Hostels 101: What Is A Hostel & What Are Hostels Like?

You’ve probably heard of this accommodation thing called a hostel, but you’re not quite sure what it is.

I’ve spent my fair share of time in hostels and today I want to answer the question “what is a hostel”.

A hostel is a cheaper accommodation that usually has 2+ beds. It’s pretty much like a dorm room where many people sleep in.

A hostel room with 4 beds is considered a “small” room. Typically in a room like this, there are 2 bunk beds in a small room.

Hostels that have 6-10 beds are pretty typical. Hostel rooms with 8 beds is fairly common and typical. You can find hostels that have rooms with 20 beds if you can believe it or not. It’s just a large room with 10 bunk beds usually.

What Hostel Rooms Are Like:

Just like hotels, hostel rooms can vary DRAMATICALLY. You have low end hotels and high end hotels that costs hundreds of dollars per person a night. It’s the same with hostels. Cheap hostels usually have shared bathrooms, are dirtier, more run down, and may not offer breakfast or any real amenities.

Medium end and high end hostels can be very hotel like. You’re not going to get free soap, lotion, or towels waiting for you. But your bed and room can look similar to a decent hotel room. Your bed could be very lovely and clean, with white sheets and well colored painted walls. You may even have your own bathroom in your room.

Why Would You Want To Stay In A Hostel?

There are only 2 real reasons why you would want to stay in a hostel, at least in my mind there is.

1. Hostels are way cheaper than hotel rooms

Hotel rooms can cost $100 or more. A hostel usually cuts that cost down by at least half.

2. Hostels are an awesome way to meet new people

Staying in hotels makes it pretty hard to meet people. You’re in a room by yourself or with your travel mate, and it’s all a bit impersonal. But when you’re in a hostel dorm room with 6-8 people, you’ll be in close contact with (hopefully) similar minded people that you can connect with. It’s pretty hard not to talk to people in the same room as you. Even if it’s as simple as asking someone where the washroom is or who’s shit is on your bed, it’s hard to avoid talking to people in hostels.

How Much Does A Hostel Room Cost?

The price you pay for a hostel room will vary depending on which country you are in, what time of year you are traveling, the amount of people in your room, and the quality of the hostel room.

Generally, a hostel room will cost you around $10-$50 a night per person.

If you are looking for a hostel in expensive countries like Switzerland or France, expect to pay in the upper end of $50.

If you are traveling during high season in whatever country you are in, you will likely find that many hostel rooms have been sold out. You should book your room earlier before your travel. Plus, you want to choose a hostel that is centrally located or located close to transportation, like bus stations or underground tubes. This is really important because if your hostel is way out of the way it’s super inconvenient and will likely cost you more money to get there and back.

You’ll likely be able to find a hostel during high season though. It may not be the best located or the most suitable room for you, or even be at a great price, but you should be able to find a room if you don’t book ahead.

Hostel rooms with 4 people tend to be fairly more pricier than hostel rooms with 6-8 people. Hostel rooms that have 6-8 people are typically around the same price. If you really want to get the cheapest room possible, find hostels that have rooms that can fit 12+ people. Because these rooms can be about half the price of rooms with 4-8 people sometimes.

Hostel rooms that contain their own bathrooms or showers will cost more than a shared bathroom/shower. As well, if your room has anything cool in it like a terrance or balcony, expect to pay a little more.

Lastly, the hostel itself will determine the price of rooms the most. A hostel that is kept together well and has things like free breakfasts and excellent security will cost more money. And it should. These things cost money. Finding good hostels for the price you pay is fun. The best way to find these good hostels is to read reviews.


How To Choose A Hostel


What Kinds Of People Do You Meet In Hostels?

You will meet ALL KINDS of people in hostels. That’s one of the funnest things about staying in hostels. Typically, you’ll find youngish people in hostels, ranging from 18-30ish year olds. It makes sense, since people in this age have less money and are traveling on the cheap, backpacking around and living it up.

For the most part, meeting people in hostels is awesome and you’ll find that people are really open and nice. Not everyone will be but you’ll come across some of the nicest and coolest people. It’s especially easy to meet the people in your room. When you’re traveling around to a new city every few days, you’ll meet new roommates every few days and it’s actually kind of fun.

One time in Budapest I ended up in a hostel with 7 other Canadians. It was super cool. They were all so different but friendly. We all talked about what we were doing in the evening and the next day, and invited each other out for stuff.

You’re not always going to end up in a room with cool people.

For example, I was in Athens (in a great hostel btw), and I ended up in a room with a Japanese exchange student who didn’t talk much but he was really nice. Another dude from Canada who was really fun and social and we chatted a lot. A dumb asian girl who came in the room at like 1 in the morning and started packing/unpacking her shit. Her flashlight from her phone was shining all over the room and it annoyed the hell out of me, let alone the noise. I wanted to wake up at 6 and make as much noise as I could.

When I was in Berlin, my hostel room was mostly cool too. Two girls from Boston, USA, a girl from Australia, and a guy from the U.K. We all hung out for the few days we were together. There was another girl from Chicago, USA and she was super cool as hell. Really social and fun. We went to a live music concert one night together and had a blast. And then there was these other 2 Australians, a guy and a girl, and they really soured me towards Australians. They were so obnoxiously loud and inconsiderate of others in the room, I began to hate all Australians.

So basically, you’ll find yourself in a room with a lot of different kinds of people. You’ll likely find that you’ll be able to get along with most people as long as you aren’t too weird or anti social. A lot of people that meet in hostels will end up hanging out together and exploring the city together. Just make sure you talk to people and be nice. That’s really all it takes.

How Do You Find Good Hostels?

Check out places like or I like these websites because they have user reviews of hostels which matter a lot. I read carefully about the hostel and what people who have stayed there have to say. This is how I book all my hostels. I haven’t really stayed at a hostel where I regretted staying there.

Also, hostels have different “vibes”. You want to pick a hostel that suits your style. If you are looking for a quieter hostel where you just want a good night sleep, then you need to look for reviews that say that.

If you want to meet a lot of people and be social, or you want to party and hang out late, then you need to find a hostel that is geared towards this. Hostels like these will typically have a excellent common area where people can easily meet and chat (this is REALLY important and makes it much easier to meet people).

Hostels will attract a certain type of clientele. You need to do your research and find ones that suits you best.

Any More Benefits Of Staying In Hostels?

1. Hostel workers are typically really knowledgeable: One of the best sources of information about the city you’re exploring are the hostel workers. Ask them questions like what to do in the city or where to find cheap food that tastes awesome. Always talk to them and get friendly. It will make a huge difference in your stay.

2. Look for hostels that have group activities: This is SUPER important if you’re goal is to meet new people and do fun things with people. A lot of social hostels will have a meet up at night, and you will all go out to a club/bar in the evening together. And you’ll typically find that these are some of the most social people you’ll ever meet.

Your hostel can sometimes have free walking tours or food tours or arts and crafts, etc. These are things organized by your hostel that people staying there can participate in (and I recommend you do it and meet people!)

How To Choose A Good Hostel?

  • I think the most important thing you can do is to pick a hostel that fits your personality. I talked about this a little earlier already, but it bears repeating because it’s really that important.
  • Another important factor is how many people are in your room. If you’re looking to meet as many people as possible, choose a room with more people. It’s really just odds. Odds that you’ll land yourself in a room with someone that you’ll connect with well. But if you want to get sleep then choose a room with 4 people. You can find hostel rooms with less than 4 people but they cost considerably more money.
  • Find hostels with amenities that matter to you. If you really want free breakfast then get a hostel that gives you free breakfast. This actually saves a lot of money. Because going out to get lunch yourself costs maybe 5 dollars or more, and that adds up.
  • Find hostels with an excellent gathering area or social area. In Berlin, I was in a hostel that had ONE common area, and that was it. So when people waited around in the evening before going out, we all hung out at this main gathering area, and it was impossible not to meet and talk to people. it was the MOST social hostel I’ve ever been in, and it forced me to meet so many new people.
  • Choosing a hostel that is located centrally is also super important. If you are wishing walking distance of the things you like to do, then you’ve got one of the best hostels imaginable. When you can walk back to your room late at night from the bar, or you can visit many cool tourist areas within walking distance, you’re really golden. Otherwise, you will want to be really close to public transportation. In Barcelona, I was right off Las Ramblas and right beside a metro. It made a HUGE difference.

In Summary….

Overall, I highly recommend hostels. For the price savings as well as the ability to more easily meet people. Remember, many like minded and aged people stay in hostels. One of the coolest things many people don’t realize about traveling is meeting a lot of new people. Most people think about the things they can see and do while traveling, but meeting new people is just as fun, if not funner.

If you’re unsure, pick a higher end hostel with good security, and “give it a shot”. Try it out at least once! After all, you can then say you’ve stayed in a hostel!

If you have any questions about hostelling, let me know in the comments below! And do share this post if you found it useful!


Leave a Comment:

Ron says

This is super cool! I have always loved staying at hostels as well, but never really gave it this much thought. My girlfriend and I also travel together and while hostels are great for meeting new people we also love the fact that with two people we can often share a private room and it typically costs us only a little more than if we both just got bunks in a dorm room!

    Expat Jason says

    You’re so right about choosing a private room at a hostel. It’s cheaper than a hotel and you get that privacy, and you can go out into the common room to meet other people at the same time. Pretty dope! That’s great you have a travel partner too. It helps so much!

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