When you are living alone in your studio apartment or in a shared apartment with housemates, household behavior can be laid-back, maybe a little lazy, or even messy. However, when sharing a hostel with dozens of other travelers, the rules change. Yet, not everyone has an understanding or respect for hostel etiquette. Good manners sometimes fly out the window. When sharing common spaces with a multitude of strangers, there are a few points of hostel etiquette that should be kept in mind.
The exploding backpack. Dorms are packed with as many bunk beds as the owner can fit, leaving little space for backpacks. Therefore, it is polite to keep your belongings on, under, or shoved close to your bed. Having a bag that has objects exploding out of it is also an easy opportunity to get something stolen, not to mention an open invitation to creepy crawlers such as scorpions who like to hang out in small dark spaces.
Pots in the refrigerator. It’s understandable that when you have leftovers after cooking that you want to save the food. So here’s a travel tip: bring Tupperware. You can even find collapsible versions at REI. It comes in handy all the time, and you won’t take up space in an already crowded fridge; as well as freeing the pot for others who need to use it.
Peace and quiet. If you are a person who snores in their sleep, consider getting a private room. A light snore is one thing, but if your breathing resembles a freight train, it brings things to another level. If a private room is not in your budget, consider traveling with earplugs for your fellow dormitory roommates—possibly placing a pair on each pillow in the evening; like a mint at a nice hotel.
Washing your dishes is a simple task. It doesn’t take much time, and usually when cooking in a hostel you use minimal dishware anyhow. Cooking supplies are often very limited in hostel kitchens, so washing promptly after use is possibly the most important courtesy in hostels.
Flush the damn toilet! This should go without saying, but too many times I’ve lifted the lid to sights that cause me to gag. I don’t believe that it’s possible to forget to flush between the time you stand up and when you finish buckling your pants. If it’s brown…flush it down. Hell, I don’t care what color it is, flush it!
Check your surroundings. Not everyone is an early riser, or an early sleeper for that matter. Before making a lot of noise, or chatting it up with other roommates, it’s a nice gesture to take a look around to check if anyone is sleeping. Everyone has a different sleeping schedule, including people who might have to wake up at 5 AM to catch a twelve-hour bus to their next city. So, whether you’re coming into a dorm late at night or rising in the morning, it’s good etiquette to keep the noise level to a minimum if people are sleeping.
You stink! Personal hygiene is something that at times becomes more lax while traveling. Showers are limited and shared with many others—this is true. However, they are still there, and should still be used. What amazes me is when you meet people who reek of flat out body odor, and yet they don’t smell it on themselves! I recently shared a dorm with a nice fellow, but who I could smell from across the room. He didn’t shower or change his clothes in the four days he was in that hostel, even after going on a long hike. On the last night it was so bad that my friend and I ended up asking the night guard if we could spend the night in another room, which we did. Showers and deodorant are great inventions—use them, if not for you, do it for the sake of others.
Overall, staying in hostels is a great experience, made more enjoyable when people have shared respect for others. Keep these points of etiquette in mind the next time you find yourself in a hostel. Maybe when you see, hear, or smell someone who needs a little reminder, print out this list and leave it on his or her bed.