16th Street and Highway 1
Montara, CA 94037

Hostel Etiquette and Dorm Tips

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Staying at a HI USA hostel can be a life-changing experience: it’s where you interact with people and learn about cultures from all over the world, make lifelong friends and memories, and fall in love with a city that you’ve gotten to know like a local. It can also seem a little daunting if you’ve never stayed at a hostel before, but you’ll find that as soon as you step through our hostel doors there’s really nothing to be worried about. There are, however, a few unspoken but agreed upon rules between hostellers since there are many shared spaces to navigate and new people with different backgrounds who will be your temporary roommates. So, if you’re getting ready for your first adventure to a hostel and you’re not sure about the dos and don’ts (or you’d like a bit of a refresher if it’s been a while since you dormed it up), take a look at these suggestions to make sure your stay, and everyone else’s, is filled with nothing but good times. 

Dorm Tips and Hostel Etiquette 

Personal Space
Nothing becomes more precious than personal space when you’re in a multi-bed dorm, and just as much as you would like people to respect your space, you should do the same for others. 
Try to keep your belongings contained within the area around your bunk – pack your bag and keep it in your locker or under the bed (if you’re on the bottom), hang your wet towel from the back of the bed (and not over the side) and try to keep the mess to a minimum.  

Definitely don’t use your bunkmate’s bed as an extra bit of space to lay out your belongings when you’re packing your bag. 

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People love their sleep, especially if they’ve been travelling, so noise can be one of the most important things to keep in check when sharing a dorm. 
Snoring in a hostel may be the most complained about offense, but since it mainly can’t be helped, if you know you snore, it might be best to let the travelers in your dorm know before everyone goes to bed and the light sleepers can make a plan (bring earplugs if this is you).  

Alarms going off at the crack of dawn is probably the next enemy-making offence. So if you need to wake up early, let everyone in the dorm know your alarm will be going off, and if you don’t get up they have permission to wake you up as gently (or not) as they choose. Do not hit snooze

It should pretty much go without saying that you shouldn’t turn on the light when it’s dark and people are sleeping, whether you’re coming back from a night out, or leaving early in the morning. If you plan to go out, prepare everything you need for sleep – pajamas, toothbrush and anything else you might need – before you go out. If you’re leaving early, make sure you’re all packed up the night before, and if you must, use your phone as a flashlight. 

Remember, should a conflict arise for any reason, let the front desk staff know so they can help mediate and resolve the issue as best and as quickly as they can. 

Communal Spaces 
The communal spaces are one of the most important aspects of a hostel, and just like in the dorms, it’s important to be mindful and respectful of the space and of others.  

Gone are the days when hostellers had to do chores as part of their stay at HI USA hostels, but you still have to wash all the dishes you use in the shared kitchen and clean up after yourself if you’ve prepared a meal. In general, it’s a good rule to leave any common space in the hostel in the same condition that you’d like to find it.

You’ll find yourself having conversations or taking part in activities with people from a wealth of different backgrounds and cultures, and you’ll definitely encounter some differences – be it language or beliefs. Just remember to keep an open mind and stay respectful and kind. You’ll find that you probably have more in common than you think, and that’s how incredible friendships are made!

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Make the most of your hostel stay and take part in as many activities as you can so you get to know your fellow travelers and also see a side of the city or town you’re visiting that tourists typically don’t get to. HI USA hostel events are created especially for this purpose – introducing guests to great foods, sights and histories – so take advantage of them and discover something new! If you’re unsure of how to get started making friends, remember the two golden questions of hostelling: where are you from and where are you going to next


Do some more preparing and take a look at the five types of people you’re likely to meet at HI USA hostels


Now that you’re ready to hostel, book your stay at hiusa.org to support friends you haven’t met yet