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The Do's and Don'ts of Staying at a Hostel

Updated on August 2, 2017
Lindsay Langstaff profile image

I am a double major in global business and Spanish at the University of Evansville. Travel is my one and only love.

Hostel Etiquette

When staying at a hostel, there are many unspoken rules about etiquette. Unless you're an experienced traveler, it can sometimes be difficult to know how to appropriately conduct yourself during your stay. Many people are used to the comforts of hotels, but hostels are a completely different experience and come with different expectations, especially if you're staying in a dorm rather than a private room. This article will help give guidance on what travelers may encounter during their hostel stays.

Budget Backpackers Hostel

The Budget Backpackers Hostel I stayed at is located in Edinburgh, Scotland.  It's a chain hostel though so there are locations in other countries as well.
The Budget Backpackers Hostel I stayed at is located in Edinburgh, Scotland. It's a chain hostel though so there are locations in other countries as well.

Do Your Research on What a Hostel Is

There have been so many times when I have been looking at the reviews for a hostel and come across a horrendous review from someone who has no idea what a hostel is. Hostels are not meant to be luxurious five-star resorts; they're meant to be friendly and cheap accommodations for those traveling. Hostels won't always have hot water, comfy beds, or free breakfast, and that's okay because that's not the main purpose of a hostel. Please make sure that you fully understand the amenities offered by the hostel before writing an awful review about them that tarnishes their reputation.

"Hostels are not meant to be luxurious five-star resorts..."

Don't Expect 24-Hour Reception

This goes along with my previous point, but make sure that you also do your research on what their check-in and check-out hours are as well as what hours they have staff working at the reception desk. Unlike hotels, hostels won't always have staff at the desk 24/7. That means that if you won't be arriving at your hostel until 2 am, you should probably let them know that so that you don't end up spending the night in the street. Even if they do advertise 24 hour reception, it's still a good idea to follow up and let them know what time you will be arriving at, just in case.

Do Make Friends at Your Hostel

Hostels are not the place to keep to yourself, especially if you choose to live in a dorm rather than a private room. Most of the time there will be a common room for you to relax in and get to know the other guests. This is a great place to open yourself up to new people and conversations. The most interesting people I have ever met have always been at hostels. They have some amazing stories and great wisdom to impart to other travelers. Keep in touch with the people you meet because you never know when you may see them again on your travels. It seems unlikely, but it's a small world and I actually have been able to meet up with some old hostel friends while traveling.

We met at a hostel in Israel, but we met again in England!
We met at a hostel in Israel, but we met again in England!

Don't Pack in the Middle of the Night

If you're staying in a dorm room in a hostel, it makes sense to be respectful of others' sleep schedules. Make sure that if you have a flight at 5 am that you're not packing at 1 am because that is rather rude. Think ahead and pack a little earlier. There may be people in your dorm who need their rest for whatever their day entails. If you wouldn't want to be woken up at 1 am for no reason, then don't do it to other people.

Same goes for coming in after partying into the early morning. Unless you're staying at a party hostel, most guests will expect you to stay quiet during normal sleeping hours.

Some hostels are less gentle than others about quiet hours.  This is from the Budget Backpackers Hostel in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Some hostels are less gentle than others about quiet hours. This is from the Budget Backpackers Hostel in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Do Ask Hostel Staff for Advice

Usually the people working at hostels absolutely love the city they are working in. They want to help make your stay there as enjoyable as possible so that you have a good impression of the city. They're very knowledgeable and have an answer to just about any question you may have during your stay. Want to know where to eat? Where to party? What sights are worth paying for? Which sights are tourist traps? Ask your hostel staff. They're friendly, enthusiastic, and love helping people. If you follow their advice, you're guaranteed to have a great time.

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Do Write Awesome Reviews About Your Hostel

Hostels are very dependent upon reviews because most travelers will decide where to stay based on the reviews. These are not big hotels owned by corporations; these are small hostels owned by regular, everyday people who have a love of travel and a desire to help others. Now, if you genuinely had a negative experience at your hostel, feel free to leave an accurate review to warn other travelers. I have never had a bad hostel stay before, but I know that they do happen sometimes. Otherwise, make sure that you are kind to your hostel. They usually try to do everything they can to make your stay great and put a significant amount of effort into that.

Mr. Hostel

Mr. Hostel is located in Riga, Latvia and I highly recommend it.  The people who work and stay there are fantastic!
Mr. Hostel is located in Riga, Latvia and I highly recommend it. The people who work and stay there are fantastic!

Final Thoughts

With a little bit of research, staying at a hostel can be a great experience. The people you meet and the fun quirks of each hostel make every stay an exciting new adventure. It's an experience everyone should have at some point in their life because it teaches you a lot about living with and accepting others. Not to mention it's far more exciting than a regular hotel. If you have stayed at a hostel, I would love to hear about your experience in the comments!

© 2017 Lindsay Langstaff

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