Lately, I’ve encountered a number of backpackers who believe that a ten bed dorm means they’re the only one sleeping there. Or that their mom will clean up their mess in the hostel’s kitchen. Sometimes I think that before everyone goes away, there should be a class on how to properly behave in a hostel. That way you are remembered for being the totally awesome person you are instead of the jerk that woke everybody up at 3 AM. So before you go hosteling around the world, here are some good hostel etiquette tips to inspire love, not hatred, from your fellow travelers:
Be Quiet – No one expects you to tip toe around the room during the day, even if someone is taking a nap. There’s an unwritten understanding that during the day, the dorm room is fair game. However, after about 10 or 11 pm, keep the noise down. People are trying to sleep. In a large dorm, it’s hard to have perfect silence. People get that. That’s why we all carry ear plugs. If you are in a smaller dorm, your noise is going to be heard much easier and ear plugs don’t always work. It’s not cool being woken up in the middle of the night by drunks or chatty people. If you are going to talk, do it outside. Don’t make us remember you as that jerk who kept us up.
Keep the Lights Off – Expanding on this theme, if it’s past 11 or before sunrise, keep the lights off. No one wants to be woken up by the light. Use a flashlight or the glow from your iPod. There are people in the room who might not be able to sleep with the lights on. Please don’t disturb.
Don’t Be Dirty! – Your mother is not here and no one wants some crazy food borne illness. I bet you don’t either. Wash your dishes when you are done with them and, by wash, I mean with soap not just running your dishes under mildly warm water. And remember, if there is a still a film on the pan when you are done, it’s not clean.
Pack Up Early – It’s hard to sleep late in hostels. Everyone is packing their bags and moving out. New people are coming in. The guy above you is snoring like a freight train. Anything that can help us sleep later is always appreciated. So we love it when people pack their bags the night before as to minimize noise in the morning. Bags rustling and zipping can get annoying. I know you can’t fully get rid of the noise but doing something to try to keep it down is goodwill that is greatly appreciated by others.
Avoid Plastic Bags! – Even worse than listening to people pack their bag is listening to people rustle with the plastic bags they carry around. They make a lot of noise. A LOT OF NOISE!! This is my biggest pet peeve. If the noise goes on for a while, I’ll even say something. So just like packing your bag, pack your plastic bags the night before. Because there’s simply no way to muffle that sound.
Keep it Private – Don’t have sex in the dorm rooms. I mean seriously. No one wants to hear you faking it. There’s a right way to have sex in a hostel and a wrong way. In the dorm room is the wrong way.
Turn Off the Dance Party – As awesome as rocking out to Lady Gaga’s Poker Face is, some people can’t fall asleep to music. While it is great that you can and it certainly helps block out other noises, keeping it too loud disturbs others. I don’t want to fall asleep to the soundtrack to your life. Plus, why work on going deaf while you sleep? That’s more of a daytime activity. Keep the iPod on but turn the volume down just a bit.
None of this is difficult. You don’t have to stop being you but remember what your kindergarten teacher told you all those years ago – play nice with others. However, it’s amazing how many people forget that rule. Remember you aren’t the only one in the hostel. You are surrounded by people who have different needs. Be conscious of that. All I remember about the people who woke me up was that they were rude. Don’t be that guy (or girl). Let people walk away with good memories of you.