The Unspoken Rules Of Hostelling

Hostels are a great way of saving money without sacrificing prime location.

So I was very tempted to call this post something not so polite, but I decided against it! If you have read my last post you will be aware that when I was visiting Rome I opted to stay in a hostel rather than a hotel as a means of saving money, and this is something I often do when embarking on adventures. Hostels solve the issue of “do I stay centrally or do I save some pennies?” by making both possible, which is fantastic!

Unfortunately my experience in Rome was probably my worst hostelling experience to date, which is made all the more unfortunate because it was probably the nicest hostel I have ever stayed in. After some consideration I realised that some of the ‘issues’ I experienced in Rome I also experienced with a German roommate in Edinburgh last October and I do wonder if things are different in mainland Europe hostels, and elsewhere worldwide, to that which I’m used to in the UK. Regardless, the following are my top tips on how to get the most out of hostel holidays!

1. Be Prepared To Sleep With The Light On.

The generally accepted rule in a hostel dorm is last person going to bed switches the lights off – seems simple enough! Of course if you are the kind of person who likes an early night you might not be so keen but people who are coming back in the middle of the night don’t expect you to keep the light on all night. I think 11pm/midnight is a generally accepted time to switch the light off even if somebody is still out. If people aren’t shrouded in darkness they will be able to get ready for bed quicker and quieter, so leaving the lights on a little longer might still mean you get an undisturbed sleep sooner.

2. If You’re Leaving Early In The Morning, Prepare The Night Before.

Surely this should be a general rule for life, but I’m looking at those two roommates who were leaving at 5am and suddenly needed to repack their cases and shower before leaving, waking up the whole room in the process. Every day when I was in Rome I was woken at stupid o’clock by people who were not prepared for their early departure which made me cranky for the rest of the day. Chances are you’ll wake up when somebody is leaving during those hours, but if they are prepared (and don’t switch the room light on, hint hint) it will be fleeting and you’ll probably just roll over and go back to sleep.

See also: don’t blow dry your hair at stupid o’clock in the morning because if your shower and packing didn’t wake me up that certainly will.

3. Eat Your Takeaway Elsewhere.

This is one unspoken rule which I am guilty of breaking. While it can be tempting to take your McNuggets to bed, you will end up making the whole room smells iffy (iffier than normal in some cases), even if you’re just putting empty packaging in the bin. Almost all hostels are equipped with a communal kitchen/dining/social space, so use it if you want to avoid dirty looks and disgusted comments in a language you can’t understand.

Almost all hostels have communal social areas, like this one at Aviemore SYHA.

4. Keep it tidy.

This one doubles as a a security measure against opportunist thieves and a way to save yourself from being the most hated roommate – keep your stuff tidy, and in your bag or locker where possible.

5. Remember You’re Sharing.

When you have 10 women sharing one bathroom which has the toilet, sink and shower, a sure fire way of earning dirty looks and negative roommate points is to take more than your fair share of time in the morning. Most hostels have communal bathrooms as well as ensuite, so there is access to multiple toilets or showers and sharing isn’t such an issue, but I have found myself in this situation where people have locked themselves in the bathroom for almost an hour at the same time everyone else wants to get ready.

…and some final things to think about if you’re staying, or thinking about staying, in a hostel:

– Respect your roommates and other hostellers, and be open to a little trust. Worries about security of personal property are one of the things I get asked about a lot but it’s always worth remembering that normally everyone else has the same concerns and hopes that their stuff will not go missing. See my Tip 4 out of mind to avoid opportunist sticky fingers – out of sight out of mind.

– Hostels are not youth hostels anymore. Many people still believe that hostels are just for young people but this is not the case anymore – I’ve met pensioners and businessmen as well as young  people. Anybody can just be looking for a bed at a reasonable price!

– Everywhere is a communal area. Be prepared for everywhere that is not your bed/locker etc to be treated as somewhat of a communal area. Accidentally leave your shampoo in the shower? That is everybody’s shampoo now.  Map on the desk? Anybody’s map. Box of tampons on the shelf? Everybody’s tampons. Left your towel on the back of the door? Shared towel. Don’t worry though, generally people try to keep to their own things and only use seemingly communal items if they find themselves stuck. Again, see Tip 4!

– You get what you pay for. Hostels are basic, but they work as a base for exploring or an overnight layover to break up a journey. You don’t expect bells and whistles for a tenner (or even a fiver!) a night.

-Say hi to your roommates! The loneliest place is a crowded room of people who don’t speak to you. Say hi, maybe learn a bit about their story. A hostel doesn’t have to be lonely even if you are alone (a lot of people in hostels are solo travellers!).

– Privacy is the other big concern I get asked about, but it doesn’t bother me too much. A lot of people use a towel or blanket to create a shield between them and the outside world (obviously only really works in bottom bunks) but I think you’ll find that nobody really cares what you’re up to as long as you’re not causing a riot.

– Dorms come in various styles, from 2 or 3 beds up to 18 or even 30 beds (who wants to share a room with 29 other people?!) and can be single or mixed gender. It will normally say when you’re booking. I would say the average beds in a room is 6-10.


Think I’ve missed something? Love hostelling? Not ready to give up the luxury of your private hotel room yet? Let me know in the comments below!


19 thoughts on “The Unspoken Rules Of Hostelling

  1. Good points! I have never stayed at a hostel but increasingly I am thinking of doing it as I am travelling a lot more and would like to do so on a budget. I will keep these points in mind when I do so. Thanks!


  2. My sister and I spent a month hostel-hopping. It was amazing! I loved how almost all had activities planned in the evenings so you could make new connections!


  3. I agree with you in all levels! Hostel is good when you’re traveling with friends. But at times, hosteling doesn’t work for me. I’m a light sleeper and I had a fair share with snorers while traveling in New Zealand!


    1. More and more hostels offer private family rooms, which means it’s basically a no-frill hotel! I’m not sure if it has taken off abroad yet, but I know it is an option when booking many Scottish hostels.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I hear of more and more people staying in hostels nowadays. I really don’t think I could do it, I’m sure I could if there was no other option but I find the whole thing really quite scary being a bit of a loner.


  5. “If You’re Leaving Early In The Morning, Prepare The Night Before.”

    Amen to this one! I’ve stayed in billions over hostels over the years and this has to be my pet peeve.

    Also, slamming doors as you enter or leave the room – if there’s people in bed, it’s not hard to close the door a wee bit quieter!

    That said, I’ve had far more awesome experiences in hostels than bad ones and it’s mostly about common sense and respect for those you’re sharing a room with. 🙂


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