Backpacker hostels

Backpacker hostels – Different types. 

Backpacker hostels.

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 within 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 down right nasty ones. But, it’s like with everything, you get the good and the bad.

Something I’ve learnt 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!

Find the backpacker hostel for you.

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, hostels to suit your needs and personality, and they will more than likely play a prominent part during your travels. Sometimes they can actually turn into the cornerstone of your experience.

How do you know what kind of hostel is what?

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 individuals 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 learnt 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 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 good time, you’re open-minded and don’t mind the noise then this is the hostel type for you. Party hostels are 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.

Backpacker hostels

my first hostel

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 some hotels you will also find hostel chains around the world or in certain regions of the world. Staying in these types of hostels have both advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side staying in hostels apart of a chain you can get discount and loyalty cards so if you stay with the same company you can get cheaper rent in some places. A disadvantage to this, and this is just from my experience. Y.H.A And Base hostels are amongst the biggest hostel chains in the world.

Small/homey/cosy sociable hostels:

Smaller hostels offer that feel of a home and are known as ‘home away from home’ hostels. They are normally owned and ran by 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 in party hostels people still like to have a good time sometimes. You might find people just hanging around during the day, socializing, drinking or smoking, playing computer games while others are out on tours and excursions. You’re also likely to find its guests treating the place like their house rather than a hostel.

Backpacker hostels

Lima Limon, Colombia

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 cosier 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 everybody else. 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 wont lie, when there have been certain times over the years where I didn’t want to be sociable, I wanted to be alone, or if 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, hostels are not just reserved for people who are on a tight budget. 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 settings.

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 and 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. 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 coast lines 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 than 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 electric from renewable energy, collect rain water. 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 tree tops, basically they are giant tree houses.


If you’ve never stayed in a hostel before did this post help you understand the different types of backpacker hostels a little better?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter below for most like this to come directly to you in the future.

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  1. Pingback: Long-term solo traveling: Feeling lonely - Forever roaming the world

  2. 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!

  3. I am going to forward this to my nieces and nephews as they start to travel. It’s great to have the opportunity to see the world on a budget. I’ve only stayed at two hostels and they have both been luxury hostels. The Freehand in LA is a hostel/hotel mix, pretty fabulous!

  4. We’ve never stayed in hostels (tend to prefer AirBnBs and homestays) but this guide is so helpful. Especially for some of the pricier places we’ve looked to visit, hostels would be a great way to save, and knowing the different types of accommodations is great for noobs like me 🙂 Seems like a quiet or home away from home hostel would probably be our game, since we’re both super introverted. Now I know what to look for!
    Meagan recently posted…Should I drive from Vancouver to Banff?My Profile

  5. That is quite an interesting and informative article on different types of hostels. But honestly, I have never given so much thought to its types. Hostels are wonderful and they help you to learn so much, develop new skills and make new friends. Eco hostels, homey hostels, attracted me the most.

  6. It is quite a comprehensive article on the types of hostels. It has been a while since I stayed in a hostel and prefer homestays a lot more. The reason is it allows me to work at the same time I don’t have spend a lot on hotels.

  7. Excellent overview – totally agree on choosing the right hostel for you – I think that people find it too easy to lump hostels under one stereotype, but in fact there are many different types, and I love how you’ve highlighted this. When I was in my 18-20’s I was all about the party hostels, but 10 years on, I’m now choosing the smaller, boutique type hostels, and going for a private room. I really love the social atmosphere they offer, but now want something cleaner than a party hotel, and a bit more privacy than a dorm, so I find that’s a nice inbetween. It’s great that I have different hostels to choose from as my travel style has evolved. Thanks for the great post!

  8. I stayed in a few hostels when I traveled with someone much younger. I wasn’t a fan. I had no idea there are different types and think it would have been a much better experience if I had known what to look for. Really great information!

  9. Excellent overview post on hostels…even though I don’t stay often in hostels these days, I have some great memories (both good and bad, just like you) from my hostel days , and made some good friend during my stays. I was recently in a Mumbai hostel to meet friends and realised how much fun hostels can be – common dinners, parties, movies, plans and more 🙂

  10. Super post! Very informative. Just love how you classified all the hostel types and showed that there are places for every kind of traveler. Liked also your tip about only booking a first night’s stay so you can have a first feeling about the hostel and the area. Nice work!

  11. Informative post! I’ve stayed in hostels before, both good and bad and it definitely helps to know what sort of hostel you are thinking of staying. It can be frustrating to want a good night sleep but booked a party hostel instead!

  12. I’ve never solo traveled but your post just made me willing to go book a hostel. For some of us Hostels might sound a bit scary. Having to share a room with strangers. But you can’t knock it till you try it!! The funk house hostel sounds like one I might enjoy!

  13. Hostels can def be tricky especially if you decide to share a room with others. I think its rather a great idea if you book for 1 night then extend if you like it, i think this could def apply to some countries. great tips

    Bee recently posted…Wong Tai Sin TempleMy Profile

  14. Thanks for sharing I am so nervous about trying backpacking hostels I don’t think I would like being so close to others as I like my own privacy. However I do like the idea of a eco hostel so might look into this during my next trip

  15. Great post. This is an informative post. It help me to have a better trip. I can find more information from this site. Thanks very much.

  16. I didn’t know there were surf/diving hostels! That’s awesome!!!!!! I actually passed by a Base hostel when I was in Chicago couple weeks ago and I was super surprised at how big it was. Hostels are generally never on my mind when I book accommodations but I’m glad to have found this informative guide. Defs helpful for people like me who aren’t sure what to expect.

  17. We stayed in many hostels in South America and I really loved most of them, although the average age is much younger than we are. We took normally a private room for about 20 US $ with shared bathroom. The information which hostels provide for their visitors is mostly much better than in cheap hotels.

  18. “Something I’ve learnt over the years is two people can have a completely different experience within the same hostel.” –Ain’t that the truth?! Yeah, there are so many types of hostels out there, it’s good to pay attention to what kind you’re booking so that you’re more likely to have a good fit. Happy hosteling!

  19. These days I tend to stay in hostels less than I used to, but when I was younger and traveling alone I really appreciated them. I was never into party hostels, because I need sleep and an environment conducive to it, but I did and still do like the kind that organize activities and help create a social atmosphere.
    Anna recently posted…Languages of the World – An Introduction to TatarMy Profile

  20. Such a great article on different types of hostels. For sure while travelling on a budget, it’s the option! I am travelling with my husband. We’ve been on the road for some years now and today, we try to avoid hostels if there’s more people in the room then us. I simply can’t sleep when someone else is snoring! But meeting all different travellers is great! Best part!

  21. I have never stayed in a hostel; I wish I had when I was a little younger. We can afford rentals or hotels now so it doesn’t seem likely. Your breakdown of the different types was a fun read, though. I guess I thought most hostels were party hostels.

  22. Wow great post! So much information.. who knew there were so many types of hostels!! Okay well maybe people who stay in hostels do, but I have only stayed in a hostel once and they are generally not the type of accommodation I consider. Good to know there are options! You have be thinking I should be considering hostels!

  23. I think I missed my backpacking and hostel phase, but I love the idea of more cultural immersion. Seems hotels sometimes lack that. Thanks for the great tips

  24. I had never lived in a hostel and seriously did not know so many types existed.
    The cozy and the quiet ones are my type of hostel as I would like to have some quiet time after a day-long trip.
    Great information for all the budding backpackers and seasoned travelers alike.!

  25. Your Post is very informative, chain hostels are not my thing as I actually stayed in X base in queens-town, the picture you posted. Now I absolutely love Eco hostels. Thanks and great info.

  26. I’m just getting into backpacking, and I honestly had no idea these existed. Thank you so much for sharing! I’m exited to make these part of my trips now!

  27. Great post! Hostels are accommodation that theme to be depicted in black or white terms – they’re either seen as THE best places to stay, or the worst. It’s nice to see a balanced post that also takes the time to break it down in to the various categories as well.

    Overall, the best thing about hostels from my point of view is the more personalised touch you get from the staff – in hotels they may be polite, but it can often feel corporate and bland. Good Hostel staff are often more laid back and genuinely friendly, which I would take over being offered ‘luxury’ service any day 🙂

    Joe recently posted…Gorkh-Terelj National Park – Classic Mongolian Countryside!My Profile

  28. Very interesting, informative and helpful post, Amit. I’m sure you know I’ve never stayed in hostels before and until a year back, I hadn’t even travelled solo so I never considered them. But lately, I’ve been taking a lot of trips by myself so I’m looking into hostels now. I like how you say that hostels have personalities just like us and it’s important for us to find one that suits our personality. I’m definitely past the age of staying in party hostels. I love the idea of eco-hostels though, or the cosy, homestay ones. Thanks for this insightful post, it’s going to help me choose the right budget stay for my next solo trip.
    Medha Verma recently posted…The perfect 5-day itinerary for GeorgiaMy Profile

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