Have been thinking about basic “don’ts” when staying in hostels and dorms, now that I’ve got a year under my belt, so here goes a little list.

The Hostel Rules and the Dorm Rules:

1 — Be quiet. Look, this is simple and clearly the most violated rule of dorm rooms. From about midnight to 8 am, give or take, people are actually using the dorm room for sleeping. Try to be respectful of that. Don’t have a huge drunken conversation with your best buddy in the middle of the room at 3 a.m., when you get home from an “epic” night at the bar. Don’t party in the hallway right outside when people are trying to sleep. Just shut it.

luna's castle hostel panama city community room

2 — Keep areas clean — you Mom isn’t there to pick up after you. Common areas, kitchens (especially), and please God, don’t eat in the dorm room and leave your frickin’ dirty dishes there afterwords.

3 — No sex in the dorm room — First, yes, we can hear you. This is not an activity that is done in complete silence, at least if you are doing it with any degree of proficiency. And look, if you want to do it in public, don’t get all pissed off if I pull up a chair and offer play by play critique. FYI — this particular prohibition includes having sex without a partner. It is never appropriate to hear “Fire one!” in a dorm room.

4 — The dorm room is not the laundry room — Don’t string up a line down the middle of the room to dry your clothes. Even worse, don’t spread them out on my bed or hang them off my bed. I really don’t need to be that close to your wet socks after you got in from a five day hike.

5 — I shouldn’t have to say this, but don’t steal anything — Travel karma is a bitch and more importantly, there is a truly horrible place in hell for any traveler that steals from another.

6 — Speaking of travel karma, pay your tab with the hostel — A lot of them are cool enough to let you run tabs for staying there. Try not to ruin it for those of us that aren’t trying to scam the system and appreciate business people trying to make a living and make a traveler’s life a litte easier.

7 — Be friendly. Introduce yourself around — Hostels are a great way to meet people, especially if you are a solo traveler and for those of us that are mostly traveling solo, a friendly hello and an offer to go get a beer with you and your friends is quite welcomed.

8 — If you are leaving in the morning… PLEASE pack your stuff up the night before — Having someone pack their backpack at 5:30 a.m. is really, really, really annoying.

9 — Hostels are not clothing optional — what is the deal with 20something guys just wandering around all day without shirts on? Yes, I’m sure the girls think you are “all that,” but put a damn shirt on and act like a grown up for once.

10 — On that topic, sleeping naked is not an option, or at least, not an acceptable one — Last thing anyone wants to see when they wake up in the morning after a good night out is you rolled over away from your blanket, letting it all hang out.

11 — Carry a flashlight or torch when you go out at night — Coming home at 2 am and turning on the overhead light to find your locker and/or bed is completely unacceptable.

12 — Turn your cell phone ringer off at night — Some guys in my dorm room in Cape Town were getting text messages all night one night. Beep, beep. Beep, beep. Closest I’ve come to flushing an electronic device down a toilet.

luna's castle panama city kitchen

13 — Hell, just turn the damn cell phone off entirely — You are in Bangkok and your emotional boyfriend wants to check up on your night out and talk about your relationship. You know where it is appropriate to have that conversation?? Not in my bedroom. At least take it to the hall, or better yet, the common area or outside. Check that, just book a flight home — I’m sure you two are perfect for each other. Start the marriage now.

14 — Buy your hostel workers a drink every now and again — Most of them are just fellow travelers working there for a free place to stay — they aren’t making any reasonable money. Offer to get them a drink. They deserve it for putting up with the idiots they have to deal with every day.

15 — Glad you had a great night out… Throwing up in the dorm room is unacceptable — You can make it to the bathroom. Promise. Or at least the hallway.

16 — You know why the food in the ‘fridge has a name written on it? Cause it is not yours. Don’t take other people’s food.

17 — I know we are now in the ones that make those of you that have never stayed in a hostel say, “really? People do this?” The answer is yes, they do. Don’t borrow other people’s things without asking them. That is not a community towel — I promise. And if I wanted you to watch my DVDs, I’d offer to watch with you. Just buy me some drinks.

18 — Did I mention to be quiet?

I’ll have more when I stop to think about it some more. The things people do out here. . . .

EDIT — just reviewed some old posts and forgot…. don’t watch porn on the public computers. My friend Diana has also done a great list of hostel rules and tips.

and here is the revenge that might be taken on you if you violate the rules in a major way. And here is the Hostel Owners’ Guide.

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I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all. Read more by Michael Hodson and connect on Google Plus.

56 Responses to “The Hostel Rules and the Dorm Rules” Subscribe

  1. Chris - The Aussie Nomad February 1, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    Great tips mate and really its all just common sense. It just seems from what I have read when people get out of their country they leave all of it behind.

  2. alexisgrant February 1, 2010 at 2:30 pm #

    Ha — Hilarious! Half the stuff I wouldn't believe if I hadn't experienced it.

  3. Marie Ford-McCartney February 1, 2010 at 5:50 pm #

    I also bring a silk sheet, like a tube, to sleep in. Don't know if everything is really clean(bugs). And it keeps me warm. Rolls up into a little duffle. Great for camping too!

  4. Russ February 1, 2010 at 1:08 pm #

    Hey do you think this guy ripped off your post?

    http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/hostel-etiquette/

    Nomadic Matt's "Hostel Etiquette" post showed up in my feed reader about five hours after this did. While it's not total cut and paste plagiarism, what are the odds that Nomad Matt just happened to write a list of hostel etiquette tips including "Be Quiet," "Don’t have sex in the dorms rooms," and "Keep the Lights Off" a few hours after you posted this?

    Looks like a gank job to me.

    • Susie June 10, 2011 at 1:47 am #

      It’s one of those topics that’s written about alot – this dorm room etiquette post was written before Nomadic Matt and this one… http://nomadshostels.com/Fun-Stuff/backpacker-hostel-dorm-room-etiquette and contains much of the same information… probably because every backpacker feels the same way about all of these things!

  5. downtownLB February 1, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    you are old and funny. why I require a decent hotel when I travel, and why you are brave and I am glad you are out there and not me. One night of any of that and I would be in the intercontinental. safe travels.

  6. SoloTraveler February 1, 2010 at 9:19 pm #

    thanks for the comments all — still looking for more additions though. I KNOW there are more funny stories out there.Russ — nah. Matt doesn't swipe. I think he posted on Twitter that he was thinking of making a list earlier this week. He's a good blogger.

  7. MommaL February 1, 2010 at 10:36 pm #

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this one!! When you get back to AR, and are in LR, I will buy you a drink!

  8. Anonymous February 1, 2010 at 10:43 pm #

    Darling, you're too old for hostels and dorms.

  9. SoloTraveler February 1, 2010 at 11:48 pm #

    19. Smoking in front of an open window in the dorm room is still. . . smoking inside. Get thee ass to the sidewalk, like everyone else does.

  10. Nomadic Matt February 2, 2010 at 2:25 am #

    Why would I rip this off? Why would I be stupid enough to do that and on the same day? As solo traveler said, I tweeted about this days ago. Jan 29th- "nomadicmatt: Backpacker whose afraid of the dark has left my dorm. As has her chatty friend. I think there should be a class on backpacker dorm etiquette" That's when I got my idea.

  11. nodebtworldtravel.com February 2, 2010 at 3:21 am #

    Man I think you hit every point I would have thought of.Another one: If the hostel has a kitchen wash the dishes you used. I hate washing dishes and I certainly don't want to wash the pots you used so I can eat.If you snore, don't be upset when someone wakes you in the middle of the night to readjust when you are shaking the room with the chainsaw coming from your mouth.

  12. SoloTraveler February 2, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    Ahhhh Matt — was wondering where I got the idea to finally put these down and THAT was it exactly!! I remember that Tweet now (and your funny reply to it). Hilarous we both were working on a similiar list. . . of the same one line tweet. Traveling IS a small world. :) Keep up the good work. Hope to see you soon in NZ. Michael

  13. Sherry Ott July 13, 2010 at 11:32 pm #

    Right on! Really – you offer play by play critique's?!

  14. SoloTraveler July 13, 2010 at 11:58 pm #

    Haven't been in that position yet, but if I am put in it… perhaps ;)

  15. craig July 15, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

    16 is travel karma too… amazing how it disappears sometimes. and this list made me smile, it's amazing how many of these 'common sense' items still happen… but now, away from it.. some of them do make me smile, and do tell a good story… but one night is one thing, every night – not cool. stay adventurous,Craig

  16. David August 19, 2010 at 7:19 pm #

    Communal showers. Rinse your pubic hairs down the drain. I hate going into a shower and there are curlies all over the wall and floor. If they are on the drain screen, pick them up and throw them away. If you don't thin they are all yours, get a papertowel and pick them up. If there is soap provided, please don't use it directly on your junk. If you do, please get the pubes off before you leave.

    • Michael Hodson November 20, 2010 at 10:53 am #

      Hilarious. Love this comment. Thanks!

  17. Anonymous August 23, 2010 at 8:21 pm #

    If you're sharing a bunk bed with someone and are on the top bunk (or the bottom one, for that matter), try to keep in mind that whenever you move, the bed moves. I had one lady in the bunk above mine who would get dressed and get all her belongings together bright and early every morning ON HER BED. She would wake up, wiggle her way down the ladder (shake shake shake), grab her bag, wiggle her way back up the ladder (more shaking), then get dressed up there, and non too gently! There was no sleeping through it, it felt like an earthquake every time (and she was relatively petite – I can only imagine if it had been a larger man or something!)

  18. Teatslsj September 24, 2010 at 1:40 am #

    dude, buy some ear plugs. Seriously, i’d never survive hostel life without them.

    • Michael Hodson September 24, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

      Have got them now, for sure. Problem at one point on the last trip was that I’d use my iPod for that purpose, but one of the ear buds broke, so I only had noise protection for one ear. ;)

  19. Jenny October 7, 2010 at 8:24 am #

    Some people have no respect for others! You’d think people would know these things already, but Nooooooooo…

  20. Camden October 7, 2010 at 10:38 pm #

    As someone who has very recently gone over to the dark side and is now that poor business person trying to run a hostel, I’d wholeheartedly agree and add one more – don’t be too cheap. I’ve been there, I know how desperately you try to stretch the money, I honestly do get it. But wanting to get a discount for not eating the free continental breakfast, or begging free drinks with puppy dog eyes, seriously. I have staff and rent to pay. Accept the fact that maybe you’re not getting wasted tonight.

    Great list!

    • Michael Hodson October 7, 2010 at 7:11 pm #

      glad to get your perspective, Camden. And yes, I agree. Skimping isn’t a good idea. Pick a place you link and treat the hostel, the guests, owners, and workers with respect.

  21. woodworking project plans October 12, 2010 at 9:17 am #

    Great tips mate and really its all just common sense.

  22. Michael Hodson October 12, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    Jenny and woodworker — thanks for your comments. It does amaze me how inconsiderate some people are. Common sense would seem to take care of this, but……

    Camden, thanks for your perspective from the other side of the counter!

  23. Gourmantic October 12, 2010 at 10:33 pm #

    Seems like common sense flies out the door… I’ve never stayed in hostels and for these valid reasons!

  24. Dina VagabondQuest October 14, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

    #3 is so funny. Are you seriously ever see that happen? :)
    Thank goodness I never spot somebody naked inside the room, even though in a hostel in Copenhagen, I once woke up with 8 guys walking around the room wearing only boxers (yep, 9 beds on the room. Me and 8 guys in boxers)

  25. @_thetraveller_ October 22, 2010 at 3:28 pm #

    HAHAHAHA… have you recently had one of those ‘up to your ears’ with hostel bullshit experiences??
    And if people cant make it to the hallway or bathroom to barf they shouldn’t be drinking at all. Rookies!

  26. Tran October 24, 2010 at 10:08 am #

    And how about leaving stuff on other people’s beds? Not cool (unless it’s a bottle of rum)!

  27. Trees November 22, 2010 at 3:28 am #

    Very interesting discussion glad that I came across such informative post.
    Keep up the good work friend. Glad to be part of your net community. Thanks.
    Trees recently posted..What You DIDN’T Know About the North Carolina State Tree

  28. Nicolas November 30, 2010 at 8:24 am #

    In general, I don’t like hostels with too many rules. I’m open minded and I can take a lot from people. For example noise issues, I think that when you sleep in a dorm you can expect noises. If you don’t sleep very easily, use earplugs or get a private room.
    A lot of the other rules are just common sense. People know they shouldn’t steal, writing a rule that says “don’t steal!” will not have a lot of effect. Also nobody pukes in their bed on purpose and if you like to walk around naked, be my guest. I don’t do that, but I don’t really mind if other go naked to the toilet and back.
    Nicolas recently posted..Flying on a budget

    • Sas March 26, 2011 at 4:49 pm #

      Trust me, as a hostel owner I don’t like rules either. Unfortunately there is no way out of it though. If I need to “cancel” someone’s stay for good reason I cannot actually legally do this unless that person broke a WRITTEN rule…. So we do have a base list (tried to keep is short and simple though). Simple basics like: no cooking after a certain hour (after some drunk idiots set off the smoke alarm on the middle of the night burning steaks…), or enjoy a drink but don’t get obnoxiously drunk to a point that you disturb everyone else, and a quiet time to be respected…. For everyones sake, incl my own, I need to have some base rules written down so I can actually act in those rare cases that it’s needed…

  29. Theodora January 16, 2011 at 1:21 am #

    But what is the etiquette on getting changed in front of people? I stayed in a hostel, single-sex dorm, for I think the first time in my adult life (apart from when sharing with friends) and had no idea how much flesh I could or could not display.

    I’m guessing from your content here that I probably displayed too much…
    Theodora recently posted..10 Things to Know before Driving Outback Australia

  30. DanS March 1, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    You know, a couple of the replies that say you should expect noise in the hostels really surprise me. I feel like that’s just giving up. There’s this whole big area called “outside” where you can go and make noise. Actually, pretty much anywhere people don’t sleep would be fair game to make noise (though why people feel the need to make unnecessary noise any where at any time I still don’t understand). I’m 21 years old, so when and how etiquette went out the window I have no idea (I’m in university right now and dorming is ghastly).

    If people don’t get one rule, they probably don’t get any of the rules. However, unless lacking in any real intelligence, they’ll all be visited by your travel karma one of these days.
    DanS recently posted..Roommate 101- On Sleeping

  31. Kristina April 25, 2011 at 5:08 am #

    If this stuff bothers you, don’t ever join the military! I’ve had my share of rude women in boot camp and beyond, lol. Forced to put up w/ spoiled brats and teens in my late 20′s. I wanted to kill a few. Great post.

  32. Leah Phillips April 27, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

    My sister and I definatly had to deal with the some of these issues while we were venturing around Colombia. For one of the hostles it did not help that there was a bar open til 4am and that that bartender shared our room. It was pleasant enough though.

    • Michael Hodson April 28, 2011 at 12:15 am #

      Leah, thanks for finding the blog. Glad you liked it. And your hostel sounds like a bit of a nightmare — I hate party hostels.

  33. Roy June 14, 2011 at 8:51 am #

    Great post! I think you should never do what you don’t want people to do to you… Honestly account for everyone, a traveler should know; they are not alone in this world :)
    Roy recently posted..The Basics of Budget Travel

  34. Stephanie - The Travel Chica December 26, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

    #11 and #16 are my biggest annoyances with hostels.

    It is like people didn’t bother to check any one of the billion packing lists on the internet to know to bring a headlamp or flashlight.

    I am hoping some bad traveler karma hits the a-hole who stole my peanut butter.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Foto of the Week from … Peninsula Valdes – Lines and Contrast

  35. Ayngelina December 26, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

    #9 is my biggest pet peeve, I do not like people walking around without their shirt on unless they are on or very near a beach.

  36. Erica December 31, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

    #2109: Do not play your guitar and sing outside people’s rooms at all hours of the night.

  37. Bret January 1, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    Thanks for the summary of reasons why Mary and I will never stay in hostels.
    Bret recently posted..Happy New Year! (And A Quick Look Back At 2011)

  38. Camels & Chocolate January 1, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    Haha, with this post alone, you made me realize how much I do NOT miss hostel travel…I’m such an old lady when it comes to drunken behavior and people being loud all night, and that seems to be the typical behavior among the hostel crowd!
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..Photo Friday: Kyoto, Japan

  39. Nomadic Samuel January 6, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

    HA, this was a good find! You got any more hidden gems? :P
    Nomadic Samuel recently posted..Smiles of Taiwan | Photo Essay

  40. Frank October 19, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    Oh man, this is priceless!! I feel like you should create a Hostel Bingo sheet with these rules on it (wait, that’s a great idea, it’s mine don’t steal it!, ha) and make a game of it. I swear I’ve had at least 75% of these things happen over the years….did you have someone coming into a dorm at night and just flipping the lights on to look for something in their bag!? Get a flashlight people.
    Frank recently posted..Welcome to El Castillo……you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave

  41. natalia February 18, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

    Your post is so useful for my investigation about the service in hostels in Lima, Perú. I´m not sure but some people told me that hostels´ book (reservation) is annoying for tourist or travel agency.

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