There are many unwritten rules about staying in hostels on your gap year, and these are rules that every backpacker staying in a hostel should learn and live by if they don’t want to become that guest that everyone hates.
Staying in a hostel is an almost quintessential part of backpacking around the world, and most backpackers do at some point spend at least part of their gap year sharing their temporary living space with anything up to a dozen strangers. This really isn’t as daunting as it sounds, in fact it can be a hell of a lot of fun and can even lead to some lasting friendships, or some explosively fun temporary ones!
But in any hostel the shared space means that you will meet a wide variety of people from all over the world, and unfortunately this doesn’t always lead to some hippy commune ideal of peace and understanding where everyone gets along. The vast majority of people you met will be amazing, decent and respectful, but there is always the occasional muppet who thinks that they own the dorm and are above taking anyone else into consideration.
Don’t be that person.
In any hostel dorm there are some basic unspoken golden rules that you should follow if you want to get the most out of the experience, and if you want to avoid being that guy everyone hates and being lynched by your fellow backpackers at three in the morning.
Be respectful. (Or don’t be a dick!)
This is basic rule number one. It is common sense really. It’s what most people learned in our formative years in pre school when we had to learn to share our toys and not throw a strop when someone else wants to play in the sand pit. We even had those same lessons drilled into us sharing a flat or student halls at uni after we had hopefully grown up a little! The same rules still apply here, even though there are a few people never seemed to bother learning them at all. In practice this just means remembering you aren’t the only one in the dorm and other people have needs too. Basically, don’t be a dick.
This is a pretty important one. We get you’re excited, we get you’re in a new place and you really want to get to know everyone, and yes we know you like playing your music, but seriously, some of us like to sleep too so just shut the hell up!
If you are out partying that’s fine, just don’t bring the damn party back with you at two in the morning and start crashing about or singing drinking songs!
Just use your common sense here, no one expects a dorm room to be quiet all of the time, we know people want to enjoy themselves, most of us can live with a snorer – within reason of course – and we understand it’s not your fault (that’s why we have earplugs), and it is fair to talk or move about or whatever during the day or most of the evening, but once it gets past 2300, just be considerate of people who may have to be up for an early flight or may simply just be tired from a long day and keep it down. And no, chatting to your mum, brother, boyfriend, girlfriend or second damn cousin twice removed on Skype until the early hours isn’t cool either. Not unless you want your fancy new iPad to fly ungraciously out of the third floor window.
This is a more difficult one to get used to as you may not be used to thinking ahead in this way, but little things such as packing up the night before you leave so you aren’t making all sorts of noise packing and repacking when people are trying to sleep in the early hours, or taking the bottom bunk if you know you are going to be out late so you don’t disturb the person in the bunk underneath you as you clamber into bed, these and many more examples aren’t exactly compulsory, but they will be appreciated by your fellow travellers.
Watch the lights!
Get a torch or use the ambient light on your damn phone. You are hereby warned. Turning the lights on at three in the morning is perfectly acceptable grounds for violence used against you.
Respect other peoples space.
This is an important one, as space is often pretty sacred in a cramped dorm room. You wouldn’t like someone’s wet towel draped over your ladder or someone else’s stuff spread out all over your bed, so don’t do it to them either! It’s basic common courtesy. Just keep your clutter to a minimum and use the lockers provided. This isn’t just courtesy however, it will also help to stop anyone tripping over your pack or standing on your chargers plug when they get up for a pee in the middle of the night!
Keep it clean!
C’mon people, I know backpackers have a reputation as stinky hobos but that doesn’t mean we actually have to live like one!
Just leave the place as you found it, or would like to find it, and that includes the communal kitchen and bathroom! It doesn’t take two minutes to clean up after yourself and no one likes to head to a communal kitchen with a sink full of dirty pots no one has bothered to clean or find all sorts of hair and other unmentionables in the shower!
Dorm rooms are not porn sets.
A lot of people hook up on the backpacker trail, it’s just a fact. New exciting places, exotic locales and plenty of hot people of both genders are a heady mix. When those people often have a lot in common, a shared passion for adventure and new experiences, raging hormones and quite often a fair amount of alcohol too, it is unavoidable.
Some people meet the love of their lives, others may have passionate short lived flings, for others still it may just be a simple one night stand, but people will have sex on their travels.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with that of course, in fact having a tale or two of overseas romance can be one of the highlights of any trip.
That does not mean however I want to wake up and see your pasty pale arse bouncing up and down in the bunk next to mine!
If you want to have sex with someone you meet on the backpacker trail, then fine, just don’t do it on a bunk bed in a dorm room full of people! Get a private room for a night or find somewhere a little more discreet. And for crying out loud be safe!
Keep the smells to yourself.
Apart from the obvious rules on basic hygiene, (remember no one wants to share a dorm with the guy who thinks backpacking means he never has to wash – you know who you are!) If you have a penchant for smelly foods or are a world class farter, then do everyone a favour and think about other accommodation options.
Don’t hog the bathroom.
This one is self explanatory really. The more people there are in the dorm, the more people will need that bathroom, so if you want a place all to yourself to have that extra long steam shower, you may need to rethink that stay in a hostel dorm and spring for a private room instead. It’s just common courtesy really!
If it isn’t yours, leave it alone!
This applies predominantly to that bottle of milk or bar of chocolate with someone’s name label on it in the fridge, but it also means any item. You wouldn’t like anyone touching your stuff without permission, so don’t touch theirs. It really is that simple.
These aren’t difficult rules to follow, or even understand. Most people should already instinctively know these really, I mean it is just basic decency, right?
It is all about showing some common courtesy and respect to your fellow travellers in the same way you would expect them to treat you. Manners cost nothing at the end of the day, after all.
It is fortunate that the people in hostels who do display this behaviour are in the absolute minority, the majority of people you met in the dorm are friendly and really respectful, so don’t worry. Just follow these simple unwritten rules the next time you rock up to a hostel and make sure you aren’t part of that minority the rest of the dorm can’t wait to get rid of!
Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.