How to Live in a Hostel: The Customs & Unspoken Rules©
How to Live in a Hostel: The Customs & Unspoken Rules

How to Live in a Hostel: The Customs & Unspoken Rules

Article Single Pages©
Article Single Pages©
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Etiquette for Staying in a Hostel

As a top backpacker destination, New Zealand has a wide choice of hostels, especially in cities. They are ideal for staying short-term at a cheap price. But what makes them great, especially for those travelling alone, is that you can meet like-minded people. Backpackers usually choose to stay in dorm rooms from 4 to 12 people, as these are the cheapest rates. As you can imagine, sharing facilities and a room with a bunch of people means there are some guidelines to stick to out of respect to others. With this in mind, get to know how to live in a hostel by reading this quick guide. That way, you won’t be that annoying person rustling plastic bags at 4am that everyone wants to throw a shoe at.

Once you have found out how to live in a hostel, be sure to check out 10 Great Hostels in the North Island and 10 Great Hostels on the South Island.

What Facilities Do Hostels Have?

Hostel guests usually share a:

  • kitchen
  • toilet and shower rooms
  • laundry costing around NZ$4 per wash then another NZ$4 for the tumble dryer
  • lounge or common room
  • Some hostels have added extras like a TV room and sauna

Linen is usually provided (if not it will likely come at an extra cost), which you are then usually required to bring back to reception when you checkout. Sleeping bags are often banned in hostels in New Zealand.

Hostel Rules to Live by:

Pixabay© Pixabay

In Your Dorm Room

  • Have your clothes ready for a quick change the next morning as to not wake people by rummaging.
  • Use your bed linen by doing the backpacker burger’, which goes from top to bottom: duvet, top sheet, human, bottom sheet, mattress, and bed.
  • If you are leaving the next morning, pack your things the night before so you can leave quietly and quickly.
  • Be respectful to those sleeping in your dorm no one likes a drunken mooncat making noise and falling into the bunk beds!
  • Don’t have sex in the dorm.
  • Be tidy. Not only will people not have to trip over your stuff, but it also helps you keep track of where your possessions are.
  • Be social! It makes it easier to share a room with people when you’re being social. If your roommate doesn’t seem too keen though, just give them some space.
  • Turn your phone on silent at night.
  • Wear clothes.
Pixabay© Pixabay

In the Bathroom

  • Wash regularly. No one wants to live with a smelly person.
  • There are usually plug sockets in the bathrooms, so drying your hair or trimming your beard, will be less disturbing for your roommates.
  • Keep showers to a maximum of five minutes so that your fellow hostel-dwellers don’t have to wait for too long.
Pixabay© Pixabay

In the Kitchen

  • Clean up after yourself including washing and drying your dishes! This encourages more people to do the same and actually gives you space to prepare your epic meals.
  • Label your food with name, departure date and room number. It’s usually easier if you keep all your food together in a plastic bag and label the bag.
  • Don’t take other people’s food or drink!
  • If you have allergies, look after yourself by following the 8 Tips for Cooking in a Shared Kitchen with Food Allergies.

Cooking in a hostel kitchen is the best way to save money on food while you are backpacking in New Zealand. Because of this, we have put together a whole section of Hostel Recipes so you won’t have to rely on the noodles!

Pixabay© Pixabay


  • Wash your clothes once a week for hygiene reasons. It will keep you healthier and more bearable for your roommates to be around.
  • Dry them in the tumble dryer or outside on a clothesline if there is one. Hanging wet clothes around a dorm room is usually frowned upon.
  • Tumble dryers in hostels are renowned for being less than useless. Your clothes will dry better with smaller loads.
  • Keep an eye on the time when doing your laundry. If you are not there when the machine has finished then chances are that the next person will put your clothes somewhere random.©

Final Tips on How to Live in a Hostel

We go through some more etiquette on how to live in a hostel for people staying in one long-term. Just read What it’s Like to be a Long-Termer in a Hostel and 10 Tips to be a Great Long-Term Roommate in a Hostel Dorm.

There are many types of hostels in New Zealand, from chain brands to characterful independent one to unique ones. Find some awesome hostels to stay in by checking out the following articles:

But Remember…

Talk to people! There are loads of interesting people from all over the world to meet in hostels. You never know, you could meet some awesome travel buddies. That’s just one good reason to stay in a hostel. Find out our other reasons by reading our article Why Stay in a Hostel. Plus, you could meet some right characters like the 19 Backpackers That You Will Meet in Every Hostel.


The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Laura S.

This article has been reviewed and published by Laura, the editor-in-chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Laura is a first-class honours journalism graduate and a travel journalist with expertise in New Zealand and South Pacific tourism for over 10 years. She also runs travel guides for five of the top destinations in the South Pacific and is the co-host of over 250 episodes of the NZ Travel Show on YouTube.

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