What Is A Hostel?

The Complete Guide To Staying In A Hostel

casa elemento minca colombia

What Is A Hostel?

The Complete Guide To Staying In A Hostel

One of the most popular questions I get asked about my travels doesn’t have to do with the destinations I visit in particular, but are in fact, about staying in hostels.

What is a hostel? Are hostels safe? How do you sleep in a hostel?

The list of questions seems to go on and on.

Anyway, my point is I have received way too many questions from people wondering what exactly a hostel is and whether it is right for them.

Therefore, in this blog, I have decided to clear up any confusion on what it’s like to stay in a hostel and why it has become such a popular way to travel.

Therefore, continue reading so you too can learn precisely what hostels are.

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What Is A Hostel?

 A hostel is more of a lifestyle as opposed to affordable accommodation option.

Known as the number one accommodation choice for backpackers around the globe, hostels are becoming increasingly popular among the travel community.

However, if you have never stayed in one, their concept may seem a bit obscure.

Gili Castle Party Hostel

Location: Gili Trawangan, Indonesia


To sum it up, Hostels are an inexpensive accommodation option for travelers that offer discounted rates on rooms, food, and tour prices.

Hostels are partially able to offer these discounted rates because of their dormitory-style rooming options which maximizes the space of every room.

So with a hotel, you would reserve a private room, whereas in a hostel you would reserve a single bed in a dormitory style room or “shared room” with other travelers.

The number of people in each shared room will vary based on different hostels, and trust me when I say that no two hostels are ever the same. However, the average sized room that most hostels typically offer varies between 4-12 people, although I have seen some that go all the way up to 32 people in a single room!

Additionally, a majority of hostels also offer a limited number of private rooms, however, these are usually much more expensive than booking a single dorm bed.

In saying that, if you’re traveling with another person, it may be worth it to book a private room as you can split the cost between the both of you and this sometimes works out cheaper than booking two beds in a dorm room!

What Is Staying In A Hostel Like?

 As I briefly mentioned above, no two hostels are exactly alike so this will vary depending on what type of hostel you choose to stay in.  We’ve categorized the 5 different types of hostels to be traditional youth hostels, party hostels, boutique hostels, lifestyle hostels, and luxury hostels, which I will discuss more in depth below.

Different Types Of Hostels

Traditional Youth Hostels – These are the most standard hostels that try to cater to the original backpacker crowd by remaining an overall cheap and sociable accommodation option for backpackers more or less focused on the basics.

● Party Hostels – Typically embellished with their own bar, nightclub and daily party events, party hostels provide the most exciting and sociable atmosphere out of any type of hostel.

However, you can typically expect to sacrifice a bit of cleanliness and sleep when you decide to stay at one of these bad boys.

● Boutique Hostels – These hostels place a heavy focus on their design and layout, while still maintaining affordable room rates.

Boutique hostels typically offer a very unique theme along with very clean and contemporary style dorm rooms. However, the majority of boutique hostels tend to lack a bit of social atmosphere.

● Lifestyle Hostels – These are hostels that are focused towards a particular activity like surfing, scuba diving or hiking. Lifestyle hostels will often offer discounted rates on lessons, tours, and gear.

● Luxury Hostels – This is the last but certainly not least of the different hostel types. As the name implies, these hostels are focused on maintaining an upscale hostel experience by offering the best of the best for dormitory rooms, food selection, and on-site facilities.

Though luxury hostels will start at a higher nightly rate than any of the previously mentioned hostel options above, they will still offer a better price than a majority of equivalent hotel selections.


Casa En El Agua Hostel

Location: San Bernardo Islands, Colombia

How To Choose A Hostel?

The best place to search for hostel accommodation is on Hostelworld.com

HostelWorld is the largest booking website on the internet for hostel accommodation and offers a seemingly infinite number of possibilities.

Often times the selection pool is so large and diverse it becomes difficult to decide on which hostel is best for you.

Therefore, your first step is to decide which type of hostel is best for you.

Trust me when I say, there is a massive difference between staying at a crazy party hostel vs staying at a lavish luxury hostel.

Once you decide on this, now it is time to look for some key features included in the hostel to help you ultimately make your selection.

I have included a list below of some of the most important things you should look out for when choosing a hostel.

Click Here To Explore The Hostelworld Booking Site

What Should I Look For In A Hostel?

 Does The Hostel Have A Good Location?

No matter if you are staying in a hostel or a hotel, this should always be the first thing that you check for.

Sometimes a hostel can be exceptionally cheap, however, it is located several miles outside of the city center requiring guests to take a bus or a taxi whenever they want to go somewhere.

The best hostels are typically located within the city center or downtown area.

In addition, you should try to find one that is located near a bus stop or metro station.

Especially if it is a really large city like Medellin in Colombia or Bangkok in Thailand.

Pro Tip

Most destinations have a designated backpacker area where the majority of hostels are located.

It is usually a good idea to look for a hostel in one of these areas.

What Are The Dorm Room Sizes?

As I mentioned above, some hostels offer rooms as small as three people like those found anywhere on the Indonesian island of Gili T.

On the other hand, some hostels offer as many as 36 people like The MadHouse in Prague.

Though everyone’s preference is different, my advice to you is to try and stay under 10 people per room, otherwise, it can get a bit hectic.

Ideally, you will want to book a dorm room with 4-8 people in it.

Ensuite or Shared Bathroom?

Ensuite means the bathroom is located within your dorm room so only the guests of that room are allowed to use it.

Shared bathrooms mean that the bathrooms are located outside the dorm room so that anyone within the hostel is allowed to use it.

Although most backpackers prefer Ensuite, I actually prefer to have a shared bathroom.

That way if anyone decides to stink it up or to start fornicating in there (which is somewhat common at hostels), then you won’t be forced to smell it or listen to it.

In addition to that, shared bathrooms are typically cheaper.

Do They Have Storage Lockers?

This is quite an important one for me because I tend to travel with some important tech equipment such as cameras and drone.

Therefore, I always like to check and see if the hostels offer any type of locker storage within the dorm rooms.

Although theft is not common at hostels, it is always a good idea to lock up your valuables.

Pro Tip

Sometimes Hostels say that they have storage lockers, however occasionally the hostel is referring to communal storage space behind reception.

Therefore, it is always a good idea to check photos of the hostel on HostelWorld to see if you can spot any lockers within the actual room.

Are There Any Organized Hostel Events?

Events organized by the hostel whether it is a group tour, pub crawl or a game night are excellent ways to get social and meet new friends.

I advise you to search for backpacker hostels that host some type of organized events.

Most of the time events like these are what really sets one hostel apart from another.

My Mates Place

Location: Gili Trawangan, Indonesia


Are Any Of The Meals Included?

It’s very common for hostels to offer free breakfast or free pasta nights for the duration of your stay.

Although this should not be the most important factor when deciding on a hostel, the option is always a bonus.


Is There A Bar/Nightclub?

Though some could care less whether the hostel has its own bar, chances are I won’t even stay at a hostel unless they do!

Hostel bars are usually a tell-tale sign of an establishment with a good social atmosphere.

This is where a majority of guests look to congregate and socialize providing plenty of opportunities to meet like-minded travelers, which I consider to be an essential part of backpacking.

When you book a hostel that has its own nightclub such as Media Luna Hostel in Cartagena, Colombia, you will know straight away it is a party hostel.

Keep in mind hostels that have their own nightclub tend to be quite loud at night so if getting beauty sleep is a priority for you then I’d stay away from these hostels!

Funky Flashpacker Hostel

Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia


Is There A Swimming Pool?

Though not every destination will have the temperature to even require a pool, if you are traveling anywhere like Cartagena or Bali during the summer months, you will be extremely grateful to have one!

Not to mention, they are another great place for the guests to socialize.

Hotel vs Hostel 

The Difference Between Hotel And Hostel Accommodation

 While there are many differences between Hotel and Hostel accommodation, by far the most significant are the price and the social atmosphere.

Price Of Hostels

One of the biggest drawbacks to traveling is the hefty price tag that comes along with it.

Therefore, traveling is often thought of as a lifestyle for the rich and successful, however, the concept of hostels has helped to completely counteract that idea.

If traveling meant having to pay exorbitant prices to stay in private hotel rooms, then the vast majority of young backpackers would not be traveling.

This is also especially true for anyone traveling alone and doesn’t have a companion to share the cost of an already expensive room with.

Therefore, hostels provide an affordable option for backpackers to travel the world for extended periods of time without breaking the bank.

Although it’s all dependent on the particular country, hostel beds typically cost anywhere from $6 USD to $30 USD a night.

Travel destinations like Europe and North America charge some of the highest hostel rates, while travel destinations like Southeast Asia and South America typically charge the lowest.

The concept of backpacking would literally be dead if it were not for hostels.

Social Atmosphere Of Hostels

The other main benefit of staying at a hostel vs a hotel is the upbeat social atmosphere that is almost a customary aspect of the hostel life.

Hostels tend to take people out of their comfort zone and place them in a setting where they are encouraged to introduce and mingle with other guests.

Therefore, you are constantly meeting travelers from around the world, whether it be within your dorm room, common area, bar area or even organized hostel events. And it is AWESOME!

On the other hand, when staying in private accommodation at a hotel, you typically do not socialize with other guests and everyone pretty much just keeps to themselves.

In fact, there are some travelers who can well afford the hefty price of hotel accommodation during their travels, however, choose to stay at a hostel solely based on the vibrant social atmosphere.

Are Hostels Safe?

One of the biggest concerns about staying in a hostel is the question of safety.

Contrary to popular belief and some terrifyingly inaccurate Hollywood movies, hostels are widely considered to be extremely safe, especially for those traveling alone.

‘Some of the most dangerous and scary moments when traveling occur when you are alone, however, because of the wonderful social environment of hostels, every new location will introduce you to a new group of friends and travel companions.’

Therefore, anyone who is technically staying in a hostel alone, never, in fact, feels alone.

Often times these will be the people whom you are either sharing a room with, going on hostel organized tours with or even getting drunk on pub crawls with.

The opportunities to meet new friends are literally endless when staying at a hostel.

However, on the other hand, it is often times difficult to meet new friends when you choose a hotel vs hostel accommodation, mainly because there are significantly fewer chances for travelers to mingle.

The Pink Palace Party Hostel

Location: Corfu, Greece


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Casa En El Agua Colombia {The Party Hostel In The Middle Of The Ocean}

Casa Elemento Minca Colombia {The Most Breathtaking Hostel In Colombia?}

Where To Stay In Medellin Colombia 2019 {The Official Backpackers Guide}


Did we forget to mention some important information in our blog “What Is A Hostel? The Complete Guide To Staying In A Hostel”?

Drop your comments & suggestions below!

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