I have been the proud occupant of the loft above Room 36 in Tango Backpacker's for almost 6 solid months now. Rufus (the afro wig who lives atop my hatrack who wears aviators and a clown nose) scares the crazy cakes out of me every morning before my glasses make my face. (He often pretends to be a real boy.) My mediocre art adorns the walls, home-made pillow cases made from old t-shirts and a big blanket made out of two fuzzy fleece airplane blankets are tossed haphazardly on the bed, and several shelves made from wooden crates which people leave all over the roads here line the walls. Life is good, and it kind of feels like home, in a weird, friendly but hostelly way.
So here are some things I've learned about B.A. hostels from 6 months of living here (and general info from 2 or 3 more months wandering about South America.)
HOSTEL ETIQUETTE & COMMON...STUFF
"You may very well be well bred
Lots ot etiquette in your head" - "Peter Pan"
Be nice to the staff, and they will be nice to you. (Your mommy should have taught you this when you were three.)
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR - Do not complain about the crappiness of the coffee. If you feel you must, "politely suggest": leave a polite note, make a polite comment to the manager, or GO TO A HOTEL.
The way you lay claim to a bed in a room with several beds (if they aren't already assigned) is by putting something of yours on it. This is a pretty recognized "marking of the territory," if you will. You keep the same sheets until you are ready to check out, at which time you take the sheets off your bed, and take them to reception, and hand back the key. This is the way you say "I'm done!" And the cleaning lady knows which bed to make up for the next person, so that when they arrive, exhausted from a 24 hour bust trip from Iguazu, they don't have to be told their bed isn't ready.
You don't take other people's stuff. It's part of the "Backpacker's code." (It's also part of the "Great Code of Life," but I'm going to try to steer away from sweeping ethics.)
Don't leave your valuables in plain view. Lock them up. There is always someone who has no compunction about snagging that laptop you left on top of your bed.
Each bed generally has a locker assigned to it, which varies in size. Bring a fairly sizable, unique padlock with you so that yours doesn't look like the easiest to pick. Do not bring a combination lock. These can be picked. Halfway through my trip, I found out that the diary-lock I had bought in a crappy market could be opened by several independent sets of tiny keys I happened to have with me (i.e. the free locks/keys that come attached to your luggage. Luckily, I wasn't robbed. Because of a faulty lock, at least.)
When you store your food in the fridge, put it in opaque plastic bags, and PUT YOUR NAME AND THE DATE ON THEM. People eat food in fridges if it isn't labeled, because it becomes unclaimed "free game."
Wash your own dishes. You're a grownup. Unless someone specifically tells you otherwise.
Many hostels have a book-trading shelf. You turn in your old book, and get a new one. In Argentine hostels, it's free. In Bolivia, you often had to pay 5 bolivianos (around $1 USD) to trade a book.
Most hostels have a laundry service for an average of $10 ($3 USD) per grocery-sized bag. Some hostels charge per kilo. Don't bring laundry detergent, and don't buy it, because I haven't ever seen a self-service laundromat. You usually turn your laundry it into reception sometime before 11am and get it back sometime after 7:30pm. But not on weekends or holidays, so make sure time your clean undies count with your departures. There are also laundromats (lavandarias) all over the city, but they end up being a little more expensive because the hostels usually get a deal.
You can rent towels at reception for a pretty standard price of $5 pesos. (A little less than $2 USD)