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How To Behave In A Dorm Room

A hostel dorm room. As a long term backpacker you will eventually end up staying in one, and experience the joy of being woken up at five in the morning by the sound of plastic bags being rustled.

It’s an undeniable fact that dorm rooms can be seriously bad for sleeping, and having spent a lot of time in them myself I can vouch for that!

Having spoken to many travellers I have come to a conclusion on what the best etiquette for sleeping in a hostel is. You could say that if I don’t like dorms, then why don’t I just sleep somewhere else. Trust me I try to if I can, but the reality is that travelling on a budget at more expensive destinations, you need to save money by staying in a shared room.

Now some people will tell you that what you experience in a dorm is just how it is, and get used to it. I refer to these people as selfish assholes.

Here is my argument. Agree or disagree? You can always let it be known in the comments.

Dorm on boat
Dorms can be cramped.

First things first.

If you show up at a hostel that has a reputation as a party hostel, and then complain about the noise level, you are a moron.

If you show up at a hostel that has a reputation as a quiet and chilled out hostel, and complain there isn’t a party,you are a moron.

You see there are plenty of different types of backpackers out there, and fortunately there are places that cater for each one.

The thing is that in a lot of destinations you will find just a normal hostel, and many times the different backpacking characters will collide. Hence the problem.

What is a dorm room for?

Two main things. One is sleeping, and the second is getting changed. If the dorm has an attached bathroom then you can include getting washed as well.

dorm room
One of the first dorms I ever stayed at back in 1997.

Sleeping in a hostel dorm.

Most people would get to sleep say around midnight, and wake up between eight or nine in the morning. Going by this, is it not justified that between these times people are quiet in the room?

Imagine you are in a eight bed dorm at your average hostel. Six people are sleeping and it’s three in the morning, with the lights off. Suddenly two people come loudly into the room and turn the lights on, waking everyone up. The two people then respond to complaints from the others with the rationale that this is dorm life and it’s their right too behave this way. Selfish assholes?

Then these two complain at ten the next morning that everyone else is being too noisy when they are still trying to sleep. Does anyone else cares what they think after the way they behaved the night before?

If the two had been quiet coming in at night, and not turning the light on, then the other six would most likely try too be less noisy in the morning when they see them still trying too sleep.

You see if people showed some respect to others, then they would get some back.

With regards to sleep times I think this is a general good rule.

1. Between midnight and eight in the morning no noise and no light. That being said if someone is trying too sleep before that, then maybe keep it down a little.

2. Between eight and ten in the morning normal noise levels, but if the majority of the people are still trying too sleep then try to keep it as quiet as you can.

3. Ten in the morning onwards do what you want.

If you know that you will be leaving very early in the morning, then for goodness sake pack the night before, especially if you have a lot of plastic bags! Having too listen to someone pack for thirty minutes at five in the morning rustling plastic bags around seriously gets on your nerves.

When I have to get up early I will pack most things before midnight, and when waking up just grab all my stuff and bring it out of the room to the hallway too get organised. That way I disturb other people as little as possible. Would you agree this is a good thing?

dorm room.
Seriously dude if she’s trying too sleep then let her!

People who live in dorms.

Many hostels have people who live in them either because they are in-between looking for apartments, or are only working/studying for a short period of time and can’t be bothered getting their own place. The staff will generally try to keep the travellers and the ones that live there in separate rooms, but sometimes you will end up sharing.

In this situation you could be kind of screwed, largely due to the fact that people living together for a long enough time already have a dorm system in place that they are used to. Naturally if this isn’t good for you then ask to move rooms.

The good thing about being in a room with people who live there is that you get too meet people with good local knowledge.

Sex in the dorm.

Seriously? You’re going too get laid so you thought it would be great that everyone else has to listen. Do yourself and everyone a favour and get your own room, or at the very least find some corner of the hostel, such as the showers, cleaning cupboards etc too have fun in.

UPDATE: A reader has suggested a dedicated space for sex a.k.a ‘The Shag Space.’ Couldn’t agree more. Maybe a room that you could pay per half an hour to use? Although that may be pushing it towards being a brothel of sorts!

Getting it on in the TV/games room in the hostel is not the best of options.


You decided to leave your smelly shoes and socks in the room for the rest of your fellow travellers too enjoy. Great, thanks for that! Is it not so hard to put them outside the door?

You’ve been out exercising and then don’t bother to shower. Please clean yourself for everyone else!

Farting is natural, we all do it. Around friends it doesn’t really matter, but sharing a room with strangers maybe a bit of constraint is in order. If you have a bad stomach then of course you can’t help it.


You have to admit that when you see an older person who is a bit overweight come into the dorm you cringe because they fit into the category off most likely too snore.

There’s nothing worse than trying too sleep with someone snorting away in the bed next to you. Your average snorer can be dealt with, as it isn’t so loud and generally has a steady pattern. It’s the ones that snore so loudly, practically grunting away, that drives you nuts.

I have joked that there should be a separate room for the really bad snorers. Maybe there should be? Upon arrival you just tell them you snore really badly and don’t feel good about keeping others awake, and they put you in a separate dorm. The non-snorers don’t get disturbed and the worst snorers don’t feel guilty. It’s a win win situation.

Do you think it could work?

It is well known that sleeping on your back can make the snoring a lot worse, so it kind of pisses me off when I see someone who snores badly decide to go to sleep on their back.

If you are a bad snorer you will know that you are, someone will have mentioned it at some point.

Hanging out in the room.

Dorms are good places to meet other people, in fact I love them for that. Hanging around chatting, having a drink, playing some cards etc is great, but when others are trying too sleep it’s time to get out of the room. Pretty much all hostels have a common room for socialising in, and late at night that’s where you should be.

Hang out in the common room if people are trying too sleep.
Hang out in the common room if people are trying too sleep. At Check Inn HK hostel in Hong Kong.

Typing and notifications.

Maybe you have a smartphone with a keypad and decide at four in the morning to message someone for half an hour with Whatsapp or whatever. Those constant clicking sounds from the typing can get seriously annoying, and for fucks sake at least turn the bloody notification sounds off!

The same goes for laptops. Going too sleep watching a movie and so on is cool, but writing an essay on your keypad will not earn you any friends.

The end.

Now I feel like I have been preaching a bit, to say the least, but if we all respected each other with these simple things, then we all could get a better sleep. Waking up absolutely knackered because of noise that could be avoided sucks.

I recommend using SafetyWing Travel Insurance for your trip, just in case, it’s best to be prepared.

What do you have to say about sleeping in dorms?



8 thoughts on “How To Behave In A Dorm Room”

  1. I was in Paris for a week last summer and I do not speak French. The only two words that I used in French were Bonjour and mercy and that was eonugh. I visited major turisty Paris attractions, ordered food in restaurants without any communication problems. No one treated me as ugly american . Though, I still have a Russian accent:-) The only problem during the whole trip I encountered was finding luggage lockers in Paris Train Station before going for 2 days to Brussels. I spent 45 min asking and searching and finally gave up and locked my luggage when I came to Brussel Train station.

  2. Yes getting lost in translation can be a lot of fun and also very frustrating at times! Good you managed too get your bags locked in Brussels. What was your favourite thing about Paris?

  3. you should add alarm clocks to this list, if you have to set an alarm clock off then get up as soon as it goes off, dont keep putting it back into sleep mode, theres nothing worst at 5 in the morning having someones phone alarm going off every five min for half an hour or more

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