Bravo! You’ve booked your first hostel to stay. Stay in hostels is just amazing. Perhaps you are a seasoned traveler used to the luxury of hotels, or perhaps this is your first time outside of the country. For whatever reason, you’ve decided to forego the traditional hotel route. And you know what? You will have the best time. But maybe you are unsure as to the proper etiquette for staying in hostels.
There isn’t exactly a guidebook for this. Hostel common knowledge isn’t bestowed onto you when you check in. Hostel workers and others staying with you there expect you to know a few things inherently. We all know you know you don’t want to be that person…
1. Making friends
You might think… You’re only here for a night. And that guy reading your favorite book probably doesn’t want to be bothered.
The reality: Don’t assume anything. Introduce yourself. Suggest lunch or dinner together. Ask them about their travels. I’ve met some of the most interesting people during my stays in hostels. There was that girl who lived in New Zealand and was traveling all over the world for two (TWO!) years, and the guy who just got left at the altar and took all of his wedding money to travel around Europe. Traveling brings so many people with similar interests together. Chances are, you’ll have a lot in common. I’ve made great friends all over the world, simply by saying, “Hi, I’m Amanda.”
2. Staying out late
You might think… You’re away from home. That pub crawl or nightclub looks fun. Everyone will be sound asleep, so who cares, right? You will probably stay out all night anyways.
The reality: Yes, go out. Have fun. But be considerate. Don’t get plastered and stumble into the dorm room at 4 a.m. If you decide to stay out all night, congratulations, you are probably 18. Whatever the case, waking everyone up because you’re drunk is a great way to get everyone to hate you. People should not be stepping over and around your vomit all night long either.
3. Staying up late
You might think… You have headphones. You can whisper to your boyfriend via Skype at 1 a.m. You think you’re being quiet. This is a hostel. People can deal.
The reality: Like staying out late and barfing on the floor, this is a great way to make everyone in the room hate you. Although you’re all adults and can make your own bedtime, I’ve learned that most hostels have an unspoken “midnight” clause. At midnight, the lights generally go out, and if you do need to stay up and do something, just make sure you’re being considerate. There are usually book lights that can be used for this purpose, but also consider going into the common room. I tend to stay at outdoorsy-adventurous-type hostels, where the majority of people go to bed fairly early and get up fairly early to see the sights. Obviously, this rule may not apply to party hostels.
4. Getting up early
You might think… You have a 6 a.m. flight. You need to snooze a few times to feel rested like you do when you are at home, in your own room. You must pack the morning of, and turn the lights on at 4 a.m. Just for a minute. You have to fit everything into this noisy, plastic bag. It’ll just be a minute. It’s OK, you are being quiet. This is a hostel. People can deal.
The reality: We’ve all experienced the early flight conundrum. Getting up early is unavoidable. But do your roommates a favor. Pack the night before, try not to turn any overhead lights on (that’s what flashlights and book lights are for). Avoid plastic bags if you can, and make sure you wake up to your alarm the first time. No one needs to hear your “waves” alarm more than once.
5. Shower sandals
You might think… Showering with sandals is weird. Why should you wear them? What’s the worst that can happen? You don’t wear sandals in a hotel shower, and that’s also shared with other people, technically.
The reality: ALWAYS wear shower sandals. Trust me. And if you choose not to, don’t be surprised if your roommates give you looks of disgust upon entering back into the room. And plan on investing in industrial-strength Athlete’s Foot creme sometime in the near future.
6. The kitchens
You might think… Sweet! A kitchen. You’re going to make a five-course meal and leave all of your dishes in the sink for the maids to clean up.
The reality: There are no maids. This is not a hotel. You are expected to clean everything. And dry it. And put it back. But please be thorough. People will hate on you for doing an inadequate job. No one wants to have to scrub hardened quinoa off of a plate. Also, because it’s a shared kitchen, just bear in mind the amount of dishes you really need to use. No one likes a pot-hogger.
7. Other people’s stuff
You might think… You’re drunk, and those muffins in the communal fridge look really good. You doubt they’ll notice if you take one. Oh, that’s a cute dress…
The reality: If someone leaves their belongings out in the open, leave it. Always. Food is off limits. Belongings strewn on the floor are off limits. I once had a gal, who was super sweet but probably a little crazy, try on my shoes when I was in the shower. That was an awkward situation. As fun as she probably thought she was being, don’t do that. It’s weird. Respect other people’s stuff.
8. If you snore…
You might think… You will just sleep on your side. Besides, everyone is probably wearing ear plugs.
The reality: You probably sound like a freight train coming through the room. The walls are probably shaking. But… you can’t help it. People understand that. So, if you’re unable to book a private room, be sure to let your roommates know. They’ll appreciate the warning. Don’t forget to give them permission to throw a pillow at you if it becomes unbearable.
Now that you know how to behave in a hostel, go out and conquer the world! Oh, and yes, those books on the shelf are fair game. You can take them. Just be sure to leave them for someone else at your next hostel.
Tell us your tips for first-timers in the comments…
About the author
Amanda Richardson is a fiction and travel writer based in Los Angeles. She is currently writing her second novel. She is a recent recipient of the 2014 World Nomads Travel Writing Scholarship. When she’s not writing, editing, or drinking wine, she can be found snuggling with her fiancé and her two black cats. You can read more about her writing adventures here.