Dorm Room Etiquette: Our Worst 5 Hostel Experiences

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Since we’ve been back in the UK for the last 5 months, we’ve been pretty spoilt with being able to live back in the comfortable surroundings of the house we own. We weren’t planning on having a permanent base while we were back but by pure coincidence our tenants choose to move out shortly after we got back, so we moved back in. As we are preparing to rent the house again and head off once more into the travelling world, we’ve been reminiscing about some of the now hilarious, but at the time downright terrible accommodation experiences we’ve had whilst we’ve been backpacking.

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Now we love hostels, not just because they are generally excellent value for money, but also because they are great way to meet fellow travellers and the staff are usually very knowledgable about the best things to do in the local area. However, one thing is for certain, you have absolutely zero control over who you may be sharing a dorm room with and we have had some very ‘interesting’ experiences. Here’s our worst 5 hostel experiences, which if you are considering staying in a hostel for the first time should give you an insight into what appropriate dorm room etiquette is.

How To Stay In A Hostel

So here’s how it goes, the more beds there are in room, the cheaper they will be. We’ve stayed in rooms with any many as 28 other people and as little as 2 other people. The dorm rooms generally come in 2 categories, mixed and female only. I’m not sure that we’ve stayed anywhere that’s had male only rooms. Travelling as a mixed sex couple, we always choose to stay in the same dorm room, i.e. a mixed sex one. However, for female backpackers, if you are either travelling by yourself or in a female only group I would always recommend checking out the female dorm above a mixed sex dorm. Particularly if you are in a party place. I’ll explain why.

Having heard a lot about the backpacker party capital of South East Asia, Bangkok, we of course wanted to experience it whilst we were in Thailand. We only had a few days before we heading down for a couple of weeks living in a beach hut on a quiet part of Koh Samui Island, so we thought we’d jump right in the thick of it and booked a hostel just of Khao San Road. Now we’re not young ‘ens anymore but we do like a drink and a party now and again so we were looking forward to letting our hair down, fully expecting to catch up on sleep after we left. But we got more than we bargained for, well I certainly did.

somewhere in Thailand

You see the room we were staying in had 8 beds, we were occupying 2 and the others were taken by a group of six 18 year old British ‘lads’ on a ‘lads holiday’. Sure they were noisy and and pretty lairy but nothing we couldn’t ignore for the one night we were sharing a room. That was until 4am when they all came in drunk (obviously waking us up) and completely stripped off. It was just really weird, you know?! I mean I’m not a prude by any stretch, but there I was a 30 odd year old married woman surrounded by all these young lads with their dinkles out. They weren’t doing anything offensive, it was just a really odd situation.

a temple

Hostel Sleeping Tips

The second bad experience I’ll delight you with, actually happened in the same dorm room the very night after. What a complete run of luck we had. I’m not going to name the hostel because it was actually a really great place, so I don’t think that’s fair. But our stay took on a whole nother level of weird. The second night we’d been out partying ourselves and hadn’t long been asleep when we were woken by some of the other occupants of our room getting in. There were two lads in particular that were absolutely smashed. One was running back and forth to the toilet being sick, which whilst not a pleasant experience, was nothing compared to what was about to go down with the other.

Sarah in a swing

James was on the bottom bunk and I was on the top bunk and the other very ‘drunk’ dude was on the top bunk opposite me shouting ‘SILENCIO, SILENCIO’. Now there were a couple of strange things about this, 1) he was British, no one in room spoke Spanish, including him, and 2) he was also the only one making any noise. As it turned out, explained by his slightly more sober friend who was indeed trying to silence him, he had taken some drugs and was on a massive trip. Unable to sleep, I was at this point just reading on my phone. However the light was only serving to attract his attention to my bunk, followed by a mistaken case of identity as he then proceeded to shout ‘Daisy’ at me.

Getting pretty pissed off and in need of sleep I put my phone away, put my ear plugs back in, my eye mask on and rolled over to face away from him. Thankfully he piped down and I started to drift to sleep. Next thing I knew, said person was only at the side of my bed attempting to stoke my face and ‘whispering’ Daisy in my ear. It was honestly one of the freakiest things I’ve encountered. Worse still (but in true keeping with the previous night’s events), he was completely naked and was stood there dangling his manhood right in front of James’s face! I’m not sure who got it worse that night. We promptly left the next day.

Sarah with the big gong

Dorm Room Etiquette

You might be thinking it can’t get much worse than this, but I can assure you it does. We’d been backpacking in South America a few months at this stage and were spending a few days in the capital of Peru, Lima. We’d checked the reviews of the hostels that matched our budget, found a nice place and booked into a 10 bed dorm with a shared bathroom. This time we were both on top bunks next to each other. Everything was great the first night. Well until James informed me the next morning that he’d been woken during the wee hours by some of our roomies doing the do. Eurgh! I was so glad I hadn’t woken up. Little did I know I was in for my own treat that night.


I honestly thought there was a earthquake or something when I woke up because my bed was frantically shaking. But oh no, the occupants below where just having a really vigorous session. It was so disgusting! I hate confrontation, but after listening to their “noises”, it got to a point where I just couldn’t take it any longer. So I climbed down from my bed and hands on hips shared my opinion on their antics before storming off to bathroom. Thankfully the bed was singularly occupied by the time I came back. What was even worse was that the girl in the bottom bunk was actually a member of staff at the hostel. So wrong. I mean, come on get a room – you’re own room!

James with ukulele

Budget and personal space wise, that is one thing to check out about hostels if there are two of you travelling. It can often be the same price or not that much more to get a private room. Unless they are wildly more expensive, after the experiences we’ve had, we now generally always choose this option when we stay in hostels. But if you’re single and on the pull, please don’t bring your moves back to a dorm room, find somewhere else. It really is disgusting to have to witness.

Hostel Horror Stories

Now for the stuff of nightmares. I thankfully wasn’t party to this experience, it was something that James had the pleasure of on his own whilst we were doing some solo travelling. Again I won’t name the hostel because this was quite a while ago and the situation is probably now under control. I hope so anyway. James was staying at a hostel on a small island in Cambodia, a really lovely rustic place right on the beach. Upon check in the staff told him to take any food products out of his bags and they would keep them in their store because there were some rats knocking about. Not ideal, but okay, he thought.


The second night he was there he woke up in the night to a girl in the dorm room he was in screaming. Not only had a rat gotten into her bed, it had gotten stuck and was subsequently running around the inside of her mosquito net squealing whilst she was frantically trying to escape. After helping her out (but not being one to be bothered perturbed by a few rodents), James settled back into bed and stayed a few more nights without any intruders. I’m not sure I could have done the same thing, I think I’d have been out of there like a shot. That poor girl!

James and the boat

Should I Stay In A Hostel

If you’ve never stayed in a hostel, you are probably asking yourself at this stage why anyone would. And if this last tale doesn’t put you off, you’ll probably survive in a dorm room. We were in Hong Kong and shared rooms are a little different there, usually bunks are 3 beds high with privacy curtains across – I’m just painting a picture of the space here for you. Honestly this one really is the strangest of things and we were so grateful that it didn’t occur in the room we were staying in, but instead happened in our friend’s room who relayed it to us.

So picture this, it’s a 9 bunk room, but not all the beds are occupied. You’re asleep behind your curtain when suddenly your hear lots of commotion. You peer out and there’s one of your roomies there, stark naked, tackle in hand, leaping around from one unoccupied bed to next…. chokin’ the chicken. Seriously this is a true story. Some of our other friends overheard one of the exhibitionist’s room mates complaining at reception, saying that they needed to remove the guy there and then, otherwise he was going to kill him. Who knows if he was being serious, but the pervert left and there wasn’t a murder as far as we know.

James and Sarah with friends

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that hopefully these tales have more amused you than completely put you off staying in hostel dorm rooms while you are travelling. Put into context these were 5 isolated incidents over what must have been well over 200 nights stays in hostels over a 12 month period. Like I said above, hostels are great environments for making friends and getting to know the lowdown on the area.

Just please exercise some dorm room etiquette when staying in hostels and try your best not to terrorise your roommates – even if you are drunk. And be sure to help out your fellow traveller if they have a rat in their bed! Happy travels!