8 Different types of Backpacker hostels
All backpacker hostels are the same right? Smelly, grotty, young gap year backpackers getting drunk and high!
That’s a common misconception from people who have never stayed in a one before and mainly non-backpackers. But, are you aware there are different types of backpacker hostels for you?
Many first time backpackers are put off staying in them from hearing horror and outlandish stories so they look for alternative backpacker accommodation options. There’s a common misconception that all backpacker hostels are grotty, messy, smelly, dirty places and full of young gap year backpackers getting drunk and high causing carnage.
Well, yeah in some cases that is true but not all are like that. Not many first time backpackers are aware that there are different types of backpacker hostels. I don’t mean just different in what the building is like, (there are some very unique buildings and locations around). I’m talking about backpacker hostels that attract a specific type of cliental. There are different types of hostels for different types of people and different age groups.
In this post, we’re going to explore those different types of backpacker hostels and dispel a few misconceptions about what they’re really like. By the end of this post, you’ll have a better idea of what types of hostels will suit you.
What you might not know about backpacker hostels
If you do decide to stay in one, you might think ‘ah what the hell, It’s just a place to sleep‘. Well, no, no, they’re are much more than a place to sleep. Before you’ve stayed in one you might laugh at this notion; but backpacker hostels have the power to make or break trips. They can play an integral part to your overall backpacking experience.
I’ve been backpacking and staying in hostels since 2010, and they play a major role in my backpacking life for a number of reasons.
Backpacker hostels, can provide much needed home comforts, especially the longer you’re away from home. They can become a nest, a hub, a place to recharge, and even place to call home. Life on the road can be hard sometimes, and a hostel can provide sanctuary, security, and familiarity. This may sound crazy to you right now, but for me, I feel more at home in a one than I do when I return to my own family home. As you become a long term backpacker, you’ll understand what I mean.
Better time in the hostel
When I say they can become your hub, that’s because you may find one in the perfect location, you can plan your trip from them, use it to go back and forth without having to stay in different towns and cities all the time. Within them you can learn and pick up new skills, you can work in some in exchange for rent.
I’ve had this many times over the years and know countless others backpackers who’ve had the same experience. Sometimes, you can have a better and more enjoyable time in your hostel than in the destination itself. You turn up in a place and It’s shit, but within the walls there is an amazing crowd, things are going on and you end up staying just because of how much fun you’re having.
The opposite can happen to, again I’ve had personal experience of this. You arrive in an amazing location but the hostel is terrible, the atmosphere is dead and that has an adverse effect on your experience of the place you’re in.
Meet and greet
One of the biggest pulling power backpacker hostels have had over the years, and potentially the reason they remain so popular with backpackers aside from being affordable accommodation is the social side.
If you weren’t aware, most backpacker hostels, are sociable places, great place to meet other backpackers and make friends. Don’t be surprised if you meet your new best friend in a hostel. The friends you make in them are like minded, they can even become closer than family in a short space of time.
The hostels themselves do a lot to create sociable atmosphere’s, they put on events, organise tours, have group activities, dine together, some will have lounges, TV/Movie rooms, games rooms, maybe a pool. The majority come with social areas where you have the chance to meet other backpackers outside of your roommates. They may have a garden, a courtyard, a terrace or rooftop.
The good, the bad, and the downright ugly
Before we get ahead of ourselves, I know it sounds like I’m just waxing lyrical about backpacker hostels but I am in no way shape or form trying to over-glamorize them. While they are great places to stay, and provide the aforementioned, at the end of the day they are what they are. Affordable budget accommodation for us to stay, so you can’t be expecting hotel quality in them. Things will break, things might not get fixed or sorted out straight away, and standards might not be maintained.
Like I mentioned before, they’re still my go to accommodation since 2010 and I’ve experienced all kinds of different ones. There have been some amazing ones, ones I’ve felt and have become a home, but also some downright grotty shitholes.
There will be times, you see amazing reviews, great pictures of a place, arrive and realise those reviews and pictures where fake. There will be some that do stink like shit, some you don’t feel safe in. There will be ones were you don’t get on the bed because it might break. And unfortunately there will some you find bedbugs in.
How do you know what types of hostels will be for you?
Something I’ve learned over the years, is that two people can have completely different experiences within the same place. It boils down to the type of person you are, your personality and what you’re looking to get out of your stay. I might have a completely different experience in it than you because of what we both want and are feeling at the time. Choosing the right type of one can either make your stay amazing or turn into a nightmare.
So how do you choose the right type? Well, it’s important to note, you don’t have to pigeon hole yourself. You are allowed to stay in different types depending on how you feel at the time. One week you might want to socialise, the next you might want some alone time; doesn’t matter,
When it comes to choosing them, most backpackers will generally book online first, through either hostelworld.com or Booking.com as they’re most reputable. We choose which one is right from the reviews, (which sometimes you have to take with a pinch of salt and read between the lines (some can be fake reviews), looking at the pictures, and the description provided. It’s worth sometimes just googling the one you choose because you might see more real pictures and not the staged ones, and read independent reviews. From this you can gage an idea of what types of hostels they are.
(Click the banner below to book yours with hostelworld.com)
A trick I’ve learnt is to walk around the area I’m staying in, walk into the actual building and within the first few seconds you can get a feel of what type of hostels it is.
TIP: If booking in advance, just book the first night or two, that way if the place isn’t to your liking you can move onto a different one without being stuck in a place you don’t like. Also by just walking around you can sometimes find, better, cheaper options as they don’t all advertise through booking sites.
With that being said, let’s dive in and see which will suit you…
Different types of backpacker hostels: Your choices are…
- No frill/Basic
Those common misconceptions, the horror stories, and images people have of backpacker hostels pretty much stem from party hostels.
They’re most popular with a younger crowd, gap year backpackers, and generally people just wanting to get fucked up having the time of their lives. They may or may not be for you. If you choose to stay in one, don’t be surprised to see anything and everything happen. There will be a lot of drinking, partying, people getting high, backpackers having sex, and there can be carnage.
They’re great places to meet people and make friends almost instantly, just share a beer or 10 and you’ll be best mates. Party ones normally come with a bar attached, or have a deal with local bars. They’re normally situated in the hub of the backpacker area and close to other cheap bars. Most of them organise, party nights, bar crawls, or any alcohol related activity, even booze cruises.
The most important thing about them is you should have or be will to have an open mind and be up for having a good time. Nothing is off limits, the rules are thrown out of the window. If you’re looking for a place with a good bed and to get a good night’s sleep, or easily offended then they’re are probably not for you.
Just like with hotels, there are hostel chains too. Typically, these types are larger, set out the same ways as multi story hotels and seen more of a business. There isn’t much care for the individual backpacker. You’re not a person, you’re just a number, so there isn’t really a personable touch. They tend to lack character or atmosphere and are better suited if you’re just passing through looking for a place to sleep for a night or two. They’re not really places to just hang out and relax in and social side isn’t always the best either.
However that’s not to say it’s all bad, chains normally are region specific and normally offer loyalty and discount cards for stays at their other branches and even with local tours and excursions. It’s a way to entice you, but can save you a bit of money too. I’ll be honest not really my type.
These types of hostels are generally smaller and offer that feeling of a home and are known as ‘home away from home’. They have more of an intimate feel to them, feel more cozy and they make you feel at ease. You’ll find, they’re normally owned and ran by ex backpackers or family run places; don’t be surprised to see their children or pets roaming around. It’s easier to get to know other backpackers on more of personal level, and while in party hostels you might become mates in smaller ones you can become very tight friends.
Generally there is a more relaxed social atmosphere, a lot of interaction, but not as crazy as their party counterparts. That’s not to say you won’t find backpackers letting their hair loose, going a bit wild at times. You might still find some partying, people having sex, taking drugs it will just be a little more discrete and less often.
Guests tend to treat these places more like their own home, It’s common to see people helping out with cleaning, odd jobs, taking care of the place even if they don’t have to. People do lounge around a lot more and may encounter more long-term stayers (people who travel very slowly, or have made a home for themselves).
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.
If you don’t really fancy socialising, want a place just to relax, recharge, maybe catch up on work then these types of hostels are for you These are typically small or guesthouses, but lack the social side as much.
In these types of hostels, people tend to just stick to themselves, you’ll find a lot of solo travelers who are content with not having to be chatty. I’m not saying these are silent hostels and nobody will talk, they’re just quieter.
You tend to find them in more remote areas, away from the crowds, sometimes in very unique locations; like in the middle of a forest, lakesides, beachsides.
The guests here are typically, long-term backpackers, those who have been away for months and years, they’ve got passed the party stages, or even the social aspect. They do their own thing at their own pace but these hostels tend to have more stricter rules than others. 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.
Boutique/ Luxury/ digital nomad
The equivalent to staying in a 4 or 5 star hotel, these types of hostels are for the high end backpacker. If you can afford to splurge out a little then they’re worth the comfort.
Typically they have the comfiest beds and bunks, the amenities are a little more luxurious, there is more of an emphasis on cleanliness, and in them you can expect a bit of hotel quality. Although a bit more luxurious, they still have a good social atmosphere and good to get to know like minded backpackers.
While party hostels may come attached with a bar, you can find a lot of boutique hostels come attached to a cafe.
These types of hostels also attract digital nomads, they’re good places to set up a workstation, they’re quiet through the day, internet is typically stronger, have more power outlets and have a more working atmosphere.
No frills/ Basic/Bare bones
When you think of those hostel that stink of body odour so much it makes your eyes water, guests who don’t seem to have washed for years, owners not caring a place is falling apart, rodent and bug infested; this is what you’re thinking of.
This isn’t just the opposite of boutique and luxury, this is scraping the barrel. But they are exactly what they say on the tin: No frills, bare-bones, 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+. Wanna catch some bed bugs? You’ll mostly find them here.
These types of hostels are also the least safest, anybody staying in grotty shitholes like these are there for a reason; they can’t afford anything else. You may find fingers a little more stickier in these types.
These hostels are specifically for surfers and divers, most commonly found along coastlines and Islands around the world.
A lot of these types of hostels come with either a mini school to learn surfing or diving, or will offer somewhere to take lessons.
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.
We live in a age where by the day we’re becoming more conscious of our carbon footprint and the damage we do to the environment. And over the past few years there has been an influx in not just eco-tourism but eco hostels too. Hostels around the world, are becoming more eco friendly, some more than others but It’s heading in the right direction.
There are some hostel which are switching over, but some that are specific eco hostels. Theys run off the grid, recycle everything, collect rainwater for showers, renewable energy for electricity and try their hardest not to disrupt the environment around them.
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.
What types of hostels suit 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 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: Hostel life
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