What Is A Hostel? The Answer Will Change Your Travels Forever


What is a hostel? Even if you’ve never stayed in a hostel before, you probably know that hostels are a type of shared accommodation that helps your travel budget go further. But what you may not know is that the uniquely social nature of hostels will transform your trip. We think this quote from travel blogger @glographics sums up the hostelling experience rather nicely:

“With a hostel, you get to pay half the price for twice the fun.”

If you’ve never stayed in a hostel before, allow us to debunk some crazy myths and answer all the questions you might have about what is a hostel. Here’s everything you need to know about hostelling and hostel life. Buckle up, because your travels will never be the same again…

What is a hostel?

No two hostels are alike, but we can promise you one thing: it will never be dull. So what is a hostel? In a nutshell, a hostel is a budget-friendly type of accommodation that focuses on a shared social experience. Check out the video below for a more in-depth introduction:

Sounds a bit vague, right? To help you get a better idea of what hostelling is all about, we asked our travel community to define a hostel in three words. Here are some of the best?

🌟Embracing The Unexpected
🌟Literally Adult Playgrounds
🌟Social. Friends. Adventure.
🌟An Experiences Imaginarium
🌟Anything Can Happen
🌟Diverse Social Exchange
🌟Design. Creativity. Interaction.
🌟Price. Location. Social.

Who stays in a hostel?

One of the best things about hostels is that you get to meet people so many different kinds of people from all over the world. You never know who you’ll meet while staying in a hostel, which adds an element of excitement that’s hard to get if you’re holed up on your own in a hotel room.

what is a hostel, Who will you meet in hostels? (c) deniselanaiThe Farm Hostel in Bali, 📸:@deniselanai

Our travel blogger friend @amybakerwrites sums up the type of people likely to stay in a hostel quite nicely:

“You never know who you’re going to end up sharing a beer with – I’ve met people cycling from Chile to Alaska, a dude who survived a crocodile attack, a professional touring clown, an 80 year old born again backpacker. I’ve hung out with metal bands, sports teams, politicians, and ex-soap actors. Hostelling gives you a chance to meet people you’d never encounter in your day-to-day life. It’s what makes it unique, and it’s why it’s always my top choice when I travel.”

what is a hostel / away with the fairies backpackers (c) mariekedutoitAway With The Fairies Backpackers in South Africa, 📸:@mariekedutoit

So the short answer is that hostels are for everyone. There isn’t just one type of person that stays in a hostel while they travel. The majority of hostel guests are budget-conscious solo travellers, backpackers, students, digital nomads, and gap year travellers under the age of 35. But the fact that many hostels are now as luxurious and stylish as boutique hotels means that more and more people are falling in love with social travel.

What facilities can you expect at a hostel?

what is a hostel / once again hostel
Once Again Hostel in Thailand

If you haven’t seen any pictures of hostels recently, prepare to be amazed. In terms of facilities, many hostels have everything you would expect from hotels and much more. You should always read each hostel’s description carefully on our website before you book, but here are some of the facilities you can expect to find at most hostels…

Luxurious beds

What is a hostel / Lisbon Calling HostelLisbon Calling Hostel in Portugal

Think private rooms with velvet headboards, dorms with “pod beds” which offer privacy on a budget, bunk beds with double mattresses. You can expect nice sheets, pillows and a duvet – and no, you don’t need to bring a sleeping bag. Unless that’s your thing. A lot of hostels have charging stations or outlets for each bed, so you don’t have to worry about your phone battery dying while out exploring.

At Lisbon Calling Hostel, it’s all about shabby chic. Stylish beds and spacious private rooms await you at this classy Portuguese abode. Pod beds are all the rage, and Cube Hostel in Singapore will make all your futuristic dreams come true. Kitted out with LED lighting, storage space and charging stations, you’re basically in your own self-contained flat!

Social common rooms

what is a hostel, king kong hostel social common room

King Kong Hostel Rotterdam in the Netherlands

Almost all hostels have a common room where you can hang out with other travellers, read a book or watch some TV. Some hostels also have games rooms where you can play a round of pool, Xbox or foosball. These are great spaces to spend time in if you’re a solo traveller or just the social type!

King Kong Hostel in Rotterdam has a common room with its very own Netflix cinema, comfy lounge chairs and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream fridge. Can we please live here? If you’re looking for a bit more of a throwback for your stay, Grand Hostel Berlin Classic gives off chic retro vibes. With plush chairs and a massive bookcase, this is a place you could stay for a while.

Roof terraces

what is a hostel, Selina Cartagena pool in Colombia

Selina Cartagena in Colombia

Oh, hello gorgeous sunsets and stunning views. There are some incredible hostel roof terraces (and rooftop bars) out there, and the best bit is you’ll get to share the moment with your new friends. Think deck chairs perfect for those lazy days and panoramic views of some of the best skylines in the world. Just add pizza and beer for a winning getaway.

Selina Cartagena’s rooftop will fulfil your Insta dreams. Complete with a swimming pool, bar, plenty of deck chairs, oh and space for daily yoga! Can this even be real?! If you need to take it to a greater luxe level, Rodamon Riad Marrakech Hostel has it sorted with an ultra-chic rooftop bar and views for days. Are rooftop beach views your thing? Then pack your bag and head to Mojo Hostel and Market in Cape Town, where it’s all about beers and BBQs as you watch the sunset.

Need some more inspo? Check out more hostels with jaw-dropping rooftops.

Fun events and activities

what is a hostel / best food hostels_spin hostel philippinesSpin Designer Hostel in the Philippines

Hostels are designed to be social hubs that enable you to have fun with other travellers. One of the ways they do this is by organising LOADS of fun events. These are usually free and can be anything from surfing classes to rooftop yoga sessions, picnics on the beach to an evening of Russian dumpling-making. We can’t think of a better way to get over jetlag than with a good old-fashioned pub crawl – lookout for boozy events on your hostel notice board.

Brix hostel in Prague offers this backpacker favourite activity, which is a must-do in a party city like Prague! Avenue Hostel in Budapest offers activities like sightseeing bus parties and nightly family dinners. While Onedez Hostel in Siem Reap has movie nights, sunset cycling tours, pool parties and food tours for their guests.

When it comes to activities, every hostel is different so make sure you do your homework.

Fancy AF bathrooms

what is a hostel, Jo&Joe Paris bathroom

Jo&Joe Paris in France

Hostels have spacious shared bathrooms to accommodate a lot of backpackers. If you don’t feel like sharing with a lot of people, some hostels have en-suite bathrooms for dorm rooms. Otherwise, why not upgrade to a private room with its own facilities? Hostels on the luxury side often offer freebies galore like toiletries, hairdryers, hair straighteners and full-length mirrors for you to use during your stay. Did we mention that hostel bathrooms can be seriously stylish?


what is a hostel, hammock at All We Need Is Hostel in Thailand

 All We Need Is Hostel in Thailand

So. Many. Hammocks. These are pretty much mandatory in tropical locations and can range from regular chill-out hammocks to XXL swinging hammocks with views of the Colombian jungle. If you don’t feel like getting up out of your hammock to the dorm, why not just sleep there?

At Casa Loma Minca you can book a hammock for the fraction of a price of a bunk bed, with the bonus of falling asleep to jungle sounds! Years could pass before you’re ready to leave…Why not combine two of our favourite things? Hammocks and rooftops. At All We Need Is Hostel in Bangkok, the hammock is the rooftop! With a cocktail in hand, why should we ever get up?

Laundry facilities

what is a hostel, Freehand Los Angeles in the USA

Freehand Los Angeles in the USA

Most hostels will offer daily cleaning, laundry facilities and maybe even a few encouraging words. It may be boring, but you’ll be grateful for somewhere to wash your clothes and regroup before heading out on the next leg of your adventure. The laundry facilities will most likely charge you, so make sure to have some extra change of the local currency with you.

Swimming pools

what is a hostel / freehand miami poolFreehand Miami in the USA

Many hostels have swimming pools which are the perfect place to relax and make friends. Some even host events such as mermaid pool parties. Yes, that is a thing! A killer swimming pool can turn a good trip into a great one…

Dreamer Palomino is what our dreams are made of. Two words: paradise goals. Overlook the curved pool from your deck chair under the tropical straw huts. Just add a Pina Colada. At Funky Flashpacker Siem Reap, the pool is where the party’s at. With plenty of beach inflatables, games, seating areas and a poolside bar, you’ll be pruney long before you decide to get out. If you need any more encouragement to book that tropical trip, check out some more insane hostel pools! So, are you up for a cannonball or two?

Amazing food and drink

what is a hostel / The Five House Sintra breakfast
The Five House in Portugal

The first thing you need to know about food and drink in hostels is that it’s often totally FREE! Most hostels offer a free breakfast, which can be anything from toast, fruit and cereal to decadent fresh pancakes and waffles. Many also offer free or cheap weekly events, such as pasta night, homemade cakes or cooking classes. You’ll be surprised at just how incredible the food and drink at hostels can be, from barista-made coffee to locally sourced vegan curries.

For a good free feed, you can’t go wrong with Hostel One Notting Hill in London (or any Hostel One), where there are free family dinners every night. You’re in for a treat at Spin Designer Hostel in El Nido, where weekly BBQs and picnics on the beach await your arrival. If you need the most wholesome hostel meal, book a bed at Giovanni’s Home pronto. You’ll get a taste of some deliciously authentic Italian food made by the hostel chef and owner Giovanni. Bellisimo!

Read on for some more delicious things you can find in hostels!

Communal kitchens

what is a hostel / hom hostel rooftopHom Hostel & Cooking Club in Thailand

This is one of the best places to make friends in a hostel. You’ll learn how to make cheap authentic grub from all over the world. You can store your food in the communal fridge and cupboards and there will often be free staples such as pasta, olive oil, salt etc. that you can help yourself to. Some hostels even have their own gardens where you can pick fresh herbs and veg. You’ll usually have space to keep your food, but make sure to clean it up before you leave, or donate it to a hostel mate who’s staying longer.

Free Wi-Fi

what is a hostel / Town house 373 hostel (c) teejay hughes
Town House 373 Saigon in Vietnam

When you stay in a hostel you’ll usually get free Wi-FI, and often there will be computers in the communal areas for you to use free of charge. If you have a major Netflix addiction, or you’re a digital nomad, it’s a good idea to read the reviews on our site to find out how good the Wi-Fi is in more remote parts of the world.

Hostel bars

what is a hostel (c) lola photography, St Christopher's Inn Gare Du Nord in France barSt Christopher’s Inn Gare Du Nord in France, 📸

Purveyor of cheap drinks, new friends and fun times. Some of our best memories have taken place in a hostel bar. You won’t find many hostel bars that don’t have beer pong or nightly events. These are also often live music hotspots!

Grandio Party Hostel in Budapest has a MASSIVE hostel bar with prices that are too cheap to pass up. Their large courtyard space is the perfect place to socialise with like-minded backpackers. Hans Brinker Hostel Amsterdam has its very own nightclub (fit with a pole if you’re feeling rowdy), so you don’t even have to hit the streets for a wild night.

Check out some more legendary hostel bars!

Local travel secrets

what is a hostel, Yes! Lisbon Hostel in Portugal girl looking at map
Yes! Lisbon Hostel in Portugal, 📸: Emma Lucey

Free maps, walking tours and insider local tips from travellers and hostel staff in the know – this will help you avoid the tourist traps and save you $$$. Don’t be afraid to ask the hostel staff any questions you have, chances are you’re not the first person to ask it.


what is a hostle / bambuda lodge in PanamaBambuda Lodge in Panama

WARNING: Some hostels have slides. We call these THE BEST hostels. Our favourite is Bambuda Lodge, where you can slide directly into the ocean. The gorgeous concrete slide at Here Hostel in Bangkok is also pretty mega.


what is a hostel,Unite Hostel Barcelona in Spain lockers

Unite Hostel Barcelona in Spain

24/7 reception; entry cards for rooms; big lockers for your precious things. It’s a good idea to pack a padlock for the lockers, though you should be able to rent one cheaply from reception if you forget.

Adult ball pit

what is a hostel / adult ball pit / hub new lisbon hostelHub New Lisbon Hostel in Portugal

Okay, okay, so there’s currently only one hostel in the world with its own adult ball pit, but it’s surely on a matter of time before this becomes a hostel staple… right?!

Are there different types of hostels?

what is a hostel / drifter jacks hostel austinDrifter Jack’s Hostel in the USA

There sure is, and we’re super excited to show you!

If at this point you’re thinking – “I’m an introvert who hates parties. Hostels are my idea of hell” – then we need to talk. Yes, hostels can be great for parties. But they can also be great for a more chilled travel experience with people on your wavelength: think rooftop yoga, private beaches, hiking adventures, surf lessons and vegan food.

Hostels come in all different shapes and sizes, so it’s just a question of always reading the reviews from fellow travellers before you book to find one that will suit your travel style. Many hostels offer the best of both worlds: a crazy wild bar and an indoor wigwam with Netflix on repeat. A huge cook up in the communal kitchen and chill time in the library.

If you need some more convincing have a look at the most unusual hostels that you’ll never want to leave.

Party hostels

what is a hostel, Slumber Party Hostel in Thailand

Slumber Party Hostel in Thailand

If you’re a ‘stay out till morning’ kind of person, then do we have some good news for you. Welcome to party hostels – specifically for the party animals who can’t get enough of the rave and want to stay with other people who are wild at heart. Brace yourself for drinking games and challenges, pub crawls, beer pong, happy hour and non-stop dancing. Most party hostels will have a bar on-site so you can drink whenever you want.

The famous Slumber Party Hostel in Phuket could induce a month-long hangover, but it’s all worth it for the mems. Here you can take part in one of their nightly activities like cheap drink nights and their famous pub crawl. Loki Del Mar in Mancora, Peru, will set you alight with their nightly themed parties and happy hours. Plus, they even have their own signature cocktail, the Bloodbomb!

Take a look at more of the most hardcore party hostels out there!

Solo traveller hostels

what is a hostel, Star Hostel Taipei Main Station, in Taiwan China

Star Hostel Taipei Main Station, in Taiwan China

While there are no specific solo traveller hostels, there are hostels that go the extra mile to get solo travellers socialising and making lasting connections. These might be places that run cool social events, have a homely atmosphere, or just provide a bit of soul searching,

Adventure Q2 Hostel creates that home away from home feeling for all its guests. Their cosy dorm beds will transport you into your bed at home! It also has heaps of fun activities like wine tastings, movie nights, pub crawls, rock climbing and bungee jumping.

Check out more of the best hostels for solo travellers around the world.

Eco-friendly hostels

what is a hostel, Bambu Gran Palas Cenote in Mexico

Bambu Gran Palas Cenote in Mexico

For those wanting to make a difference during their travels, look into some eco-friendly and sustainable hostels around the world.

Bambu Gran Palas Cenote in Tulum is surrounded by jungle and beach sand. Respectively built around the natural surroundings and run by solar energy, you’ll feel at one with nature.

The eco-warriors out there will love our list of more eco-friendly hostels!

Boutique hostels

what is a hostel, Caulaincourt Montmartre by Hiphophostels in France

Caulaincourt Montmartre by Hiphophostels in France

If you want to feel a lil’ bougie for a while, but still need to stick to a backpacker’s budget, then boutique hostels are your best bet. We’re talking plush, stylish furniture and design that will make it feel like it’s worth ten times the price. Boutique hostels also tend to have fewer rooms, for a more exclusive experience.

Caulaincourt Montmartre by Hiphophostels in Paris, is a stylish wonderland, with bright spaces, heaps of plants and very chic furnishings. When in Paris, live like a Parisienne!

Adrenaline-inducing hostels

what is a hostel,Lub D Phuket Patong in Thailand

Lub D Phuket Patong in Thailand

Can’t resist staying active on your around the world tour? Check into a hostel that offers that extra adrenaline rush.

Time to get your skate on! Sant Jordi Hostel Sagrada Familia in Barcelona has an actual skate ramp in the hostel where you can impress your new mates with your best tricks. At Gili Castle in Indonesia, swim a few laps in the pool before leaping onto the hostel’s climbing wall to get the blood pumping. Want to build up those biceps? Lub D in Patong, Phuket have a high-quality Muay Thai boxing ring and training area. If you’ve never tried it before, staying in hostels is all about the experience, so now’s your time!

Yoga hostels

what is a hostel, yoga at The Salty Pelican in Portugal

The Salty Pelican in Portugal

Why not try bohemian life for a while? Discover your inner yogi at one of the many yoga hostels around the world. Here you can meditate on the beach, practice self-care and take the time to unwind from life’s stresses.

The Salty Pelican in Casais is the ultimate beachside retreat. Not can you only do sunrise and sunset yoga classes daily, you can even have a go at surfing. Find out more about the world of yoga hostels!

Remote hostels

what is a hostel,Greengo’s in Guatemala

Greengo’s in Guatemala

Do you just want to escape from everyone you know? Then why not stay where no one will bother you. Book that flight to Latin America where you’ll find many hostels in the middle of the jungle.

For an authentic jungle adventure, Greengo’s in Guatemala is the pick. Surrounded by forest are colourful huts and a large swimming pool, making for one of the coolest hostel settings around.

Tattoo hostels

what is a hostel, tattoo hostel Wild Rover Cusco in Peru

Wild Rover Cusco in Peru

Always wanted to remember your special trip by getting inked? Now it’s even easier when you can stay at hostels with their very own tattoo parlours.

WanderThirst Hostels in Kathmandu will help to create your own personalised and intricate design with a touch of Nepalese inspiration. Get inspired by the colourful wall art around the hostel! Wild Rover’s Cusco hostel has a resident tattoo artist that will ink you for free if you get their logo tattooed on your body – a beer-drinking leprechaun!

Get ink-spired at more of the best tattoo hostels around the world

Surf hostels

what is a hostel, Wake Up! Bondi Beach in Australia

Wake Up! Bondi Beach in Australia

Surf’s up! Why not take up a new hobby while you’re out exploring the globe? Surf your way across the world at the many hostels that offer surfing classes, beachside locations or free surfing gear.

If you wanna surf, you have to go to Hawaii, right? Aloha Surf Hostel in Maui will have you catching a wave or two at their beachside location. Impress a bloke or Sheila with your surfing skills at Wake Up! Bondi Beach in Sydney. Grab one of the hostel’s free surfboards and head to the famous Bondi Beach to blow them all away!

Open-air hostels

what is a hostel, Lucky Lake Hostel in the Netherlands

Lucky Lake Hostel in the Netherlands

What’s better than getting in touch with nature? There are some cool and quirky hostels where you’ll find your wilder side.

Tarzan is waiting for you at Kadir’s Tree House in Turkey, where you can stay hidden in the trees in an actual treehouse. Chill by their campfire or dance the night away at their open-air nightclub. Just forget about life for a while.

Check out more of the coolest open-air hostels in the world!

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Where can you find hostels?

what is a hostel / pal's hostel budapest / emma luceyPal’s Hostel in Hungary, 📸: Emma Lucey

EVERYWHERE. The amazing thing about hostels is that you can stay at the heart of some of the world’s most exciting cities; in an exotic paradise with its own private beach; or even under the majesty of the Northern Lights – all on a backpacker’s budget. Check out the location ratings for each hostel on our site to make sure you pick the neighbourhood that’s right for you.

Where in the world do you want to go?

🌟 13 Hostels In Exotic Locations You Won’t Believe Exist

🌟 The Hosteller’s Guide To The Northern Lights

🌟 15 Hiking Hostels To Unleash Your Inner Nature Beast

What’s the difference between a hostel and a hotel?

what is a hostel / ecomama amsterdamEcomama in the Netherlands

There are two main differences between hostels and hotels: the price, and the people.

Staying in a hostel will save you huge amounts of money, whether it’s a six-month backpacking trip through Southeast Asia with your mates or a long weekend in Berlin with your bae. But the main reason people stay in hostels isn’t the price, it’s the people. The social atmosphere in hostels is totally unique, and it’s what makes hostelling so addictive. It can transform your trip from a sightseeing tour into a more meaningful experience. You’ll meet new friends from all over the world. You’ll cook together, drink together, and go on adventures together. You’ll get tips from the hostel staff, some of who might have exclusive local knowledge, and others who are travellers just like you.

In terms of facilities, location and safety, hostels can easily give hotels a run for their money. They’ve got rooftop pools, kingsize beds, 24/7 security and en-suite bathrooms. To find out just how luxurious hostels have become, read the section on hostel facilities above.

What types of rooms do hostels have?


what is a hostel / die wohngemeinschaft hostel cologneDie Wohngemeinschaft in Germany

Most people know that hostels have dorms, which are large rooms that sleep multiple people who aren’t usually travelling together. By staying in a dorm room, you can pay a fraction of the price per night compared to other types of accommodation. In general, the more people you share your dorm with, the cheaper it will be.

Dorms come in different shapes and sizes: from the basic and cheap, to the swankier ones with pod-style beds and double mattresses. No matter what type of dorm you opt for, pretty much all dorm beds will come equipped with a reading light, a power socket to charge your gadgets, and possibly a privacy curtain. Many even come with en-suite bathrooms. And ladies, if you don’t fancy sharing your sleeping space with guys, many hostels have female-only dorms. If the hostel offers this option, it should appear in the list of room types when you’re booking.

🌟 Hostels with fancy AF dorms


what is a hostel / fabrika tbilisi in GeorgiaFabrika Hostel & Suites in Georgia

Lots of people don’t realise that in addition to dorms, hostels also have private rooms. So you can have your own space, without sacrificing the fun that only a hostel can give you. Private rooms in hostels are perfect for older travellers or couples who want a bit more privacy. They’re more expensive than dorms, but they tend to be cheaper than other types of accommodation. In terms of facilities, private hostel rooms are on a par with hotels – plus you get the bonus of amazing social areas, free events and like-minded travellers. Sometimes a private bathroom is included too!

🌟 Newsflash: The Hostel Dorms Are Making Backpackers Lose Their Sh*t

Are hostels only in Europe?

what is a hostel / usa ocean san diegoUSA Hostels Ocean Beach in the USA

Hell no! It’s a common myth, particularly amongst Americans, that you can only find hostels in Europe. While it’s true that this is where hostelling first began, you can now find hostels all over the world. Hostels in Asia, Africa, Australia and South America have long been a popular option, and yes, there are even hostels in the US.

🌟 Top US Hostels: Live The American Dream For Less

How much does it cost to stay in a hostel?

what is a hostel / best hostel food_noordzee hostel smoothie (c) teejay hughesNoordzee Hostel in the Philippines, 📸:@teejayhughes

As a general rule of thumb, hostels cost much less than other types of accommodation, because you’re sharing your space with other travellers. Even if you opt to stay in a private room, hostels can still save you money both on the basic price of the room as well as all the added extras such as events, communal kitchen, and free wifi.

The exact price of a hostel will depend on where in the world you’re travelling, how many people you’re sharing a room with and when you’re travelling. Roughly speaking, you can expect to pay anywhere from £6 to £30 per night to stay in a hostel in Europe. One way to keep the cost down and ensure you don’t miss out on an awesome hostel is to book in advance, especially during peak season, when lots of hostels get fully booked.

Are hostels safe?

what is a hostel / ani haakien rotterdam (c) christian escobarHostel Ani & Haakien Rotterdam in the Netherlands,📸:@ic.theworld 

Hostels are as safe, if not safer, than many other types of accommodation. The fact that you’re sharing a space with lots of other travellers means there will always be people around.

Most hostels have 24/7 reception, security staff and card keys for the rooms to make sure only guests can get into the hostel. Nearly all hostels come equipped with lockers in the dorms for you to lock away your valuables when you’re out. Provided you take the same safety precautions you would anywhere else, there’s no need to be anxious about staying in a hostel.

Are you ready to take the plunge into the pool of hostels? Get ready for some major wanderlust – before long you’ll have your dream holiday planned on a budget!

Got a question about hostelling? Leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to answer? And for all the hostel geeks out there reading this, why not share this blog post with your hostel virgin friends  they’ll thank you for it!


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