Now for those of you seasoned travellers who have been both the victim and the culprit of poor hostel etiquette, you may not feel the need to read on. HOWEVER, spending over half a year in and out of dorms, shared bathrooms and an impressive range of hostels has taught me that most people are blissfully unaware of their hostelling habits; even those of us who are pretty clued up can often slip the standards after a long journey or big night out. So here is, shall we say, a reminder of the Do’s and Don’ts of hostelling just to make them known once and for all…
Match the Mood
If you’re massively in the mood for a party, pick a hostel to match to avoid aggy roommates and embarrassing yourself in front of a load of people having a casual drink at the bar. Equally, if you’re wanting some down time don’t be the kill joy in bed at 8pm that makes everyone else feel awkward – find a quieter hostel to unwind and everyone is a winner.
Top tip: For reliable party hostels in South America, Wild Rover and Loki will sort you out in Peru and Bolivia. Anything ‘eco hostel’ tends to be at the other end of the scale…
Some people, wait a lot of people in fact, simply never learned the valuable difference between the indoor and outdoor voice. Or those that did lose it somewhere in the bar. Especially on an evening, try to keep the volume down when near sleeping areas and in your dorm.
Top tip: Shut it
Always a contentious issue; you really need to find your charger but there’s a girl in bed with the lights out at dinner time and you don’t want to wake her up. This one is a bit of a judgement call. Generally speaking you’re completely in your own rights to turn on the lights when it’s still considered to be daytime, but try not to be in and out of the room every 5 minutes coming back for something else – get what you need and try to leave them in peace. After 10/11pm or before 8am, try not to turn the lights on unless it’s really necessary.
Top tip: Invest in a torch and you’ll make life a lot easier in the night!
I have to admit that I sometimes struggle to abide by this one myself when you’re lacking a drop of oil or a clove or garlic for your meal, but when it happens to you it is really annoying. For hostels with a communal kitchen, label your stuff (or else they usually make it communal or chuck it out) and keep your hands off other people’s labelled stuff! If you’re in desperate need of something just ask someone or head to the shop!
Top tip: Start a grocery bag of the herbs, pastas and sauces that you pick up so that you don’t have to buy from scratch every time you want to cook a meal (but make sure everything is properly sealed!). Squirrel away any sachets of sauce or butter portions you come across to save buying them later.
Don’t Be Shy
Sometimes when you arrive at hostels and people are already in groups talking, or, even worse, nobody is talking, it can be daunting trying to make friends. But you’d be surprised at just how easy it is to strike up conversation and the next thing you know, you’ve got a group together for dinner. Don’t be afraid to say hi or introduce yourself, especially when you first arrive.
Top tip: Break the ice and get people interacting by suggesting a game of flip-cup or beer pong
When travelling in hostels it’s important to keep your stuff tidy and organised not only so that it doesn’t get lost or stolen, but also so that people aren’t tripping over your strewn shoes or stepping over your dirty underwear. Try not to leave everything lying around – remember your mum isn’t here to clean up after you anymore!
Top tip: Set yourself a bedside pile and stick to it
After months of jumping from bed to bed, it’s inevitable that you’ll pick up on more and more things that annoy you about people’s habits and, in fact, people in general. However if you abide by these rules yourselves and try to be as understanding as possible of drunken messes and late arrivals, you’ll hopefully get along with your hostel roommates just fine.