If you’re young and/or a budget traveler, then you’ve probably have had experience staying in hostels while visiting a city or country. Inexpensive and convenient, this sort of accommodation is widely-used all over the world, all the while being safe (don’t let the Hostel films scare you off!) and a great place to meet fellow travelers.
My first-ever experience staying at a hostel was in 2015 in Lille, France. It was also my first time traveling solo, as it was my first year teaching abroad right out of college (lots of firsts for me then!). I was young, and I was a bit apprehensive about staying in hostels, because I didn’t know what to expect– growing up, I’d only ever traveled with my family and stayed in hotels, so hostels were new for me.
I ended up booking a hostel about 20 minutes on-foot from the city center. Upon arriving in the late afternoon, I was immediately hit with loud music and drunk people at the bar-reception area. It took a while to check in (as the receptionist was busy drinking with others), and I went to my room. It was an 8 to 10-bed dorm, and I was unlucky to get the top bunk (I much prefer bottom bunks). I remember the dorm being rather industrial in style, with plenty of metal (bed frames, lockers…). I was too tired to go to the hostel’s bar to socialize, so I just showered and did my best to get some sleep. It was only a one-night stay, and overall it was neither a good or bad experience– just okay.
Fast-forward four years (and several dozen hostels) later, I think I have enough experience under my belt to say a thing or two about hostels. With so many different ones out there, it can be overwhelming to find and choose a good hostel. What I’ve learned is that, besides taking price, location, and ratings into account, it’s also important to find one that suits your personality, travel style, and also what you hope to get out of it. Just because one hostel has high reviews doesn’t mean you’ll love it. Doing your research beforehand will make a huge difference in where you end up booking.
Inspired by this video, I’ll be listing the most-common types of hostels out there. I’ll also add the hostels I’ve stayed at which fall into each category, whether or not they’re my favorite. Some types will overlap with each other, but otherwise they have their distinctive qualities. Hopefully, this information will help you decide which one(s) you’d like to stay in on your next trip!
*Disclaimer* My reviews of the hostels I’ll mention are of my own opinion only. Just because I had good/bad experiences there doesn’t mean it’ll be the same for everyone. So take my word with a grain of salt!
Without further ado, here they are:
5 Types of Hostels
1. Budget hostels
This type might sound obvious, especially since hostels are often known for being cheap. But budget hostels are a specific type of hostel that’s cheaper than cheap: think under 10€ a night (especially in places like London or Amsterdam, where the average hostel costs more than double that), far from the city center, and with poor-quality facilities. Besides being dirt cheap, they might also be dirty, too (beware of the showers!). Lockers and outlets might be broken, and it’s not uncommon to be in a dorm of 20 people. Not ideal, but if you’re just looking for a bed to crash on, budget hostels are the way to go.
Example: No.8 Seven Sisters in London. About 9€ a night in a room of 20 people. I was there for five nights, and I hated it. One thing I hadn’t looked up was that the Seven Sisters area is known for being rather dodgy, and its location was well-outside of the city center (making the commute in very expensive). Bathrooms were constantly flooded, and the dorm had dinky little lockers that couldn’t fit my backpack; I ended up having to store it on the metal shelves in the middle of the room, which worried me if someone stole my stuff (thankfully, no one did). Lots of seedy people stayed there, too, and I would never go there again.
2. Party hostels
Often made up of young travelers and young staff, these hostels are all about noise and having fun. They’re also quite cheap, as they’re geared to the under-25 crowds. They will most likely have bars and everyday events to socialize, drink, and go out. Sometimes, they’ll even host a club night right in their bar. Cleanliness of facilities can be a hit-or-miss: I’ve stayed in party hostels that were clean and some absolutely filthy. Beds may not be the most comfortable, and the rooms may accommodate 10 to 12 people. Breakfast is usually included, but a continental one, so don’t expect good quality!
Example: Mosquito Hostel in Krakow. Reasonably-priced (about 13€/night) with included breakfast and communal dinners (score!). Always something going on every night, and I spent two of the five nights there socializing and clubbing with fellow travelers there. Facilities were clean, and reception was friendly. Place was centrally-located, so I could get to the main sites easily. Probably one of my favorite hostels I’ve stayed at so far!
Another is Jimmy Jumps House in Vilnius. Also inexpensive (8-10€), and it includes a delicious Belgian waffle breakfast. Also centrally-located, and it’s pretty lively with young travelers looking to have a good time. Wasn’t a huge fan of the beds, which were a bit uncomfortable, and the dorms could be cleaner. Overall, an okay experience, and I got to meet some cool people there.
3. Chain hostels
These are the “McDonald’s” of the hostel world: you’ll find them in just about every major city. Popular ones include St. Christopher’s Inn, Wombats Hostel, and Generator (in Europe). Prices can actually be pricey (19-30€ a night), as they’re a chain and can charge more. Rooms are big (10-12 beds) with communal showers. There might not be a kitchen to cook your meals, but there are bars where you can order (overpriced) food with your drinks. Great for backpackers, families, even schoolchildren on field trips, chain hostels are versatile and ever-growing.
Example: St. Christopher’s Inn in various locations. I’ve stayed at the ones in Paris and Bruges. I actually stay in St. Christopher’s a lot, especially when I go to Paris to catch my flights back to Los Angeles. It’s right by Gare du Nord, which connects to the airport. I don’t love St. Christopher’s, as I find the travelers who stay there inconsiderate at times (i.e. they’re usually young and inexperienced, and they give travelers a bad rep). There’s also no kitchen, so you’re forced to eat out or at the bar. Breakfast is continental, and facilities are relatively clean. For the price, it’s a bit much (20-35€/night), but it gets the job done.
4. Youth hostels
Very similar to budget hostels, as they are cheap. More specifically, however, it’s geared towards young people, and there might be an age limit as to who can or cannot stay (usually under 35 years of age). They’re usually for backpackers or campers, with minimal facilities, e.g. no bar or included breakfast. It’s easy to socialize with others, as many who stay there are young and willing to have a good time. You might need to purchase a membership from them, as they might be part of Hostelling International, or any other hostel organization.
Example: Auberge de Jeunesse in Nîmes. Like London’s, I hated it. Besides being well-outside the city center, reception was closed when I arrived in the mid-afternoon. I was also forced to purchase a membership from them just to stay, which added to what I had to pay (22-23€/night). Rooms were absolutely freezing when I went in March, for the heater was turned off after winter, and showers didn’t even have a curtain! I’d paid for three nights, but only stayed for one, as I ended up finding another accommodation– never got the last two nights refunded. Not staying there again!
5. Boutique hostels
Boutique hostels are my favorite type of hostel. Often smaller with an emphasis on a theme and/or stylish decor, they’re great for travelers who don’t mind paying a bit extra for comfort, privacy, and style. They don’t usually have a bar, but they have kitchens to cook your own meals. Breakfast is sometimes included as well. It might not be the best place to find people to socialize, but with fewer people staying there, it’s easier to connect one-on-one. I consider boutique hostels to be a good choice for couples, introverts, or those who just want some peace and quiet after a long day of sight-seeing.
Example: Tree House Hostel in Riga. Probably one of my favorite hostels I’ve stayed at. Very clean with tons of natural lighting, and it also provides earplugs on your pillow! There happened not to be many people staying while I was there, which made for more privacy and comfort. Decor was pretty cool, with its theme centered on nature (hence the name “Tree House”) and meditation– it even offered yoga classes! Breakfast was included, and I think it was money well-spent (10-14€/night).
Another is Hostel Medusa in Batumi. It was about 10-11€ per night and conveniently located a few blocks from Europe Square. As Batumi is a port city (and the hostel’s name is “Medusa”), the theme was water, and the dorm room was painted sea-green to represent that. Like with Riga, I happened to stay when there were only three people in (including me), so it was quiet and plenty of privacy. Also had an en-suite bathroom, which I much prefer over communal ones.
…so there you go! Those are a few types of hostels that one can stay at while traveling. My hostel experience has only been limited to Europe, but I’d be keen on trying them out on other continents in the future.
As for which type will suit you, it’ll really depend: if you’re extroverted and eager to meet people to have fun with, a youth or party hostel is your best bet. If you tend to value quiet and privacy, a boutique hostel is ideal. Personally, I’ve come to find that my personality and travel style is best with a boutique hostel– now that I’m older, I desire more peace and quiet, not so much partying (which I enjoyed doing just a couple of years ago). I guess my priorities have changed, and this isn’t to say that one type of hostel is better than the other. Again, it’ll depend on you– personality, finances, intent– and no matter what, you’ll make memories there that’ll be remembered years later.
What’s your favorite hostel you’ve stayed at? Let me know!