Hotel Etiquette

When staying at someone else’s house, perhaps a relative’s or friend’s place, do you respect the house rules? Do you behave accordingly? As a guest you will follow a few rules. Some are written, others are just commonsense but they are all rules a person with some decency would respect. These are the same kind of rules you would expect at home, so why can’t staying in hotels be the same for a few?

We’ve already seen how bad etiquette can impact air travel so I thought let’s explore what is good and bad etiquette while staying at a hotel or other accommodation. Logically we’ll start and finish at the hotel door, checking-in and checking-out.

Lobby and Front Desk

First contact; where it is important to start on a good note. Regardless whether jet lagged, tired or cranky from a long flight or in a bad mood for some other reason, one should set their mind to be calm, then behave accordingly. Consideration for the hotel staff and other guests is very important here. First off let’s list a few things not to do:

  • Don’t ignore the staff when they greet you.
  • Don’t argue with the front desk staff or be disrespectful.
  • Don’t be pushy at check-in and check-out.
  • Don’t assume special treatment unless you have status and there’s a desk clerk just for you.

Good etiquette starts at arrival, so always greet the hotel staff, at the door, front desk (concierge), restaurant and in the hallways, etc., and be polite at all times. This makes everyone feel appreciated and it will rub on you as well. If there is an issue or a discrepancy in a booking, etc., use calm language. Ask to see a manager if the desk clerk cannot help you. Getting hot under the collar and sprouting vulgarities solves nothing. Remember abusive language is a no-no in all cases. Wait your turn patiently at check-in. At check-out if you need to rush somewhere, the airport, train station etc., inform the staff as soon as possible. If waiting at the front desk be apologetic to anyone in line before you. It’s good not to leave things to the last second piling on the pressure.


At breakfast the lack of etiquette will be more evident. Not everyone has the same table manners or eats with grace and style. I wouldn’t expect most people to eat this way but at least have some decorum. Being selfish and inconsiderate here is also a bad move. Some examples of bad etiquette:

  • Coming to morning breakfast with hair wet, perhaps rushing from having a shower or straight from a morning swim in the hotel pool or even worse from the beach (if at a resort).
  • Wearing swimwear, bathrobe, pool towel, tank tops (singlets), gym shorts, flip flops (thongs in Australia) at the buffet unless of course the buffet is outdoors at the pool or beach.
  • Handling food with hands when there are utensils.
  • Improperly using own spoon or fork instead of the serving utensils.
  • Leaning over food.
  • Using one serving spoon for two or more serving dishes.
  • Dropping food and then returning it to the trays and serving dishes.
  • Handling forks, knives, spoons not by the handle and then placing them back.
  • Hogging food then not eating it.
  • Leaving food strewn all over the table in a mess.

I haven’t included table manners or how people eat. Breakfast is not fine dining all dressed up, so there is leeway for interpretation on what to wear. Covering up is the decent thing to do unless it’s a pool or beachside buffet. How to eat? Chew with mouth closed and no talking with mouth full are a good start and no waving forks in the air is another.


In your room you are entitled to comfort, privacy and resting in peace and quiet. The biggest issue here is inconsiderate people; noise in the hallways and noisy neighbours. Typical examples of this behaviour are:

  • Running down hallways, chatting and calling out loudly at all hours.
  • Slamming doors.
  • Sliding chairs and moving furniture on hard floors.
  • Banging against walls.
  • Partying and loud arguing.
  • Watching TV with the volume up.
  • Scattering clothes and belongings all over the room.
  • Giving housekeepers extra work they are not required to do.

Think of others when coming and going from the room. Not all hotels have the best soundproofing. Being tidy is a good idea and keep belongings safe. Better not assume the housekeepers will clean after you and that things of value won’t disappear. I must add also do not steal hotel property: coat hangers, bathrobes, towels, bed linen, coffee maker, fixtures, etc. What you can take are the small tubes/bottles of shampoo or body wash and the pencil and note pad. If you want a souvenir bathrobe you can ask at the front desk to purchase one or anything else that may have the hotel’s brand stitched or printed on it. Don’t use room items such as kettles, iron and ironing boards, fridges, TVs, furniture, etc., for purposes they weren’t intended for. Be considerate to the guests coming after you and do not damage any property that is not yours.

Pool and Gym

The pool and gym are communal areas so you need to be very mindful of other guests. Some bad habits are:

  • Leaving used pool towels about instead of the used towels basket.
  • Hogging sun chairs.
  • Leaving showers messy.
  • Running around the pool.
  • Not returning free weights to where they should be stored.
  • Not wiping down sweat on exercise equipment.
  • Not placing used sweat towels in the soiled basket.

The showers at the pool or gym can be used after check-out if you have a late flight, train, etc. This is a complimentary service many hotels offer. In return keep things tidy and return any used towels to the soiled basket.

This is only a short list of the plenty of don’ts. There are probably many more as these are only the ones I have witnessed and know about. They are all easily correctable using commonsense; respect, consideration and good behaviour. Simple etiquette to make sojourning less stressful and more enjoyable for everyone.

I’ll leave you with a quote from George Bernard Shaw; “The great advantage of a hotel is that it is a refuge from home life.” And it should be, so let’s leave the bad habits at home where we can always return to later and immerse ourselves in peace and comfort and enjoy time away from everyday worries and hassles.


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