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As someone who has lived in Amsterdam, I’ve had my fair share of family and friends visiting. Needless to say, I’ve had some bad houseguests, including one who showed up at my door with no notice only to keep me awake all night on a work night with being noisy. I’m not the only one who has had rude houseguests, so I’ve asked my fellow travel bloggers for their houseguest etiquette 101 with some tips on how not to be a bad houseguest with some generally good houseguest etiquette.
What not to do as a houseguest
I’ve asked my fellow travel bloggers for their bad guest stories to teach you what not to do as a houseguest and provide some tips for being a houseguest when staying with friends or family. Know someone who needs a nudge about their behavior? Share this post!
Don’t use your friend’s house for sexy time
After my husband and I moved from Boston to London, we had tons of people wanting to stay with us. Our flat had two bedrooms, so it wasn’t that inconvenient. However, a few friends had never left the U.S. before and thought it’d be a good opportunity to ‘get to know’ the locals of London. And by get to know, I mean invite them back to the flat in the middle of the night to sneak them in and have a naughty sleepover. Not great. One guest realized Tinder worked internationally and asked if they could throw a party in our tiny apartment with new ‘friends’ they met that day online!
I didn’t think I’d have to do this, but we had to be up front with a rule about no outside guests/strangers could come over without a head’s up. My tip on how to be a good houseguest would be to set clear boundaries if there’s some deal breakers before your friends arrive. – Eileen Cotter Wright, from Pure Wander
Don’t leave the house a mess
As a frequent traveler, I often stay at my friends’ places and have my friends from other countries come over to stay at my place. I know that hosting someone needs to be a pleasant experience for the host and not something to worry about. I take extreme care to be a good guest too.
A few months back, we had a guest come over and stay with us for a few days. That week was bad for me because the guest was an extremely messy person and I love keeping things tidy as much as possible. He did not think anything about throwing a wet towel on the couch or leaving all kinds of paper receipts on the guest room floor. I was shocked at the state of the guest bathroom. Hair everywhere, water on the floor…
Guests should always consider the hosts’ comfort and avoid behaving as if they’re home. Sometimes, it is better to consult the host on how to go about something you are not sure of like “where to hang the towel to dry”. Always try to leave as minimal mess as possible and better yet, offer to help your host to clean up. -Priyadarshini from Glorious Sunrise.
Don’t overstep boundaries or go through your hosts’ stuff
Since moving to Costa Rica, I have been happy to offer a crash space for my friends whenever possible and it’s always been pleasant…until my last house guest. She was a return guest, a long-time friend and I always appreciated her company, especially as she was a talented cook all too happy to prepare nearly every meal and always kept her space clean.
During her last visit, I had to dogsit one night so offered to let her sleep in my bed as opposed to her makeshift bed in the living space. Obviously our bedrooms are our most intimate space but I thought nothing of letting her share it since I wasn’t sleeping there and when she sent me a text that she was “organizing”, I just automatically assumed she was referring to the kitchen.
Imagine my surprise – and subsequent feelings of privacy invasion – when I returned home to find that her “organizing” had actually been of my bedroom and that all of my belongings had been touched. Including the pile of dirty clothes I had on the floor waiting to be washed, which she folded…and put back into my closet. I admit that I definitely do fall on the side of disorganized, especially in my bedroom, but I KNOW where all of my stuff is. If I wanted everything neatly put somewhere, I would do it myself. I appreciated that she had done basic cleaning, like changing my sheets for me, but felt completely violated that she had rummaged through nearly all of my stuff in her attempts to “organize”.
Tip on being a good house guest: it’s always nice to clean up after yourself and doing superficial cleaning, but there’s a line between organizing a shared space and invasion of privacy. – Sky from Skyvsworld
Don’t rely on your host for transportation
We have hosted over 500 Couchsurfing guests at our place in Atlanta, and while bad experiences seldom occur, there are a few experiences that stuck with us as not so pleasant. One in particular that annoys us is when guests expect us to drive them places.
Atlanta has a public transportation, but it can definitely use some improvement. It’s not extensive enough to get people around a growing metropolis of 6 million inhabitants. A car is somewhat essential here, and not many backpackers have the budget to rent a car.
One guests once asked me on where a particular restaurant was – an acquaintance of his wanted him to meet for dinner there. It was, unfortunately, out of reach by of public transportation. Since I was at home, he asked me mid-conversation whether I could give him a ride. It caught me off guard, and I regrettably couldn’t avoid it.
I agreed to drop him off, even though he didn’t even invite me to join them for dinner. When I was back home for about an hour, my phone rang, and voila – he was on the other line, asking me to pick him up. I told him no.
My advice is, whether you’re good friends or a Couchsurfer staying with a host, to not rely on your host to drive you to places. Be self-sufficient – use Uber, Lyft, or public transportation. If you’re unable to be completely self-sufficient when you travel, ask yourself whether or not now is the best time for you to even go. -Halef from thertwguys
Don’t eat all the food in the house and not replace it
I said, “Make yourself at home, help yourself to something to eat.” Isn’t that what a polite host says to their house guest? Maybe it’s my own fault for not hiding the box of chocolates in the back of my bedroom cupboard and not labelling the steak with “tonight’s dinner”. Who makes themselves a full steak dinner on a Thursday afternoon?
If you are a guest in someone’s house, please note the true meaning of “make yourself at home”: feel free to relax and watch TV, check your emails, and make yourself a cup of tea. However, do your dishes, pick up your towels, and make your bed. This is not a hotel. Helping yourself to food means have a bowl of muesli, a biscuit or a sandwich, not rifling through cupboards and making yourself a banquet with the full contents of the fridge! Next time, I recommend you check out the Airbnb down the road.
Your Gracious Host
-Kaylie from Happiness Travels Here
Don’t Turn Up as a Surprise Guest
Some surprises are good. Winning the lottery, an all-expenses-paid holiday, possibly even birthday parties (depends on the person….) In my experience though, surprise house guests aren’t the good kind of surprise.
I hate to sound churlish (well, actually, I don’t), but hosting a guest takes time and effort; time and effort we’re more than willing to give, but only if we have a little notice. Surprising someone with your unsolicited stay in their house is not the done thing or kind to your host.
I used to live in Dubai and have dealt with more than my fair share of surprise guests. More than one of my friends thought it would be a lovely treat to book their tickets with a few days layover in Dubai and surprise me with the info that they were coming to stay days (and once hours) before they were due to arrive.
The result? I had to drop everything and rearrange plans to play the role of the perfect host. Good thing they were good friends, but each of them still has a black mark against their name in the bad visitor guest book several years later. -Julianna, The Discoveries Of
Don’t expect your host to be your tour guide
I know it’s exciting when you are visiting a new destination. You’re staying with a friend and they’re going to show you all of the dope spots during the day and you’re going to party all night. Sounds fun right? It is. When you’re on holiday. The thing is, if you’re staying with a friend, the chances are they aren’t on holiday.
As someone who has juggled work, day-to-day life and an overly-ambitious guest’s itinerary time and time again, it’s exhausting! There’s only so many nights this girl can drink cocktails until dawn and put in a proper day’s work the day after, and that number is zero.
One buddy turned up to Dubai with a jam-packed four day itinerary and then was disgruntled when I reminded them that I’d only been able to take two days off work, so they’d have to explore solo for two days. First up, your host has probably seen all the things that you are desperate to see, but they’ll go anyway. Organising a few things / days where you explore on your own is often appreciated. -Julianna
Don’t overstay your welcome
Have you ever had that guest that doesn’t know when to go home? You’ve invited them to stay for a few days and its starting to get a bit awkward and they still haven’t mentioned when they might be moving on. Its such a horrible feeling to have to ask someone to leave, especially when they might be a family member.
We all have busy lives, those with kids like us, are running from sporting commitments to music classes every night and hardly have a chance to get dinner on the table. Having an extra person here for a night to two would be fine but for a week or more would be an imposition. People need to read the signs and recognise when their hosts are getting fed up. Particularly when your host starts enquiring about your next stop and when you might be heading there!
Don’t treat your friend’s apartment like a hotel or Airbnb
I love catching up with people and since moving abroad, I often have people getting in touch for a beer or a coffee to catch up over years past. It’s great, however if you’re living somewhere that is a big tourist destination, you’re likely to have acquaintances that you haven’t seen in years mention that they might be in town and if they can stay with you. Sometimes I say yes, however I’ve been burned a few times, so I think that it’s important to mention that staying with a friend is not staying at a hotel or Airbnb where you can choose to ignore your host if you so choose.
There’s a human component to staying with family or friends. They say yes often with the hopes that you’ll get to catch up and get some quality time together. Often, if you’re living far apart, it’s hard to get that quality time is that is easy to get in person, however don’t be a rude house guest. Remember that you can’t retreat back to your room every evening and making an effort each day, even if your friend/family member has to work, to spend a little time together without imposing too much. It’s good to remember that they agreed for a reason and they are putting in the time/effort to host you!
Make an effort to engage with your host regularly and better yet: thank your colleague/family member for hosting you with a thoughtful gift. It doesn’t need to be anything big, but a nice bottle of wine or treating your family/friend to a nice meal out can go a long way to show your thanks. At minimum, just try to sit in the living room (unless you feel like you’re imposing) and be open to making a little conversation. It’s not cool to disappear for days on/end while hiding in your friend’s guest room when we’re wondering what you’re up to. Book a hotel room if you want to avoid social interactions. -Jaime from the Travel Bug
Don’t expect your friends to go out each night with you
You might be on vacation, but your host may not be. If it’s their home, they probably have work and obligations that aren’t always so easy to get out of. Even if you’re understanding of this, remember that your friend might not have the energy (or cash) to go out with you each nice. It’s nice to be invited out to dinner, but a week’s worth of dinners add up, especially if your host is on a budget. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends for recommendations, but don’t be afraid to be independent and/or get takeout, so you can eat together with your friend (who might be cooking at home). Another good solution: buy some ingredients or go to the supermarket with your host, so you can cook dinner at home together. -Annie from Just Travel
Watch your kids. Your friend’s house is not a childcare.
I am old and cranky and have encouraged my own children not to have children as I would be what they call a mean grandma. When young friends of ours came to visit us while house sitting in Mexico, I said “sure bring the kids”. My expectation was that since they were such good parents at home, there wouldn’t be any issues. Unfortunately I was wrong, badly wrong. From the moment, they arrived at the airport and I saw the kids running around and screaming, I knew it was about to get a lot worse.
Hell came to stay began with mom decided to check out while sunbathing, dad decided to drink, and the kids jumped into a shallow pool. After my husband made a joke making clear that he was annoyed, we had no problem with either of the kids. The parents on the other hand continued to behave badly and will never be invited back. -Faith from https://xyuandbeyond.com
Ask your host before having people over; DO NOT have a party
Most people enjoy visits from their friends. It can be so much fun having people they know stay for a night or longer… if they know a person. Not everyone loves strangers in their apartment. If you happen to visit a friend or acquaintance, make sure to ask whether you can bring other people around.
Replace everything that you lose/break and/or offer to pay
You’re staying with someone for a couple days and something breaks or you lose something. No big, right? Stuff happens. If you break or lose something, own up to it before the last day and/or offer to replace it. Sometimes, it’s hard to replace, but at least make the effort to give some money towards the value.
One houseguest left after dropping the news of losing something that I contributed half the cost to with the intention of using it after she left. Needless to say, exiting without an apology, offering pay me back the cost and looking for said item one last time after a week of staying in my then-studio apartment for a week wasn’t cool. I ended up having spending hours of phone calls and emails to see if I could replace it on my own. I never got an email back from her after she left and I sent an email just asking for an apology. It’s been over a year.
Don’t fall asleep while cooking or burn down your friend’s house
I have had my fair share of guests spending the night for the week when I lived in Las Vegas. On the whole, most of my friends are respectful and leave things cleaner than when they arrived. There was, however, that one guest…..
I had just bought a brand new townhouse and it was only 2 months old, and my guest almost burnt it down. It was a dark and stormy night…..it really was. I had just come home from a hard day at the office. I pulled into the garage, closed the garage door and headed inside unaware of what I was about to find. As soon as I cracked the door open, I smelled smoke and something crackling loudly. I rushed inside, the panic mounting and found my guest ASLEEP on the couch while her meal was smoking on the stove.
I had to shake her awake, yelled at her that her food was burning, and smoking up the whole house. My cupboards were spotted with grease like a checkerboard game gone wrong. I quickly turned off the stove and doused the charred greasy food inside the pan with water quickly. Not only did she almost burn the house down, but also set a silicon lined teapot on the stove to heat it up that evening. Needless to say, she didn’t stay very long and has not been back. Moral of the story: don’t fall asleep or get excessively drunk or high right before cooking… -Janiel from culturetrekking.com
Houseguest etiquette: How to be a good houseguest
You’ve read enough horror stories about rude house guests, so here’s some quick tips on houseguest etiquette and how to be a good houseguest. Most hosts are just looking for someone who appreciates staying with them, is self-sufficient, and will treat their stuff/house with respect. Beyond that, we’re mostly just excited to spend time with you.
- Give your host enough notice before you come.
- If you want to bring someone over, ask your host first. Don’t assume it’s okay.
- Be mindful that your host might be working/tired and can’t show you around.
- Be independent. I know that you want to spend time with your friend, but being a good houseguest sometimes means that you need to entertain yourself. There’s a whole internet full of possibilities. 😉
- Clean up after yourself and try harder to be neater than you are at home.
- Even if your schedule and your host’s schedule is packed, make time to coffee with your host (or something) each day.
- Bring something as a thank you. It can be small, but even a box of chocolate can go a long way.
- Replace the food that you eat and consider taking a trip to the supermarket.
- Feel out your hosts’ expectations. Do they expect you come downstairs fully dressed?
- Make an effort to say hi and be social with your host while having boundaries.
- If you break something or lose something, replace it and/or offer something in return.
Tell me your worst houseguest stories and some houseguest etiquette that you wish that people would learn…
Feel free to passively aggressively share this post on timeline and leave all your previous houseguests guessing if they made the cut. 😉