The First Time Traveler’s Guide to Hostel Etiquette
I’ve always enjoyed staying in hostels on my travels.
They’re just cool places, packed full of fun loving people, most of whom are doing the same thing as you: exploring a new country and looking to have an adventure.
People come from all walks of life and are thrown together into this great mixing pot of excitement and activity, all in the shared pursuit of travel. It creates a unique atmosphere that you just don’t find in other forms of accommodation.
Staying in a hostel for the first time can be a daunting prospect too though. Just the thought of meeting and staying with a huge number of new people can be scary.
But it’s also an unusual environment to experience. I mean, it isn’t very often that you’ll meet and share your living space with a bunch of complete strangers; cooking, eating, sleeping and partying together.
It’s this setup that generally creates the incredible hostel atmosphere, but it can also pose particular ‘challenges’.
So, to help navigate this novel setting, there are certain unwritten rules that are useful to abide by!
The forthcoming ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ below are the particular rules I think will stand any aspiring traveler in good stead in their coming hostel stay.
First Time Traveler’s Guide to Hostel Etiquette
Respect your fellow hostel goers
This is pretty much cardinal rule number one, which, if followed, negates many of the ones to come.
Essentially, if you and all around you try to be good humans, making an effort to be thoughtful, respectful and considerate of the people around you, then everything in the hostel will be far more enjoyable for all involved!
Make sure you label your food
There’s nothing like living in a hostel to make a thief of you! The general rule in hostels seems to be this: if there’s no label on it, it’s fair game.
So, if you’re keeping food in communal fridges or cupboards, be sure to slap your name on it somewhere!
Clean up after yourself (but prepare for things to be dirty)
Hostels have a reputation for being messy and dirty, especially in communal areas like kitchens and bathrooms.
And there’s nothing worse than not having the right cooking equipment because someone’s used it and not washed up; or having to unclog the shower of dirty, gloopy hair to prevent flooding, etc.
If you make a mess, make the effort to clean up after yourself!
Say hello to people!
One of the lovely elements of hostel life is the sheer number of new faces there are to meet.
It can be daunting, but make the effort to introduce yourself to a stranger. 9 times out of 10 they’ll be happy to say hello and have a chat.
You’ll end up having the same conversation time and time again, but it’s necessary! The people you meet while traveling often has the greatest impact on your trip.
And it all starts by saying hello.
Do things as a group
Once you’ve introduced yourself, why not push the boat out and do something fun together?
Cook a meal, do some exercise, play a game; whatever it is, doing stuff as a group is a great way to get to know people and alleviate some of the loneliness that can accompany (especially solo) travel.
There are almost always opportunities to do this in hostels, which often provide games, swimming pools, pool or table tennis tables, TV rooms, etc for you to enjoy.
Depending on where you’re staying (some backpackers hostels are more known for this than others), hostels and nightlife tend to go hand in hand.
It’s a great way to get to let off some steam, have a good time and get to know the people you meet in the hostel in the process.
Remember when you were a kid and everyone always wanted the top bunk of the bunk bed? Well, in a hostel the opposite is true! Everyone goes for the bottom one.
And you should too! The residual childhood excitement of the top bunk might make this seem wrong, but honestly, being on the bottom is best.
Climbing up the rungs in the pitch black, half cut after a night out, is never easy; being on the bottom bunk means you’re right next to all of your bags and valuables; being on the top means you have to go back down the ladder if you need the loo…and so on.
Everything is easier on the bottom!
Pack a small flashlightEnquire about work for accommodation opportunitiesCheck out the notice boards for cool opportunities
Pack up your stuff the night before
If you know you’re leaving the hostel the next day, it is best to pack your things the night before.
Not only does this mean you can just get up and go, but it also saves you waking up your dorm room neighbors in the early hours and making mortal enemies in the process.