Backpacker hostels: What’s your type?

Backpacker hostels: What’s your type?

Forever Roaming the Worlds post on the different types of backpacker hostels - they come in all shapes and sizes(Last Updated On: January 8, 2020)

Backpacker hostels – Different types.

So you’re going to stay in backpacker hostels for the first time but you don’t have a clue about them?

For budget backpackers, one of the most popular choices of accommodation is to stay in backpacker hostels, although there are other options hostels are the go-to choice for many of us.

As most are sociable places, they are great places to meet people and make friends. Hostels can turn into much more than just a place to sleep and in-fact can become an integral part of a budget backpackers traveling life.

Backpacker hostels can be your sanctuary, places to plan trips, learn new skills, a place to escape and relax, sometimes they can be an adventure in itself. So, don’t be surprised if find yourself having a better time within the walls of your hostel rather than the destination itself.

For most of us long-term travelers, hostels are not just our hubs but can be the closest thing we have to a home. You may laugh and as strange as this sounds hostels feel more like home to me than being in my own house.

The good, the bad, and the downright ugly

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to over-glamorize backpacker hostels – They are what they are and they are most definitely not hotels; so don’t expect hotel service from them like some people do.

Since I started budget backpacking in 2010 I’ve stayed in my fair share of backpacker hostels, experiencing some awesome ones but also some downright nasty ones. But, it’s like with everything, you get the good and the bad.

Something I’ve learned over the years is two people can have a completely different experience within the same hostel. It all comes down to the type of personality you have and the type of hostel you’ve chosen. At the end of the day what might be a good hostel for me, might be the wrong one for you. Choosing the right type of hostel can turn your trip from good to great. Or, on the flip side, choose the wrong type of hostel and well, it can turn your trip into a nightmare!

Did you know there are different types of hostels?

Yeah, I know right not all hostels are the same, not all are geared for certain types of backpackers; hostels are in-fact as diverse as travelers themselves.

The best way to avoid a backpacker hostel turning your trip into a nightmare is to choose the right type of hostels for you.

Like people, hostels have personalities and certain hostels will suit certain personalities better than others. What I’m saying is, there are different types of hostels, ones to suit your needs and personality, and they will more than likely play a prominent part in your travels. Sometimes even turn into the cornerstone of your experience.

How do you know what type of hostel is right for you?

Most of us will look online at booking sites like or before booking a hostel, and from the information and reviews they provide, you can see what type of hostel it is. I should note I don’t look too much into reviews as they are subject the individual’s opinion. However, on the information page, the hostel will normally tell you what type it is as they don’t want to attract the wrong people.

And, it’s the same if you just walk into a backpacker hostel, from the first few seconds you will gauge an idea of what type it is; if it’s sociable or not, if it’s a party one or not.

TIP: Over the years I’ve learned to only book an initial night’s stay if I’m booking online. I do this because if it’s the wrong type of hostel for me, I just have to stay that first night and I can find somewhere else more suited the next day rather than be stuck there. And also, you can find better and cheaper hostels that don’t advertise online by just walking around the area. 

Different types of backpacker hostels

Party hostels

Are most common amongst younger, gap year and first-time backpackers and are great to make friends instantly. Party hostels normally come with a bar either internally or close by. If they don’t have a bar they will organize regular nights out to other backpacker bars. If you’re looking to have and a good time, you’re open-minded and don’t mind the noise then this is the hostel type for you. Party hostels are also where the rules are thrown out of the window; anything goes! – Non-stop drinking, partying, drugs, sex, it all goes on, so if you’re easily offended a party hostel might not be for you.

When I started traveling, party hostels were my choice of hostel, my very first hostel even turned into my home for quite some time due to the amazing people I met, the infectious atmosphere we created and of course the non-stop partying.

Hostel chains

Just like with hotels, you will also find hostel chains around the world or certain regions of the world. Staying in these types of hostels have both advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side staying hostel chains normally offer loyalty cards and offers to stay in their other hostels and in turn get offered rooms at a cheaper rate. A disadvantage to hostel chains is sometimes they can be like hotels, guests come and go and they can be hard to make friends in or even feel any comfort. Y.H.A And Base hostels are amongst the biggest hostel chains in the world.

Small/homey/ cozy sociable hostels

Smaller hostels offer that feeling of a home and are known as ‘home away from home’ hostels. They are normally owned and ran by a family, it’s not uncommon for pets in this type of hostel. With smaller hostels, it’s also easier to get to know other guests on a more personal level. In smaller hostels, you’re more likely to come across long-termers too (people who stopped traveling for one reason or another and seem to just live there.)

While not quite as crazy as party hostels people still like to have a good time sometimes. You’re likely to find people just hanging around during the day, socializing, drinking, smoking, or playing computer games while others are out on tours and excursions. You’re also likely to find guests treating the place more like their house rather than a hostel.

These are the types of hostels I choose now, the longer I’ve traveled (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.

If you would prefer this type of hostel you should look for hostels with a maximum of 25 beds but the smaller the cozier it will be.

Quiet hostels

Again these will typically be small hostels but without the social side, they are for people who are not really interested in socializing with others. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying nobody will talk to each other but they are more for people who want to keep to themselves.

Guests of this type of hostel are more likely travelers who just want a bed for the night, travelers who are just passing by. Or travelers who are up at the crack of dawn to go on an excursion or tour and will only be returning at night to sleep.

I won’t lie, there have been certain times over the years where I didn’t want to be sociable, I wanted to be alone, or I was only staying for a couple of nights. I would look for these types of hostels and just be able to keep to myself.

Boutique/ Luxury hostels

Believe it or not, there are actually luxury hostels available too. Luxury and boutique hostels exist for those who want to splurge out. Although they keep the same premises and principles of a hostel they will be in a much more luxurious setting.

I can’t tell you too much about these types of hostels as I’ve never stayed in one but I do know they are out there if you want to splash out.

No frills/ Basic hostels

Right on the opposite side of the scale to boutique and luxury hostels you have the no-frills, bare-bones, basic hostels.

These types of hostels are exactly what it says on the tin – cheap, no frills and basic. Although most hostels are low-cost for budget travelers – these are for when you can’t even afford that. Don’t expect anything other than a bed, bare walls, thin mattresses, and blankets if you’re lucky. There’s not much chance of a free breakfast, or Wifi and dorms tend to be large 10+.

When you think of a grotty hostel room that stinks of body Odor, this is what you’re thinking of.

Surf/ Diving hostels

These hostels are specifically for surfers and divers, most commonly found along coastlines around the world. Surfer and diving hostels can actually be party hostels too – the only difference is, the guests will be nursing their hangovers out on the water rather than around the hostel.

If you’re a surfer or a diver and want to stay with like-minded people then this will be the type of hostel for you.

Eco hostels

We are now living in an age where we are conscious of the damage we are doing to the world, and over the past few years, there has been a surge in Eco hostels around the world. So if you are environmentally conscious, Eco hostels will be a great choice for you. They normally try to run off the grid, most commonly will try to generate electricity from renewable energy, collect rainwater. Eco hostels will try their hardest to lower their carbon footprint as much as they can.

You can find Eco hostels in cities, in towns, in remote areas and even nestled and intertwined with nature, using its natural resources. You can even find hostels up in treetops, basically, they are giant tree houses.

Which type of hostel suits you?

Now 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. If you’re going to be staying in hostels for the first time this post will give you an idea of what to expect: Hostel life

I hope your experiences with hostels leave as much of a lasting impression on you as they did with me.


Was this backpacker hostels post helpful? Let me know in the comments below if there is anything else regarding hostels you would like to know.

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Backpacker hostels come in all different shapes and sizes but did you know there are different types of hostels from Party, surfing, boutique, hostel chains and many more...If you're planning on staying in a hostel for the first time this post will aid you in choosing the right one for you.
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37 Responses

  1. Kartik says:

    Good post!

    I’ve stayed in Hostels over the years since 2011 and connect with this vibe of the post. I usually stay there to lessen my cost, and stay in a central place to explore. I keep that as my basic expectation.. I expect to update my understanding of the world, and make friends over geography and history.

  2. aditi says:

    This is a really interesting post, I have recently started exploring hostels and I agree with a lot of points that you have mentioned. Even in India, hostel culture has started trending and becoming a rage for young and budget travellers

  3. Carola says:

    Interesting! I’ve been traveling pretty much non-stop for the past six years and have stayed in my share of hostels.
    First of all, because you asked: Boutique Hostels are more common in more expensive places/cities. They are often geared less towards budget backpackers and more towards people who simply cannot afford a hotel in those places, but also don’t want to stay in crash pads. Or they were made by passionate travelers who have created the perfected hostel (Sog of Travel at Myanmar’s Inle Lake is one in the latter group). I have stayed in a couple (it’s nicer for me to work there :-)) and sometimes they’re worth the extra dollar or two, sometimes they aren’t.
    In contrast to your strategy, I very much rely on reviews because I think that the hostel owner will always describe their place in glowing words. Once you’ve learned to read between the lines, reviews become indispensable and allow you to make the right choice of hostel in times/places where showing up and hoping to book a few nights or more won’t yield a great accommodation.

    Happy continued travels!

  4. I love listing to people whine about hostels and all I can think is did you not read the reviews. Party hostel are easy to figure out and avoid if you want to.

    I tend to be the small/eco/or dive hostel person. I don’t mind nursing a hangover but I still want to get up and enjoy my day not sleep it away.
    Jennifer Melroy recently posted…A Kiruna Winter Itinerary – Five days in Swedish LaplandMy Profile

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