In response to a few readers asking, “What is a hostel?”, I’ve decided to make a travel resource answering what a hostel is. I also want to provide some great tips I’ve used over the years to discover superb hostels around the world.
A detailed post outlining the some of most handy gear on the market, and the stuff I use as I wander the world.
What is the Difference Between Hostel and Hotel? – Staying in a hostel means you are paying for a bed, not a room. Basically it is a dorm that you are sharing with strangers from around the world.
While this thought can be intimidating, I’ve had nothing but good experiences and I’ve stayed in hundreds when backpacking throughout Europe, Asia, America, and Africa.
What is a Hostel Like? – Shared living might lead you to the impression that staying in a hostel is dirty.
In my experience, most hostels are clean, but it is important to use websites like Hostelworld to check out the ratings and read the reviews before booking.
Hostels have a lively and energetic atmosphere. Most hostels have a common room where guests gather to discuss their travels, cook meals, and share a few drinks. Staying in a hostel is a fantastic way to meet other backpackers.
If you are traveling solo, dorms are the fastest and easiest way to make friends.
There are a few hostel chains, companies that have hostels throughout a continent or the world. A few popular hostel chains are St. Christopher’s, Youth Hostel International, Generator, and Lub ‘ D.
The most popular hostel booking site is Hostelworld.
They have thousands of hostels, B & B’s, and hotels around the world. Although if you are going for an Apartment or B&B then I would use an Airbnb promo code. (Sign up using this link and get $40 off your first stay with Airbnb)
Hostelworld’s site is user-friendly and has tons of reviews. I always use Hostelworld.
There are three main types of rooms available in hostels: dorms, dorms with ensuite, and private rooms.
Hostel Dorms – A hostel dorm, as mentioned previously, is a room shared with other travelers.
I’ve been in hostel dorms with as little as 6 people and as many as 16. The number of people in the dorm ranges from hostel to hostel.
In a typical hostel dorm, there won’t be bathrooms inside the rooms instead the bathroom is often down the hall and is communal.
Not to worry though the bathrooms usually have multiple showers and toilets.
Dorm rooms are also the cheapest option when staying in hostels. A typical dorm starts around $10 in Asia, and around $20-$25 when backpacking Europe. If you are worried about sharing a dorm with the opposite sex, there are a lot of hostels that provide female, male, and mixed dorms.
My experience in hostel dorms – Honestly this is my preferred way to travel. Dorms are a fantastic way to meet other backpackers when traveling solo.
People in the same dorm become fast friends, and usually go out for dinners and drinks together. I’ve met people I have gotten along with so well that I have changed my travel plans to go with them.
Hostel Dorm with a Ensuite – A dorm with an ensuite is much like the dorm described above except for a few minor details. The biggest difference is that a dorm with an ensuite has a bathroom in the room. Dorms with ensuites are typically smaller and only shared by a few people.
Keep in mind dorms with an ensuite are typically more expensive.
Hostel Private Rooms – Private rooms are exactly what they sound like. Private rooms in hostels are much more expensive than dorm rooms, but still significantly cheaper than staying at a hotel.
Hostels also have private group rooms which makes it a fantastic option if you are traveling in a group.
My experience in Private Rooms – Treating yourself every once in a while is essential when traveling for months or years. Hostel dorms offer very little privacy, and sometimes it is good to escape people stumbling into the room at all hours of the night. I prefer dorms for the social aspect, but sometimes it is nice to have privacy.
However, they are usually double or triple the cost of a dorm room so if you are looking to make your money last, go for the dorms.
Let’s talk about what hostels are like around the world. I’ll also give you some rough estimates of the price in each region of the world I cover.
Of course, all these prices change frequently.
But they are a good stepping stone to planning your hostel tips.
Backpackers in Europe thrive off the variety of hotels. Europe has some of my favorite hostels in the world. Of course, all these prices change frequently.
A couple of the major hostel chains across Europe are St. Christophers and Wombats. There are some seriously cool hostels in Europe! One Europe travel tip I tell everyone is to at least stay in a hostel a few nights.
Hostel Prices – Dorms in Europe start are around $20 – $25 a night. Rooms with Ensuite $25-$35. Private Rooms can range from $40 -$70.
Hostels in Asia are typically cheaper than hostels in Europe, but usually, don’t have as many comforts
Still hostels in Asia rock. They are full of friendly backpackers and travelers. They are a fantastic place to make friends and get some info on places to visit while traveling.
Hostel Prices – Asia is huge so prices vary a lot. Dorms cost from $3- $15. Rooms with ensuite $15-$25. Private rooms $20-$50.
Australia and New Zealand are the land of cool hostels. However, these are not the cheapest countries to travel in the world. Likewise hostels are closer to Europe prices.
However, I started a New Zealand travel blog, because the country is so amazing it deserves to be explored.
Likewise, Australia is wonderful. My advice is to bite the $ bullet and plan a trip to both of these countries.
Hostel Prices – Dorms range from $15 – $30. Ensuites from $20-$40. Privates from $30 -$70.
As I briefly talked about earlier, checking ratings and reviews is important when booking a hostel.
Let’s look at an example and I will share tips on how to determine if it is a good hostel or a bust. For this example I will look at The Yellow in Rome.
They are typically cheaper than hostels in Europe, but usually, don’t have as many comforts Still hostels in Asia rock. They are full of friendly backpackers and travelers.
They are a fantastic place to make friends and get some info on places to visit while traveling.
In the middle, we see info about the property and some of the things they offer. Right off the bat I notice “The Yellow was voted the #1 hostel in Rome”.
This, of course, grabs my attention. This hostel is already looking like a winner.
On the right, we can see all the reviews by people who have stayed at this hostel. The next thing I look for is how many people have reviewed this hostel.
The fact that The Yellow has 9,693 reviews and still has an 86% rating tells me two things.
1- This hostel is extremely popular. Meaning it will be busy and a great way to meet people.
2- It has almost 10,000 reviews and is still in the high 80’s. Meaning that chances are this hostel is fantastic.
Looking at the number of reviews is key. Sometimes you have hostels with a 95% but only a couple reviews. This is not enough information to tell you if the hostel is great.
As a general rule I think anything over 75% is acceptable, anything in the 80’s is good, and anything above 90% is excellent.
An 86% with 9,693 reviews – I would say is superb.
The next three things I look at our atmosphere, location, and security. These are personal preferences as they are the most important things to me. They all have ratings in the high 80’s. This hostel is looking better and better.
Now you might be asking yourself, “What about price?”.
There is a good reason why I didn’t mention the price before.
I want a central location.
There is no point paying for a cheap dorm that is miles away from the heart of the city.
Yes, hostels tend to drop in price the farther you go from the city center, but chances are you will spend more money traveling into the city than you would have by staying there.
Also, you are wasting valuable time traveling on buses getting back and forth.
Going deeper into the reviews you can see what people liked and disliked about staying at the hostel.
The Yellow is one of my favorite hostels in the world. Personally I think the rating should be much higher than an 86%.
I hope this travel resource answers the question, “What is a hostel?” as well as provide you with a couple tips on how to pick a choose a good one while backpacking around the world.
Check out hostelworld to book your hostels.