The ideal number of toilets per person in a hostel is… – do you know the answer?
If not, don’t worry. In this article, you’ll learn 11+ essential bathroom tips to guarantee your guest’s satisfaction while keeping an eye on your wallet.
Without further ado, let’s dive in!
#1 Research Your Local Building Laws
Depending on where you’re located, there are different local building laws that apply for your hostel bathroom design.
The main three restrictions that you should consider are:
- 1) The minimum number of TOILETS per bed
- 2) The minimum number of SHOWERS per bed
- 3) The minimum number of SINKS per bed
Typically, these requirements are significantly lower than the standard among hostels.
In Sydney, Australia, you need to provide a minimum of:
- 1 toilet for every 20 men
- 1 toilet for every 15 women
- 1 sink for every 30 men/women
If you don’t meet these minimum requirements, you’re not allowed to operate your hostel. Hence, make sure you know the applicable laws BEFORE you plan your bathroom layout.
#2 Separate Toilets From Showers From Sinks
This rule only applies to shared bathrooms, NOT private en-suite ones. For private rooms, I recommend providing full en-suite bathrooms for maximum convenience.
To clear up any confusion: “En-suite” means that the bathroom is either inside the room or directly attached to it.
An all-in-one bathroom is called a “full bathroom” and is defined as a separate room that provides the following four components:
- 1) Shower
- 2) Toilet
- 3) Sink
- 4) Bathtub
Typically, bathtubs don’t play a role in hostels.
A room with only 3 components is called “three-quarter bathroom”. A bathroom that consists of two elements (e.g. toilet + sink) is called “half-bath” and single separate components (e.g. single toilets) are called “quarter-baths”.
The idea behind this rule is simple:
The “fuller” your bathrooms are, i.e. the more components are combined,
the more facilities you need to accommodate the SAME number of guests.
In other words: Providing full bathrooms is an inefficient way of supplying facilities!
Three-quarter bathroom: If the shower is used, the toilet and basin are out of action for everyone else.
By providing quarter baths, i.e. single separate facilities, one could brush their teeth and shave while others take a shower and use the toilet.
Unfortunately, the decision is often cut and dried based on the layout of the hostel building that you leased or bought. However, call in your contractor to see what options you have to separate as many facilities as possible.
#3 Choose The Right Number Of Toilets, Showers & Sinks Per Person
Note that the following recommendations account for quarter baths, i.e. separated single facilities. If you provide full bathrooms, multiply this number by 2.
Let’s talk some numbers.
Toilet Ratio: How many toilets per person in a hostel?
Provide 1 toilet for every 6-10 beds.
The sweet spot between comfort and efficiency lies around 8 toilets per bed.
Shower Ratio: How many showers per person in a hostel?
Provide 1 shower for every 8-12 beds.
The sweet spot between comfort and efficiency lies around 10 showers per bed.
If possible, aim for 1 shower for every 8 women since they typically take longer showers.
Sink Ratio: How many sinks per person in a hostel?
Provide 1 sink for every 10-14 beds.
The sweet spot between comfort and efficiency lies around 12 sinks per bed.
In addition, either provide additional mirrors in the bathroom or install full-length mirrors in the dorms so that women can apply their makeup.
Obviously, these numbers don’t take your individual circumstances into account. Hence, adjust them as needed while still complying with all the local building laws.
#4 Use En-Suite Bathrooms In Private Rooms & Separate Bathrooms For Dorms
As mentioned before, “en-suite” is the technical term for bathrooms that are either directly attached to the room or inside it.
Let’s have a look at the advantages and drawbacks of en-suite bathrooms in hostels:
- Guests typically leave it cleaner: Using an en-suite bathroom is less anonymous and guests know that they will have to use it again.
- More convenient for guests: They don’t need to leave the room to go on the toilet in the middle of the night.
- Noisy: Even if you have sound-proof walls, doors and showers will make noise as well as hairdryers.
- Can be smelly: The entire room might catch the smell after a heavy shit-uation.
- Worse access for the cleaning team: Your cleaner can’t enter the bathrooms without entering the rooms.
- Less efficient: Only guests of the specific room can use the facilities.
For the reasons above, it’s common practice to provide en-suite bathrooms ONLY for private rooms and offer separate bathrooms for dorms.
While you can also provide shared bathrooms for private rooms, I don’t recommend en-suite bathrooms for dorms.
If you’re located in the US or accommodate many Americans, make sure to provide en-suite bathrooms for private rooms.
Most Americans haven’t grown accustomed to the sharing aspect just yet. Hence, the ones that book a private room are typically the ones with the highest need for privacy.
For more information, check out my article about why the US hasn’t embraced hostels yet.
#5 Plan Big Enough Bathrooms
How big should your bathrooms be?
As a rule of thumb:
Rather go for “too big” than “too small”.
Recent studies have shown that guests’ satisfaction correlates with the size of the bathroom. I personally can confirm this fact. A “too small” bathroom can make the entire hostel feel cramped – even if the rooms are spacious.
Furthermore, the trend in the accommodation business goes towards bigger bathrooms as well as bigger showers. [Sounce]
#6 Choose The Right Tiles
If you’re in the fortunate situation to be able to choose the tiles yourself, steer away from white porcelain or ceramic tiles.
Small white tiles are probably the worst thing you can choose for your bathroom. They are hard to keep clean and every little hair is visible like a moth on a lampshade.
“They may be a bit cheaper, they may look big and shiny in the store, but you will be on your knees every day, wiping those white tiles, wishing you had bought slate ones.” – Vikki Matsis
So what’s the best kind of tiles to use?
Big, grey, polished, slate tiles.
Slate: Slate belongs to the most durable natural stones and has an inherent strength against cracks, scratches, and breaks. If sealed on a regular basis (yearly at best), they literally last for decades. Slate also doesn’t get slippery when wet.
Grey: Slate tiles are available in all colors ranging from white to black. However, grey is the one that hides the most dirt and makes hair the least visible. That said, don’t take this as an excuse to skip daily cleaning!
Polished: Slate can come rough with uneven texture or polished and even. By opting for polished tiles, you greatly reduce the size of the surface and hence, make it easier to maintain.
Big: Grout lines are typically the most vulnerable part of the flooring. Hence, the bigger your tiles, the less grout to take care of.
The only real drawback of slate tiles is that they are more expensive than ceramic tiles. However, this investment pays off soon since it will dramatically decrease your time on maintenance.
P.S. The picture above is from a hostel in Cairns, Australia.
#7 Use Rubber Or Plastic Bath Mats For More Safety
Part of your job as a hostel owner is to keep it safe for your guests. Rubber mats in and in front of your showers will do exactly that: They prevent your guests from slipping.
But which rubber mats should you use?
Many hostels use towels since they accumulate fast. However, after 2-3 guests have taken a shower, it’s just a soaked ugly thing lying on the floor. Hence, not recommended.
What about wooden mats?
Wooden mats feel good and contribute to a nice atmosphere. However, they typically don’t last long. Due to its nature, wood becomes moldy easily. Furthermore, it bleaches out when sanitized often and is overall harder to maintain.
So, what’s left?
Rubber and plastic mats. While they might not look as nice as wooden mats, they are cheap, durable, and easier to maintain.
However, make sure to add some additional decoration (e.g. flowers, pictures, etc.) to compensate for the industrial look.
Furthermore, I recommend using dark grey or black instead of bright colors. It is best for hiding stains. (Again, don’t take this as an excuse to have dirty bathrooms)
Here’s a great example I saw in the “Nomads Auckland Backpackers” in New Zealand:
#8 Provide Enough Hooks In Your Shower Stalls
Enough hooks in shower stalls are so essential that the topic deserves its own section.
In my opinion, hooks are a classic example to spot hostel owners who’ve been traveling themselves vs. people who’re just in business for the money. The need and usefulness of enough hooks become obvious when owners have experienced the struggle themselves.
Other travelers confirm that:
That said, make sure your hooks are stable enough. I stopped counting how many hostels I’ve seen with broken plastic hooks. And not being able to hang up my stuff definitely leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Your hooks have to be “retard-proof” and stable enough to hold a full small backpack.
#9 Renovate Dingy Bathrooms
Dingy bathrooms are what I call bathrooms that belong to the category of “hopeless”, i.e. regardless of how much you clean them and no matter what cleaning products you use, they still look dingy.
There’s only one “real” solution to this:
Start saving now and renovate them.
Call your contractor and ask for recommendations on what to replace in order to make it look nicer. Oftentimes, a few small adjustments can do the trick.
#10 Aim For Timeless Bathroom Design
Never before was the advice “keep it simple” more relevant than today.
The reason is, modern design has gone flat and minimalist – and that’s good news for your wallet!
So, what does a modern and timeless bathroom look like?
- Monochromatic or 2-color design
- Spacious room design with little to no decoration
- White, grey and/or black will never go out of fashion
If you want to give your bathrooms more character, add some artificial plants or some moisture-proof pictures.
#11 Keep Your Bathrooms “Really” Clean
Sharing bathrooms with strangers sounds like a nightmare for some people. Hence, it’s all the more important to provide clean facilities.
What might sound like a no-brainer is a real issue in about one-third of the hostels I’ve visited so far – especially, but not only, in big “city-hostels”.
So, how clean is clean enough?
The mother-in-law test:
What would your mother-in-law say about the cleanliness of your bathrooms?
If you get a queasy feeling thinking about it, you know what to do.
The reason why cleanliness is so important is that it’s a “basic factor”. Simply put, it is expected and perceived as a minimum standard. But here’s the crux:
- Dirty bathrooms lead to EXTREME dissatisfaction, BUT
- Providing clean bathrooms does NOT lead to satisfaction since it’s expected.
Learn more about how customer satisfaction works and how to incorporate “wow-factors” in my guide about how to get better hostel reviews.
I wrote my master’s thesis on this topic. Hence, I guarantee you’ll learn something new about it!
To provide clean bathrooms, I recommend doing (at least) one proper cleaning in the morning and a quick once-over in the evening. Also make sure to adjust this rule based on your occupancy: More cleaning in high-season and less in the off-season.
The following is a list of 8 additional tips that are worth mentioning:
- Provide at least one female-only bathroom (if possible)
Even if you decide to use mixed bathrooms, I recommend dedicating at least one extra room for women. The reason is that many women don’t like to do their makeup in front of men. The same goes for using the toilets.
While men typically prefer separate bathrooms as well, they are overall less sensitive.
- Provide many mirrors in the female bathrooms
A great way to make an impression is to add makeup mirrors. Your female travelers will love you for this add-on.
- Provide sensor faucets
Not only will it save plenty of water, but it is also more hygienic since you and your guests don’t have to touch the tap.
- Provide enough outlets for hairdryers and electric razors
There’s another chance to “wow” your guests: If you receive many international travelers, think about adding sockets that don’t require an adapter.
That’s something I saw in the “Canberra City YHA” hostel in Australia. Their bathroom sockets allow me to plug in my European electric razor without any adapter. How awesome!
- Skip group showers
In Germany, we have communal showers in school, in fitness studios as well as other clubs for each gender. Hence, we’re familiar with it and typically care less about sharing bathrooms. (German efficiency at work)
However, only a few countries and cultures are used to the concept of sharing bathrooms. Hence, I’d play it safe and steer away from group showers.
- Provide a toilet brush
It somehow feels silly telling you this 😅
However, as I write this I’m sitting in a hostel in Auckland and it’s the third hostel in a row (!) that doesn’t have any toilet brushes.
Err, you can probably imagine how the toilets look like…
- Provide hand soap
For your own as well as other guest’s safety, soap is essential to reducing the number of bacteria.
If possible, install a soap dispenser on the wall to prevent guests from stealing it or using it in the shower.
- Provide bright lights
The darker the light in hostel bathrooms the more guests feel like the owner is trying to hide something. Furthermore, it helps your guests when applying makeup or styling their hair.
Before you leave: Answer this quick question and help our community.
What do YOU think is essential for hostel bathrooms?
Share your opinion in the comment section below!