Never have I met an individual who valued his or her personal space and protected his or her personal energy more than I do. I go to great lengths to make sure that I am comfortable at all times and devoid of unnecessary suffering caused by the mere existence of others. I hate people! I am the epitome of a misanthropic introvert. As a result, I have mastered the subtle art of avoiding any and all forms of social interaction whenever possible. I have spent many weekends sans FOMO and with no regrets. If there was a button to transform me into a hermit right now I would push it again and again.
It seems therefore counterintuitive that when I travel alone, I opt to stay in hostels, sharing dormitories and bathrooms with actual strangers. The truth is that solo female travel makes me feel utterly vulnerable, at least in the beginning when I find myself in yet unfamiliar territory. Depending on the availability, Airbnb and hostels are my go-to accommodation when there’s no one else with me on the road. It is logical: Airbnb hosts are there to automatically guide you through a uniquely local experience while hostels offer safety, security, and centrality. While Airbnb now rivals hostels in price, especially for solo budget travelers like me (by budget I mean, I’d rather spend my money on food and experience than on a hotel room I would hardly be spending time in… don’t get me wrong, staycations are my thing, too), the charm of spending 6 euros on a centrally-located dorm-bed to merely crash on after a full day of exploration has not been lost.
Despite the ridiculously cheap amount we spend on hostel accommodations, we shouldn’t disregard the fact that there are unwritten rules when it comes to sharing spaces with strangers and that acting like a decent human being is neither optional nor recommended, but obligatory. I’d like to think that I excel particularly in this area (whether I am staying in a hotel, an Airbnb, or a hostel, I am simply the guest of your dreams) and so I’d like to share some tips on how to be the ideal hostel guest anywhere in the world.
1. Party hostel or not, observe silence.
This has to be one of the most obvious ones in the book of unwritten hostel etiquette, and yet ironically, it is also one of the most notoriously neglected. Whether or not you are in a so-called “party” hostel (where apparently a certain amount of noise is acceptable, cringe), at least some degree of silence must be in place. It does not mean you can’t speak AT ALL but learn to modulate the pitch of your voice (read: kids, use your inside voice) and definitely respect the (wee) hours during which whispering is highly encouraged and carrier plastic bags are strongly discouraged. In addition, you should take additional measures if you are a chronic snorer and you know it: this could be as simple as letting your roommates know (and giving them permission to wake you up or handing out earplugs to ensure a good night’s sleep for all parties involved) or as considerate as getting your own private room instead.
2. If you don’t know, ask.
This applies to practically everything you encounter as soon as you check in to a hostel. For instance, if you don’t know how to use the key to the front door, ask, or else be stuck outside for a whole night in the cold, or worse, be a constant inconvenience to the receptionist and/or other guests. No two hostels are alike; I have enough experience under my belt to prove that no matter how often you stay in a hostel-type accommodation, the next one could be a totally different world in comparison. And so it is best to keep asking, even if sometimes your question might seem stupid to you or to the person on the receiving end, it’s still better to be safe than to be sorry.
3. Don’t be that person packing or unpacking during weird hours.
This must be a Golden Rule by now but unfortunately, common sense is not so common these days. No one wants to wake up to the sound of rustling plastic bags (see rule 1) and stubborn zippers. It takes a few minutes to unpack your toiletries if you want to freshen up before bed. If you have to leave early in the morning, it is most logical to pack your things the night before, not while everyone else is soundly asleep. Here’s a tip: if you have to ask whether or not it might be an inconvenience to others if you pack at a certain hour, then chances are, it will be so either go ahead and take your stuff outside where no one can hear you or just pack when literally no one is around.
4. Mind your own business.
This is something that I consider an expertise which most people seem to struggle with. Staying in a hostel does not equate to being an extrovert or the most sociable person ever. Sometimes it is just the cheapest and most convenient option; so never assume that the person on the top bunk will be up for small talk or a deep conversation at any time just because you are staying in a shared space. Of course, it is common courtesy to say hello and even introduce one’s self to other roommates, have a short exchange on travel plans and where you come from, that sort of thing. But also be mindful of personal space and boundaries. This also applies to possessions. Especially toiletries. If it’s not yours, just don’t touch it.
5. Clean up after yourself.
This is something that everyone should be mindful of, whether or not you’re staying in a hostel. But especially since you have actively chosen to stay in a budget accommodation where cleaning services are minimal (literally I have seen some hostels where simply making the bed and not even changing the sheets counted as cleaning) so you should also actively make sure that your space is clean and that you are not making a hell of a mess. Don’t be that person that leaves trash everywhere, or that person that uses up the whole kitchen when cooking, or that person that doesn’t flush the toilet; always keep in mind that there are other people wanting to use the communal facilities and that it is your duty to leave it as clean as when you first arrived (given it was clean in the first place).