Hostels 101 – What is a Hostel?

Before starting exploring the world, a lot of future traveler ask them themselves “What is a Hostel?” First and foremost, for those of you that do not already know, we should define what a hostel is and distinguish the major differences between hostels versus hotels.

In a nutshell, a hostel is a social, and a sharing-friendly environment, for people who love to meet other travelers, and share ideas, experiences, knowledge, and more.

1. What is a Hostel?

There is a big difference between Hostels and Hotels, and other types of accommodation. It’s not just this small “s” which confuses people from time to time. People say this “s” stands for SOCIAL – and that’s a hostel! A Hostel is a social environment type of accommodation to get in contact with people, to share experiences, knowledge, and the sleeping area. On our Blog Post “What’s a Hostel”, Hostel Owners and Hostel Travelers define “What is a Hostel“.

Here are 6 basic facts about hostels:

1. Hostels are social, and Hostels are about people.

2. In a hostel you can book a bed, and share a dorm room with fellow travelers. However, this is the cheapest option, but never the less very often there is the option to book private rooms.

3. Hostels are based on a dormitory setting with shared bathrooms, communal areas of accommodation, and laundry facilities.

4. Hostels offer a Guest Kitchen, where travelers can prepare food by their own.

5. There’s always something special at Hostels. Maybe a Jacuzzi, the free dinner? Or maybe a stunning roof terrace, or a concert? Check the hostels description, and keep an eye on this!

Rooms have the option of being mixed-sex or same-sex, they vary in how many beds are in a room, attract a younger crowd, and offer other services such as lockers to securely store your belongings and group activities to meet other travelers. When staying at a hostel expect to be self-catering, and open to meeting other backpackers and world travelers!

2. Variety of Hostels Types

Not only are hostels very different and unique from different types of accommodation, but there are different subcategories of hostels that will offer radically different atmospheres and perks. This variety of hostel types makes the hostel traveling even more interesting, and exciting. It’s important to choose a hostel that will not only fit your budget, but will also fit your personality and what kind of experience you are hoping to take away from your stay. Let’s try to break it down:

The “Feel at Home” Hostel

The Alternative Creative Youth Home in Barcelona, Spain has adopted the motto "great vibes, great atmosphere."

The feel at home hostel, or the comfort hostel, is known for its good vibes, cozy spaces, and a rather chill, eclectic scene compared to the more rambunctious crowds at party hostels (see below). These types of hostels are usually smaller, thus creating more intimate settings and often giving them some of the highest ratings since there is a lower ratio of staff to hostel-goer.

Some typical characteristics of this type of hostel include cultural activities such as free tours of the city and local, live music, key words like relaxing atmosphere, friendly staff, less number of total rooms and beds in the hostel, and included bed settings with extra thick mattresses for added comfort. Check out the Alternative Creative Youth Home in Barcelona for an excellent example.

Perks: At Feel at Home Hostels you are more likely to make deeper connections with other travelers rather than mere drinking buddies. They are also very comfortable and mimic that feel-good atmosphere of being at home or in a bed and breakfast. They are still young and hip, but less obnoxious than party hostels since they don’t condone binge drinking.

Important Note: Since there are usually less beds, this means a smaller selection of people to meet. You are also expected to be quiet and respectful of the other guests, which can be difficult if you do want to have a night out. So make sure that this is the right hostel for you!

The Party Hostel

The X Hostel in Varna boasts that they have 108 people permanently tattooed with a "X" and throw regular foam and playboy parties.

This type of hostel is pretty self-explanatory. It’s for the night owls. It’s for the party animals, the restless, the wild, the dancers, and the heavy drinkers. If you are the type of person that would prefer to read a book rather than go out, then this type of hostel is not for you. If you are the type of person that requires a full 8 hours of sleep to function, then do not come here.

Most party hostels are easy to distinguish. They often have characteristics like no curfew or lockout, contain the keyword party somewhere in the description, and have organized group activities like pub crawls, beer pong tournaments, happy hour drink specials, participate in Gomio’s Traveler’s Night, and other types of social nights out. Make sure to pack your Advil when traveling to a party hostel, you are guaranteed to need it over the course of your stay.

Perks: Party hostels can be a lot of fun, they’re also a fast-track to meeting lots of people quickly, it’s easy to mingle with other travelers, and there’s always something exciting happening. Just take a look at the list of “epic parties” at the Varna X Hostel to get an idea of what kind of activities you might be interested in.

Important Note: Beware of terrible hangovers, lack of sleep, and embarrassing stories – it all comes with the territory!

The Luxury Hostel

Mosaic House in Prague is a luxury hostel that offers 4-star hotel standards.

If you are looking for all of the luxuries of a hotel, but can’t quite swallow the cost and you want to meet people, or if you’re looking for chic accommodation that still has the charm and character of the city instead of the corporatization of a chain-hotel, then a luxury hostel is the perfect alternative for you.

Luxury hostels, such as The Mosaic House in Prague, go all out to offer you a lavish vacation where you can feel spoiled and comfortable – but not guilty! Common characteristics include full air-condition, rooftop terraces, private rooms, stylish decoration, mini fridges, and added security. The rooms are also more spacious than other types of hostels.

Perks: It’s the low-budget accommodation that doesn’t feel low-budget, and affordable for those who don’t feel like “roughin’it.” Chic, cool, and classy.

Important Note: They are a bit more expensive then your average hostel, that’s money that could be spent on doing something extra around the city! But therefore it’s more unique and recommended for when you are travelling with your partner.

In the end, there’s a little bit of something out there for everybody. The choice is up to you! is here as your social hostel booking platform in order to give you the best – and a variety of – options, make your booking easier, and connect you with like-minded travelers. Stay tuned for our post “Types of Hostels – the beauty of Hosteling“.

2. Privacy – how does this work?

Smart Place Paris - A dorm room for TravelersIf you stay at a dorm for a low price, you may sacrifice some part of your privacy (Photo shows Smart Place Paris, France). At hostels it is common to share the bathroom, the kitchen, and the showers. Obviously the lounge is also a sharing spot – without a shared lounge for all travelers, the hostel concept would be almost pointless. Private Rooms at Ron and Fire's Place in Tacloban, PhilippinesIn case you are looking for more privacy, we recommend you to book dorms with less beds (e.g. 3-Bed-Dorm or 4-Bed-Dorm), or even a private room (photo shows Ron and Fire’s Place in Tacloban, Philippines). This usually costs some coins more, but it may be worth it once in a while. This may depend on your trip, on your travel mates, and time you are traveling.


4. Activities – what’s going on?

A lot of Hostels out there are offering activities, like Free City Tours, Pub Crawls, or even bigger Tours to for instance National Parks, or other cities or sights. Those tours are very often unique to the hostel. The price is usually cheaper than joining external tours, plus you will also be surrounded by your fellow hostel travelers. Take advantage of this opportunity!

5. Safety – do I have to be worried?

Hostels are safe - stay safe at Hostels!

To speak in general: Hostels are safe. But, like always, it depends. If you take normally care about your stuff, there should never happen anything. But nevertheless, it’s not recommended to leave your valuables wherever you want. Use the lockers at the hostel, just to be safe.

6. Facilities – What do I get?

Beside the social atmosphere, the chance to get to know people from around the world, the very basic facilities of a hostel are:

  • Public Kitchen
  • Lounge
  • Free WIFI
  • Lounge

Additional Facilities can be:

  • 24 Hours Reception
  • Locker
  • Bar
  • Air Conditioning
  • Jacuzzi
  • Sauna
  • Laundry
  • Swimming Pool
  • Organized Acitivities
  • Green Garden
  • Roof Top Terrace
  • and more, and more, and more!

7. Why to book the Hostel online?

When exploring the world, we always recommend to book your hostel previously. Depending on the destination and the time of travel, hostels can be fully booked. Be aware of this problem! You may not stay at a very awesome Hostel just because you did not book it on time!

Gomio cares about Hostel Travelers and Hostels, and we are very happy to bring both together. If you are in doubt of which Hostel is the right for you, or simply have some questions, our expert team will be happy to help you! Contact us via Live Chat, or on, or to get a personalized Hostel recommendation!

Here are certain advantages of an Online Hostel Booking with

1. You get immediate confirmation, guaranteed and secured with a confirmation number!

2. No hassle with phone calls and no language problems – we take care of this!

3. No additional Booking Fee, so save you internet time searching for other prices – seriously, there are no hidden fees, no service charge, what so ever!

4. Cheaper than repeated international telephone calls, you could even reach us via Skype or live chat if you have any questions!

5. You can compare directly the hostels in your destination.

6. Get access to Godashboard, the kit of social travel tools. Take advantage of the new online media, find more information here.

Hostel Application Godashboard

This post was updated at 30/09/2013

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