Dude, don’t be a hostel dick

Written by on April 2, 2011 in Travel, Travel Tips - 97 Comments

I’ve spent more than 200 nights in hostels. The good hostels. The bad hostels. The awesome hostels. If you are planning to stay in a hostel, or sometimes get confused about hostel etiquette, the following post is for you. Consider this your do’s and don’ts should you decide to be a roommate.

THE CHECK-IN

1. Smile. Even if you have just had the most hellish time finding the place, a smile will go along way at reception.

2. Be nice. No one wants to see you throw a tantrum because you have to pay for sheets. Or because the Internet is down. (Well, you can get a little cranky on that one.)

YOUR ROOM

1. Don’t let your backpack throw up all over the room. If you need to take stuff out, take it out, but don’t have things sprawled everywhere. Unless you don’t mind it getting stepped on. Or lost. Many hostels have limited floor space, and you’re not the only one in the room who needs to unpack a little bit.

2. If you are on the bottom bunk and want some privacy, hang your towel down from the bed above you.

3. Nowadays, it is hard not to stay connected. However, many hostels seem to only have one or two power sources per room. Don’t hog all of them. And, if your stuff is finished charging, kindly unplug it so others can use the outlets.

4. Bring a lock. A good lock.

5. Lock up your stuff. Seriously. If there aren’t  lockers, still lock your bag. Especially if you are leaving anything of value.

6. If you are leaving early in the morning, pack the night before. No one wants to get woken up by your inconsiderate zipping and unzipping and rustling of plastic bags. No one can get it all done the night before, but keeping the noise down to a minimum and only having to pack a little is one of the most considerate things you can do for other travelers.

7. If you think you may be in late, do everyone else in the room a favor and get the stuff out of your bag that you need for the  night before you head out.

8. When you get in late at night, try not to turn on the light. Use a flashlight, or your phone, or your iPod, or whatever. If you have to turn the light in, do it quickly, and then turn it off. Don’t leave it on while you go to the bathroom/kitchen/etc.

9. When you get in late at night, hush. No one wants to hear recaps of the night in your normal voice. Or a whisper. Go outside of the room to talk. And, remember: whispers are loud when there’s no other noise in the room.

10. Don’t get it on in the dorm room. No one wants to hear moans and fluids and such. Well, at least most people don’t. If you want to hook-up, go somewhere else. Like the common room. Or outside.

11. If other people are sleeping in the morning, don’t be loud.

12. If it is after lunch and people are still sleeping, it’s OK to go about your business in the room … and not worry too much about needing to do whatever it is you need to do. Chances are the people who are still sleeping are the ones who woke you up at 4 a.m. when they stumbled in, turned on the light and chattted drunkenly.

THE KITCHEN

1. Buy your own food. And lable it with the dates you are going to be staying at the hostel. If you see someone else’s food, don’t take it. It’s not yours. Backpacker karma exists.

2. Clean up. This is a group environment. No one wants to wash your egg-covered pans or the sauce remnants from the pasta you cooked last night. Wash. Dry. Wipe down. Got it?

3. If the hostel provides meals or snacks, enjoy them. But don’t go nuts. You aren’t the only person who wants to enjoy the chocolate cereal or hardboiled eggs. Just because its complimentary doesn’t give you permission to take it all.

4. If you’ve made extra food and aren’t going to save it, offer it to another backpacker or the staff. Don’t waste.

THE COMMON ROOM

1. Backpackers are a friendly bunch. If there is a solo packer in the common room and you are there, start up a friendly little conversation. You never know, that person could turn out to be a great friend.

2. Don’t hog the TV/DVD/stereo. Ask around if there are other people in the room. Don’t assume someone wants to watch/listen to the same thing you do.

3. Clean up after you’re done. Just like in the kitchen.

Want more hostel rules? Check out Michael Hodson’s Hostel and Dorm Rules. Ah, great minds think alike.

Got more tips? Add ‘em below.

About the Author

Diana Edelman is a travel writer and expat currently residing in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She is a former career breaker and long term solo traveler. Today, she helps promote responsible elephant tourism and is the co-founder of #RTTC, a weekly chat on Twitter focusing on responsible tourism. When she isn’t writing, Diana handles the PR and social media for Save Elephant Foundation, which runs the popular Elephant Nature Park. Her writing as appeared in About.com, Thought Catalog, The Huffington Post, Matador Network, Travel + Escape, Luna Luna, Vegas Seven, World Nomads, Viator, CheapOair, OneTravel and more.

97 Comments on " Dude, don’t be a hostel dick "

  1. jill- Jack and Jill Travel The World April 3, 2011 at 8:28 pm · Reply

    Good stuff. I’d especially hate it when we have to end up doing other people’s dishes. It’s so gross.

  2. Abby April 3, 2011 at 10:34 pm · Reply

    Great rules, wise one. Excellent. And hot pic!!

  3. Erica April 4, 2011 at 12:37 am · Reply

    Ooh, I think you definitely covered the basics. Great list!

    • The Adventures of D April 4, 2011 at 9:00 pm · Reply

      Thank you!! There’s more I’ve thought of … guess will have to save it for a Part Two!

  4. Joel April 4, 2011 at 2:54 am · Reply

    The “whisper” advice is my favorite. In Vienna, a group of guys got back to the room at about 3am and kept whispering & laughing, then they’d be “shhh..shh!” as though we couldn’t hear every word of their whispering regardless of how quiet they thought it was. In a quiet room, whispering doesn’t mean jack.

  5. ayngelina April 4, 2011 at 9:51 am · Reply

    The title of this post made me laugh out loud!

    I was just in a dorm where two sets of people had early tours. Two guys at 4am were out the door in 60 seconds, I barely heard them. Two others at 6am took 20 minutes to get up and out which also involved searching through a plastic bag, WTF?

    All you should need to do is throw on new clothes and grab the bag you packed the night before, why is that so hard for some people to realize?

    • The Adventures of D April 4, 2011 at 8:59 pm · Reply

      Glad you liked the title! :)
      People live in their own little bubble! There have been plenty of good roomates, the ones who are in and out and you can pretty much sleep through. I was in Mostar one night and there as a group of travelers I met. They were all boozing but had an early train or bus out the next morning. Sure enough, at 5 a.m. they were messing with their VACUUM PACK PLASTIC BAGS, zipping and unzipping … right next to my head. I almost threw something at them. It’s common sense and common courtesy, but sometimes travelers seem to lack that.

  6. Scott April 4, 2011 at 12:18 pm · Reply

    solid rules, especially buying a good lock and making sure to lock up your bag. We really like the locks that have the built in LED light so you can peek inside your bags without having to find your headlamp.

    • The Adventures of D April 4, 2011 at 8:57 pm · Reply

      Oooh!! I’ve never used a lock with an LED light. That’s a good idea!

  7. Emily April 4, 2011 at 3:20 pm · Reply

    The title of this post cracks me up! I’ve heard so many horror stories about hostels (people in the bunk next to you hooking up, people being loud super late or super early, things stolen) that I usually stay at budget hotels instead. Whenever I have stayed at a hostel, I paid a little extra for a private room. I’m a terrible sleeper, so I need it. But I feel like I have missed out on that culture, as it seems really fun. When people aren’t breaking these, rules, that is :) Great post!

    • The Adventures of D April 4, 2011 at 8:57 pm · Reply

      I LOVE the atmosphere of hostels and have made lifelong friends thanks to them. As a solo traveler, it is hard to afford private rooms, but there are times when I have been able to find someone I like and split a private or smaller room with them, which makes all of the difference in the world. It gives you the hostel atmosphere without sharing a room with 6 – 20+ strangers. Thanks for the note! :)

  8. Lindsay aka @_thetraveller_ April 4, 2011 at 3:33 pm · Reply

    People just don’t get it. There’s always gonna be that one dick every now and then… actually more common than that probably. They should all be banned from hostels haha

    • The Adventures of D April 4, 2011 at 8:56 pm · Reply

      I wish!! Some of them just blow my mind. When I was in Brasov, I had gone out to the store, purchased eggs, bread, nutella and yogurt. The next morning they were all gone! Sooo many dorm horror stories, it’s not even funny!

  9. Federico April 4, 2011 at 6:40 pm · Reply

    Plenty of good etiquette tips here…I hope many people read this post cause they need to.

  10. Laura April 6, 2011 at 12:05 pm · Reply

    Wow, I was just about to comment on how “Unfortunately the people who need this advice probably aren’t reading this!” but it looks like you beat me to it. Important tips though.

    • The Adventures of D April 11, 2011 at 8:01 pm · Reply

      I think there should be some universal rules printed at every hostel. Can you imagine? :)

  11. Zablon Mukuba April 8, 2011 at 12:40 am · Reply

    those are great tips, one more is to be friendly especially to the staff

    • The Adventures of D April 11, 2011 at 8:00 pm · Reply

      Thanks!! :) I learned being friendly to the staff really helped! Being nice to them is a must. There were a few times I made friends with the staff and got free beers/discounted lodging/and … one awesome time was moved from the top of the hill down to an apartment on the beach. :)

  12. Michael Hodson April 8, 2011 at 11:50 am · Reply

    such a great post — did you ever read my “Hostel Rules” from last year? I think I might need to go back and add some of these to that one… ;)

    • The Adventures of D April 11, 2011 at 7:57 pm · Reply

      Hmmm … I don’t think so. Whenever I know I want to write a post about something, I make it a point to not read anyone else’s post with similar topics. Feel free to add!! I think I am going to do a Part Two … :)

  13. Oswald April 11, 2011 at 12:16 pm · Reply

    I liked the first bit under “Common room”. On my last trip in SE Asia I met some great people, and when we were together eating or whatever, we had the “First Rule of Backpacking” – whenever we saw a solo traveler we included them in our table or whatever if they wanted, which they usually did (didn’t hurt that the girls in the group were cute I guess!).
    Two times we didn’t do this – once at a table in Pakse, Laos, to a lone traveler eating solo – I was just coming off a bought of Dengue and still felt terrible, about to vomit just from seeing my friends eat. So didn’t speak to him. Even though I had a reason, I still felt guilty for days!
    Same town, that night, two girls on the patio of hostel together. We didn’t make an effort to talk to them, and it seemed like they would have liked it if we did. They were friends from home and seemed like they wanted to meet others and were tired of just being with each other so long on the road.
    Well, next day we met them anyway – and they ended up traveling with us for the next month! And were really cool. We should have spoken to them that night before.
    First rule of Backpacking!

    • The Adventures of D April 11, 2011 at 7:56 pm · Reply

      I agree!! I have met some people in common rooms, etc. who I ended up traveling with and are now still good friends! You never know how amazing that one person is unless you make the effort! So glad you ended up traveling with new friends! It is such a wonderful opportunity and a way to open your eyes to other cultures. Don’t feel guilty though. I have had hostel burn out before … the times when I am so tired, cranky, etc., where I just don’t even feel like making an effort to open my mouth and go through the Travel Talk, etc. It happens. :)

  14. tom April 11, 2011 at 5:13 pm · Reply

    i hate plastic bag rustlers, they should be shot!!!
    I hate people who get up at 4am, lights on start packing and talking. I should be legally allowed to kill them

    • The Adventures of D April 11, 2011 at 7:54 pm · Reply

      I concur. It is right up there with zipping and unzipping. So annoying. And loud. As for the 4 a.m. wake-up … ugh!! It’s times like that when I found myself yearning for a private room. Or, at least, more polite roommates.

  15. Gayle April 16, 2011 at 9:31 pm · Reply

    I love this list. Cleaning up after someone else is just gross.

  16. Dominique May 24, 2011 at 5:04 pm · Reply

    Thanks for this list. I’ve never stayed in a hostel but will be later this year. Now I have an idea of what to expect (good and bad).

    • The Adventures of D May 29, 2011 at 11:22 pm · Reply

      Dominique, you are welcome! Your first time at a hostel will certainly be memorable! Hope this list helps!! Let me know how it goes.

  17. Tom July 25, 2011 at 11:11 am · Reply

    These rules should have some kind of legal leverage in hostels, and those that don’t follow them need to be banished to their own room – and then have hostel staff knock on their door on the hour, every hour, between the hours of 2am and 10am.

    • The Adventures of D August 1, 2011 at 8:35 pm · Reply

      Ha! I think people should be fined for being dicks at a hostel! And, how about instead of knocking on their door (because it would wake everyone else up), they just go and knock the bed or something. Or, if everyone else has ear plug, go and rustle some plastic bags in their ears for a bit.

  18. Natalie T. September 11, 2011 at 3:32 pm · Reply

    Great tips! Manners are paramount and this includes a hostel setting.

  19. Harrison December 25, 2011 at 11:09 pm · Reply

    I will totally agree with you on people who don’t do dishes in hostels! It’s super annoying, and then the kitchen starts smelling.

  20. Bobbi Lee Hitchon December 25, 2011 at 11:59 pm · Reply

    Great tips. It’s so important just be courteous to everyone around you when traveling.

  21. Megan December 26, 2011 at 9:11 am · Reply

    Have you ever had anything stolen? I lock my stuff half the time.

    • The Adventures of D December 26, 2011 at 7:47 pm · Reply

      I’ve been really lucky and never had anything stolen in a hostel. But, I know plenty of people who have. Always lock your stuff. Or bring your valuables with you. The sad truth is, while most travelers are cool, there are the bad seeds who don’t care about Travel Karma.

  22. Bohemian Trails December 26, 2011 at 9:37 am · Reply

    This article is awesome! I love staying at hostels but it’s always important to remember to lock your stuff :)

    • The Adventures of D December 26, 2011 at 7:47 pm · Reply

      Oh yeah, for sure! I would lock my stuff to more of my stuff, and then lock it to the bed if there weren’t lockers.

  23. Stephanie - The Travel Chica December 26, 2011 at 5:49 pm · Reply

    I have been wanting to write a post called, “How To Piss Everyone Off at Your Hostel.” I actually drafted one in a fit of rage several months ago.

    There is no need to publish now because you’ve got it covered :-)

    I agree with Ayngelina on your title… much better than mine.

    By the way, someone just ate the last of my peanut butter on Christmas Eve. Real peanut butter. It was brought to me from the US. I had been rationing it, so I would be able to eat spoonfuls of it for Christmas. I completely lost my shit and started screaming at everyone (there was only one large group so it was obvious who did it).

    • The Adventures of D December 26, 2011 at 7:45 pm · Reply

      Ooo!! I would be pissed if someone ate my peanut butter, too! There are so many hostel thieves who think stealing food is OK. IT’S NOT COMMUNAL. And, if it is, it will say so on the food! I bought a big jar of Nutella and yogurt once … the next day? GONE.

  24. Cam December 26, 2011 at 10:20 pm · Reply

    Hah… this is great! I hate hostel dicks! Especially the “entitled” dick who thinks that just because he arrived a day earlier, he is somehow the chief of the hostel

    • The Adventures of D December 27, 2011 at 12:04 am · Reply

      Oooh!! I forgot all about the entitled dick!! Those travelers are the best. ;)

  25. Rease December 27, 2011 at 9:27 am · Reply

    I made a checklist for annoying travelers so you can print it out and leave it for the offenders: http://travelated.com/traveler-fail

    I hope that comes in useful!

  26. Mary @ Green Global Travel December 27, 2011 at 5:32 pm · Reply

    Great hostel living tips. People just don’t think. Your guidelines should be posted in every hostel around the world :)

    • The Adventures of D December 28, 2011 at 1:03 am · Reply

      They don’t think at all! On my next trip, I think I just may print out a stack of them and leave them in hostels.

  27. Jade - OurOyster.com December 30, 2011 at 5:55 pm · Reply

    Aw man, you have no idea how many people ignore the DONT PACK YOUR COLLECTION OF PLASTIC BAGS AT 5 AM rule…. so…. many… people

    • The Adventures of D January 1, 2012 at 8:55 pm · Reply

      I think plastic bags and those little vacuum things to compress stuff should be banned from the dorm room. Pack it outside. Or, pack it during the day!

  28. Kevin December 30, 2011 at 8:26 pm · Reply

    I usually have quite a bit to say. But you covered this well. So, “AMEN!!”

  29. Christy & Scott December 31, 2011 at 6:55 pm · Reply

    I wish everyone would live by these rules. It would make me want to stay in hostels more often. :)

    • The Adventures of D January 1, 2012 at 8:51 pm · Reply

      Me too! I think next time I go out traveling I am going to print these out and leave them in the hostels.

  30. Kerri January 3, 2012 at 10:57 am · Reply

    Ahh, havin g people steal my food in dorms was the bane of my hostel existence – without a doubt one of THEE most important rules!! Every hostel should hand out these rules at reception!! Great list :)

    • Diana January 4, 2012 at 12:02 am · Reply

      I think we should all print these out and leave them wherever we go. I can’t stand it when people steal my food. Drives me bonkers. BONKERS.

  31. Raymond @ Man On The Lam January 4, 2012 at 4:20 am · Reply

    Hostel is a four-letter word in my book. I think the last time I stayed in one was 12 years ago… :)

  32. Jeremy (TheTravelApprentice) January 6, 2012 at 6:35 pm · Reply

    Great list, most people seem to follow those rules but all too often you get a “hostel dick” or a group of them coming home drunk, lights on, talking… and it sucks.

    However, one time when i was in Ljubljana i was one of the first to crash in a 16 bed dorm, there were only 2 of us sleeping in the room and i woke up the next morning and noticed all the beds had someone sleeping in it. Not one of them woke me up through the night and i was very grateful… so grateful that I woke them all up to thank them… just kidding i didn’t but i wanted to, thank them that is!

    • Diana January 8, 2012 at 12:00 am · Reply

      WOW!! That is one great hostel!!! I have had a few like that, but I can’t sleep through stuff, so even if they were silent, I’d still likely wake-up.

  33. Dayna January 18, 2012 at 11:35 am · Reply

    Can’t believe I hadn’t seen this one before. As someone who has spent 5 months working in hostels… THANK YOU. You would be my favorite guest. Ever.

    • Diana January 19, 2012 at 12:55 pm · Reply

      Haha!!! I try really hard to be considerate of everyone around me. I didn’t know you worked at a hostel for five months. I would LOVE to work at a hostel …

  34. Anthony March 2, 2012 at 1:53 am · Reply

    Yesssssssssss, love it! I vote for Diane as head of the worldwide hostel police :D

    • Diana March 5, 2012 at 7:27 pm · Reply

      Haha!! I would gladly accept the nomination! I actually just met the owner of a hostel in Vegas … thinking I should print out a copy and deliver it as my first act in this position. ;)

  35. Chris March 2, 2012 at 2:15 am · Reply

    Loved this. All very true points.

    I’m a particular advocate of #1. Nothing makes me want to slug a fellow hostel guest like watching them give the staff hell because they’ve had a shitty day.

    Holds true of most things, actually. I had to bite my tongue through a middle aged woman taking out her crappy day on the girl serving her at Burger King the other day.

    • Diana March 5, 2012 at 7:26 pm · Reply

      People can be sooooo rude!!!!

  36. Turtle March 2, 2012 at 8:00 pm · Reply

    Such good advice. My biggest trick (which you covered) is to use my itouch as a torch when other people are asleep and the lights are off in the dorm room. Makes such a difference to be able to do everything without disturbing potential new friends!! :)

    • Diana March 5, 2012 at 7:25 pm · Reply

      It really does!!

  37. Ally November 17, 2012 at 3:43 am · Reply

    Hearing people have sex is the worst. Its just so awkward :s

    • Diana November 18, 2012 at 12:01 pm · Reply

      It. Sucks.

  38. Duncan January 4, 2013 at 12:38 pm · Reply

    Alot of hostel goers can be very inconsiderate – so thanks for highlighting that!

    I tend to prefer dual/quad rooms rather than the big 8-10 people versions.

    Duncan

    • Diana January 5, 2013 at 1:39 am · Reply

      Yes! Now, I skip the dorms entirely and opt for a private. At least in countries where lodging is under $10.

  39. laurie January 10, 2013 at 3:01 am · Reply

    Love this list. As a solo female traveler on a budget I have stayed in many hostels and totally agree with this. It’s kind of common courtesy but some people just don’t get it. I do love the’rule’ about befriending a solo traveler.

    • Diana January 17, 2013 at 9:50 pm · Reply

      Thanks!!!

  40. natalia February 18, 2013 at 10:58 pm · Reply

    Your post is great. I’m doing a thesis about improve the service in hostel in Lima, because I´m peruvian. If you had some tips o suggestions in order to increase the quality of the service will be awesome.

    Thanks.

    • Diana February 28, 2013 at 3:38 am · Reply

      Thank you! I actually did another post about just that. Search “superfly hostel” and it should come up! :)

  41. Mindy and Ligeia April 30, 2013 at 6:23 am · Reply

    This is an older post but the advice is still just as good today as it was in 2011! Thanks Diana! :)

    • Diana May 9, 2013 at 2:14 am · Reply

      Of course! I think it is pretty timeless … unless every backpacker read the post and is now adjusting their behavior. Which I doubt.

  42. Chris April 30, 2013 at 10:01 am · Reply

    I very rarely lock my stuff up.

    Why bother locking a back pack anyway? If someone is that keen on stealing my underpants they can have them!

    • Diana May 9, 2013 at 2:14 am · Reply

      Ha ha! Very true!

  43. Vanessa (@Turnipseeds) October 23, 2013 at 8:16 pm · Reply

    Talk about words to live by! I wish more people would read these rules- and the hostel staff as well. We need more plugs in the rooms! I also wish hostels would organize the rooms a little bit better – how about making an effort to put solo travelers together in one dorm, whereas groups of 3 friends or so (you know – the late night talkers, inevitably!) could be in a room with other couples and trios.

    • Diana October 23, 2013 at 10:49 pm · Reply

      Those are GREAT ideas!!

  44. Giselle and Cody April 4, 2014 at 2:15 am · Reply

    Great set of rules D!! We wish everyone would follow these rules.
    The worst is plastic bags…..what is so important that you need to search through plastic bags at 4 am??
    We just had a horrible experience with room mates in Tbilisi, Georgia. They came in at 4am from a long bus ride and then started to go through all their bags for 30 minutes, waking everyone up.
    They apologized the next day but then did the same thing the next night. The lady woke up at 6 am and decided that would be the best time to repack her entire bag. She pulled everything out and woke everyone up. Needless to say all the other guests were pretty happy when they decided to check out.

    • Diana April 6, 2014 at 12:32 am · Reply

      Plastic bags are the WORST. I want to take those plastic bags at 5 a.m. and burn them. Seriously, I don’t know that I have it in me to stay in dorm rooms on this upcoming trip!! My patience for stuff like that has whittled down to zero!!

  45. Victoria May 11, 2014 at 6:38 pm · Reply

    I really like your tips. You seem to have it covered. Nice one!

    • Diana May 13, 2014 at 12:38 am · Reply

      Thanks! I have stayed in more than 100 of them … after a bit, it becomes really easy to just pick out the dicks.

  46. Franca October 6, 2014 at 7:54 am · Reply

    This is a great list and we really wish everyone would follow these rules, unfortunately it’s never the case, there is always someone that doesn’t and have made our hostel’s experiences less pleasant that it could have been.

    • Diana October 7, 2014 at 12:01 am · Reply

      It is those plastic bag movers and the loud whisperers that drive me the most bonkers!!

  47. Lina @ Divergent Travelers October 12, 2014 at 9:31 pm · Reply

    Really great post! We stayed in hostel dorm rooms all through New Zealand and Australia and you are so right on these things. The dishes are a huge one! It is so shocking how many people just leave their dirty dishes laying around the kitchen. I do agree on the getting your stuff ready the night before also, we were in a few rooms where people got up at 3am to leave and decided to pack and repack their bags, waking everyone up. Common courtesy people! :)

    • Diana October 13, 2014 at 10:14 pm · Reply

      Dorms breed loud people!!! I cannot stand people who disregard the public spaces and treat it like their own trash heap. We’re all in this together, let’s be nice and polite. :)

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