We’ve been renting apartments and housesitting a lot recently, but during our trip through the Balkans two years ago we returned to our old standby, hostels. We love hostels for their social element as well as for their individual character and often excellent locations. Although we don’t usually stay in dorms anymore, we’ve found that a private room in a hostel can be a fantastic choice: you still get the atmosphere of a hostel without the pain of sharing your room with a snorer!

While chatting with the owners of some of the hostels as well as with other guests, we were reminded that hostelling has its own etiquette.

A private room in a hostel
A private room in a hostel can be a great option… and some are pretty fancy!

1. Be social

One of the best things about hostels is their social element. There’s often a lounge or common room to hang out in, where you can chat with the staff or other travellers. Be prepared to join a group to go out for dinner or play a game or two of cards.

2. Keep the noise down at night

Especially if you’re sharing a room with others, but even if you aren’t, keep noise to a minimum at night. Hostel walls can be quite thin and doors banging can be louder than you might think, which can make trying to sleep in a dorm quite a challenge. If you are the last to go to bed, try not to rustle around in your bags or go in and out of the dorm. It might help to unpack bedtime essentials as soon as you check in to avoid late-night searches.

Head to the social area!
Head to the social area!

3. Keep your belongings contained

Try to avoid letting your stuff take over the entire room. Use the lockers provided or organize your bag so that essential items are easy to access. It’s okay to hang clothes off your own bed, but avoid using bunk ladders for this purpose — someone might need to use it to get to bed.

4. Clean up after yourself

Remember that you’re not staying in a hotel. Most of the staff are travellers like you, or have been in the past — they don’t tend to be the polished personnel that you find in a hotel, and it isn’t their job to pick up after you. If you use the kitchen, leave it cleaner than you found it; if you have a smoke, empty the ashtray. It also doesn’t hurt to be polite in a friendly way — if breakfast is included, say thanks to the staff!

Free breakfast at a hostel
Free breakfasts are awesome… be appreciative!

Hostels have their own vibe and rhythm, and require a different mindset to staying at a hotel. Sure, they’re a budget option, but if you’re just there for a cheap place to stay you’re completely missing the point. And if you want full service you’ll have to cough up and find a hotel.

Do you have a favourite hostel? Do you often stay in hostels or do you prefer another form of accommodation? Let us know in the comments below.

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