1. Travel
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Top 10 Frequently Asked Hostel Questions


A hostel is the way to stay on student travel and backpacking adventures. Get the answers to the top ten frequently asked hostel questions in this FAQ.

1. What is a Hostel?

Melbourne Nomads Industry Hostel check in
© Kathleen Crislip
A hostel is a cheap way to lodge safely with like-minded travelers around the world. Also called "Backpackers," hostels feature dormitory style rooms, often with bunks, and security, social life, showers, and food prep and storage areas. They are very community oriented lodgings, and you'll share everything but your bunk and a locker -- in fact, it's a little like summer camp without the counselors. Hostels are prevalent in Europe and can usually be found elsewhere in the world (not so much in the US). Keep scrolling for more.

2. How Much Does a Hostel Cost?

Bunk Brisbane Single Hostel ROom
© Kathleen Crislip
Expect to spend $8-$35 on a single bed. For your money, you'll get a bunk and shared bathroom unless you're going flashpacker style in a more expensive single room, which may have its own bath and will cost up to $75. More than that, and it ain't a hostel -- it's a B and B and you may see your grandparents there. Speaking of breakfast -- trust me on this: it will be nothing like the buffet spread in the movie. More on food below.

3. Do Hostels Have Age Limits?

Folks in Sydney Base Hostel's Common Area
© Kathleen Crislip
Joints with age limits are likely to be party palaces and prohibit those under sixteen. Some rules read that guests over 30 are verboten, but I've glimpsed geezers in those halls. The average guest age used to be college-ish or couples in the late 20's and early 30's, but as aging baby boomers start picking up where they left off on their college era backpacking adventures, you're becoming more likely to see single folks of a certain age, in pairs or solo.

4. Do I Have to Share a Room with a Guy / Get to Share a Room with a Gal?

Guadalajara Centro - Typical Hostel Dorm Room
© Kathleen Crislip
It's increasingly possible to reserve single sex dorms, and floors for women exist, but you're more likely to room with the opposite gender. If you want same sex rooming and can't reserve, ask if it's possible when you check in or pay for a private room. Gals, you'll likely be perfectly safe -- you'll find that experienced backpackers understand how to respect one another's space and privacy.

5. Do I Have to Share a Bathroom?

Blue Mountains YHA Hostel Bathroom
© Kathleen Crislip
Expect shared bathrooms, though private rooms may have en suite (in the room) bathrooms. Hostel bathrooms usually start the day clean, but you may be sharing with double digit numbers of folks. Almost always true: the toilet will be semi sloppy and the shower temperature unpredictable. Do bring flip flops for healthy feet despite the shower.

6. Is Breakfast Included?

San Francisco Adelaide Hostel's Kitchen and Dining
© Kathleen Crislip
Breakfast is often included in a European or Latin stay. Be prepared for a local breakfast in Western Europe -- light, like croissant and coffee. You'll probably find some kind of food prep or storage area and some, like the huge Wake Up London, have a full, equipped kitchen, while some have a weaksauce arrangement like a hot plate. Read reviews if you're counting on breakfast-included as a money saver, 'cuz it might not be there.

7. Will There Be Bedbugs?

Bed bugs are far, far less common in hostels than your mother believes. I have never shared a sheet with a bedbug, myself, and I've been in some sketchy places where scuttling in corners by more-than-four-legged things was a given. Posh places and budget motels -- bedbugs yes. Hostels -- not so much. Backpacker's lodgings work hard to keep the critters out; some won't allow sleeping bags or sleep sacks because they can harbor unwanted guests that stay behind. Don't worry; do know all about bedbugs.

8. What's Up With Hostel Curfews?

You'll find that many budget European and Latin American digs, or hostels housed in older buildings with one entrance, close and lock the front door after a certain hour. You may be able to get in with your room key if the front door is locked; note whether the curfew is the witching hour by which you must be in or be locked out for the night. Pay attention. Forgot your key? A kindly clerk may let you enter. Hostel curfews do exist in part to keep the place quiet. Learn more: Hostel Curfews Explained.

9. What's Up With Hostel Lockouts?

Some places practice a hospitality-challenged custom of locking guests out in the middle of the day, like from 10:00-2:00, ostensibly to clean. This may mean that you can't get into your room during those hours, or it may mean that you can't get into the building at all. I avoid joints with lock out policies if at all possible. Our hostel profiles and reviews generally have individual establishments' rules listed, including lock out policies. Learn more: "Hostel Lockouts Explained."

10. Where Are the Best Hostels?

A Best Hostel: Katoomba Blue Mountains YHA Hostel, Australia
© Kathleen Crislip
That would be the $64 question. Whether you'll have fun depends in part on your fellow guests, of whom you'll see a lot. It's usually better to choose your digs based on amenity and location bang for the buck than party priority. Pick a part of the city, find out whether the place meets your needs and won't lock you out, and see if you can make your own fun. We've made a few lists of general faves.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.