Backpacking Guide: Hostel Etiquette

Backpacking Guide: Hostel Etiquette

12 February 2020

There’s nothing quite like the hostel experience. Some of your best travel tales will be derived from these places, and maybe a few of the worst. Either way, novice wanderers have a lot to look forward to and prepare for, which is why we are offering this brief introduction to hostel etiquette.

We’ll give most seasoned backpackers the benefit of the doubt here and assume you’re already aware of hostel common courtesies. For those about to embark on their first backpacking adventure or considering shared accommodation for a future trip, this list will help ensure you don’t end up committing a dormitory sin. Read on, not just for your own sake, but for the sake of the strangers you are about to be living with.

You’re not at home anymore

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Nope, it’s likely you’re a long way from home, far from the comforts of your own bedroom and the freedom to keep your space as tidy or unkempt as you please. While everyone wants to feel a sense of contentment and homeliness in the place they’re staying while travelling, it doesn’t hurt to consider you are sharing this space with other beings. That means littering the floor with your dirty undies, leaving your wet towel in a heap or spreading the remnants of last night’s kebab throughout the room might be a little annoying. Hostel rooms can become messy, that’s a given, but if people are giving your bunk a particularly wide berth, it might be time to reign things in and do some tidying. 

Some people do like to sleep 

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Sure, you’re travelling and that means you’re bound to be out until all hours gallivanting around town or partying. Days of the week no longer matter, and bedtimes are a thing of adolescent years. But that’s not to say some of your roommates don’t value a solid night’s sleep. If you come home a little inebriated at all hours of the morning, try to stumble into your bunk quietly. Definitely reach for your phone for lighting, not the main switch, and if you want to keep the party going or indulge in late-night conversing, find common areas or stay at the bar a little longer and let your co-dormers sleep in peace. Likewise, if you have reason to be up early to catch a flight or leave, pack your suitcase the night before. Nothing angers a room full of travellers quite like pre-dawn rustlers, noisily packing their belongings while everyone around them tries to sleep.

Embrace different cultures 

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The beautiful thing about backpacking is the melting pot of cultures and nationalities you are about to meet. Some of the best and most exciting dorms to find yourself in are the ones full of diversity. You inevitably learn a lot about the world from listening to other traveller’s stories, and most of all, bunking with Natalie from Toronto, Jamie from Singapore and Jacques from Johannesburg is just plain fun! The key thing to remember in this scenario is to be respectful. You might come from very different places and backgrounds, but when met with mutual respect, people from all over the world mix and create memorable travel friendships. 

Thou shall not thieve other people’s belongings

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It’s a distressing thought isn’t it, that you might share a room with a bunch of seemingly nice strangers, all of whom are travelling with their own set of personal belongings, and someone in the mix might be about to pinch your things. Stealing from fellow travellers isn’t just frowned upon, it’s forbidden. That includes chargers, clothes, toiletries and clearly labelled packed lunches in the communal fridge. The threat of thievery needn’t deter you from dorm living either, it really is an infrequent occurrence. But if the thought of someone rifling through your personal belongings is causing you to lose sleep, invest in a lock or make use of your hostel’s locker services.  

Be friendly and try to get to know your dorm mates 

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Not everyone wants to make friends at hostels (weird, we know) and people travel with their own individual levels of social capability. The best etiquette in this situation is to be as friendly and amicable as possible to your new roommates, giving you time to gauge who might want to keep chatting and who is there solely for a cheap place to sleep. When a new person arrives in the room, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and ask how they are going. Fair warning: some travellers won’t embrace this friendly greeting. But most will and you’ll end up getting to know them, doing some sort of excellent social activity and becoming dorm besties, and it will all come down to that simple, friendly greeting.  

Did we mention we're kind of experts at the whole backpacking thing? If you're keen to practice your hostel etiquette somewhere new and exciting, get in touch and let us help you plan your next adventure.