10 Lessons in Hostel Etiquette

Before you book a bunk in that hostel, learn from the mistakes of others. Here are a few tips to help make sure you’re not the annoying roommate.


Photo © iStock/ampueroleonardo

1. Snoring Etiquette

While you might pay a few extra dollars a night, tired and grumpy backpackers will appreciate one less snorer in their 16-bed dorm.

“If you snore, take a private room. If you really snore, just don’t stay in a hostel! Or, look for boutique hostels rather than the mega-bunk places."  Mark Seldon, World Nomads

2. Your Belongings, Your Responsibility

When it comes to staying in a hostel, your belongings are your responsibility. If you choose not to lock your bags when you leave the room, that's your fault.

It's a lot easier to keep your bags safe when you only have one bag. Travel light, and always padlock your bags when you're in transit, or not in the hostel.

"Simply put, just don’t travel with valuables to minimize that stress. Otherwise, padlock your bag to the frame of your bunk bed or the sink plumbing. When it comes to shared fridges, if you can’t cope with, or afford, to have your food eaten – don’t leave it in there!” – Christina Tunnah, World Nomads

3. Hostel Cleanliness (or Lack-there-of)

If you're a clean-freak, pack for the worst conditions, and be pleasantly surprised when you manage to find clean bathroom facilities.

"Bring your flip-flops with you to the shower. It may feel a little weird, but it’s better to be safe than itchy. " – Martin Hong, World Nomads

Nomad Jane Scaife says you should never forget to bring your own towel, “I hate paying two quid to rent a mangey towel." – Jane Scaife, via Facebook 

4. Always Check for Bed Bugs

Never get complacent when it comes to booking into a new room. No matter how nice the linen looks, bed bugs could be anywhere.

“I was staying in a cheap bungalow on Koh Tao, Thailand with my boyfriend at the time, and little did we know that the bed we slept on was infested with bedbugs.

The whole next day, I developed a terrible rash all over my body and we had no idea why. We got home that night, I ripped off the sheets, and saw tons of bed bugs crawling around.

It scarred us for the whole rest of our trip, and when we left a negative review of the bungalow, they accused us of bringing the bedbugs." – Amy Stringer, via Facebook

"Checked into a hostel in a very rural part of Lombok, Indonesia. I was exhausted, and didn't think I’d need to put up mosquito netting for the night.

Not only did I wake up to mosquitos, but giant spiders were all around me eating those mosquitos." – Kane Molleo, via Facebook

5. Don't Be the Hostel Room DJ (Unless Requested)

Your new hostel mates might agree that you've got a great taste in music, but playing your music out loud isn't always welcome – headphones were invented for a reason.

“When someone plays their music for the broader listening pleasure (or frustration) of others, put your earplugs on or pipe up and ask them to put on headphones. Don’t simmer in irritation – speak up!" – Christina Tunnah, World Nomads

6. Unnecessary Noise-makers 

If you want to keep your belongings sorted inside your bag, use packing cubes. They won’t rustle when you’re searching for your pyjamas at 2:30am, and they aren’t bad for the environment.

"I’ve heard people say that traveling with spare plastic bags is a great idea to help you store your stuff. No, it’s a terrible idea. Plastic bags are noisy.” – Claire Taylor, World Nomads

“Unfortunately, some hostel-dwellers are disrespectful – especially if they’re getting up early to catch a flight. If you're sensitive to noise, bring earplugs. If there's a group leaving from your room, they won’t care that it's 6am and you're still trying to sleep.” – Jess Grey, World Nomads

7. Read Online Reviews

Never ignore the reviews of travelers online. This Nomad ignored previous bad reviews and chose to stay in this hostel, as it was the only place available in a small town. Big mistake:

"I booked a place in Italy that 'forgot to pick me up' with their hostel bus in the middle of the night, after I got off a midnight train. The hostel managers were all stoned when I got there!

There were no doors on female toilets or showers which led straight out into reception, and there was a sign on the door that read ‘Not to be shut under any circumstances.’ Creepy as hell.” – Angie Smith, Facebook

But not only that, if you're looking for atmosphere, reviews can help you get a feel for the vibe of the place:

"Not checking the fun rating on the website – why else would you stay in a hostel?!" – Meridee Walter, via Facebook

8. Plan Ahead

In some countries, planning ahead is essential. Instead of scoring a cheap room in a hostel, this Nomad wound up with a costly affair:

"I arrived late at a train station in Italy and couldn't find the hostel (found out the next day it was out of town). No one spoke English, my attempt at Italian was poor, and I had no phrase book – this was pre-mobile phones. I eventually found a hotel, where I got a shoebox with no view for the price of five nights at a hostel.” – April Bayley, via Facebook

9. Quick Thieves

"I left my money in a little bag hidden in the sheets while going to the bathroom early in the morning. Apparently, someone was faking being asleep. I was only gone 5 minutes, and it was gone by the time I got back." – Lilu Minai, via Facebook

On the flip side, some Nomads are just plain lucky…

"I dropped a coin purse by accident, and I didn't realize until I went for a 5-day tour. I didn't know where I lost it, so I tried to think about the places I had visited that day. Fortunately, after finishing the tour I went back to the hostel to stay for a night before flying back home, I found it on the shelf in the luggage room unexpectedly!" – Chompoonut Nutsathapana, via Facebook

10. If You Don't Like It, Don’t Stay There

The most unforgivable mistake is choosing to stay somewhere that doesn't suit your travel style.

“These days, there are many cheap alternatives to hostels like AirB&B or Couchsurfing.

Why get head lice, contract foot fungus, and have to listen to people get-it-on in the bunk bed next to you all night, when you can get a comfortable room and pay a few dollars extra?

Seriously – pay now or pay later. If you have to see a doctor and get a prescription after staying at a hostel, you have to factor in that cost." – Jennifer Ann, Facebook

What are your biggest hostel pet-peeves? Share them with us in the comments below!

Related articles

Travel Insurance

Simple and flexible travel insurance

You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.

Get a quote


  • Ammon prior hostel owner 10 yrs said

    If you snore you can still get a bed- others should wear earplugs. Let's be honest we fart snore and accidentally scream in our sleep. One type of sleeper doesn't win best etiquette. Sleepwalkers are by far the funniest though.

    If your a light sleeper pay the extra and get a private room.

    There is a perfect hostel for everyone. What is your hell is another persons heaven .
    Some want a pot smoking comrade as a receptionist and prefer a laid back "authentic" vibe
    Others want a whistle clean , white teeth smiling receptionist, daily sheet changes and white clean walls. Those two people will hate the others. Read the reviews and look for the bad ones.
    A hostel with a middle of the road average and a lot of reviews that make you laugh.
    Like if your a drinker and play guitar till midnight kinda person look for the haters who have complained there were large groups singing till early hours.
    Also if your a clean neat short term stay person look for reviews that have perfect clean score and security. Atmosphere might score really low but you're getting a better fit for your needs.

    Do not arrange with a friend of a friend to get a bed - book a night some where meet said friends friend and have obligation free judgement.

    Also work for bed places are still abundant - if your planning on staying a place for ages find you fav hostel and be the best guest they could hope for. Randomly clean as if it's your hobby. Ask them for a job after a couple of weeks. Then ask daily. Also have in your mind fair rate. Negotiate if your good it's job = bed regardless of speed. If your bad it's a max of hours allocated to get job done if you take longer oh well.

    If you want to do tours work reception desks! Ask for sample tours called famils to help sell the tours honestly and more often. It's great way to see the expensive stuff and if you love it you sell it with more truth and people will have a better expierence.

    Wash your plates cooking equip instantly so others don't wait for you. Then eat.

    Don't save the environment to kill your health. Soap is a valuable preventive measure against germs invading your body! Please use soap and water to wash. Cheap soap by the bar last longer and is as good (possibly better) then fancy shower gels)
    Sooo many people skimped on soap when broke and would wind up with colds and cuts would get infected and it goes on. Trust me soap when travelling is your friend.
    Deodorant is your choice but you'll make more friends if you use it.

    If something embarrassing happens in your dorm tell the reception imeadiatly- not the cleaner. Telling the cleaner some girl just pissed in the top bunk might make a fuss the reception is Custumer service- they'll sort you out first, (new room) then sort out the offender /accident person wake politely and without room full of people laughing.. then clean the room.
    Oh and that's not the worst most embarrassing thing that can happen. Body's are funny things and do strange things when travelling. Don't spoil your holiday or someone else's cause of an embarrassing moment.

    Don't take pics in dorms and post pics of others sleeping. Creepy!

  • Chelsea said

    All I have to say, from my travels the only issue I came across was a very warm 6 bed dorm with no circulation in the air, easy fixed, I just put the fan on. No complaints from anyone else in the room as we had blankets if it got a little chilly. 5th night staying a girl had the biggest sook about being cold, turned the fan off and went to bed. So, after half an hour of heat, I turned it back on, another girl offered her a blanket that she didnt use to keep warm but used as a curtain so she couldn't see me. Some people like her need to get a private room.

  • Rakesh Joshi said

    I spent my college time in a hostel, and i had a bad experience related to bed bugs. It is a common problem in every hostel.

  • Y said


Add a Comment