I love hostels, I really do. Back in 2011, I marked my first ever hostel stay when I spent the weekend in Montreal. From that point forward, I was addicted. The cheap prices, free wifi, kitchen to cook your own meals in, and the chance to meet other travelers were all attractive.

Fast forward six months later when I toured around Northern Italy for a couple of weeks. Staying at a hostel in Cinque Terre, Italy, I made friends with other girls staying there with whom I hiked, swam, drank, and ate meals. It would have been an understatement to say I was addicted to hostel stays.

Despite all of this goodness, we all know that staying at a hostel has its downside, and things can happen that can make your stay way less fun. After a weekend at a hostel in Barcelona a few months after my Italy trip, I felt compelled to write this post.

5 Ways To Break That Unspoken Hostel Etiquette

Hostel Etiquette - Party
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

So what are these things you never, ever, ever do when you stay at a hostel?

1) Eat smelly food and leave the garbage lying around the room

Hostel Etiquette - Burgers
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Hostel rooms are usually tiny. In such an enclosed space, when things smell they really really smell.

So while you may think it’s a good idea to scarf back your Big Mac and french fries before heading out to the club, your roommates are most likely not on the same page. They probably won’t appreciate you bringing back the food and chowing down at 3 AM either.

Your options include:

  • Eat in the common area or kitchen.
  • Don’t eat in the hostel at all. Dine elsewhere.
  • If you absolutely need to eat something, ensure your food isn’t messy or smelly like an egg salad sandwich. A bag of trail mix, some cookies or an apple? No big deal but be prepared to share.

Not disposing of your food is another no-no. Imagine how a half-eaten greasy hamburger smells after a few hours. It’s not pleasant. Two of my roommates were awesome enough to leave their Burger King leftovers in the room Thursday night when they checked out. I couldn’t have asked for a better parting gift.

2) Use another person’s bed as a place to store your things

Bunk beds
Image by Katarzyna Bulas from Pixabay

Another way to be a complete hostel etiquette fail? When staying at a hostel and sharing a room with complete strangers, your tiny little bunk bed is your only personal space, a sanctuary if you will. It’s here you sleep, lay and read, use your computer, and do whatever.

You expect that when you leave the room, you won’t come back to find it piled with another person’s belongings. On Saturday afternoon, I came back to my room to find a pair of glasses and smelly wet socks and on Sunday afternoon, it was a bag of cookies and a bottle of Coke.

While it was super sweet of my roommate to leave these things for me, I sure didn’t want them. I actually had to ask her to stop leaving stuff on my bed and wasn’t too happy at having been forced into that awkward moment.

It was weird that she used my bed in the first place, especially since the bunk below hers was completely unoccupied. Rather unbelievably, things got even stranger the second night when the same girl put her bag on the bunk below her when someone actually was sleeping there. While getting ready to go to sleep, she placed her cosmetics bag on the other girl’s bunk causing her to wake up, shout and kick the bag roughly to the floor.

Use common sense:

  • Don’t use any bed other than your own to store things. Use your locker, shelf or nook.
  • Don’t leave wet and/or smelly things on another person’s bed. This is just gross. And also, mean.
  • Don’t place things on another person’s bed while it’s occupied. It may provoke an angry response and no one, and I mean no one, wants this.

3) Take a shower, flood the bathroom floor and not clean up afterward

Bubble bath
Image by press 👍 and ⭐ from Pixabay

Of course, there are more offenses to include in this list of ways to break hostel etiquette.

There’s nothing better than waking up, walking to the bathroom, and taking a tumble into a large puddle of water that one of your “oh-so-kind” roommates left behind. This was how I started my day last Saturday.

Better yet? This flooding took place on a regular schedule. Oh yes! Every morning and every night, I could be rest assured that the entire bottom of our small shared bathroom was full of water.

Good thing I learned my lesson on the first day. Each subsequent time I entered the bathroom, I’d walk slowly and carefully, resentfully grab some toilet paper and clean up their mess.

A few suggestions:

  • Take a shower and make sure the doors are closed tightly or the curtain is drawn across the entire way.
  • Keep a towel close by so you can avoid taking a wet walk across a slippery floor.
  • Dry off in the shower stall.

If somehow you still can’t avoid flooding the bathroom floor, clean up after yourself. Not doing so endangers yourself and others.

4) Drunkenly pack your bags in the middle of the night

Hostel Etiquette - Sleeping
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

I arrived at my hostel late last Thursday night. Tired from my flight, I went to bed around 1 AM only to be awoken at 3:00 AM by two very drunk girls.

Smelling like bottles of alcohol, they turned on all of the lights and loudly began packing their bags for their early morning flight. Laughing, throwing things, spraying perfume, and tripping over themselves more than once, kept me fully “entertained.” Despite another woman sleeping above me, they regaled me with tales about how they had their wallets stolen that day. I nodded in sympathy and whispered “That really sucks. Are you able to get home OK?” Meanwhile, I was desperately praying to God they could because all I wanted them to do was leave.

Leave they did but a long hour later. They also left us with their Burger King leftovers and empty bottles of cava. You just know those two items pair well together, right?

I think it’s obvious but I’ll say it anyway:

  • If you have an early morning flight, pack before you go out so you don’t have to drunkenly (or soberly) do in the middle of your night.
  • When you do wake up, get ready as quickly and quietly as possible.
  • Refrain from spraying vast amounts of perfume in a small poorly ventilated room. Remember some people have allergies.
  • Turn on as few lights as possible. If you have a headlamp, make use of the handy contraption!

5) Perform ninja moves to reach your top bunk.

Image by vickydreamz8 from Pixabay

Let me break the news to you gently. You’re not Neo and you do not live in the Matrix. You are not part of a beautifully depicted martial arts sequence in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Things don’t happen in slow motion and there is no way for you to defy gravity.

You know the girl who liked to leave me special presents on my bunk? Well, she discovered even more ways to break hostel etiquette. Apparently,  she was also not capable of climbing a ladder to get to her bed.

I watched in disbelief as she attempted to perform a ninja-like move to reach the top bunk. She grabbed the railings of the top bunks on each side of her, put a foot on each of the bottom beds, and somehow flung her body towards the top, loudly crashing into the bed frame until she finally just hung there. She then somehow pulled herself up onto her bed.

Of course, she put her gymnastic skills to use in the middle of the night when 3 of us were trying to sleep. Remarkably no one said anything to her. Maybe it was because we were in complete and utter shock.

Remember this if you remember anything at all:

  • You’re human and not a superhero or a member of Cirque du Soliel.
  • The ladder is there for a reason. Use it!
  • If ladders are challenging for you, ask the hostel staff to assign you to a bottom bunk.
  • Do not use other people’s beds to gain access to your bunk.

So there you have it, 5 Ways To Break That Unspoken Hostel Etiquette. And despite my bad experience, I plan to continue staying at hostels. I’ve since come to learn to be patient and “go with the flow” as being able to tell these stories on my blog is half the fun.

Have you had any bad hostel etiquette experiences? Tell us about it in the comments down below.

Good To Know

1) To explore hostel and (!) hotel accommodation options, check out booking.com and plan where to stay on your next trip.


2) If you’re traveling around the world, enrich your next vacation by booking a guided tour.

3) If you like staying in hostels and hotels as much as I do, consider checking out these popular blog posts:

*Disclosure – This post contains some affiliate links. If you book a tour or hotel, I’ll earn a tiny commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support.