A Quick and Easy Guide to the Different Types of Hostels

by Sojourner

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Any backpacker or flashpacker will mention hostels, but did you know there are different types of hostels? It all comes down to the type of experience you want to have on your trip.  If you want a hostel for a girl’s trip or bachelorette party, you may choose a boutique or party hostel. As a remote worker, a digital nomad hostel is more your speed.

I’ve stayed in party hostels, boutique ones, and even a pod hostel. They each have their own design, theme, and hostel clientele. So before booking your hostel, let’s unpack the types of hostels you can choose from as a solo traveler, backpacker, flashpacker, or regular traveler looking for a good time. 

What is a hostel?

According to Merriam-Webster, a hostel is “an inexpensive lodging facility for usually young travelers that typically has dormitory-style sleeping arrangements and sometimes offers meals and planned activities.” However, my self-defined definition is a hostel is a college dorm for travelers 18 years or older.

What type of accommodation is a hostel?

Just as there are different types of hostels, rooms vary too. In the traditional sense, hostels are known for their dorms. These are shared rooms full of bunk beds. You can have four to 20 or more people in a dorm. Therefore hostels are also inexpensive and social accommodations for those who want to cut some costs on their trip. 

Are hostels and dorms the same? 

Hostels have dorms, but they aren’t always 100% dorms. Some hostels offer private rooms as well as dorms. Keep reading for a deeper breakdown of hostels and rooms! There are more tips at the bottom of this post.

How many types of hostels are there?

I would say there are at least ten different types of hostels – all of which are below. But remember that a hostel can also be a combination of these. For example, luxury boutique hostels exist as well as eco beach hostels. Think of these types of hostels as “themes” to get their target traveler to stay.

10 different types of hostels

Budget  hostels

Budget hostels are the OG of the hostel game. These are the $12, $15, and $20/night hostels where you stay in a dorm with six or more people. Most budget hostels also offer a continental breakfast. During my solo trip to Mexico, I visited Valladolid and stayed in Hostel Candelaria for $12 per night. Budget hostels are the way to go if you are a budget traveler.

Examples of budget hostels: 

Remote work and digital nomad hostels

With remote work becoming more common, hostels have adapted to the flexible lifestyle. Digital nomad hostels take the social atmosphere further by adding more events, yoga classes, co-working spaces, and hot desks. These rooms and spaces are an additional cost. However, depending on the hostel, you can still work from your room.

Examples of digital nomad hostels: 

Luxury hostels

“Luxury hostels” may seem ironic, but they exist for $50-$100+ per night. These hostels feel closer to hotel quality than cheap hostel quality – even the dorms are nicer. Luxury rooms look cleaner, and the shared dorm bathrooms can sometimes be in the room. Many luxury hostels could also be labeled boutique hostels too. Luxury hostels should be your pick for travelers looking for more comfort without the cost of a hotel.

Examples of luxury hostels:

Boutique hostels

For travelers who are flashpackers, you will love boutique hostels. These are slightly more upscale hostels with a particular creativity/aesthetic. In addition, you can probably find cafes and co-working at boutique hostels!

These hostels will also have a slightly higher price tag. They won’t be luxury hostels; they are like small fancy houses like La Negrita Hostel in Tulum. La Negrita is a budget boutique hostel. However, they can inch near hotel prices depending on the location.

Examples of boutique hostels: 

Party hostels

Party hostels are for travelers itching for a good time. These hostels have many social events, most likely with alcohol, such as bar crawls and karaoke nights.  Mama’s Home in Tulum is an example of a party hostel that is not overly expensive. To spot a party hostel when booking, count how many pictures you see of people drinking or socializing. 

Examples of party hostels: 

Youth/backpacker hostels

Similar to cheap or budget hostels, youth hostels are the original hostel style. Youth hostels can also be referred to as student or backpacker hostels because they cater to broke, young travelers. Some of the hostels will explicitly say “youth hostel.” Others will not, but they have the vibe fit for backpackers. These hostels are ideal for those who travel light and want to socialize with other young people!

Examples of youth/backpackers hostels:

Eco hostels

Eco hostels are one of the more diverse types of hostels. Many of them have a sustainability focus embedded into their design. You can also find eco hostels that are treehouses or even in the jungle. Eco hostels cultivate a community for those who value nature and perhaps a plant-based lifestyle. 

Examples of eco hostels: 

Beach hostels

Of all the different types of hostels, beach hostels are a traveler’s dream. You can find beach hostels further away from metropolitan cities for my seclusion. Some beach hostels also offer their guests additional water activities such as surfing or sailing. For a combination of a relaxing oasis with strangers from around the world, choose beach hostels.

Examples of beach hostels: 

Adventure hostels

For travelers looking for excitement while exploring, check out adventure hostels. These are often in locations known for outdoor adventure. You will love the adventure hostel community if you enjoy paragliding, snowmobiles, skiing, swimming, etc.. They can also depend on the season and significant holidays in each location. Double-check the website FAQs for specifics. 

Examples of adventure hostels: 

Capsule hostels

Another emerging type of hostel is the capsule hostel (also known as a pod hotel). Created in Japan, capsule hostels give each traveler a bed-sized pod to sleep in with a door or curtain. The double-stacked beds provide more space than the average hostel bunk bed. I stayed at U Street in DC and loved my experience!

Examples of pod hostels:

Private rooms vs. dorm rooms

Dorm rooms

Dorms are the most traditional type of hostel room. Throughout any of the different types of hostels, you will find dorms. They have shared rooms with bunk beds. You are assigned a bunk and a locker to hold your luggage.

Hostel dorms are budget-friendly, which is their primary appeal. When I studied abroad in Spain in 2015, I stayed in hostels often. I love hostel dorms because they make travel more accessible. Packing flip-flops to wear in the shared showers and becoming friends with your new bunkmate is truly an experience. I loved it as a backpacker!

Private rooms

Private rooms are relatively new to the hostel world. While some places offered them years ago, they are becoming more and more common now. With private rooms, some of the extra amenities you get include:

  • Your own space, so you don’t have to share a room, bunk beds, or worry about keeping your stuff safe in a locker
  • Your own bathroom (in most cases, but some hostels still have you share a bathroom)

As a fellow flashpacker, I prefer private rooms in hostels. This does not mean I will stop staying in dorms as I did over the past few years. However, I enjoy having a place to myself after a long day of sightseeing. I also love my shower and not worrying about shower shoes. For me, it’s the convenience and solitude I’m paying for with private rooms.

Hostel etiquette: 6 dos and don’ts of hostels

Don’t leave a huge mess

Despite being different types of hostels, they can all agree on this. Remember, you are sharing space. So wash your dishes, don’t leave all your belongings out in the dorm, and clean it up if you make a mess. 

Do socialize with other travelers

Why pick a hostel if you were not gonna socialize? It’s a must! Get out of your head and talk to strangers. Different types of hostels provide different types of travelers.  But chances are you will always make a friend if you sit near someone during breakfast or join a hostel activity.

Don’t touch other people’s belongings

Keep your hands to yourself! One big hostel don’t is stealing or messing with other people’s things. Hostel visitors won’t touch your stuff if you don’t touch theirs. Avoid conflict and ask before using anything you see that is not yours. 

Do adhere to the bed you’re assigned

This tip is for you if you decide to stay in a dorm instead of a private room. All hostel dorm occupants are given an assigned bed upon check-in. Some hostels even tell you the bed number when booking; be sure to only sleep in that bed. 

Ignoring the assigned bed can kill the friendly hostel atmosphere. Also – it’s a douche move. Even if you wanted the top bunk over the bottom, you could not just take someone else’s. If this is a big issue, talk to the hostel staff before taking another person’s bed.

Don’t turn the light on in the middle of the night

An unspoken rule about hostels is navigating the darkness early in the AM or late at night. For travelers opting for dorm life, this “do” applies to you creeping in after a long night of partying. Use your phone flashlight to find your PJ’s, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc. Some of your hostel roomies will probably be asleep, and you do not want to disturb them.

Do label your food

Unless you want someone to eat your food, you will need to label your food in the hostel refrigerator. Whether groceries or leftovers, ALWAYS put your name, room number, and checkout date on your food. Labeling is a golden rule at hostels. I promise someone will eat your food if you don’t label it.

Don’t be rude to hostel staff

No one likes an inconsiderate and disrespectful hostel guest! The hostel staff is people just like us. And many of them are volunteering in exchange for accommodation. Thank them for their work and be mindful of how busy they can get. While hostel staff is there to help, show them some grace too.

Why the different types of hostels matter for your trip

Not all trips have the same vibe. Sometimes I want a hostel near a beach, and with a pool, so I book a beach hostel. On the other hand, I like to party and be social on a budget for other trips. So I would choose a party hostel and stay in a dorm. It depends; your hostel can set the tone for the journey.

Understanding the different types of hostels can also be determined by your price point. For example, luxury, boutique, and eco hostels can be more expensive than youth or party hostels.  Knowing your trip budget is key to picking a hostel within your price range.

Final advice from a solo traveler who loves hostels

Hostels can seem a bit sketchy when you think about them. But in my years of traveling, they are my preferred accommodation as a solo traveler. The atmosphere brings me back time and time again. I don’t regret it at all.

Knowing the different types of hostels can make planning your trip easier. You will know what kind of vibe to expect and the people you might meet. So I’m all for it, and I hope you book a hostel for your next trip!

Are you staying in a hostel for the first time? If so, check out these tips and tricks.

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