They’re all the same right? – Smelly, grotty, disgusting dorm rooms, full of drunk and high gap year backpackers having sex everywhere! – Well yes, some are like that but no there are not all the same.
As somebody who has stayed in backpacker hostels all over the world, through different generations of backpackers for over 10 years, in this post I’m going to show you the different types of backpacker hostels there are so you can see which type will suit you best for your future travels.
It may surprise you to know there are different types of backpacker hostels, different ones to suit different personalities and needs. Not all are great, and this post isn’t to over-glamorise them. In fact in being brutally honest there are some horrible ones out there but that’s the same with all accommodation.
Misconceptions of backpacker hostels
Table of Contents
It’s funny most the time the only people who think backpacker hostels are all the same are people who have never stayed in one or had one bad experience and labelled them all the same.
You may think a backpacker hostel is just shared budget accommodation, a place for you to sleep for cheap but one you have to share with other people. In essence yes, that’s what they are but there is much more to them than that.
- Hostels can actually be much more than a place to just sleep:
- Become your home
- Become integral to your travel experience
- A chance to meet people and make friends
- A place to learn from others, learn new skills, learn about different people and cultures from those around you
- Be your nest
- Be a sanctuary
- A place to recharge
- The chance to feel part of a family – especially in smaller hostels
- Helps you settle into traveling life
- Provides familiarity
- Provide you with home comforts
- Give you a sense of security
- Be there in times of need – if you feeling down or lonely
There are people who have a better and more fulfilling experience in a hostel than they do in the destination they are in. Life long friendships are born in backpacker hostels.
So before you dismiss them as just budget travel accommodation keep in mind how important they can actually be to your traveling life. I know after a decade of traveling and roaming the world they are the closest thing to home at times.
The good the bad & the ugly
Backpacker hostels do come in all shapes and sizes, from standard hotel looking type buildings, tree houses, old Cartel mansions, funky, boutique, simple – Whatever you can imagine there is a hostel somewhere in that image.
However It’s not the building that matters It’s what’s inside it. Some hostel owners don’t care about the guests or the building they just see money. While other owners and managers go above and beyond to make the hostel feel welcoming. That creates an atmosphere inside the hostel, it makes you fee welcome and comfortable. They can only do that to a certain extent, after that It’s up to the guests. If the guests get along:
However on the other hand, if there is no vibe, no socialising, it can become a frosty and negative atmosphere and dampens peoples spirits.
As mentioned before this post is not to wax-lyrical over backpacker hostels. There are some downright disgusting ones out there. There are some you will walk straight back out of. The reality is sometimes hostels will be bad, sometimes you will read amazing reviews, see great pictures walk in and see the hostel is not how it was shown.
Hostels are not hotels
Your mentality towards backpacker hostels will also play a big part on how you take to them. There are a lot of people who walk into a hostel and try put them in the same vein as a hotel. That’s your first mistake. Hostels are communal budget accommodation – You are paying for a bed, not the room or the whole hostel.
A few things you should keep in mind:
- Hostels are not hotels so you shouldn’t expect hotel service or quality
- You are only paying for your bed. The room doesn’t belong to you
- Learn your hostel etiquette
- Keep an open mind to adapt to hostel life
- Anything and everything can happen in a hostel – If you don’t agree with it then do not participate, you have no right to tell others to stop unless it encroaches on your personal space
- Things break in hostels and sometimes cannot be fixed instantly
- The hostel staff are there to check you in, advice you not to wait or serve you hand and foot
- Hostel staff are in most cases fellow travelers or volunteers, you have no right to abuse them
- You get what you pay for
- Yes you have to share all common space with other guests – Only your bed and locker is your own space
- Amenities in backpacker hostels might not always be to the highest standard, you have to make do with what is provided or bring your own
- If there is a free breakfast provided – either accept it or go and pay for one – Don’t moan that It’s not enough or that It’s basic – ITS FREE!
- Leave any snobbery you have at the door
Different types of backpacker hostels for you
Ok, let’s have a look at the 8 common types of hostels that will suit your needs for your future post-Covid travels.
- Party backpacker hostels
- Hostel Chains
- Homey/Cozy backpacker hostels
- Quiet backpacker hostels
- Boutique/Luxury backpacker hostels
- Surfer/Dive backpacker hostels
- Eco backpacker hostels
- No frill/Basic backpacker hostels
Party backpacker hostels
Those insane stories you’ve heard about backpacker hostels; the wild parties, people getting drunk and openly high having sex all over the place – They more than likely stem from a party hostel.
It is where the craziness really happens, guests are welcomed sometimes with a drink, encouraged to party. Parties are constant, can get insanely wild – and anything and everything can happen. Generally party hostels attract a younger crowd, first time travelers but don’t be surprised to see older more experienced travelers who love to party there too.
As there are different types of hostels there are different types of party hostels too:
- With a bar or more attached or belonging to the hostel itself
- Partnerships with local bars where you get discounted alcohol
- Allow you to bring your own alcohol in and party in the hostel
There are some basic rules to adhere to in party hostels, but they are normally very relaxed and anything and everything can happen inside them. Do not expect to get much sleep, so no expect much comfort and they can get a little grotty.
A party hostel will always entice and encourage you to party, they are very, very social and can involve:
- Nightly or weekly Pub crawls
- Events nights
- BBQ nights with a party to follow
- Drinking games – card games, beer pong, quizzes, etc
- Open bar nights/ happy hour specials/ discounts
- Special organised parties/ fancy dress/ public holiday/ local events
- Drinking tournaments/ championships
Party backpacker hostels are great places to make friends though. Most the guests will be there for the same reasons and most likely have similar interests. Although you can make friends in other types of hostels It can be very easy in party hostels.
Check out your backpacker party hostel options through Hostel World.
Just like with hotels there are backpacker hostels chains all over the world too. They are typically larger buildings with the same set up as a hotel. There is less of a personal touch with hostel chains, It’s very unlikely you will ever meet the owner and the staff are likely to be full time employees.
There isn’t much care for you as an individual, you are just a number, another guest adding to their accounts. Most of the time hostel chains are drab, they lack character, and there isn’t always a great atmosphere as most guests are just passing through. This is the hostel type you choose if you just want a cheap place to sleep and don’t care about what’s going on in the hostel.
Unlike with other types of backpacker hostels, chains are not the most comfortable places to hang out in, they lack common areas, and places to relax through the hostel.
There are a few exceptions but most of the time they do not focus on the social aspect.
Check out your backpacker hostel chain options through Hostel World.
Small/ homey/ cosy backpacker hostels
The complete opposite to hostel chains. These types of hostels are more known as ‘home away from home’ hostels. The owners and management make it their duty to make you feel as relaxed, welcomed and at home as possible. When you walk into one of these you instantly feel at home.
The smaller hostels are normally owned by ex travelers, backpackers or family run. Don’t be surprised to see family children and even pets running around.
- They have more of an intimate feel to them
- Feel more cosy
- Guests tend to lounge around the hostel more and are welcomed to do so rather than treating it as a place to just sleep
- Have a family feel to them
- They make you feel at ease and welcome
- Guests tend to treat these types of hostels as their own
- It’s common for guests to help staff out even if they don’t work there
- Help around the place, tidy, and clean up, helping with odd jobs make sure place is kept well
- Guest will call other guests out If they leave a mess
- Guests tend to stay longer because they fall into a comfort zone and are super relaxed
- Likelihood of long termers (travelers who just don’t leave)
- Have a lot more respect for the place than other types of hostels
- Cook with each other
- Have more intimate interactions
- More of a chance of making real friends and deeper connections with staff, owner and other travelers
- Owner/management/staff more likely to get involved with travelers and have a genuine interest
With the intimacy there is a lot of social interaction, and while not as crazy as their party hostel counterparts there can be times it can get a bit wild. Parties do happen, there is drinking and getting high, people do have sex but just a little more discreet than party hostels.
These are the types of hostels I choose now, the longer I’ve backpacked (and the older I got) I moved away from party hostels and much prefer to stay in smaller ones. Not only are they more homelike but it’s like staying in a shared house rather than a hostel.
Quiet backpacker hostels
There are a lot of travelers that do not want to the social interaction as others do. At the same time they want a be treated as a person and not as a number. They want a place to feel at home, have the same comforts as a cosy hostel without the family feel. There are quiet hostels for those people.
The quiet hostel provides them with a sanctuary for them to relax and not get bothered by other guests socialising, partying, getting rowdy and such yet provide all the amenities, and comforts.
You might choose a quiet hostel because:
- You’re just content and happy to be alone
- You need time alone without any distractions
- Are burnt out and don’t want to socialise
- Just want to relax
- Are having a rough time, in your feelings, feeling down about something
- Need some you time
- Are a long term traveler and passed the party or interaction stage of your travels
- Enjoy doing things on your own pace and don’t ned peer pressure
It’s not uncommon for guests to lounge around, potter around doing their own thing, happy to sink into a hammock all day reading a book, binge watch their favourite TV shows, catch up on their journals or just use the time to reflect on their travels or life.
You tend to find these types of backpacker hostels in more remote areas, away from the crowds, sometimes in very unique locations, or in amongst nature like forests, lakesides, beachside.
Don’t be surprised to see people going to sleep very early or signs up over the place telling you not to make any noise after 10PM.
Check out your quiet backpacker hostel options through Hostel World.
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Boutique/ Luxury/ digital nomad
In recent years (Pre-Covid) there has been an explosion of boutique, luxury, and digital nomad hostels because of the times we live in. A lot of travelers, through the fluffiness of social media influencers want to feel like luxury travelers but can’t afford to. So there has been a number of luxury hostels pop up to accommodate the demand give a sense of luxury. These hostels are much more expensive than regular hostels but cheaper than hotels and contain much more quality than regular hostels. In the hostel world they are the equivalent of booking into an up market hotel.
In all three types; boutique, luxury and digital nomad hostels you are more than likely to find:
- Better quality amenities
- Higher standard of upkeep
- Amenities more upmarket
- Mattresses of a higher quality
- Beds and bunks of a more expensive quality
- Best and fastest WiFi connections
The luxury backpacker hostel is for those who consider themselves as flashpackers.
Boutique hostels follow the same suit but are more defined and themed to attract a certain cliental. They are normally hostels that do not follow suit to how normal are set up, can be in unique locations and converted old building for a more bohemian look.
With the rise of digital nomads popping up all over the world, with people taking their work with them, there are hostels that are specific for them. They are hostels that provide work spaces and while a party hostel will more than likely contain a bar, a digital nomad hostel will contain a café.
It’s very common to see the hostel full of people working through the day on their laptops, tablets, phones with a coffee to hand but once the workday is over the party night begins. Work hard play hard.
Surf/ Diving backpacker hostels
Hostels whose backyard walks onto the beach or are close to the beach are more than likely surf hostels. They cater for specifically for surfers, divers and anybody who spends the majority of the day in or on the water.
They are bring in likeminded people; those who have the same interests, do similar things and although if you are a non-surfer or diver, you can stay there; you might just feel a little out of place.
Surf hostels can actually be party hostels too, but with one major difference. Instead of spending the day nursing and getting over a hangover in the hostel or in bed they get over it in or on the sea.
Most of these types of hostels come with a surf, or diving school included. There is a family feel to them too.
Check out your Surf/diving hostel options through Hostel World.
Eco backpacker hostels
As travelers have become more conscious and aware of our carbon footprint, with more sustainable travel on the increase so has eco friendly hostels.
These hostels are becoming more popular with younger travelers, while most hostels are trying to and are starting to become more eco friendly there are those that are 100% eco friendly.
- They run 100&% off the grid
- Use renewable energy for electricity even generate their own power
- Use natural resources around them
- Collect rainwater for showers
- Many grow their own produce, herbs, veg, fruits
Eco friendly hostels can be found in Cities, towns and especially in rural areas intertwined within nature and even up in treetops.
No frills, basic backpacker hostels
When you run out of money, when things go wrong, when you just don’t care to spend more than you have to for a bed and you do not care about the state of the hostel you find the no frills basic hostels. The runt and bottom of the pile.
Many of those misconceptions people have about disgusting hostels stinking in body odour, these are the hostels they mean.
You are not going to find much joy in these backpacker hostels:
- Owners, managers, staff who don’t care
- A lack of safety and security
- Can be bug and or rodent infested
- Super thin bed frames
- The most basic amenities
- Possibly disgusting bathrooms
- Stinking in body odour
- Everything inside them is of the cheapest quality
- Everything is basic, bare walls, no character
- Bad Wifi connections
- Bad plumbing
- Possibly no hot water
- Run down building
The guests are not going to be the greatest either, they are in this type of hostel for a reason
What type of backpacker hostel will suit you?
And, there you have it, your most common types of backpacker hostels. Now that you’ve had a chance to see the different types of hostels out there for backpackers, I’m sure you have a better idea of which one would suit you for your trip.
I hope this post also helped to dispel some of those misconceptions of hostels for you.
If you’re going to be staying in hostels for the first time this post will give you an idea of what to expect from your first few moments and days in a hostel.
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