I am writing this article for the not-so-cool people who sometimes hang out in hostels. If you’ve arrived at this post from a note that was left on your bed you can bet your bottom dollar that you have committed at least 3 of the sins below and this is somebody’s way of calling your attention to them and wanting you to know the golden hostel tips and how NOT to behave in a hostel.

If you have never stayed in a hostel and this article doesn’t put you off, staying in a dorm is one of the challenges in the Smash the Pumpkin Project – a self-development course that will put the sparkle back into your life again.

I LOVE staying in hostels.  You get to meet so many cool people and you get to find out so many interesting things to see and do, but very occasionally you come across the not-so-cool people and they can be one giant pain in the arse.  Here is a quick summary of what constitutes a hostel.

hostel tips and how not to behave in a hostel - Porto

bright and sunny dorm in Porto

Before I begin, I would like to point out that I am not perfect either.  I have probably committed each of these sins at least once, but my tolerance levels begin to fail when some people do several of them regularly and repeat them over and over.

I should clarify, if you have never stayed in a hostel before, please don’t let any of the following put you off from trying the experience.  The great times far outweigh the bad – I don’t think that I have had more than a dozen really bad experiences – and if you want to check out some hostels in the city of your choice, for instance in Porto, you can compare them all here at Hostelz.com

If people are sleeping do NOT put the light on

Obviously if it’s 9 in the evening feel free to snap on that light whilst you get ready for a night on the town, but it is NOT cool to switch it on when you return any time after midnight.

You will have a torch app on your mobile phone but please remember these can produce the candle-power of a high-powered search light so don’t direct the beam into anybody sleeping face.


hostel tips and how not to behave in a hostel - Bangkok

These pods in Bangkok – perfect for dealing with jetlag


Play the game and if you know that you are going to arrive back late, prepare your bunk. Make sure that you know where all the things are that you are going to need before hitting the sack – this is not the time to dig deep in your rucksack for the toothpaste.

Snooze or repeat alarms

And talking of mobile phones; I HATE it when somebody sets a morning alarm with no actual intention of getting up.  Or worse, they have the alarm on snooze or repeat.  Everybody in the dorm is sat up in bed on the one morning that they had planned a lay-in and their persecutor is blissfully snoring away oblivious to the stupidly chirpy ringtone that is driving everybody else mad.  I have been known to rummage under pillows for offending items and hurl them – so be warned.

If you need to set an alarm, switch it off quickly, get out of bed and bugger off to wherever you need to go.

hostel tips and how not to behave in a hostel - Cartagena

Cute courtyard in Cartagena

Arriving late and the plastic bag rustle

Ok so your plane or bus has got into town in the early hours.  What can you possibly need from your rucksack that can’t wait until the morning?

Keep a toothbrush and a tee-shirt to wear in bed near the top and sleep.  You do NOT need to noisily check out what’s in every plastic bag – after all, you put the things in there just a few hours earlier.  FFS – go to sleep and sort it out in the morning. And don’t forget the first rule – don’t switch the light on.

I have never personally used packing cubes but many people swear by them – these seem like a good choice if you are interested in getting some and avoiding that plastic bag rustle: Packing Cubes

hostel tips and how not to behave in a hostel - Cadiz

roof terrace in Cadiz


The early morning check out.

Unless you’re doing a runner from the hostel, the chances are, that you knew before you turned in for the night that you had to leave under cover of darkness.  Most sane people are still sleeping at 5am so surely you can have your clothes ready and your bag packed before you go to sleep?

You do NOT need to repack those noisy plastic bags again – after all you are probably the same person who will re-check them all meticulously upon arrival at your next place. Take your bag outside and repack it in reception if you have genuinely forgotten to prepare yourself.

hostel tips and how not to behave in a hostel - Brazil

hammocks in Brazil


Book a private room or if there isn’t one free or spontaneity is the key, use the bathroom.  Occasionally, depending on the level of alcohol that has been consumed common sense goes out of the window – well let’s just say, some people do get it together in a bunk bed in the dorm.

You might want to demonstrate to your new conquest how much you are enjoying yourself but PLEASE we do not want to hear you.  Even panting is bad.  Hold your breath and go VERRRYYYYYY slow!

hostel tips and how not to behave in a hostel - Rio

This triple decker (plus 2 more above on the mezzanine in Rio

After rocking and rolling in my top bunk one night I was very surprised to find THREE young Mexican men cuddled up and sleeping below me the next morning.  I’m broad minded, I was just very concerned that my top bunk was going to sway too far past the point of no-return.

Talking or even whispering

When the lights are off please don’t talk.  Go down to the lounge or the bar or sit on the terrace.  Even whispering is off limits because in the dead of night it’s so irritating – like the person on the bus with loud music in their headphones.  You can hear the noise but strain to understand it – doubly hard if it’s in a different language too.

hostel tips and how not to behave in a hostel - Porto

DVDs and TV in Porto

Smoking weed, sniffing coke or drinking rum.

At the very least, offer it around!  People can always decline if they don’t want to join you.

Invading my personal space

Do not set any part of your anatomy or your belongings on anybody else’s bed or their ladder.  Tough shit if you have a top bunk – do NOT use my space to sit your arse while you brush your hair – and if you have a bottom bunk – I WILL trample on your towel, jacket or bra while I go up and down the ladder if that is where you hang your things.

Keep yourself out of my space unless invited.  I popped to the bathroom in Medellin and when I came back some drunken, un-wakeable guy was snoring in my bed!  Check latest prices in Medellin here

hostel tips and how not to behave in a hostel - Cuenca

hostel tips and how not to behave in a hostel – keep OFF my bunk

Lock your stuff away

Because I don’t switch the light on when I return to the dorm after a night out, I am constantly breaking my neck because you have left your rucksack, flip flops or dirty underpants in the centre of the room.  Lock ‘em away – but QUIETLY.

There is no need to crash, bang and rattle the cabinets or shake your padlock violently to check that it’s snapped shut.  I sound like a right grumpy bat but these things are all just common manners and consideration for others makes for a happy hostel.

hostel tips and how not to behave in a hostel - Quito

fun and games in Quito

Bathroom etiquette

Do NOT hog the bathroom!  Do please be considerate of any potential queue.  You may want to spend 45 minutes getting your hair gel or your eyeliner perfect but people are breaking their necks for a pee. The rule is, in and out quickly. Find somewhere else to preen yourself.  And do NOT leave hair in the sink.  Beard hair is worse – it looks like pubes which is not a pretty thought when you are cleaning your teeth.  And unless you want me to try out your shampoo or shower gel, please take it with you if space is at a premium.

hostel tips and how not to behave in a hostel - Cadiz

open air loo on the roof in Cadiz

I was in a hostel in Lithuania when 3 girls insisted on all doing their makeup together in the one bathroom despite being asked by other guests to hurry up.  In the end, I went in and prepared to sit on the loo.  I told them that they were totally out of order and would poo whether they were in or out of the room.  They left hurriedly and the waiting queue gave me a round of applause.

Had I already written this article I would willingly have printed a copy out and left Hostel Tips: How NOT to behave in a hostel in their room.  I wonder if they would have got the hint?


Don’t eat all the pancakes

hostel tips and how not to behave in a hostel - Cadiz

cosy home from home in Cadiz

The staff are making the pancakes as fast as they can.  You can only eat one at a time so just take one at a time.  Likewise the bananas, fruit juice or the toast, although there is something to be said for the early bird – I guess if people can’t be bothered to get out of bed before ten then it’s their loss if the best cereal has been wolfed down.  And be aware of your surroundings.  So the kettle may be boiling but somebody actually filled it with water and is waiting for their tea.  Don’t jump the queue.  Ask first who is waiting for the water.

Never, never, ever take somebody else’s food.

This one is actually quite high up on my list of pet hates – those people who think that it’s perfectly ok to steal the food and drink from the fridge or the cupboards that somebody else has paid for.

Now I am more than happy to leave behind unfinished food for the next person rather than squash it into my backpack, but while I am still in the hostel, I expect to find my fruit juice where I left it in the fridge.  And that half eaten pizza is not rubbish and only fit for the bin – I am planning to have it for a late night snack so keep your hands off it.

hostel tips and how not to behave in a hostel - Lak Lake, Vietnam

traditional longhouse in Vietnam

To sum up: Hostel Tips and how NOT to behave in a hostel

I sound like a right miserable cow but I am actually very tolerant.  There is a line that should not be crossed and as I said at the start, it’s to commit three or more of the above sins over successive nights or even worse, during the same night.  Interestingly, they are nearly all night time misdemeanours – but then everything seems louder and more irritating at four in the morning.

The majority of people in hostels are wonderful, interesting, tolerant people.  Sometimes, drink or exuberance gets the better of all of us so I apologise for the times that I may have transgressed.

Pinable Image for you below

Pin this post so that you can refer to it again later and bookmark it.  Then the next time that one of your roomies makes the mistake of committing at least 3 of these hostel sins, leave a note on their pillow and direct them to this page.

Hostel tips: how NOT to behave in a hostel


Who knows, one by one, we may manage to educate those people who see absolutely no problem with stealing that special piece of cheese that you were saving for later, standing on your nice clean sheet while they reach up for their phone charger or worse of all, switching the fri**ing light on at four in the morning.

And if you have never tried sleeping in a mixed dorm with eleven (or more) perfect strangers give it  a go.  Who knows, you might actually enjoy the experience.

Click on this link if you’re interested in learning more about feeling valued, living life and believing in yourself again, with the Smash the Pumpkin Project 

N.B: By clicking on some of these links you may generate a small commission for me – at no extra cost to yourself

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