How Do Hostels Work? Your Questions Answered

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Hostels, hotels, and motels share many similarities but differ significantly as well. If you travel a lot (especially in Europe), chances are you’ve stayed in a hostel a time or two. These lodging facilities are usually smaller, more relaxed, and much cheaper than hotels.

This article will help you to understand how hostels work before booking a room with one.

So, How Do Hostels Work?

If you’ve never stayed over at one, you’re probably wondering how do hostels work, actually?

Hostels typically offer travelers with basic accommodations while they’re own the road or visiting faraway places. These facilities generally offer much more affordable lodging options than hotels, motels, or overnight apartments.

A room, an internet connection, and most times even breakfast are Included with an overnight stay at a hostel. Most hostels also offer several different rooms; dorm, single, double, even triple.

One down-side is that a majority of basic hostel rooms do not include a private bathroom. Rather, several rooms may share a bathroom and even kitchen facilities.

Most hostels are located near city centers, major transit routes, and significant tourist destinations. Furthermore, many hostels are connected to (or above) coffee bars, restaurants, and clubs.

In comparison to hotels, hostels are normally much closer to the action and major attractions in the area.

Depending on the specific hostel you choose, there are many other considerations to consider as well. In the next section, we get into more specifics on the most important factors to think about before booking a room or staying at a hostel.

Important Considerations About Hostels

Staying in a hostel is an experience that all travelers should experience at least once. That said, before picking the first hostel that has a cool name or a great location, it’s critical to understand exactly how they work first.

To help our audience to better understand the answers to the question “how do hostels work?”, we’ve listed the most crucial considerations about hostels below:


The number one consideration to make when searching for a hostel to rent a room in is the amount of privacy that it offers. While many hostels have an excellent selection of private rooms, others offer very little in the way of privacy.

Researching several hostels before selecting one is required to find the one with the best privacy. Many hostels have nothing but shared rooms so make sure if you don’t want to sleep next to a stranger that you asked specifically for a private room.


Hostels sometimes get a bad reputation due to inexpensive furniture and dorm-like settings. However, that is certainly far from always the case. Many hostels offer much more comfortable accommodations than and 4-star hotels.

Do a little research on the level of comfort offered by hostels before booking. Merely inquiring as to how the rooms are laid out gives you a much better idea of how comfortable the hostel is.


Internet, a bed, a dresser, and most times breakfast are typically the only amenities that are guaranteed with most hostels. For a higher price, private bathrooms, showers, kitchens, balconies, and patios are sometimes available as well.

A vast majority of hostels lack room service as the idea behind hostels is an inexpensive alternative to expensive overnight hotel stays. That said, a lack of room service only means more privacy (no cleaning lady knocking on your door!).


The location of any lodging facility should always be a primary consideration to make before booking a room. One of the greatest benefits of the best hostels is their awesome location.

In comparison to large hotels, hostels are often not much larger than a typical one-family home. That means they can fit just about anywhere (places big chain hotels won’t fit – like city centers and boutique old-town neighborhoods).

Many hostels are located directly where the action is happening. Most of the time they are only a short walk to museums, bus lines, train stations, restaurants, clubs, and other sorts of attractions.


Some say that the price is the best part of the hostel experience. Whether or not that is truly the case or not, there is no denying the massive price difference between hotels and hostels.

A night in a European hostel costs as little as $5 and hardly ever costs more than $25. In comparison to hotels, hostels are often as much as three to five times cheaper (if not more!).

When selecting a hostel, keep in mind, the lower the price, the lower the level of privacy. Do yourself a favor and inquire what exactly is included in the price before paying.

Types of Hostels

Hostels have begun to pop up all around the world over the past few decades. In the wave of expansion, a small handful of different hostel types have sprung up as well.

Here are the most commonly found types of hostels:

Youth hostels

Originally founded for students in need of affordable housing while attending school in foreign locations, this sort of hostel is by far the most common.

These hostels are often funded by universities or regional charities. Today, these hostels are open to the general public and are frequented by random travelers abroad as much as actual students.

Backpacker hostels

As the name suggests, these hostels are geared towards foreigners backpacking from afar. They are located through-out European countries (and around the world) in areas frequently visited by adventurous backpackers and long-haul hikers.

Backpackers hostels give these travelers a quick and inexpensive place to stop, rest, get cleaned up, and move on with little setbacks (including money-wise).

Boutique (flashpacker) hostels

Perhaps the most comfortable (and expensive) of all hostel types is the boutique-style hostel. These little gems are generally higher-quality from the bedsheets to the internet speed and extra amenities.

If you’re looking for a hostel that offers all the same great amenities of 3 and 4-star hotels, the boutique hostel is what you’re looking for.

Types of Hostel Rooms

As with hotels and motels, hostels also offer a wide variety of boarding options. Depending on the facilities, you’ll find everything from dorms to private rooms that rival penthouse suites.

Here are the most commonly found types of hostel rooms:


The most basic sort of accommodations offered by hostels are the dorm-style rooms. Originally, dorm-style rooms were the only options that the first youth hostels had.

Today, these are still popular but are far from the only option. They are mostly offered in youth hostels, for students studying abroad.


One of the most common rooming options with hostels is the single room. Many single rooms are nothing more than a bed, dresser, and TV.

However, other single hostel rooms include kitchens, bathrooms, balconies, and more. These rooms are perfect for a solo traveler or a single couple. Make sure to inquire what single rooms include before booking at any hostel.


A double bed or two single beds, a dresser, TV, and nightstands are the most basic furnishing found in a double hostel room. For a few dollars extra a double room also comes with a private bathroom and shower, kitchenette, patio, and/or balcony.

These double rooms typically have more than enough room for a small family, two couples, or up to four or five adults. Remember to ask the hostel attendant what the room includes before paying.


The triple room is typically the largest rooming option available with hostels (aside from large 20+ bed dorm rooms). If you’re a mid-size family (two or three adults and two or three children) the triple room is for you.

The room includes anywhere from three double beds to six single beds as well as basic furnishings and amenities. Be sure to inquire with the hostel as to what the room includes before booking.

Frequently Asked Questions about How Hostels Work

Do I have to share a room?

No. You do not have to share a room when you stay at a hostel. While some hostels only offer dorm-style lodging, most modern hostels offer fully private rooms and a full range of amenities.

Simply let the hostel staff know you want a private room.

Do I have to share a bathroom?

No. You do not have to share a bathroom when you stay at a hostel unless you choose to. Nearly all hostels offer private bathrooms for as little as $5 to $10 extra per night.

Be sure to inquire if your room comes with a shared or private bathroom if this is a concern.

Are hostels dangerous to stay at?

Hostels are no more dangerous to stay at than a hotel. In fact, many hostels are much safer than in larger hotels. Hostels also tend to have dozens to hundreds of fewer guests than hotels.

That said, many popular hostels are located near more dangerous areas within large cities than many hotels. You level of safety while traveling is basically in your own hands. Keep your wits about you and stay alert.

How long can I stay at a hostel?

Depending on the hostel, the length of time you are allowed to stay varies. Many hostels have a two to three-day maximum limit and require you to show identification proving you’re indeed an international traveler.

Others have no such limits or requirements other than the size of your budget.

How much does a hostel room cost?

Again, depending on the hostel, the price for an overnight stay varies greatly. Some hostels are less than $5 per night for international travelers while others are upwards of $25 to $50 (normally boutique hostels are more expensive). So, the cost of your hostel stay depends solely on how comfortable you want to be and how much you’re willing to spend.

A Final Word About How Hostels Work

All in all, hostels function more like staying with family (who mind their own business) than like staying at a hotel or motel. There is typically no room service (or any other sort of disturbances from staff) as well as fewer facility options (such as spas, gyms, and pools) as well.

On the flip side, they are cheaper, easier to book, and are located close to all the cool stuff you came to see in the first place.

If you’ve never stayed in a hostel, learning how they work and experiencing one for yourself may be the experience of a lifetime (especially if traveling abroad).

Hopefully, we’ve answered all of your “how do hostels work?”-related questions. If not, leave us a comment in the box below and we’ll do our best to answer you.

Do you have additional “how do hostels work?” answers for our readership? We’d love to hear them in the comments section.

Good luck finding and booking a hostel!