Backpacker Hostel Etiquette – Do’s and Don’ts of Staying in Hostels

by | Last updated Aug 8, 2023 | Live - Accommodation, Live Work Play Travel

I love staying in hostels and I can’t emphasise enough the positives of a hostel stay. However, it only stays a positive experience when hostel etiquette is adhered to while hostel dorm living. When you stay in a hostel, you are sharing a space with a whole bunch of people and it is so important to be mindful of this space and how you act in it. Being inconsiderate in a hostel is a big no no and you wouldn’t want to be remembered for it. Adhering to my tips will ensure you remain a respectful guest. With that said, here’s my list to help you meet hostel etiquette during your hostel stay.


Who Stays in a Hostel


Everyone person and their dog stays in a hostel. They all come for the cheap accommodation and the services they provide. Like Forest Gump and his box of chocolates, you never know who you are going to get in your hostel room. This is why hostel etiquette is a must. Unfortunately, most of the rules are unwritten, they are common knowledge and only learnt when you stay in a hostel. Here are some of the golden rules of staying in a hostel.


Choose the Right Hostel


What I mean by this is, if you want to party, book into a party hostel. If you want to sleep book into a small and quieter hostel. But there are plenty more things to consider before booking a hostel stay. This is why you should read reviews of the hostel before booking. The information on booking websites such as Hostel World and will give you this information.


Hostel Etiquette – The Golden Rules of Staying in a Hostel


Most of these rules are unwritten rules so not all people adhere to them. Here’s a quick overview of the do’s and don’ts of hostel living to ensure you know your hostel etiquette.


Hostel Etiquette in the Bedrooms


Be Quiet in the Bedroom


Being quiet should be high on your backpacker hostel etiquette. Bedrooms are the quiet areas of a hostel. Bedrooms or dormitories have varying number of beds in them. From 2, 4, 6, 8 or more. You don’t have to tip toe around during the day. It is alright to talk to people in the dorm room however, keep it quiet, particularly if it is after 10pm at night. And particularly when you are in a large dorm room. This is because in many cases, lights will already be off and some people will be sleeping as they may be leaving early the next day either to sightsee for the day or possibly to work. So be mindful if you have been out drinking to be as quiet as you can. If you are the one sleeping it ain’t fun being woken up by someone making a loud commotion. If you want to chat loudly, go to the common areas.


Ways to be Quiet


  • Use earphones to listen to music
  • Whisper when talking
  • Pack the night before so you aren’t searching for items in the morning
  • Don’t let your alarm continuously ring in the morning
  • Don’t be drunk and loud
  • Stay out of other people’s room unless specifically invited in


No Bonking


Yes, I’ve put bonking in the bedroom separate to being quiet in the bedroom, although they do go together. But I felt this topic, needs its own section. Why? Well, I think it is pretty obvious. It is just downright rude to have sex in front of everyone you are sharing the room with. No-one has paid to be put into this situation. 


Keep all Your Things Together


There is limited space in hostel bedrooms which means you cannot spread all your things out. You should have your own locker space to keep your stuff in. Don’t spread it out over the floor because you will annoy your roommates. If you are needing to dry clothes or towels, do them in a laundry dryer. However, if you cannot find one, ask your bunkmate if they don’t mind you hanging them up from the bed rails.


Pack the night before you leave


One of the biggest annoyances from other travellers is when they don’t pack their bags the night before but wait till the morning. And you have to put up with zippers zipping, plastic bags rustling and growns as gear is forced into luggage because it doesn’t quite fit. Just pack the night before so you aren’t told to ‘shut-up’ and ‘f…. Off’ out of the room. People won’t want to share with you – believe me, word gets around!


Charging your Tech Gear


Most of us travel with tech gear – a phone, lap top, etc. If you need to charge you tech gear, charge them, and remove your items from the charging ports. Don’t hog them as other people will need to charge their tech gear too. And don’t take up all the charging points. Plugging in all your devices as once so no one else can charge theirs is a big no, no. Don’t be a jerk – you are sharing the space, so share.


Keep the Lights Off


Most hostels provide a personal light or lamp with each bed. This is great for when the main bedroom light is turned off. Yep, some hostels have a main light curfew! This is the time for sleep, however, if you need a bit of light, you use your lamp. And don’t try to move it to shine it at other people – that is annoying!


Hostel Etiquette in the Hostel Common Rooms


There are usually three hostel common areas – the kitchen, the bathroom and the lounge area.


Hostel Bathroom Etiquette


No-one likes walking into a bathroom to find hair in the sink, poop stuck to the toilet bowl or something scummy on the shower floor. It isn’t that hard to clean up after yourself in these situations. Don’t treat it as if you are the only one using it. Ensure to take all your things back to your room as your belongings just might be used by others or worse, stolen. And don’t hog the bathroom as others need to use it too. Be a considerate guest and get in and out as quickly as possible.


Hostel Kitchen Etiquette


Messy kitchen bench is bad hostel etiquette.

A messy hostel kitchen – who wants to walk into this?


Many hostels have a communal kitchen. And it is up to the individuals using the kitchen and its utensils to keep everything clean and tidy. Just like the bathroom, it is not fair to walk in to other hostel guests messes they have left behind. It is just so inconsiderate. Plus, after covid-19 many wonder if everything has been properly cleaned after each use. I would suggest you wash things before you use them. So while you are using the kitchen also ensure you don’t hog all the appliances and utensils. And definitely ensure you clean them and put them all away after use.


Hostel Laundry Etiquette


Not all hostels offer a laundry where you will have access to a washing machine and / or a dryer. If they do, like the other common areas, be courteous and wait your time to wash or dry your clothes. Don’t steal other people’s washing powder – if you don’t have any, ask for some and offer a couple of dollars for it.


Hostel Lounge Room Etiquette


All hostels will have a common area for its guests to relax and meet other hostel guests. The area may just have seats for you to relax in and chat with other guests. Or they may have a TV, board games, pack of cards and other things for you to use. Ensure you don’t hog the items and pack them up after use. 


Hostel Etiquette Overall


Be Respectful of Other Travellers and the Hostel


Being respectful to other travellers, their things and the tiny area that is theirs (their bed), is top of my list. You need to be aware of other people and not take liberties from them. This means, don’t sit on their bed uninvited because you are on the top bunk. Don’t touch other people’s stuff as they may get annoyed. And be respectful to all the things belonging to the hostel, keep them safe and in good working order for future fellow travellers. Being respectful will help you have a better stay.


Be Nice to Everyone


Being nice to everyone at the hostel creates a friendly and comfortable atmosphere. A good atmosphere helps you have a better stay. It is easier to relax and enjoy your stay when there is peace and calm around you. And being nice doesn’t cost you anything!


Be respectful to the staff


The hostel staff are an important part of any hostel and it is important to be respectful to them. You would know that if you have had a job in a hostel yourself. You can do this by being friendly towards them and not leaving messes for them to clean up. And if there is no bottom bunk available, don’t blame them – request it when booking, but it cannot always be guaranteed.

TIP: Sometimes staying in a hostel can get on my nerves. When it does, I splurge on a night (or two) in a budget hotel. I think it’s OK to spoil yourself sometimes! I turn to Booking dot com when I need time to myself to find accommodation.


Wrapping up on Hostel Etiquette


I will continuously say that hostels are great to stay in but a key to having a good stay is to bide by hostel etiquette rules. The living conditions in each hostel can be different and you need to be flexible with them. The more easy going, adaptable, flexible, reasonable and respectful you are, the better your hostel stay. Keep all my hostel etiquette tips and tricks in mind for your next stay to be a respectful guest who would be invited to stay anywhere. Have you got any other tips on hostel etiquette? I’d love to hear in the comments following.

If you prefer to stay in a hotel or motel there are many things to consider before finding the perfect room. And if looking for the perfect room check out – it not only has hostel listings but plenty of hotel, motel and resort listings as well.


Hostel Etiquette - the do's and don'ts of staying in a hostel - sitting on other people's bed is a no no.

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Sharyn McCullum Travel Writer and Founder Of Live Work Play Travel, Work Abroad, Work Online, Travel Blog Enjoying At Beer At The Coldstream Brewery In The Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia.

Sharyn McCullum – Travel Writer / Blogger, Remote On-line Worker, sometime Digital Nomad and Travel, Live and Work Abroad Expert. Is a chocoholic, coffee connoisseur and lover of ’80s music. Been travelling all her life thanks to her dad who worked for an airline. Lived in London 4 years on a working holiday. Has holidayed in Hawaii over 15 times and currently calls Melbourne, Australia home. Is inspiring others to live work play travel around the world with this blog. Read more about Sharyn here.


  1. Kim

    I stay in hostels and love it. You’ve put together a great post outlining how we can all live together in comfort while in the hostel.

  2. Shreya

    I wish I could send this list to every annoying person I’ve had to deal with in the hostel rooms. Great post!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Maybe carry printed copies with you, then you could hand them out! Just saying.

  3. Taylor

    I’ve stayed in tons of hostels and think this advice is so important. I’d add that if you buy food to store in the kitchen or refrigerator, but sure to label it with your name and date. The staff need to know if they can toss something or not.

  4. Kia Byrd

    Your tips are spot on! When I was younger, I stayed in my fair share of hostels when I traveled and these tips are a must. The hostels that I have stayed in have been fairly new and renovated with most housing between 2-4 people. I did stay in an 8 person room at the Generator Hostel in London and had a good experience by following many of your etiquette rules.

    • Sharyn McCullum

      As long as we respect each other in hostels I think we have a good stay. And that is how it should be!

  5. Yanitza

    I think this is super important and people barely talk about it. Great advice on how to properly do things when staying with others.

  6. Annie

    I’ve stayed in a variety of hostels, and had a variety of experiences. Perhaps the nicest one was in New Zealand where there were four bunks to a room. The young guy already in our room immediately realised we were a couple and offered to see if he could move elsewhere to give us privacy. Fortunately, there was space at that time for him to do that. As we were on our honeymoon (he didn’t know that) we were especially grateful.

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Even on your honeymoon you stayed in a hostel – that was brave! Sounds like it worked out well.

  7. Lina

    I can still remember the first time I stayed in a hostel in Rome! Before I read a couple of such posts as I always find them super helpful. Definitely saving this too!


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