Backpacker Etiquette

When you’re a backpacker, there are a few unwritten rules to abide by. Abiding by these rules is a way of showing respect for you fellow backpackers. When I was in Australia, and then again in South America, I encountered a few people not respecting these rules. When this happens, it can put someone off backpacking entirely. Unwritten are these rules no more, as I am going to write them here.

1. Take enough money.
If you don’t have enough money when you’re travelling you can’t do everything and still eat. I’m not saying money is the be all and end all of the world, it’s not, you can have fun without it. But there are some things you can’t do without money. Like eat. Which brings me to #2.

2. DO NOT steal other peoples’ food.
Plain and simple, if you can’t guarantee to have enough money to be able to buy food for yourself every single day of your trip, don’t even bother travelling. Food-stealing backpackers are the absolute worst. If you’ve run out of money while away and you find yourself in a situation where you’re sneaking around taking other peoples’ food out of the fridge, it’s time to abandon ship, go home, get a job and save to continue travelling. I have had so much food stolen from other backpackers, a it’s one of the most annoying things in the backpacker world.

3. Do not have sex in hostel dorms.
It’s disgusting, I was woken up once by a roommate having sex. She wasn’t even in the bunk underneath me, and still managed to wake me up with a bit of bed shaking. Either fork out the extra cash for a private room, or just don’t bother. Your fellow backpackers don’t pay all that money for their dorm so they can listen to the sound of you having sex. Show some respect.

4. Be quiet in dorms.
You’re out partying all night and come back to find at least one, maybe two, of your roommates fast asleep. Don’t stand in your dorm having a loud conversation with your friend, you will wake up your sleeping roommates. Then they’ll probably return the favour and be really loud and wake you up early in the morning when they get up hang over free. Equally, if you have to check out early, pack your bags the night before so you don’t unnecessarily wake up your roommates, and if you have to get up early for a trip, get prepared the night before too. It’s just common courtesy really.

5. Don’t annoy your roommates.
If you come in late and your roommates are fast asleep, you can’t put the light on. You have to get dresses in the dark. It’s the same in the morning too- if you get up early in the morning and not everyone is up, you leave the light off. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to get dressed in the dark. If one or several of your roommates are napping in the afternoon, you can be as noisy as you want and flick the light on and off as many times as you want. It’s the middle of the day, it’s acceptable.

6. Talk to people.
You will meet all sorts of interesting people, people you will probably never see again, and people with varying levels of boring. Be friendly, talk to them all. You don’t have to like them, but it might be their first time travelling and they might need reassurance or advice. It might be your first time travelling and you’re looking for a party buddy.

7. Respect your roommates possessions.
In Australia, I shared a room with a girl for about three months. She was probably the worst person in the world to share a room with, because she broke rules #4 and #5, and this one too. She used my hair straighteners. She didn’t ask if she could use them, she just used them. When I realised she was using them, I hid them under some clothes in my suitcase. I didn’t close my suitcase, so she saw this as an open invitation to go digging through my clothes and using them. And when she put them back, she didn’t even put them back properly, and could have easily burnt my clothes with them. After that I started to lock my suitcase. This girl is the scum of the backpacking world. You NEVER go through anyone else’s things, unless they have told you otherwise. There was also someone in Argentina who used my adapter without asking. In this case I’d left it out, but you still don’t take/borrow without asking.

So there we go, follow these rules for a simple stress free backpacking trip, and no one will consider you backpacking scum. Because I’ve encountered people breaking rules #2 and #7, even when asked now, I will say no to you having a slice of my bread or borrowing my adapter. Don’t take it personally if it’s you I say no to, I’m just cautious now because of I’ve had food stolen and because I’ve had people go through my suitcase to ‘borrow’ something without asking.

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