For student travellers, staying in hostels is a reality. Hostels can be a rewarding experience or they can be a total nightmare, and this often comes down to the people you dorm with. Your dorm mates can truly make or break your hostel experience.
Sometimes it seems like some hostel-goers have never had to live with other people and the things they do can make your jaw drop. I’m talking dorm room hanky panky, hanging out dirty underwear, and calling home loudly at 3am when everyone else is sleeping. Not good. Especially when you have a raging hangover from last night’s endeavours in Bangkok/Prague/who knows.
So how can you make sure you aren’t the dorm mate from hell? Well, follow these few simple steps and things will be all good.
Plus everyone loves GIFs.
This is super simple and will stop awkwardness immediately. A simple greeting can go a long way in a dorm room. There are some incredible people in hostels, so jumping in and saying ‘hey’ can kick off some long-lasting friendships. Breaking this ice also makes it way easier to bring up any issues in the future (if there are any).
Don’t leave out anything stinky or unsightly
Dirty socks, messy underwear, stinky old foods containers… you name it, I’ve seen it in a hostel. If something is stinky or unsightly, just do not leave it out! You are sharing a space with between 3 and 19 other people so it’s important to keep it hygienic. Being known as the dorm member with smelly socks would not be fun.
Keep to your own space
Dorm rooms are cheap because they cram a large amount of people into a small af room. This means that space is a hot commodity. Having someone else spreading their stuff into your area can be pretty annoying. When other people’s clothes are hanging from your bed, or other people’s belongings in your locker, things can start to get on your nerves.
So when you get to a hostel figure out how much space belongs to you and stick to it. Try not to get into the personal space of others and you’ll have a sweet time.
Keep noise to a minimum
Stumbling back to a dorm bed in the early hours of the morning? That’s all good, as long as you keep it quiet. The other week I was in a dorm when two drunk guys came back and chatted for an hour (loudly) and then proceeded to play fart noises from their phones (loudly) for another half hour. Yeah, it was pretty funny I must admit, but it wasn’t so funny when I had to wake up at 5am for my flight.
Chatting during the day is totally fine, but if you see that the lights are off and people are sleeping, that’s a pretty obvious sign that people want some shh.
Further to this, playing videos out loud for ages or blasting bangers from your iPhone may be acceptable in the hostels of Ibiza, but generally it is frowned upon. Know your crowd.
Random tip but packing everything in your suitcase/rucksack in plastic bags is irritating af. It seems like a good idea when you’re packing, but when you’re quietly trying to get something out of your bag at night or having to re-pack your bag before an early morning flight, the rustles become unbearable for all involved.
Use the common room
Common rooms are there for a reason – so get around them! Common rooms are great for meeting other people, having hostel beers, or making all the noise your heart desires. A lot of stuff may not be acceptable in dorm rooms but it’s damn sure acceptable in the common areas (i.e. beers, bringing people over, loud convos, music). Hanging out in these communal spaces also increases your chances of meeting more epic travellers like yourself.
Don’t bring other people back to the room
No matter what the reason, it can feel a little bit iffy if people bring non-guests back to the room. With your valuables lying around in what is essentially a temporary ‘home’, having randoms walking in is unsettling. Even bringing guests from the hostel but who are staying in other rooms, idk it just can be uncomfortable. Meet in the common room and you’ll be all sweet.
Don’t even get me started on hanky panky or weird drunk friends. That sh*t gets unconfortable real quick. So get a freakin’ room (prefarably one without 19 other people in it).
Don’t be the super annoying dorm member that comes back in the early hours and turns the lights on waking up the whole dorm. But then don’t make it worse and become the mega annoying dorm member by saying ‘hmm, sorry’ and then continuing to leave them on for ages while you sort out your life. Mate, people are sleeping at 3am pls. Also your iPhone has a torch and this is the perfect time to use it (ty Steve Jobs).
A little bit of preparation goes a long way. If you know you are coming back late at night, pre-prepare your PJs and make sure you have a torch handy. Perhaps if you are heading out early the next morning have your bag already packed. Some forward thinking can really help you remain on the good side of your dorm mates.
But most of all, be friendly
The best people to bunk with are the friendly ones – so be one of them! Further to saying ‘hello’ actually find out what your roommates are up to, ask the obligatory travel questions, and then try and make some plans together. You’re all in this new place at the same time so why not catch up for a drink or make some memories together? Just letting your dorm mates know your plans for the day is a good start and always add ‘you’re welcome to come along’ to the end of it and you’re set.
If you’ve cooked a little too much food then offering it to other hostel-goers will win you major brownie points. Backpackers are usually ravenously hungry beings and food is the way to their hearts. This usually goes for beer as well.
Lucy has stayed in over 60 hostels worldwide and does her best to remain patient (this can be hard). In her experience, these are the simple steps of hostel etiquette. If you don’t use these you’re gonna have a bad time.