While I claim to love backpacking, I have to admit that I don’t enjoy dorms where people don’t have hostel etiquette. In fact the last time I stayed in a dorm was probably 6 years ago on an organized tour – where I had no choice but to sleep with my fellow travellers. While this may seem a little dramatic and an obvious waste of money I truly believe the extra few bucks for a double room is always well worth the money. Not only do I like to spread my stuff out throughout the room but I hate the sound of snoring while I sleep (which is pretty much a guarantee when you sleep in a dorm) but I also hate being concerned about disturbing people when I either wake up early or come in late, fears of theft (which sadly is where more travellers get robbed) and I loathe other people’s mess. You may call me a backpacking snob but it’s the one luxury I usually afford myself. Sometimes dorms aren’t even an option- such as in Asia or Africa but in South America, Europe and Australia/NZ a dorm room is always the more affordable option. Recently, on a solo trip, I decided to save a few bucks and test out whether I could handle dorm living again. I made sure the place I stayed had small, clean dorms but I was still stuck in a room with 3 complete strangers. Sadly, I hate to admit it- it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. It was fun meeting new people and learning about their cultures. I had a Korean girl in my room that showed my pictures of her village in South Korea and even invited me to stay with her family, even though she wouldn’t be there when I visited South Korea. The beds were just as comfortable and I still had lots of room to spread my stuff out. While I did encounter the occasional snorer, I was usually able to sleep through it and the room lockers safeguarded me against any thoughts of theft. However, I did realize that dorm and hostel goers (at least the good kind) tend to follow a code of ethics- it’s kind of – a “do onto others as you want done onto you” mentality. Below is a list of hostel etiquette that any backpacker should follow if they want to maintain an easy going and enjoyable hostel experience for themselves and those around them.
Hostel Etiquette Guidelines
Room Cleanliness – Hostel Etiquette Tip #1
Make sure you keep you area and overall room clean- nothing is worse than a dirty person whose moldy towel and dirty socks are strewn across the room.
Sexual Encounters - Hostel Etiquette Tip #2
DO NOT have sex with a fellow traveller or anyone for that matter on the same bunk or within eyes reach of a sleeping backpacker. Not only is it uncomfortable for the non partaking party to hear/watch- it is completely unnecessary. Just pay for a private room for the night and get it on in privacy.
Stealing - Hostel Etiquette Tip #3
You know- one of those Ten Commandments- Don’t Steal- well follow it. When sharing a room, one of the most violating feelings is the thought that someone within your immediate proximity is a thief. If it’s not yours don’t take it or use it without asking the owner first. Using the same line of reasoning, if you see food in the fridge that looks good or would compliment your meal nicely but it’s not yours- do not take it. All backpackers are on a tight budget and they ration their food accordingly. So act respectfully- you wouldn’t want someone going through your stuff and helping themselves.
Coming in and out of the room - Hostel Etiquette Tip #4
Whether it’s waking up early to go early crack of dawn sightseeing or coming in late after a night of hitting up the bars- be quiet. If the lights are out, don’t turn them all on. Just turn on your bed light / use a flashlight and go about your business. If you want to reminisce about your drunken night do it in the communal area and try your best not to wake up your neighbours.
Cleaning up - Hostel Etiquette Tip #6
Clean up after yourself! A successful hostel operates almost like a Kibbutz, which each backpacker contributing to its day-to-day functioning. For instance, if you decide to cook up a feast – make sure when you are done you clean your dishes – it’s unfair to the next person who wants to use that pot that they should clean the pot you just cooked tomato sauce in.
Phone/ Computer Usage - Hostel Etiquette Tip #7
If it’s a small place with limited resources don’t dominate the one computer or phone. Try to be cognizant of your fellow travellers waiting in line and keep it at a 15 minute max.
Staff - Hostel Etiquette Tip #8
Be respectful to the staff- not only can these people be a great resource for the area but if they like you they can seriously hook you up: Such as; upgrading your room, providing you with free internet / phone usage and other special privileges. I once had a hostel worker in Mozambique take me to his house and it was such a memorable experience to see firsthand how the locals lived.
Snoozing - Hostel Etiquette Tip #9
While its always a good idea to set an alarm, if you have limited days in a city, its not a good idea to snooze 5 times in a dorm room before deciding to get up. While you may not feel like waking up at the instant your dorm neighbors definitely do not want the sound of a alarm bell ringing through their ears multiple times in the morning. If you set your alarm make sure you turn off your alarm right away and get your lazy butt out of bed.