Hostel Etiquette: The Do’s and Don’ts


Ever stayed in a hostel dorm room with one, or a few people, who missed the memo on mutual respect?

Sharing a space with 4-12 other people, depending on room size, comes with a set of unwritten rules that in all honesty, should be common sense. But after traveling in Mexico for the last 6 months staying in many-a-hostel with all sorts of international characters (in mixed dorms, female-only dorms, outside in a bed under the stars, in posadas, cabanas, hammocks, etc.), I’ve found that a select few just don’t get it.

Ok, let’s cut these people a little slack – maybe they were never told, or maybe they’ve never stayed in a shared living space before. But ignorance can only be used as an excuse for so long.

This one goes out to you, annoying drunk guy at 3AM making all that unnecessary noise. And you, passionate lovers in the bottom bunk. Oh, and let’s not forget the cliquey set who refuse to say hello. Rude!

Don’t fall victim to these faux pas. Here are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to staying in hostels.

Etiquette rules for staying in a hostel.


  • Say hello and make friends! Travelers are your best resource to what’s cool, places you should eat, and where you should consider going next.
  • Offer something you don’t need to someone in need. See someone struggling to close a bag and you have a bevy of hair ties? Be a pal.
  • Keep your stuff to a reasonable floor footprint. No one likes the person whose stuff is all over the floor, the bed, the shelves AND the bathroom. You don’t live here, you’re just staying here.
  • Bring everything you need to the bathroom with you when showering. Don’t be that person traipsing around barefoot in a towel.
  • Shower! Wash your clothes! Replace your shoes when they stink. Please.
Things to do and not do when staying in a hostel


  • Turn on the light if people are sleeping. That’s what your flashlight/phone/other device that lights up is for.
  • Pack your bags while people are sleeping. Have an early morning excursions/departure? Early enough to still be dark outside? Do us all a favor and pack your bags the night before.
  • Have sex in a dorm. Shared dorms are not for sex. That’s why private rooms exist. Can’t afford one/none available? There has to be some vacant common area somewhere. Or you can just opt to not have sex for the time being. No one wants to wake up to the sounds of amateur porn in the bottom bunk. Or worse, the top.

Hostel etiquette rules

The hostel set are by-in-large a compassionate bunch, and we’ve all broken one of these rules at one time or another. As far as I’m concerned, you get one free pass. Maybe two. Don’t make it a habit or you will become who I’m talking about. Directly. Right now.

You may be thinking, ‘Jesus, staying in a hostel sounds like the worst.’ It’s awesome, I swear – affordable, social, comfortable and the best way to backpack through a country.

Also, just for the record, 95 percent of the people who I’ve shared a space with have been fun, clean, friendly and respectful. But it only takes a few really bad experiences in a short period to provoke a bitter blog post. Am I right?

Bring These With You When You Stay in Hostels

There are two very small things to pack that will make a huge difference when your sleep is interrupted, solo female traveler. Say it with me. Write it down.

Eye mask. Earplugs.

Sometimes, people snore. They can’t help it. But that doesn’t mean you have to hear it. Eye mask. Earplugs. Rinse. Repeat.

What are your rules for hostel etiquette?


About Author

Ellen wanders. She wandered her way through Europe in 2007 during a semester abroad in Madrid, then through parts of the South Pacific after college graduation, and spent a year in South and Central America during 2010. Most recently, she went on a solo adventure south of the border to research and write the travel guidebook Go Girl Guides: Mexico.


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