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10 Frequently Asked Questions About Staying at a Hostel

A man pulling a suitcase into a room in a hostel.
Tero Vesalainen/Shutterstock.com

If you’ve never stayed at a hostel before, you might be unsure if these affordable travel accommodations are right for you. Here are some common questions you might have about staying in a hostel.

The word “hostel” might conjure images of crowded bunk beds, dirty bathrooms, and noisy roommates, and, it’s true, a handful of them fit that description pretty well. Overall, though, hostels are clean, comfortable, safe places to spend the night without blowing half your travel budget on a room.

Here, we’re exploring 10 frequently asked questions about hostels so you can decide if you want to book one for your next trip.

What Is a Hostel?

A hostel is a low-cost accommodation option for short-term stays. They can afford to keep the prices low because guests typically rent a bed in a dormitory-style room instead of renting an entire room for themselves.

Dorm rooms can typically accommodate four to 10 people, while private rooms are usually for two to four. If you have a party of six or more, you might be able to request that you all sleep in the same dorm room. This will only be possible based on availability, but if it works out, you might get a private room for the same cost as a shared one.

In addition to being budget-friendly for travelers, hostels are also known for the social aspect. Many people choose to stay in hostels for the opportunity to meet other travelers. Most also host tours and activities several times per week, and some even have restaurants, pools, and/or bars on-site.

Do I Have to Share a Room with Strangers?

Travelers in a dorm room at a hostel.
Iakov Filimonov/Shutterstock.com

Not necessarily. While dorms are the norm, many hostels offer private rooms for people who don’t want to share a sleeping space.

Plenty of hostels also offer same-sex rooms. That being said, mixed dorms are very safe. People who stay in hostels are usually very respectful of other’s space and privacy. And you can always ask the front desk to move you to another room if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable.

Do I Have to Share a Bathroom?

If you rent a bed in a dorm room, you’ll have to share a bathroom. Some rooms have en suite bathrooms that are shared only by the guests of that room, while others have large communal bathrooms for all guests.

Many private rooms have a private bathroom, as well, but that isn’t a guarantee. If you’ll have to share a bathroom, it should be listed on the booking site for the hostel. Of course, you can also call and ask.

How Much Does a Room or Bed Cost?

Just as hotel prices fluctuate from country to country, how much you’ll pay to stay at a hostel will vary by location. You can find beds as cheap as $4 per night in places like China and Thailand, or up to $50 per night in more expensive countries, like the United States and Switzerland.

Private rooms are also more expensive, ranging from $30-$150 per night, depending on the location. To compare pricing, start at hostelworld.com. You’ll find more links in our final section below.

Do Hostels Have Age Limits?

A group of various ages paying for a room at a hostel.
Nestor Rizhniak/Shutterstock.com

Age limits are uncommon but not unheard of at hostels. Some locations that have easily accessible bars limit guests to those over 16 or 18, depending on the local drinking age. Others that are intended to appeal to young backpackers (often referred to as “youth hostels”) might not allow anyone over age 30 or 40.

If you’re traveling with someone under 18 or over 30, just be sure to check for any age restrictions before you book.

Are Hostels Safe for Children?

Most hostels are perfectly suitable for children. They can be a great option for families on a tight budget who just need somewhere to sleep. There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing one, however.

You’ll want to avoid hostels known for their party scene. This is usually easy to find out when reading reviews or looking at photos of the location. If you see a lot of pictures of people drinking and partying, it’s probably not the best place for kids. A hostel in a quieter part of town will also be better for kids who have an early bedtime.

If you want to stay at a hostel with your kids, it’s best to book a private room for your entire family. It’s also not a bad idea to call the hostel you’re interested in before booking to ask about bringing your kids. They’ll be able to give you the most accurate description of their location and answer any questions you may have.

What Amenities Can I Expect?

Whether you book a shared or private room, amenities at hostels are limited. Don’t expect complimentary toiletries, like shampoo, conditioner, or lotion, in the bathrooms. Many hostels don’t even provide towels—you’ll need to bring your own or rent one at the front desk.

But just because hostels are affordable doesn’t mean you’re missing out on anything. A free (albeit, usually small) breakfast is common at many locations. You’ll also usually find beautiful common areas, bars, restaurants, and patios at many hostels.

Because they’re used to young travelers booking flights at all hours, many hostels also have a 24-hour front desk, which can be a real lifesaver if your flight gets in at 4 a.m.

Most hostels also have lockers in dorm rooms so you can keep your valuables safe, but you have to bring your own lock.

Like hotels and apartment rentals, amenities will vary from hostel to hostel. What’s included in your stay will be listed on the website and/or when you book. Again, be sure to contact the business directly if you have any specific questions.

Do I Need to Bring My Own Bedding?

A folded sheet and blanket on a hostel bed.

This is a common question, but no, you don’t need to bring your own bedding when staying at a hostel. Almost all locations provide clean bedding for every guest. You’re often asked to strip your sheets before checking out to ensure that everything is washed between guests.

In fact, if a hostel doesn’t provide clean bedding, you’ll probably want to find another option.

Are They All Run-Down?

Most people who regularly stay at hostels seem to have at least one horror story. Mine is probably a tie between the roommate with undiagnosed sleep apnea and the large hole in the wall full of exposed wire right next to my bed.

Sure, dirty and poorly run hostels exist, but most are clean, efficient, and thoroughly enjoyable places to stay. People who run and work at hostels are often eager travelers who’ve stayed at hostels themselves many times before.

You won’t find the same fancy bells and whistles you would at a nice hotel, but hey, you’re not staying at a nice hotel, so why expect them? Well-rated hostels are usually affordable, clean, and comfortable, which is all you need for an enjoyable stay.

Where Can I Find a Good Option?

Your number one destination for finding a great hostel is hostelworld.com. Here, you’ll find the best selection of places around the world. Prices for dorm versus private rooms are clearly stated, and there are also plenty of photos of the common areas and rooms.

The site also has tons of reviews from previous guests, so you can get a good idea of what you’re getting into before booking.

Another place to check out hostels is Booking.com. This is a standard accommodation booking site, but it also has budget options, including hostels, you can peruse. This site also features plenty of photos and reviews from previous guests.

Hostels are businesses, so they’ll usually be listed on Google Maps but as a budget hotel. Just note that if a business is offering dormitory rooms, it’s a hostel.

If you’re looking for budget-friendly accommodations for your next trip, consider booking a bed or room at a hostel. Once you’ve booked, be sure to check out our guide on what all to pack for your stay at a hostel.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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