the top bunk is like drawing the short straw. It’s hotter in the top bunk, getting out of bed to pee is a total chore and often you find yourself with far less space than your bottom bunk counterparts. So, if you have been lucky enough to score the bottom bunk, be courteous and leave some room underneath your bed for the top bunker to put their stuff, and don’t hang your clothes and towels on the stairs – it makes the top bunker feel awkward when they inevitably have to move your stuff.
It is fine to want to lock your bag to something like the bunk itself, but be mindful of where you are doing the locking. I have had people lock their bags in a way that meant I was completely unable to open up my locker, resulting in their locks getting cut by hostel staff.
Sure, I was able to get the other persons locks cut, but I felt bad in doing so, and the delay meant I missed an important train. I am certain the person didn’t lock their bag in this way to be purposefully rude, they more than likely just didn’t think about what they were doing.
Out Of Hours Arrival
We have already established that arriving to a hostel in the middle of the night sucks, especially if you have to be up early in the morning to continue your onwards journey. So if when you arrive you need to do things like shower, repack your bag or get out your outfit for the morning – try to do these things outside of the dorm itself, so that when you do enter, you can just put your stuff next to your bed and go straight to sleep. Better for you and better for those around you – everybody wins!
Whenever a new person enters your dorm – make an effort to say ‘hi’. Even if you aren’t in the mood to socialise, that is no excuse not to be polite.
Been There, Done That
One of the best parts about hostels is learning about the travels of so many different people! You can learn tips, tricks and learn about so many new places to visit and explore.
However, there is a big different between being a helpful fellow traveller talking about their travels and being that person who is constantly trying to one-up everyone. While you may think that travelling to 120 countries makes you the messiah of travel, when you are constantly telling people that the travel they have done isn’t good enough, or isn’t dangerous enough, or that you have done so much more; those people who have to listen are going to resent you, and probably call you a wanker in their heads. Don’t be a know-it-all. You won’t win any prizes or friends for being the most well-travelled person in your hostel.
Don’t be a power point hog, especially if the dorm has few of them. If you truly do have a tonne of devices to charge, take a power board with you so that you only ever need to use the one power point.
Try to limit your bathroom time to 10-15 minutes at the absolute most. If you need to put on make-up, try to find a mirror outside the bathroom.
Hearing other peoples 2.30am alarms is just another fact of life when you stay in hostels. Honestly, it doesn’t bother people too much, after all, we have all been in the situation where we need to be up at an ungodly hour in order to catch a flight, bus or train. However, if you set six alarms in a row (which I do too, because snoozing my alarm in my sleep is something I have legitimately done) make sure you remember to turn the rest of them off when you are up and moving. Having someone go to shower and having their alarm persistently go off is pretty annoying. It means someone else that should be sleeping will have to get up to turn it off – and if this happens a bunch of times – it just ain’t cool.
This should go without saying, but do not go using other peoples food! Sure, that cup of noodles may look fricking delish, but for all you know – that could be what another person is relying on for dinner. Just keep your hands to yourself and your nose away from anything that doesn’t belong to you.
If you have been hanging out with people from your hostel for more than five minutes, chances are that you will end up with pictures of your new friends on your camera or phone. This is totally fine, just make sure that you remember to send them to those people! Some of my favourite travel pictures have been taken by other people, and the thought of never seeing them is a sad one. For easy photo transfers, download the Dropbox app on your phone.
Once I met a guy in a hostel that liked to insult people whenever they didn’t correctly pronounce a foreign word. He would laugh and then tell people that they were an embarrassment. He definitely was putting other people down to make himself feel superior – douche canoe behaviour.
Sure, people may completely butcher foreign words (I do it all the time, especially German words) but unless you can correct them in a polite way, it might be better to just not say anything.
If you have something to say that is racist, misogynistic, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic or puts down an entire group of marginalised people – count to ten and then just don’t say it. Hostels are full of people from all over the world and from all walks of life – majority of whom will be liberal, open-minded and accepting people. Displaying such bigoted behaviour is completely unacceptable and will be a fast way for you to become a total pariah.
Please, don’t put your junk on my bunk.
Thank you for reading my lovely travel enthusiasts!
If there is anything you think I have missed, please drop me a line in the comments section; and as always, if you have enjoyed reading this post, please share it via Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest <3