When staying at hostels, there are some unwritten rules which everybody should follow. Most of these hostel etiquette are common sense rules for a nice cohabitation and travel experience. No worries, those rules are not there to take away the fun; quite the contrary actually!
Wanna know hostel dormitories unwritten rules? Here you have our advice for staying in hostels and how to be a good hostel buddy.
First time at Hostels? You might have plenty of doubts. We’ve collected plenty of information about hostels to help you out:
- What is a Hostel?: 7 definitions and one final answer
- Hostel room types: which one should you pick?
- 7 types of hostels: party, traditional, lifestyle… Get to know the different types of hostels
We even collected a full guide to hostels in Europe, with everything you need to know.
This includes hostel booking sites – find out which we recommend.
Going back to the subject we were talking about, here you go…
Hostel Etiquette: the unwritten hostel rules
Okay, let us have a look on HOW NOT BE A TOTAL ASS when staying at hostels.
After all, you do not want to be the worst hostel guest ever (<<< read this fun guide!!!)
There are some rules regarding the dorms, the hostel showers and also for when the lights go out.
If you are wondering about how to have sex in hostels, well, that is a huge topic. We wrote up a special guide to how to have sex in hostels here.
Alright, you’ve got your hostel(s) sorted out? Then let’s find out how we all can make life-time friendships at hostels – and how not to be an ass.
Never stayed in a Hostel in your life? Read our guide on staying for the very first time in a hostel
1. Respect each other, please
The number one unwritten rule for hostels, and also life, is: Respect!
Basically, it implies these common sense rules for a nice coexistence.
Treat people as you would like to be treated,
keep the space as you would like to find it.
Just a quick summary of good hostel manners:
- be tidy and clean
- if it’s not yours, don’t take it
- don’t walk around naked as you would alone
- don’t turn on the lights unnecessarily in the dorms
- don’t hang your washed clothes inside the dorm
- don’t smash the doors
- do not use other dorm mates space (or things!)
- leave the common spaces at least as clean as you found them
Basically: Do not behave like a douche-bag. Emphasize respect and be kind!
2. Use your padlock – your key to safety
This is more a rule for your own safety, or better to say the safety of your valuables.
Your padlock will be your major treasure. It will be the key to your world, to your things.
When staying in a dorm, having your stuff in a locker will keep them safe.
Many modern hostels also have super cool bunk beds with their own lockers inside your little capsule, so to say.
The photo below shows Casa Pepe in Mexico City. You see, the locker is big enough for your valuables, but not your luggage. Also, bring a padlock!
We always travel with two, small padlocks. Why? It is simply handy to have two small ones, one for the locker, one for your day-bag.
A padlock should be:
- strong and solid – not one you could crack open with a rusty spoon
- combination lock with 4 digits (just so you don’t need to carry a key with you at the risk losing it!)
- compact size
We go into more detail in our guide what to pack when staying in Hostels.
Read: Are hostels safe? Our best tips about safety at hostels.
3. Wanna cook? Clean up afterwards
The worst thing when you want to cook is not having any pot or space clean to start preparing your food!
Don’t be that person who uses all the kitchen pots and spaces and leave them just there to do the dishes later.
That may work at your place, but in a common kitchen others may also like to cook just after you, or even at the same time.
Use the pots you need and clean them directly. Leave everything tidy.
Read: A fun guide about cooking in Hostels
Photo: kitchen at Hektor Design Hostel in Tartu
4. A smile goes a long way (in a hostel and anywhere)
A good way to start to meet people is with a simple smile.
You would be surprised how much it helps to start a conversation! I am sure you have many many things to speak about…
If not, no worries, good listeners are also much appreciated. Remember, a hostel is there to help you meet people, to mingle and have fun. Nobody likes negative nancies!
And certainly nobody wants to talk to someone complaining all day long.
Read: +150 short travel stories in less than 30 seconds.
5. Silent mode (at least at Night)
This actually goes without saying, but it seems like people need a reminder sometimes. Silent mode is a good idea! And not just for your cell phone.
Keep silence in Dorms
Common areas are meant to hang out, meet people, or have telephone conversations.
Use them and do not disturb your dorm mates.
Every hostel has different rules. Many hostels have the common area completely separated from the rooms.
Other hostels have them nearby; then it might be hard to hang out at midnight.
Our own story: We once stayed in a hostel where the common area was right in front of the dorms. At 8pm we were sitting there with new friends, chatting, having a drink when a fellow hostel mate came out of his room to complain.
He complained it was 8pm, we should “shut up“, go to bed or out etc.
He was extremely rude, and actually quite aggressive. And again, it was only 8pm. Even the receptionist told him all people can hang out here until 11pm.
Anyways, you see, some people take it to an extreme. Maybe this guy had a rough day, or maybe he should not stay at a hostel at all when he expects total silence at 8pm. Needless to say, this guy was not everyones favorite…
Photo taken at Maverick City Lodge, the 5 Star Hostel in Budapest.
6. A note for Early and Late birds
If you arrive at the hostel very late/ early, just prepare all the stuff you will need outside of the dorm before you go in.
That way, you won’t disturb your dorm mates.
There’s nothing more irritating than the unpacking noise of plastic bags while you are sleeping (or trying to get to sleep).
Prepare for the next day, especially if you have to catch a flight in the morning. Do you want to take a shower before leaving? Then leave your towel and toiletries ready.
It is also recommend not to take a shower at 4am in the morning; in case the showers can be heard in the sleeping areas.
If you have a super early flight, better to take a shower the night before.
Also good to know: If you already know you’ll be arriving super late, consider staying in a private room. Late Check-In can even cost extra at some hostels. Plus, it can be extremely uncomfortable for you and all other guests if you arrive at 4am in the dorm.
That bring us to…
7. Hostel Etiquette: Lights
Keep the lights off in the dorms.
If you are arriving late, use a flashlight when entering the dorm (yes, you do have a torch on your cell phone).
Therefore, after a padlock and travel adapter, always bring a small flashlight for your key chain with you.
Out of battery? Just wait 30 seconds.
Your eyes will adjust to the light. Then, it will be easier to find your bed.
In the very rare case, you can switch on the light in the middle of the night…
Before you accidentally jump in the bed of your fellow hostel mate, turn on the lights and make it over to your bed.
Always keep in mind: be respectful.
8. Party Time! Outside the hostel, please …
If you wanna party and you are not staying at a party hostel, it is better to have a meeting point at the hostel.
Get a fixed meeting point in the common area so you can all introduce yourselves, and then move to somewhere else to party.
Actually, a lot of hostel accommodations already take care of this. They bring together the people at a certain time to head out to a bar or club. Keep your eyes open or ask at the reception.
Other guests would prefer to relax, so they would appreciate your kind consideration.
If you are in a party hostel, like Gili Castle on Gili Trawangan, Indonesia, the party must not go into the dorms. Dorms are the place to rest.
Parties will be held at the bar.
Respect other guest’s rest!
Read: all the different 7 types of hostels here
9. Tag it! (Your food)
No…we are not talking about hashtags like #wanderlust and #friendsforlife!
Before putting your food in the fridge or on shelves simply tag your food with your name and departure date.
With this small gesture, you will not just show which food is yours; you will also help the hostel staff to keep the food area clean and tidy.
Also, your travel mates could use that sauce that you did not finish in case they are curious about it once you left.
Usually, hostels leave post-its prepared next to the fridge.
Use them! If there is no pen or anything to mark your food, ask the staff for help.
Photo taken at Maverick Hostel, one of the best hostels in Budapest, Hungary
10. Don’t use the dorm as a porn set
Dorms are not the place to have sex…your dorm mates WILL hear you, definitely! Seriously, you know it, we know it, everybody knows it!
At least, if you are doing it with a small degree of skill, everybody will hear you.
There are private rooms in case you are thinking about having sex.
Just book the right room type before traveling. Or you can always adapt to the situation.
Room types? Yes, there are many types to choose from. Read our guide to different room types in hostels here.
You wanna know all the rules about Sex in Hostels? Have a look at our top tips and Dos and don’ts…
11. The bathroom is not your SPA
The bathroom is a common area, not a personal spa. I know it is difficult sometimes…bathrooms can be so beautiful!
Like the one on the photo below at Memory Hostel in Da Nang, Vietnam.
Take into consideration that there are some other travelers which may also need it.
We are not saying you should not enjoy your shower. Just use common sense and don’t block the bathroom for the next 3 hours.
12. Be aware of your moods
Not an early morning person? No worries, you are not alone. There are plenty of them around the world. Just be aware about your routines and moods during the day (and night) so you can co-live better with other fellow-travelers.
Remember, you are at a hostel. It is easy to build life-long friendships here.
In the photo: Having dinner at The Common Room Project, the top choice of all the best hostels in Ho Chi Minh City.
13. Regard hostel vibes, rules, and ambience
Hostels have written rules which must be respected.
Also, if the ambience is very chilled, don’t attempt to party.
Get an idea about the hostel guides and vibes you will find.
How? Easy, read other travelers’ comments about their stay and our 5 Star Hostel reviews.
Here are the hostel rules from Ani&Haakien Hostel in Rotterdam:
- Follow the rules
- Laugh a lot and make friends
- Return the key to the reception when you leave (also your locker key)
- Don’t bring shady friends to the house
- Please: Clean up after yourself
- No food or drink in the bedrooms please
- We are not responsible for loss or damage of your stuff
- Check out time is 11AM
- Sheets are a must. When you leave, take your sheets in the laundry basket at the reception
- If you have food you do not intend to use, please leave it at the FREE food shelf
- It is not allowed to use drugs in or around the hostel
- For unjustified use of fire extinguisher, we charge at least a fine of 500€
- Please do not make to much noise between 11PM and 7AM, think about other guests
- Common room closes at 2AM
- If you need anything, ask us!
14. Don’t snooze the alarm every 5 minutes
Waking up with an alarm? It is ok, but…
Don’t postpone the alarm every 5 minutes if you don’t wanna get killed by a fellow hostel mate.
It is VERY annoying.
Just imagine if everybody would do that?! It would be a huge mess…
Therefore: Yes, most people are okay for you to use your alarm clock. Come on, how else can you wake up to get a flight, train etc?! But play fair and do not postpone a single time.
Oh, and please choose a gentle alarm sound. Nobody likes that sound from a horror movie…
Remember, you do not want to be the worst hostel guest on the planet.
Here’s our guide of how to be the worst guest ever.
15. Be friendly, my friend
Just as Bruce Lee says that you must be shapeless like water…
Okay, that sounds weird, maybe you got it already. We recommend you to be friendly at a hostel.
That will help you meet more people! A “Hello” goes a long way in a hostel. It all starts with a simple “hi“. It works in every language and breaks the ice right away.
The huge advantage about a hostel is the mindset of the people. Almost every person staying in a hostel knows it’s a shared space and are open to chat.
If you are an introvert person staying at a hostel, try to join the events organized by the hostel. This can be anything from family-dinners to walking tours. It usually is easier to connect this way.
16. Book exchange? Great! We love it
Have you ever tried book exchange?
Is the best way to be able to read during your trip and not carrying lots of books.
Plus, you can discover new authors.
Take a look at the books and in case you find any interesting book, swap it with yours. Easy!
A book exchange means you leave an old book of yours, and you take a new one with you. A book-swap really.
17. A mask and earplugs can save you from your worst night
Sleeping in dorms is normally not a problem, as people respect each other. NORMALLY!
But we’ve all heard about travelers who had met some disrespectful travelers.
Those people won’t let you have a wink of sleep during the night.
And neither will snorers!
In that case, just be prepared. This is not really hostel etiquette, but something you should really pack and bring with you.
Smart Tip: You can get a combo pack with ear plugs and and eye mask here.
Read: the ultimate hostel packing list with 23 things to pack
Photo: 5 Star Hostel Nexy Hostel, one of the top hostels in Hanoi, Vietnam
18. Sharing is caring
Leaving the hostel and have some stuff which you won’t need any more?
Share it with the other travel mates, they will appreciate it!
Hostels do normally have a section where you can leave the food, or any toiletries you have left over for the other fellow travelers.
Ani&Haakien even has a corner with odd items you want to leave for some other travelers.
Update: 19. No Prostitutes allowed
We found this sign at an accommodation…
Sometimes, rules make you wonder what happened. What exactly happened that the hostel has to put the rules in a written form? Pretty sure there must be some crazy stories behind this.
Update: 20. Snorers of the world: Get a private room!
We get this question quite a lot:
“Should I stay in a dorm when I snore?” Is it okay to stay in a dorm when I know I snore?”
The answer is simple: NO!
Come on, please do not be that person that everyone hates the next morning.
We once stayed in an 8-bed dorm in Chiang Rai, Thailand. There was one guy snoring so loud we thought the roof might fall off. Seriously, we have never heard that level of snoring.
It would have been impressive and funny, but truth be told, we could not sleep until 5am. We then decided to “wake up” and go out.
So, please, snorers of the world: Do not stay in a dorm! You will not make friends this way.
A great way to find hostels with private rooms is Hostelz.com. They have these special guides like best hostels in Amsterdam with Private Rooms.
FAQ about Hostels
Before you take off, here is a list of common questions that can help you as well.
Can 2 people sleep in 1 hostel bed?
Technically, two people can sleep in 1 hostel bed. BUT you still have to pay 2 beds, and every guest also gets 1 single bed. If you end up in the same bed because you miss your partner (or whatever), you could do this.
Make sure you do not disturb other people in the room.
In a nutshell, you cannot compare 1 bed for 2 people in a hostel to save money. That does not work. Sorry.
What do you wear to sleep in a hostel?
Underwear is a very good start.
Please, do not be that person sleeping naked in a hostel. That is totally inappropriate. Best is to wear a t-shirt and short pants.
Do you have to be 18 to stay in a hostel?
If you are under 18 and unaccompanied by an adult you must have written authorization from a parent or guardian. However, some hostels have a strict rule not to accept guests younger than 18.
Is there an age limit on hostels?
Talking about age limits, some hostels even have a maximum age limit. Meaning, only people from 18 to 40 can stay.
Now, usually these are very party-ish hostels, and it does not happen so often. However, keep this in mind.
Do you tip at hostels?
No, this is not very common. Usually this is also not expected or required like you'd do it in high-end hotels. However, you can show your appreciation for sure. Please keep in mind, that in certain culture you do not tip at all as it could be seen as an insult.
Summary of 18 unwritten hostel rules
See? Surely you could guess most of the unwritten rules, as they are common sense.
Nevertheless, summarizing them helps to give a great idea of what to expect and be aware of the hostel etiquette.
Remember to read the particular rules at the hostel you are staying at.
Hostels normally have their rules written on the room doors.
You might expect to sing them during the check-in process also.
Here we collected 26 fun hostel games you can bring to make more friends!
Need more information about for staying in hostels? Then read:
- Full guide to Hostels in Europe
- Female dorms: pros and cons
- Hostel room types
- How to Travel on a Budget? Simple Tips for Saving Money on Your Next Trip
Do you think we missed something? Comment it below so we can add it!