Hostel dorms are a haven for budget travelers and backpackers but when you’re sharing any living space with 4, 8 or more people it’s easy to get on one another’s nerves. Typically these feelings come about momentarily in the wee hours of the morning or night, kept silent inside each traveler as they move from one hostel to another. With just a moment’s worth of planning and without adding anything extra to your existing routine, you can make sure you’re not the most annoying person in the hostel dorm, or even annoying at all.
The Red Zone
Most of the trouble or frustrations people have with hostel dorms occur right before, after, and during bedtime. This is in fact when most people are likely to be in the hostel and disturbed sleep is usually the number one complaint people have. By taking care of all your basic backpacker needs – packing, showering, Skyping with mom and dad – outside of these times, you’re one big step closer to being a thoughtful and polite hostel-mate.
Pack The Night Before
Hostel hours vary, but in my experience, between 10pm and 10am are the times when at least one person is asleep in the dorm. If you know your flight the next day is at 6am, pack the night before when nobody is around (before 10pm or whenever your dorm tends to be empty).
Aside from being much less noisy the next morning, you’ll also pack much more efficiently. You’ll find it easier to pack more quickly in ample light as opposed to stuffing everything in your bags by feeling around for stuff – saving yourself time from repacking your backpack that just won’t shut in the hostel lobby.
- Rushed Packing Can Lead To Forgotten Items – Poor planning on a long time table doesn’t lead to the mental chaos that packing in the dark with 5 minutes left to catch a bus does. Keep doing it an you’ll inevitably you’ll leave behind a pair of socks, a shirt, or something more valuable like your travel laptop.
- Scrapping The Security System – Some of the best ways to protect your valuables in luggage is to vary the places you keep your money, pack your electronics deep, and disperse both throughout your clothes and other belongings. Packing at the absolute last minute, while trying to stay quiet, only makes you a loud hostel mate with one unzipped pocket away from disaster.
Try as you may, the sound of your own rummaging is never as loud to you as it is to other people who are probably trying to sleep. For your own selfish reasons as well, packing the night before removes many burdens from yourself giving you the opportunity to sleep for a few minutes more the next morning.
Clothes On Top, Toothbrush Handy
Pack up all of your gear the night before except what you’ll wear the next day. This is sound advice whether you’re leaving the next morning to catch a flight, tour, or are simply an early-riser. For those of you new to what a hostel is, the definition of “early” can vary quite a bit. In your particular dorm that might mean 8am or 11 in the morning. Either way having your clothes, toothbrush, and towel ready on top of your bags (in untied plastic bags if you use them) will have you up and out without waking a soul.
Follow The Light
You iPod, cell phone, or a mini flashlight are wonderful sources of illumination once the dorm lights have gone out. You can see that toothbrush you’ve prepared, make your bed, or grab your blanket to return to the hostel desk without creating a blinding light that wakes everyone up. Personally, I find the Verso clip-on reading light (made for Kindle and Nook), to be a bright, lightweight, versatile nightlight with its bendable neck.
- Avoid The Room Lights After Hours – This seems basic enough, but when you’re panicked that you can’t find your iPod touch or passport in the dark with (now 3 minutes) to catch your bus most people will flick the switch. That’s the fast way to annoying all of your hostel-mates and stressing yourself out unnecessarily.
- Plan Door Time – An open door allowing the hallway lights to pour into a pitch-black dark room is a momentary, yet necessary evil. Running in and out 10 times though because you keep forgetting things isn’t. Another great reason to prepare your morning essentials the evening before.
- Respect The Quiet Hours – Ask if your hostel has any if they aren’t mentioned and follow them as best you can. Also don’t hesitate to complain if others aren’t as diligent as you are.
In addition to the light, iPods and iPhones make great alarm clocks since their sound doesn’t carry too far and is low pitched. Any mobile phone with a vibrate mode also works well to get you out of bed without rousing everyone else.
Let The Others Know
You may be a light sleeper, an early riser, or the type of person who can snore their way through a nuclear war. Either way, letting your hostel-mates know can reduce their stress and help them adjust their packing and planning schedule so everyone in the room is more comfortable. That way they (hopefully) won’t forget their ear plugs or keep sloooowly trying to unwrap that plastic wrapper in the middle of the night.
- Communication Is Powerful – Study after study has shown that people are more sympathetic to those they have a personal connection with or can relate to. By talking to your hostel-mate, even just a little bit you can create a bond that might make everyone a bit more considerate toward each other.
Staying hostels for the most part isn’t like trying to sleep in the middle of a football stadium with hundreds of people shouting while you toss and turn under the spotlights…but you might make others feel like that if you’re not careful. As for you, some ear plugs and a sleeping mask as well as following this guide to sleeping in hostels can make each night more pleasant. By doing things you would anyway (i.e. packing) the night before you can effortlessly be the least annoying person in the dorm.
[photos by: nesta hostel valenica (hostel dorm bunk beds), Kristea (packed bags), Jeremy Brooks (toothbrush silhouette), safaris (Brisbane backpacker hostel), jasonfarmer (cat sound asleep)]
Great tips! I don’t understand why people want to shoot on the lights at all times. Crazy. Anyway, one tip is that you could pack everything the night before – including all your electronics into your large pack – and in the morning, just drop the stuff you used the night before into a separate small daypack.
I love it. The simple things make it so much easier on everyone else in the room. I wish more people would take the little steps to be more considerate.
Try a small flashlight. What do you think we did on Navy ships while underway.
The greatest mystery to me of hostels *though I rarely use them now) is why travellers find the noisiest plastic bags from supermarkets to separate their items in their backpack. I guess it comes down to general planning and organisation – some are and some are not.
Aside from shoes, slippers, and toiletries I haven’t seen people use them to organize other things but can only imagine the noise if they try to find things in the middle of the night!
Last week I was on the top bunk and two people came home and had sex. It woke me up but I didn’t realize what was happening and I thought there was something wrong with the girl beneath me so I peeked down to ask if everything was all right.
The next day the dorm room of 8 had a good laugh about it as all of us were too shy to give them hell but we all agreed it would not happen a second night.
Thankfully the girl moved to a private room with the guy.
haha, I’ve heard that happening to people but (thankfully) haven’t had to endure that myself. Awkward moment the next day I bet, not sure I’d say anything either!
Hostels, well hmmm I can take them or leave them, usually the later. But a good way to meet people from time to time.
…or on a tight budget 😉
I love this post. Basic hostel courtesy that every traveler should know and live by. The hostel I just moved into today has a sign in the rooms that says plastic bags are prohibited! We’ve all woke up to the rustle of plastic bags, and it’s not fun!
haha, never seen that! Should make things better although I think plastic bags are OK, so long as they’re used at the appropriate times.
Hey Anil, Have you ever heard of this festival? http://www.kazantip.com/
I hadn’t heard about it but that looks like fun 🙂 Would love to attend if I were a bit closer – any chance you will be there??
I don’t stay in hostels, but these tips are good for any type of traveler. Showing courtesy and thoughtfulness makes a difference in the quality of travel.
There are a select few people who lose (or just show) their lack of manners when traveling. That small percentage can and perhaps has given hostels their less than stellar image.