How to be the best hostel roommate?

Staying at hostels while traveling is one of a kind experience. I personally love it. I’ve slept in many different kinds of dorms and so far I’ve been lucky enough not to encounter any major incident. I always try to behave the best I can so my roommates have a smooth stay too. In this article I’m sharing with you my tips on how to be the best hostel roommate.

Be friendly

You’re probably staying at a hostel to save money. But you might also be staying at a hostel to meet fellow travelers during your journey. Good choices. Anyway, you WILL meet people in a hostel so it might be a good gesture to play the social card, at least with the staff and the people sharing your dorms. I always tend to say “hello” while entering my dorm. This is the minimum to do. I feel like if I don’t say hello, there is an awkward vibe in the room. If the people are answering back, I engage the conversation and try to get to know them. It might be the start of a friendship and who knows, you might hang out with them in the next days.

Be clean

No one likes to live in a pigsty -unless one is a pig. So try to keep your stuff tidy. Plus, spreading your belongings all over the place is the best way to lose your things.

Cleaning up after yourself is a must in the kitchen and in the bathroom. Usually hostel staff members are travelers just like you, they are not your maid, so try to be considerate and wash your dishes and don’t leave your hairs in the sink!

Be thoughtful

People are staying in hostels to have a good night sleep. They don’t want to be disturbed in the middle of the night because drunken you have decided that the party was not over. So the basic things to do, not to make yourself enemies, is to stay quiet from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. because people might be sleeping. Of course, having absolute silence in a dorm is an utopia but minimizing the noise is always a great gesture. So it might be good to avoid speaking loud.

Another thing to think about is lights. Switching on the light when someone is sleeping is awful (hello top bunk!). If it’s dark outside, make a rule of not turning on the light -or make sure nobody is in bed to do so. Use a flash light, or a frontal lamp- these are actually very handy because you don’t have to hold it with your hand.

If your shoes are smelly, please don’t leave them in the dorm. Leave them outside, better at the edge of a window or on balcony. Don’t worry, nobody will steal your smelly shoes. Same goes for anything stinking you have in your pack – spoiled food or anything.

Be organized

If you leave early in the morning, let’s say before 7 a.m., pack the night before. It’s always annoying when people are going through their stuff at 5 a.m. especially when there is a plastic bag involved (please ban those from your pack). Also, try to minimize the noise and whisper to your travel buddies. Another thing to do for an early departure is that if you have to give back a key, especially when you have to get your deposit back, let the staff know the night before. That way, they will know and be waiting at the reception when you go.

Even if they have a 24/7 reception, staff might be sleeping. When I stayed in a party hostel in Budapest, I informed the reception I would leave at 6 a.m. The lady at the desk told me there wouldn’t have any problem, somebody will be there to get my key and give me 1000 forints back. Well, it turned out that I buzzed the reception for at least 10 minutes, and nobody came. I resigned and left without my deposit back because I had to catch my bus to Prague.

frenchie on the road hungary hostel

Party hostel decoration in Budapest, Hungary.

Extra tips on hostel life

Choose your hostel wisely

Choosing a hostel is a kind of art. Location, cleanliness, safety, facilities, staff, atmosphere… There are many criteria to take into account. Some hostels offer meals, activities, breakfast, extra facilities… It’s up to you to choose but make sure to read reviews before. You DON’T want to pick a party hostel if you want calm to relax.

Mark your territory

Once you’ve checked in, make your bed if it’s not already made and leave a towel or something to show the bed is taken. Put a padlock on your locker too. This might be a weird tip but trust me, there is a story behind this.

When I traveled to Vancouver, I checked into the hostel. I had a specific number of bed assigned which I acknowledged when I went to leave my backpack in the dorm. Then I went to explore the city with a friend and I came back in the middle of the night. Guess what? Somebody was sleeping in my bed. They did not respect their assigned number and I had to look for an empty bed in another bunk. This was not a big a deal but now I tend to show that my bed is actually taken.

Don’t trust your roomies too much

You’ve met your dorm mates. They all seem friendly and nice. Good for you. It doesn’t mean you should leave your brand new Canon charging without supervision. It doesn’t mean you should sleep with your wallet under your pillow. It means that your valuables stay in your lockers when you are not around. Getting your stuff stolen is so annoying.

When I was in Sibiu, Romania, a guy was naive enough to leave his iPhone charging in the dorm. He went to have dinner with his friends in front of the hostel. Meanwhile, a random guy walked in the dorm. He lied down on a bed. Then he left. Guess what? When the guy came back from his dinner, his iPhone was gone. He made the hostel staff call the police, they took all our IDs, asked questions… But the iPhone was gone forever.

Beware of bed bugs

Bed bugs are nasty little creatures. They suck your blood and invade all your stuff so they easily spread out. The best thing to do when you enter a dorm is to check the mattress for dark spots. If there are some, bed bugs might be there. I’d recommend leaving the place.

Bed bugs bites come in line, they swell and spread out. It’s quite itchy and even painful. Go to a pharmacy, show your bites and ask for medication. It will ease the pain.

You should also ask for a spray for your things to eradicate the bugs. Usually you have to spray your stuff and leave it in a trash bags for 48 hours so the bugs die. You should also wash your clothes with hot temperature.

Don’t avoid staying at hostels because you fear the bed bugs. During my many nights in hostels, I encountered bed bugs just once. It was annoying but I managed not to bring them home because I followed the procedure explained above.

Must-haves for a smooth hostel stay are:

  • flip flops: I always shower with them to avoid fungal infections!
  • padlocks: hostels often offer lockers, but you need to bring your own padlock to keep your valuables safe. I always bring two, just in case.
  • ear plugsand a sleep mask: in case your roommates didn’t read my article and don’t behave properly, ear plugs will save you from the noise and the sleep mask will save you from lights.
  • powerstrip: it is not really a must-have but you might make many friends if you bring a powerstrip along with you, because sockets are the Holy Grail in hostel dorms.

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frenchie on the road - travel tips - hostel - roommate

27 comments on “How to be the best hostel roommate?”

  1. I have stayed in hostels for the past one year. I love to stay in different hostels while im on my trips. Its great to get these tips. I particularly agree with the fact that our roommates might be great but we cannot trust them too much. After all, we have only just met. 😛

  2. Gabi says:

    As a family bunch of travelers we don’t do hostels very much, but I do sometimes travel alone and they are a good option for tight budgets. These rules should be part of any traveler’s Bible. I really want the travel bug (not the bed bug, mind you) to bite my kids, for them to travel alone as soon as they’re old enough. In the meantime I do want to make them love this kind of accommodation, we just need to find more hostels for families… It would be fun 🙂

    1. Marie says:

      This is an amazing thing you are offering to your kids! I hope the travel bug does bite them! Traveling alone is very enriching!

  3. Indrani says:

    The experiences sound scary. It is necessary to tread with caution here. May be you can make separate list for just cautions alone.
    And travel does teach you so much!!!

    1. Marie says:

      True, travel teaches a lot! The separate list for cautions is a good idea, thanks 🙂 These experiences were not that bad though 😉

  4. Joanna says:

    I have staid is a lot of hostels during the past 10 years and there is nothing worse than people not respecting the quiet hours, or people who wake up at 5 am and start packing, just because they preferred to get drunk the night before instead of being responsible.

  5. We have never stayed in a hostel as we travel as a family with a kid. But yes definitely hostel stay becomes a challenge if not chosen properly and at the same time everyone has to be responsible enough not to become a nuisance for others. These tips are great.

  6. verushka says:

    I have never stayed in a hostel. Though I have seen some pretty amazing hostels that could pass as hotels. I would be very cautious about staying in a hostel on my own.

  7. Lea says:

    I’ve never stayed in a hostel because of the kind of situations you describe. Most of the time I travel with my sister or my boyfriend and we don’t want to see our phones, cameras,… stolen or find out that there are bed bugs in our beds…

    1. Marie says:

      I understand why hostels can be a no-no but if you are cautious, you won’t get your things stolen! Bed bugs should not be a concern for hostels only, you can get them in hotels, a library or any other places welcoming for them 🙂

  8. Sarah Harvey says:

    Love this. I’ve only stayed in hostels during a backpacking trip through Italy, but never had any problems! In fact, in both Florence and Rome I had the entire room to myself, so instead of paying a hotel £50 or so, I had a private room for about £10! The largest hostel was in Sicily, about 20 beds, and the classiest was in Venice.

  9. Anju says:

    Very useful tips! Light on late at night are so annoying, especially if you’re like me and need total darkness to fall asleep. And the fear of bed bugs is so real, I’ve had a few bad experiences and am now so paranoid about them.

  10. Blair Villanueva says:

    Thanks for your ideas! The only time I remember having a travel roommate is during our company trip. The advantage is I could select whom I want to be my room mate, lol.

    I don’t stay at dorm during my overseas travel as I am very kin with peace and security.

  11. Suanlee says:

    I almost feel like these rules are transferrable even to the work lunch room! Too many times are the dishes not washed and he food of mine half eaten by a mouse somewhere else. Fantastic tips!

    1. Marie says:

      Haha yes! Actually these tips could be used for any kind of situations involving living in community! Thanks for your comment 🙂

  12. Carmy says:

    I’ve never stayed in a hostel before. Definitely my number one concern would be bed bugs. No matter how much I research, I’m still wary about it!

  13. While I’ve never stayed in a hostel, these sound like pretty common sense things to do. I’d be a mess if I had to sleep in a stinky room, but at least I know better than to let valuables lying around in a room a lot of people have access to.

  14. Janine Good says:

    I do enjoy hostels now and then. I have stayed in some great ones, and then some questionable ones as well. I do agree with smelly shoes being kept outside! That would be horrible.

  15. Ana says:

    Great tips shared! I’ve never got a chance to stay in the hostel while traveling but I stayed in a hostel during college days and those were the best time of my life!

  16. Shane Prather says:

    I used to be hesitant of hostels until I traveled through Europe. They are definitely the best way to meet new people when traveling solo!

  17. Komang Ayu says:

    I have never stayed in a hostel, I was hard to live in a new place. I’m just as comfortable staying at home. When staying in a hostel maybe we have to be calm, but at home we are free to yell. But I think great tips

  18. EG III says:

    Great tips on staying in a hostel. I haven’t stayed in many but I concur with most of the advice you’ve given. Like you, I’ve only encountered bed bugs once so now I make it a point to carry a portable black light at all times in addition to travel size bed bug spray!

  19. Alberto C. says:

    Very good tips! I used to LOVE staying in dorm rooms when travelling, it was such a great adventure each time, especially when travelling alone or in a big group of friends!

    I haven’t done it in a while, I think I might be a bit too old for that now haha but I have to admit that I kinda miss it sometimes!

  20. Ami says:

    Reminded me of my college hostel days…. Hostels go teach u to be considerate towards others and also to be smart… Very useful tips u have shared… On both aspects… Giving and ensuring you are not taken for a ride.

  21. I’ve never go the chance to stay in hostel ever in my lifetime neither as a student nor as a traveler. But your valuable experiences are great to share with my friends who travel solo.

  22. Tamshuk says:

    Very useful and honest tips. I have been living the hostel life during my travels for sometime now and I have actually come across situations where all these suggestions would come in handy.

  23. Haha, I see you took the pic of the last sign in Hungary 🙂

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