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Hostel Etiquette: How To Make Friends And Not Be An Ass

Hosteling is an art. We'll help you hone your skills.

Hostels & Lodging

My Midwestern roots make me hypersensitive to being polite. It is a sickness. I’ve been known to take my backpack into the hallway when people are sleeping so I won’t disturb anyone.

There are many unwritten rules to hostel etiquette and after spending a few weeks in a hostel you’ll start to pick up on the little annoying/rude things people do. I think most “infractions” boil down to being inexperienced with hostel living, but there are a few cardinal rules that every hosteler should be aware of.

The Unwritten Rules Of Hostel Life

Here are The Savvy Backpacker’s unwritten rules to being a good hostel goer.

Clean Your Own Dishes

Hostels with kitchens are great, but many people just leave their dirty dishes in the sink. This isn’t cool. Even if you only use a cup – wash it. It only takes 2 minutes so there are no excuses.

Pack Your Crap Early

When I have to check out of the hostel super early I always get everything ready and shower the night before.  I make sure everything is packed, and I set out my outfit for the next day. The next morning I get dressed, stash my sleeping clothes and I’m out of the room in 5 minutes. I do my best to keep as quiet as possible. This concept is lost on many people. There aren’t many things more annoying than someone spending 30 minutes loudly packing all of their belongings at 5 am.

The next morning I get dressed, stash my sleeping clothes and I’m out of the room in 5 minutes. I do my best to keep as quiet as possible. This concept is lost on many people. There aren’t many things more annoying than someone spending 30 minutes loudly packing all of their belongings at 5 am.

Keep The Lights Off When You’re Late

Every hostel has one jerk who barges into the room and flips the lights on at 3 am. Most rooms aren’t pitch black so just take 30 seconds to let your eyes adjust to the light before finding your bed. Or use a key chain flashlight or the light from your phone.

No Parties In The Dorm Room

The dorm room isn’t for drinking games, it’s for sleeping. Almost every hostel has a room for parties. Keep it there.

All Is Fair After 8 am

Rule 37 of the Geneva Convention – Thou shall not get pissed at the people packing/getting ready for their day if the time is after 8 am.  In our humble opinion, after 8 am people are free to do whatever they please so don’t all get pissy because you’re hungover. There is no such thing as sleeping in when you’re at a hostel.

Plastic Bags Suck

For some reason, the sound of plastic bags is about 100x louder from about 1 am-8 am. Every crinkle goes straight to your brain. Unfortunately, a lot of people pack all their junk in various plastic bags.  Please keep your plastic bag usage time during the day.


Sleep on your side if you snore. Tell your roommates that it’s cool if they hit you with a pillow if you start snoring. Get your own room if you’re a crazy loud snorer.

Don’t Hog The Heaters

The radiator is a great place to dry your towel/wet clothes, but try not to hog it all day. Conversely, don’t just throw people’s towels onto the floor when you want to use the heater – fold it neatly and place it somewhere.

Keep Night Whispers To A Minimum

Whispering late at night isn’t much better than normal talking. This isn’t the time to have a deep philosophical discussion.

Alarm Clocks

Most people use their phones as an alarm clock. This isn’t a problem. But please don’t stash your phone somewhere deep in your bag because scrambling through it for 5 minutes while the alarm goes off is pretty damn annoying. Make sure you put your phone in an accessible location. On a related note: the snooze is prohibited.

Loud Drunks

Getting drunk is fine, but leave the loud drunk-talk at the bar.

Don’t Hog The Bathroom

Get in, get out. Enough said.

Don’t Eat Other People’s Food

Just because something is in the refrigerator doesn’t mean anyone can eat it. Stealing someone’s alcohol is a big no-no.

Dirty Laundry

I really don’t have a problem with people drying their laundry in the room – but keep it confined to your bed. I really don’t want to deal with your dirty socks hung about the bathroom and across the sink.

Guitar Dude

Seriously? You’re so damn cool with your guitar. It really shows how you’re so unique. Please don’t play it in the room…. actually, don’t play it in the hostel.

Don’t Confine Yourself To Your Group

Traveling with friends can be great, but make an effort to talk to other people. Make solo travelers feel welcome. Walking into a dorm room to find a bunch of buddies that completely ignore your presence is disheartening, I know from experience.

Don’t Abuse Free Internet

Just because the internet is free doesn’t mean you can spend all day using the hostel computer. You really shouldn’t need to spend more than 10 minutes on the computer. Check your email, book your next hostel, and leave.

How To Be A Hostel Hero

Alright, enough of the negative. Let’s talk about ways to make friends while staying in a hostel.

Talk to Solo Travelers

If you’re traveling in a group you should go out of your way to talk to solo travelers. As someone who has done a lot of solo travel, I always loved it when groups made an effort to include me because it can be intimidating to talk to a group of established friends.

Make An Effort To Intorduce Yourself

One of the best ways to meet people is to simply introduce yourself. I know it sounds simple but it’s something I know I’m guilty of doing.

Buy (Cheap) Beer

Everyone loves you if you give them free beer. That’s why I’ll buy a case of cheap beer and hand it out around dinner time. It’s the best €10 you can spend.

Organize a Group Meal

If your hostel has a kitchen, and you can cook, then you should try organizing a meal. Have everyone throw in a bit of money and make a big meal. Even something as simple as spaghetti is a great option.

Bring A Power Strip

Hostels never seem to have enough power outlets — especially since everyone travels with loads of electronics. Pack a travel power strip and you’ll be a hero. The power strips with USB ports are extra great.

James Feess
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No Funny Business

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