Hostel Etiquette: 10 Things NOT to Do in a Hostel

Hostel etiquette is an important part of surviving hostel life. Here’s what you should and should NOT do when staying in hostels.

In a hotel or other private accommodation, you can pretty much do what you want with your space. Sleep late, make a mess, play music, whatever (within reason) while you’re in your own room. It’s your space for the time being. But in a hostel, there are other people around who also paid to stay there. That means taking basic hostel etiquette into consideration throughout your stay.

Maybe you’re staying in a hostel to meet other people on your travels, or maybe you’re staying in a hostel just to save money. No matter your reason, you are staying in a shared space, which means you are partaking in communal living. In order to have a pleasant stay, you have to keep other guests in mind.

There are a handful of hostel DON’Ts to think about while you’re staying in a hostel. A lot of this stuff is common sense or just common courtesy, but if you’re not used to sharing space with others, you might not even think twice about it. If you’ve never stayed in a hostel before, you might just not know what to do, or what not to do. So I’m here to tell you.

I’ve stayed in tons of hostels, and I’ve even worked and lived in hostels for extended periods of time. So this advice on hostel etiquette is coming from the perspective of a guest, but also from the perspective of a hostel resident and an employee.

So for the sake of enjoying your time in a hostel, and for the sake of staying on your dormmate’s good side, keep these basic Hostel Do’s and Don’ts in mind during your stay. 

Hostel Etiquette: What NOT to do in a hostel. Here are 10 things you shouldn't do when you stay in a hostel (and what you should do instead). #hostels #hostellife #budgettravel #traveltips

Basic Hostel Etiquette

DON’T: Turn on the Lights When Everyone is Sleeping

If you walk into your dorm room late in the evening and everyone is sleeping, DO NOT turn the overhead lights on.

→DO: Use a Headlamp or the Light on Your Phone

Use the light on your phone when you walk in, or use a headlamp to see what you’re doing. I keep my headlamp under my pillow so it’s easy to get to if it’s dark when I walk in. Some hostels have a small light in each bunk; it’s okay to turn those on if you need to. Also, whatever light you use, be careful about where you point it.

DON’T: Hog all of the Outlets

In dorm rooms, outlets are often hard to come by. Don’t plug in all of your devices at the same time and use them all at once.

→DO: Take Turns and Share Access to the Outlets

Charge your devices one at a time, and leave an outlet open for your roommates to use. If there’s only one outlet, make sure you are mindful about how long you’re using it, and share it with everyone else. It’s times like this that carrying an outlet extension comes in handy!

DON’T: Leave Your Valuables Out

Most travelers are perfectly trust-worthy, but you should always be cautious when it comes to your valuables. Don’t leave them laying around while you’re gone. (This isn’t really an etiquette thing, but if you’re new to hostel life, this is an important reminder!)

→DO: Lock Up Anything You Can’t Afford to Replace

Use the lockers provided by hostels to lock up your stuff. You should always carry your own padlock, because not all hostels provide them. Laptops, electronics, cameras, anything valuable, lock it up while you’re out of the room.

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DON’T: Take Long Showers

In communal bathrooms, everyone is using the same showers and the same facilities. Don’t hog the shower (and hot water) by taking luxuriously long showers.

→DO: Take 5 Minute Showers

5 minute showers might sound insane to a lot of people, but once you learn how to speed things up, you realize 5 minutes is all you need. Don’t hold up the line for the showers by taking your time. This also helps to save water and energy, which is a good way to be a responsible traveler. (Besides, in some hostel showers, you won’t want to spend more than 5 minutes in there anyways.)

DON’T: Leave Packing Until Early Morning

If you have to get up early to check out and get to the airport (or catch a bus, train, etc.), don’t leave packing until right before you leave. No one wants to wake up at 6 am to someone ruffling their things around.

→DO: Pack the Night Before

Pack your stuff as best as you can the night before. Lay out your clothes and toiletries that you know you will need, but put everything else away. That way in the morning you can get ready and have just a few things to pack before heading out the door.

DON’T: Walk Around Barefoot

I won’t hold this one as a 100% non-negotiable because I know a lot of people just prefer the barefoot life, but consider the cleanliness of the hostel and the bathrooms before doing so! Also, consider the fact that other people might not appreciate your feet.

→DO: Wear Flip Flops

Flip flops (thongs, sandals, whatever) are an absolute must when staying in a hostel. Keep them by your bed so you can slip them on when walking around the hostel, or especially when using the bathrooms. I always wear mine in the showers.

stove in a hostel kitchen

DON’T: Leave Dirty Dishes in the Kitchen

After cooking and eating in the hostel kitchen, don’t leave all of your dirty dishes sitting in the sink. Most hostels will not have someone there to clean up after you, and other people will need to use the dishes you just used.

→DO: Clean Up After Yourself

This is just common courtesy. Wash all of your own dishes in the sink after cooking, and actually do it well so another guest doesn’t have to re-clean them before using them.

DON’T: Listen to Music/Movies/etc Without Headphones

You might really like that song, or really enjoy that movie, but no one else wants to hear it. There’s no need to make the whole room listen to the same thing as you.

→DO: Bring Headphones

It’s pretty simple. Bring headphones with you while traveling, and wear them. If you’re the only one in your room, sure, take a break and listen to that podcast out loud.

DON’T: Have Loud Conversations While Others are Sleeping

A good rule of thumb is that after 10 pm, you should assume quiet hours in your dorm room. If others are trying to sleep, don’t have loud conversations with your roommates or with your family back home over FaceTime.

→DO: Step Outside

If you do want to chat or take a phone call, step out into the hallway or head to one of the common rooms. You can talk as much as you want there without disturbing anyone. If you want to chat with your roommates, at least keep it to a whisper.

DON’T: Make a Mess in Your Dorm Room

You’re sharing a room with other people, so don’t leave your stuff all over the place.

→DO: Keep Things Tidy

Try to keep your stuff in your backpack/suitcase/locker/etc. throughout your stay. Have a designated area for your things and don’t take up all the open spaces. Just be mindful of your stuff.

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These are just some of the top things I advise you NOT to do when staying in a hostel. I could come up with more if I wanted to be nit-picky, but these are the most frequent offenses I see from others (and I’ve probably been guilty of some of these things too). This is really just about being respectful of other guests and learning how to coexist in a communal space.

→What hostel DON’Ts would you add to this list?←

Top Tip: Search for hostels, read reviews, and book a bed through Hostelworld

Read More Hostel Tips:

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By Courtney Minor

Wandering around and writing about it.


  1. Never stayed in a hostel but know some friends that have. I’m just too freaked out by being so close to people I don’t know in most cases. I hear it is a great way to travel on the cheap and great way to meet some fabulously interesting people. Good for you for bringing this post to us “non-communal” folks.


    1. Staying in hostels was very off-putting to me at first too. But after I got used to it, I realized it’s not bad at all! It’s just a very different experience compared to hotels and such. Thanks for reading!


  2. When I die, just write “pack the night before” on my headstone. Seriously, this is my biggest pet peeve! Like, congrats on saving a few bucks on your red eye flight, but your dorm mates shouldn’t have to hear you zipping and unzipping your backpack 385385723987982 times at 3:30 a.m.! For the most part, I love hostels, but I do have some horror stories! Great post, Courtney!


    Alex | Backpacking Brunette


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