Sleeping in a dorm room is undoubtedly the most affordable way to hostel, but many people might be put off by the thought of strangers sleeping by their side. I know I definitely was!
The first time I ever stayed in a hostel, my two girlfriends and I decided to book a four-person dorm room because it was cheaper than a three-person private room. We spent the weeks before our trip crossing our fingers and toes that nobody took that last spot. Alas, we arrived to our hostel in Rome to be met by our fourth roommate, who had thoughtfully strung up all his dirty laundry around the room!
It was definitely a headfirst introduction to hostelling, but thankfully didn’t turn me off for life. Over the years, I have stayed in dozens more hostels. Sure, there have been misunderstandings and disagreements with roommates. However, I’ve also made lifelong friends with hostel roommates, benefited from their under-the-radar travel tips, and saved a bunch of money in the process.
The trick to having a stress-free, and even enjoyable trip when you’re bunking with a bunch of strangers? Follow this simple backpacker’s code.
1. Keep to your own space
Just because your dorm room may have a lot of space doesn’t mean you should spread your stuff out over the entire room. In most hostels, everyone gets a bed and a locker. Try to keep your bags (and laundry) near your own bed or contained in your locker, and it should leave enough space for everyone to share.
2. Lights off, please
One of my personal pet peeves is when roommates come in late, while everyone else is asleep in bed, and turn on all the lights. Please respect your fellow hostellers and use the flashlight on your phone instead. Along the same lines, if you’ve got lots of luggage to rustle through or a friend to chat with early in the morning or late at night, do that outside the room. Sleep masks and ear plugs can limit your chances of being woken up in the middle of the night, but when everyone follows this simple code, the whole room is guaranteed to get a better night’s sleep.
3. Sorry, no snoozing
Don’t worry, you can sleep as much as you’d like! I’m talking about snoozing your phone alarm. Personally, I have the bad habit of pressing snooze about a million times before I get up for the day. Just imagine how annoying this could be to any roommates! When I’m hostelling, I use my self-control and never hit snooze. It all comes down to respect.
4. Be adaptable
It’s best to maintain a certain level of flexibility when hostelling. The truth is, you will be sleeping in a room full of strangers and you can’t necessarily control others’ actions. Luckily, most people you come across will be polite and interesting. But if you do get a roommate you clash with, or who doesn’t follow the backpackers’ code, just take a deep breath and try to be adaptable.
5. Change clothes in the bathroom
When sharing a room, it’s always best to use the hostel bathrooms to change. Your best bet in general is to try to be sensibly modest whenever you’re in shared quarters.
6. Clean up your dishes right away
Most hostels have a communal kitchen with shared pots, pans, plates, and cutlery. If you use the kitchen to make meals, make sure you clean your dishes right away so your fellow hostellers can cook, too (and not have to clean up your mess).
7. If all else fails, go to the hostel staff
Remember, you can always turn to the hostel staff with any issues that might arise. They are there to help you, and yes, they can even help resolve roommate issues if need be. Please don’t be scared to approach them if you need an intervention.
The truth is, people from all different backgrounds, countries, cultures, and styles use hostels. This might intimidate you at first, but it is actually one of the best things about hostelling! And as long as everyone follows the hostellers’ code, you’ll be surprised how easily everyone gets along.