For backpackers traveling on a budget, hostels are often your best investment. The idea of sharing a room with complete strangers can be unnerving, but if done thoughtfully, the experience can be incredibly rewarding.
So what is a hostel?
For the complete newbies, we briefly shall answer the question: What is a hostel? A hostel used to be mainly a budget type accommodation for young travelers, who only wanted to party. Nowadays hostels are more than only a cheap accommodation, for the youth. Of course there are still party people who don’t want to spend much on there accommodation, but there are different type of hostels to choose from. Below you can find a short guide for staying at a hostel.
Main hostel characteristics
Hostels are getting more and more popular. This pushes hosteliers to be more creative, in order to offer something different or better than the others.
What are the different type of hostels?
When you are looking for a suitable hostel to stay at, you mostly can choose from a couple of different hostel types. These are the main type of hostels:
- Tavelers hostel
These are often also know as a backpacker hostel. These kind of hostels are all about having a great time and to meet other travelers. So don’t expect a hard core party scene. Here you can relax after a good day of exploring and exchange your experience with others. Travelers hostel have a very home-like atmosphere and are not often the most fancy hostels.
- Party hostel
Do you like parties and do you prefer to party all day long? Then this is absolutely the best choice for you! The staff will do their best to provide a great party experience, from dusk till dusk… Often these hostels have an onsite bar and are guests playing beer pong. It really has a very social ambiance, which will make it hard for you to feel alone. Keep in mind after this vacation you need another one to get some rest… ;)
- Boutique hostel
Boutique hostels are relatively new to the hostel world. Here you can find a bit older guests, who like: the comfiness of a hotel, lower priced accommodations, good services and still with a social vibe. You can almost compare it with a bed and breakfast.
- Youth hostel
These are the mothers of all hostels, since this is how it all began. It is a basic hostel and often are a bit larger scaled. They have huge dorms and can accommodate a lot of guest, ideal for large groups.
- Budget hotel
A budget hotel actually is not a hostel. Most of the time these type of accommodations are large buildings, offering modest hotel rooms (with a bed, a desk and a private bath) or small dorm rooms. You can’t define them as a hostel, since they lack the social vibe and great communal area to meet other guests. Neither can you define them as a hotel, since you definitely will not get the same services and the level of quality is modest.
What can I expect from a hostel?
A hostel doesn’t provide much private space. Guests have to share many facilities, but this leads to a very social vibe. Have a look below and see what you can expect, when staying in a hostel.
Many hostels have dorms, which are rooms – equipped with (bunk) bed – that need to be shared with other guests. In general these rooms need to be shared with 4 (sometimes up to 24) roommates. Often these rooms are for mixed use and occasionally there are female or male only rooms offered.
Besides the shared rooms, it sometimes is possible to book private rooms for two or more people.
- Common rooms
When you will stay at a hostel, private space is very rare. Many areas need to be shared, which leads to a great social ambiance. Most hostels feature a living room, lounge room or other similar common rooms. A lot of these rooms have some basic equipement, such as: a television, a dvd player with plenty of dvd’s, books and some board games. The common rooms are a great place to meet your fellow travelers to exchange travel stories with.
- Shared kitchen
Budget travelers mostly stay at hostels to save money, since the budget isn’t very large. Neither do they eat at restaurants all day. This is why many hostels offer a kitchen to their guests, where they can prepare their meals.
- Sanitary facilities
The sanitary facilities are often to be shared. Some hostels have them on the hallway, which need to be shared with multiple rooms. And some hostels offer ensuite bathrooms and only need to be shared with your roommates. If you want the sanitary facilities for yourself, you can book a private room. But carefully read the description of the rooms, some hostels offer private rooms with shared facilities.
Beware! Although it is not very likely to find any hostels with a curfew or lockout, there still are some. So you need to watch out if this applies to the hostel of your choice.
What are the prices at hostels?
Hostels make it possible to have longer vacations, since the prices are cheaper than other accommodations. Prices of hostels in popular cities, such as Amsterdam or Barcelona, start at approx. € 17. When you will book a bed in a hostel located in a city in the east of Europe, you will save much more bucks! Prices for a bed in a city as Prague, could start at approx. € 6.
What kind of services do they provide at hostels?
Hostels are different than hotels, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t get any services by the staff. Below you can find the basic services ofter will be provided by the hostel’s staff.
Cleaning is a very basic service hostels are providing. If this isn’t the case, then don’t be a fool to book it anyway. The rest of the hostel will be not worth it as well. Keep in mind that you are excpected to keep your room (private space) tidy for your roommates.
Free wifi is almost a standard service that is provided in hostels nowadays. This makes should make it easy to keep in tough with your home base and to plan your day trips. Some hostels even provide computers with an internet connection to use for their guests. Very handy, since you don’t necessarily need to bring your laptop with you. Unfortunately these services are not always standard and sometimes hostels ask you money for it.
A lot of hostels have free breakfast. Don’t get too excited because it’s usually pretty meager — but it’s free, so whatever. Just about every breakfast consist of generic corn flakes, white or wheat bread (w/ jam, peanut butter, some yummy chocolate spread, & butter), orange juice, milk (room temperature), tea and coffee. If you’re lucky you’ll get a croissant. I’ve been to a few hostels where the breakfast isn’t free and it usually costs a lot for what you get.
- Hostel bar
If you are lucky a hostel has a bar onsite. This is great since prices often are very friendly and you can meet new friends almost instantly. If you like to be in a social environment, then it is highly advised to choose one with this. Hostel bars can be a danger for your good night rest, so carefully consider whether you want a hostel bar included.
- Washing facilities
For long term travelers this absolutely a luxury, because believe me being weeks from home can make your clothes smell. But don’t expect this service to be free, in most hostels you will have to pay for the use of these facilities.
What kind of guests can I meet at the hostels?
In hostels you will meet all kind of different traveler, of course this also depends on the type of hostel. The type of hostel actually already indicates the type of guests that you can expect. For example: In a travelers hostel you can expect real travelers with a bigger cultural interest.
Why Should I Choose a Hostel?
Today there are tons of creative avenues to take, when it comes to affordable stay. Sites like AirBnB and CouchSurfing.com not only allow travelers to stay in the comfort of someone’s home at a low rate, but some hosts also open their doors for free to backpackers. So why bother sharing a room in a traditional hostel, if there are other good low cost alternatives?
Skip the screening process
Housing that involves personal residences often require a screening process in order to ensure safety, which can be difficult to prove for a first-time backpacker. How do you prove to the host that you won’t kill them in their sleep or rob them blind? Stick with a hostel that can be booked quickly without any worry that something during your stay may go wrong.
It’s a great asset for the lonely backpacker
When traveling alone in a foreign country, it is sometimes challenging to find out where to find a good meal or local bar that isn’t highly populated by tourists. For those who truly want to experience the culture of a city, the best resources are often other nomads passing through in hostels. Here you not only have the shared living space, but also the chance to make friends in the recreational areas that hostels often provide.
It’s part of the backpacking experience
Staying in a shared space not only takes you out of your comfort zone, it also provides you the opportunity to better adapt to different personalities and cultural backgrounds. Couch surfing often only introduces you to one household, while a hostel leaves room for you to choose who you want- or don’t want- to stay connected with.
Hostels often organize great events
Hostels have a great social vibe, which is also one of their main features. This is mainly the reason to choose for a hostel, among its guests. You will easily find new friends, since you have to share all facilities in the hostel. Besides this hostel staff’s often will make your stay even better! It is very common that a party night, a pub crawl, a cooking night or a guided tour will be organized.
They have good offers for you
The staff often have great local knowledge and have a good network. This is very useful since they use their relationship with these local companies, to offer their guests discounts. If the hostels doesn’t have these offers, you can consider to buy a city discount card.
Some basic tips when staying at a hostel:
So, now you know the answer to: What is a hostel. But, what’s next? To ensure a more positive experience, here are some helpful tips to consider when staying in a hostel:
- Treat your roommates with respect.
Make the shared space easier to tolerate by not Skype-ing your family members while others sleep, or loudly stumbling in at 3 a.m. from a night out. Be mindful of others schedules.
- Don’t expected other travelers you encounter to listen to tip #1.
Unfortunately, some folks will do what they want regardless of how many people it annoys. Staying out of everyone’s way will allow you to make friends easier, and allow you to feel more comfortable with asking bunkmates for help in case of an emergency.
- Keep a close eye on your belongings
If you listened to tip #2, you should know to never leave your belonging around the shared living space unsupervised. A free-spirited traveler may not find it disrespectful to borrow your toothbrush or towel if left out. For valuable items, keep a pad lock with you to keep belongings safely tucked away in case you are unable allowed to carry it.
- Offer your assistance to others if you can.
If you are an experienced traveler and have some knowledge that some newer backpackers can benefit from – share it! It serves as a great talking point, and always results in good travel karma.
- Pack earplugs
To escape a bad night’s sleep brought on by snoring or a stumbling bunkmate, carry some earplugs and avoid confrontation. For a more detailed packing list, you should have a look on our packing list tips.
At last we like to share a video with you. This video of our friendly fellow blogger explains you the basics of hostels and will tell you the answer to: What is a hostel? Also check out her website guys, you’ll find it quite useful.