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What Is a Backpackers' Hostel?

By Bethany Keene
Updated: May 23, 2024

A backpackers' hostel offers low cost accommodations to travelers, often in a dormitory style setting. They are much less expensive than hotels, motels, or other types of travel accommodations, and are available in many different places around the world. For backpackers traveling on a budget, they are often the best option for saving money and staying in a safe place. A backpackers' hostel will frequently offer a few different types of accommodations to travelers; the most common type is a dorm style room, in which six or eight bunk beds will be placed. An individual will simply rent a bunk. Young people, particularly students, are some of the most common guests likely to be encountered at a hostel, though older travelers may use them too.

Some more upscale hostels will also offer private rooms, such as for couples who are traveling together. Plenty of couples will be fine just sleeping in bunk beds for the night, however; it also allows hostels to maximize space and to fit as many people in the room as possible, so bunk bed style rooms are the most common. A backpackers' hostel will almost always require guests to use a shared bathroom, as private bathrooms are quite uncommon, even if it is possible to rent private rooms.

backpackers hostel

There are different types of hostels that may be better suited to different travelers. Some are more appealing to people who enjoy drinking and partying, for example, and will actually feature a bar right in the hostel. For people who prefer a quieter experience, it may be a good idea to look for a backpackers' hostel without one. Most hostels will take reservations as well as walk-in guests. Making reservations online is now one of the easiest ways to plan ahead when traveling, and many hostels now offer guests this option.

backpackers hostel

A backpackers' hostel may offer additional services to guests, either included in the price or for an extra fee. These can include safe, lockable luggage storage, if individuals want to explore without carrying everything with them, for example. Most hostels will also offer Wi-Fi or at least a computer with Internet access. Many offer a community kitchen area where guests can cook themselves simple meals, which can be another good way to save money, as well as washers and dryers for doing laundry. The staff of a hostel will also often be happy to offer recommendations for sightseeing or other fun things to do in the area.

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Discussion Comments
By julies — On Jan 24, 2012

My best friend and I are planning a trip to Europe and plan to do quite a bit of backpacking and sight seeing.

What is the best way to find out where the best hostels are? Are they rated and reviewed just like hotels are in the United States?

We are both young and adventurous and don't mind sleeping in a room of bunk beds with other people. I am assuming this would be the cheapest way to go as well.

When I was doing some pricing it looked like some of the hotel deals couldn't even come close to the lower price you would pay at a hostel.

I am also looking for hostels where you have a kitchen that you can prepare your own food. We are making this trip on a shoestring budget, and are trying to cut down our expenses as much as possible.

By John57 — On Jan 24, 2012

I have never stayed in a hostel in the United States. In fact, I have never even considered it, but it might be something I look in to after reading this article and the comments that have been posted.

The best hostel I ever stayed in was Pentlands backpackers hostel in New Zealand. I spent a semester there while I was in college. During my breaks and down time, I wanted to see as much of the country as possible.

Since I was a student and on a limited budget, staying in hostels was the only way to go. What made this hostel different was it was an old house that had been converted into a hostel.

It was on a very quiet, old street that was surrounded by trees. It was also exceptionally clean, but I think the quiet is what I found most appealing.

Some hostels can be a bit noisy, and even though this can add to the charm of them, sometimes you are just looking for a quiet place to stay.

One thing is for sure, you will usually get your money's worth, and you will have lots of stories and experiences to share with others when you stay in a hostel.

By andee — On Jan 23, 2012

@orangey03 - When you mention great hostels in the United States, I stayed in one with my family a few months ago in Los Angeles.

I have been in a few hostels in Europe, and while most of them were simple and adequate, none of them compared to the Los Angeles Backpackers Paradise hostel.

I couldn't believe how reasonable the rates were and the list of free amenities is long! Our family took a trip to California to relax and see some sites.

We didn't want to spend a lot of money on accommodations, but didn't want to stay in a dump either. This ended up being the perfect solution for us, and I would stay here again in a heartbeat.

They have free shuttle service to the airport, beach and shopping. They also serve a free breakfast and cookies and tea in the afternoon. Internet access is available and lockers to store valuables.

We even had an afternoon to relax in their heated pool. If there were more places that offered services and rates like these, some of the higher priced hotels might be out of business.

By golf07 — On Jan 23, 2012

I would rather stay in a hostel than a cheap hotel any night. Staying in a hostel gives you the opportunity to meet a lot of great people from all walks of life.

For me, this just enhances the experience of whatever trip I am on. When using something like a backpacker's hostel, most of the guests are also going to be backpacker's.

Because you have this in common, you will immediately have a common bond and interesting stories to share. You would rarely get an experience that would come close to this if you were holed up in a hotel somewhere.

I have never stayed in a hostel where the staff and guests were not hospitable and friendly. Most of the guests are younger, but there have been several times I have met some very interesting 'older' people along the way too.

By orangey03 — On Jan 22, 2012

@lighth0se33 – It's great to find hostels right here in the United States. I used to think that only European countries had them, but when I planned a cheap trip to Nashville, I discovered that there were quite a few there.

My friend and I were aspiring musicians years ago, and we needed a cheap place to stay while we chased our dreams. We found a hostel for only $25 a night.

While we were there, we discovered that everyone else at the hostel was also a musician. We wound up forming a band with some of them, and we never would have met them if we had chosen to stay at a hotel instead.

By OeKc05 — On Jan 21, 2012

@seag47 – Hostels in France cost about the same. My daughter went backpacking their after graduation, and she came back home with money left over.

She had worked a part-time job all through high school to be able to afford this trip. It meant a lot to her, and she fully expected to spend all she had made while in France.

We were both surprised at how reasonable the hostel rates were. I was glad that she had chosen to stay at one, though originally, I hated the idea of her having to sleep with strangers. However, she ended up making friends to explore the area with, and traveling in groups is much safer than traveling with just one other person, which is how she started out on her journey.

By seag47 — On Jan 20, 2012

@summing – When I was preparing to go backpacking across England, I did some research before picking a hostel. I found that the prices were very reasonable.

On average, the dorm style rooms that you share with several other people cost around $20 a night, though some were even cheaper than this. For a private room, you could expect to pay from $30 to $40 a night.

I was traveling alone and in need of company, so I went with the dorm room and saved money doing this. I made some interesting friends and had some unforgettable experiences.

By lighth0se33 — On Jan 20, 2012

I stayed at a backpackers' hostel in San Francisco, and it was so much fun. The workers there went out of their way to interact with guests, and they even went out with us at night to show us around town.

The bathrooms were very clean, even though we had to share one with other people. We did get a private bedroom, which was so nice. I can't sleep when people are snoring in the room with me, so I didn't have to deal with that.

We only paid $26 a night to stay there. Sure, the rooms were small, and it isn't for the unsociable, but what a great bargain for outgoing people like me and my husband!

By summing — On Jan 19, 2012

How much does the average hostel cost in Europe? I have heard they are cheap and everywhere, but I have also heard that they are more expensive and harder to find than you would think.

So how much could I expect to pay in the big cities of England or France or Germany. Is it like 10 bucks or more like 75?

By gravois — On Jan 19, 2012

@tigers88 - Wow, that sounds like a great trip. I did something similar in my late 20s but I went to Southeast Asia. Lots of people only associate hostels with Europe, but they exist all over the world and I was able to pass many comfortable nights in hostels throughout Asia.

I remember one that I stayed at in the Philippines that was really rustic. It was just a series of huts and the beds were made out of bamboo. But it was incredibly cheap and I slept great there. How could you get an experience like that anywhere else?

By tigers88 — On Jan 18, 2012

I spent a month backpacking Europe after college and I stayed in hostels almost everywhere I went. Why stay anywhere else really? It was cheap, I met a lot of really fun people, got some invites and advice and tips that I would not have had otherwise and never spent a single night in a lumpy bed or taking a cold shower. I had all the comforts of a hotel and much more.

I wish that hostels were more common here in the states. I know that they exist in some of the bigger cities but there is nothing like the hostel culture they have in Europe. Its a shame. I think if there were more of them people would be encouraged to travel and see more of their country.

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