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Youth Hostel: What Is It


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Madel Clare



Welcome to the world of youth hostels, where budget-friendly travel and a vibrant community meet. Youth hostels have long been a haven for travelers seeking affordable accommodation, cultural immersion, and connections with fellow adventurers from around the world. In this article, we will explore what youth hostels are, their history, benefits, facilities, and much more.


Imagine yourself exploring the winding streets of a foreign city, backpack on your shoulders, and a sense of excitement in the air. As you dive into the heart of the city’s cultural and culinary scene, you know there’s a warm and welcoming place waiting for you at the end of the day – a youth hostel.


Youth hostels, also known as backpacker hostels or simply hostels, provide budget-friendly accommodation options for travelers, especially those on a tight budget or looking for a unique and social experience. Unlike traditional hotels or resorts, youth hostels prioritize community, camaraderie, and exploration, creating an environment where friendships are forged and stories are shared.


Hostels are often located in bustling city centers, near popular attractions, or amidst breathtaking natural landscapes. They come in various shapes and sizes, ranging from small intimate spaces to larger establishments with multiple floors and a myriad of amenities.


One of the defining features of youth hostels is the presence of shared dormitory-style rooms. These rooms typically consist of bunk beds and communal facilities such as bathrooms and common areas. This communal living arrangement not only promotes social interaction but also keeps the costs down, making it an ideal choice for budget-conscious travelers.


However, it’s important to note that hostels also offer private rooms for those seeking more privacy and comfort. These rooms often come at a slightly higher cost but are still considerably more affordable compared to traditional hotels.


Whether you’re a solo traveler, a group of friends, or a family on a tight budget, youth hostels provide an inclusive and diverse atmosphere that welcomes travelers from all walks of life. From backpackers exploring the world on a shoestring budget to digital nomads seeking a vibrant workation experience, hostels cater to a wide range of travelers.


In the following sections, we’ll delve deeper into the history, purpose, benefits, facilities, and booking information of youth hostels to help you navigate and embrace this unique way of travel.


Definition of a Youth Hostel

A youth hostel is a type of accommodation facility that provides affordable lodging options for travelers, typically catering to young backpackers and budget-conscious individuals. These establishments offer a range of rooms, from shared dormitories to private rooms, and emphasize communal spaces and a social atmosphere.


What sets youth hostels apart from traditional hotels is their focus on creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for travelers seeking interaction and cultural exchange. Hostels prioritize affordability, allowing travelers to stretch their budgets and allocate more resources to exploring their destination.


Shared dormitory rooms are a signature feature of youth hostels. These rooms often house a number of bunk beds, allowing multiple travelers to share the same space. By staying in a dorm room, guests have the opportunity to connect with fellow travelers, share stories and experiences, and make new friends from around the world.


In addition to dormitories, many hostels also offer private rooms for those desiring more privacy. These rooms can range from single occupancy to family-sized rooms, providing options for travelers of all preferences and needs.


While each youth hostel is unique, they all share a common goal of fostering a sense of community and creating an atmosphere where travelers can connect and learn from one another. Common areas such as lounges, kitchens, and outdoor spaces are designed to encourage social interaction and facilitate the sharing of experiences and travel tips.


Furthermore, youth hostels often organize social activities and events to enhance the communal experience. These can include city tours, group meals, pub crawls, game nights, and cultural workshops. Such activities allow guests to come together, bond, and explore their surroundings together.


It’s important to note that youth hostels are not exclusive to young travelers. While the name suggests a focus on the younger generation, people of all ages are welcome to stay in these establishments. The term “youth” in the context of hostels refers more to the spirit of adventure, exploration, and camaraderie rather than a strict age restriction.


In the next sections of this article, we will delve into the history of youth hostels, their purpose and benefits, the facilities and services they offer, as well as membership and booking information. So, let’s continue our journey and discover the world of youth hostels!


History of Youth Hostels

The concept of youth hostels originated in Germany in the early 20th century. The first official youth hostel, called “Jugendherberge,” was opened in 1909 by schoolteacher Richard Schirrmann in the small town of Altena. Schirrmann recognized the need for affordable and safe accommodation for school groups and young travelers exploring the countryside.


As a response to the growing interest in outdoor activities and educational travel, Schirrmann sought to create a network of hostels that would provide a welcoming environment for young people to experience nature, learn about different cultures, and foster international understanding.


The idea quickly gained popularity and spread across Europe, leading to the establishment of the International Youth Hostel Federation (now known as Hostelling International) in 1932. This federation aimed to promote the ideals of youth hostelling and foster a sense of unity among young travelers from different countries.


During the early years, youth hostels primarily catered to youth groups and school trips. However, as the concept gained recognition and the demand for affordable travel options increased, hostels began to welcome individual travelers as well.


World War II disrupted the growth of youth hostels, as many were destroyed or repurposed during the conflict. However, in the post-war era, hostels experienced a resurgence, serving as a symbol of peace and unity in a war-torn world.


In the following decades, the popularity of youth hostels continued to rise, with more countries establishing their own national hostel networks. The movement expanded beyond Europe, reaching countries around the globe. Today, youth hostels can be found in cities, rural areas, and popular tourist destinations worldwide.


The evolution of youth hostels has also seen an increase in the range of facilities and services offered. While maintaining their focus on affordability and community, hostels now provide amenities such as free Wi-Fi, communal kitchens, laundry facilities, social spaces, and organized activities.


The advent of technology and the rise of online booking platforms have made it easier for travelers to find and book youth hostel accommodations. This accessibility has further contributed to the popularity and growth of hostels as a preferred choice for budget-conscious and socially-minded travelers.


As the world continues to change and travel trends evolve, youth hostels adapt to meet the needs and desires of modern travelers. They remain a beacon of affordability, hospitality, and cultural exchange for adventurers seeking meaningful experiences and connections on their journeys.


Purpose and Benefits of Youth Hostels

Youth hostels serve a myriad of purposes and offer numerous benefits to travelers. Let’s delve into the key reasons why staying in a youth hostel can be a rewarding and enriching experience.


1. Affordable Accommodation: One of the primary purposes of youth hostels is to provide budget-friendly lodging options for travelers. The cost of staying in a hostel is significantly lower compared to traditional hotels, making it an ideal choice for those seeking to stretch their travel budget.


2. Social and Cultural Interaction: Youth hostels foster a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere that encourages socializing and cultural exchange. By staying in a hostel, you have the opportunity to meet like-minded travelers from around the world, share stories and experiences, and form lasting friendships.


3. Community and Networks: Hostels create a sense of community among guests. Whether it’s chatting in the common areas, participating in organized activities, or cooking together in the communal kitchen, hostels provide a space for travelers to connect and build networks that can extend beyond their stay.


4. Local Expertise and Insider Tips: Hostel staff members are often locals or long-term residents who possess extensive knowledge about the destination. They can provide valuable insights, recommend lesser-known attractions, and offer tips on the best places to eat, drink, and explore. This insider information can greatly enhance your travel experience.


5. Flexible Accommodation Options: Hostels offer a variety of room types to suit different preferences and budgets. Whether you prefer a shared dormitory for the social atmosphere or a private room for more privacy, hostels provide flexibility in accommodation choices.


6. Activities and Events: Many hostels organize social activities, city tours, pub crawls, and cultural events to facilitate interaction among guests. These organized activities provide opportunities for exploration, learning, and creating unforgettable memories.


7. Eco-Friendly Practices: In recent years, there has been a growing focus on sustainability and eco-friendly travel. Youth hostels often incorporate environmentally conscious practices into their operations, such as recycling programs, energy-efficient systems, and the use of locally sourced products, promoting responsible and sustainable travel.


8. Safety and Security: Hostels prioritize the safety and security of their guests. Many hostels have secure access systems, lockers for personal belongings, and 24-hour front desk service. Additionally, the communal atmosphere often fosters a sense of security, as fellow travelers watch out for one another.


9. Unique Experiences: Staying in a youth hostel provides a distinctive travel experience compared to traditional accommodation options. The communal living and social aspects create an environment where you can immerse yourself in the local culture, learn from others, and create lifelong memories.


10. Global Network: With the International Youth Hostel Federation (Hostelling International), hostels are part of a global network. This means that as a member, you can enjoy discounts and benefits at affiliated hostels around the world, making travel even more accessible and affordable.


By embracing the purpose and reaping the benefits of youth hostels, you have the opportunity to embark on memorable adventures, forge connections with fellow travelers, and create a truly immersive travel experience that goes beyond simply visiting a destination.


Facilities and Services Offered in Youth Hostels

Youth hostels provide a range of facilities and services to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable stay for travelers. Let’s explore the common amenities you can expect to find in youth hostels around the world.


1. Dormitory-style Rooms: Youth hostels offer shared dormitory-style rooms with bunk beds. These rooms are typically divided by gender, although some hostels also provide mixed-gender dorms. Dormitories help promote social interaction among guests and keep costs low.


2. Private Rooms: In addition to dormitories, many hostels offer private rooms for guests who desire more privacy. These rooms can vary in size and amenities, ranging from single or double occupancy rooms to larger rooms suitable for families or groups of friends.


3. Common Areas: Hostels usually have spacious common areas, such as lounges, rooftop terraces, or gardens, where guests can relax, socialize, or unwind after a day of exploring. These areas often provide comfortable seating, games, books, and sometimes even musical instruments.


4. Shared Facilities: Most hostels have shared facilities, including bathrooms, showers, and toilets. These are typically separate for each gender and are kept clean and well-maintained.


5. Communal Kitchen: A hallmark of youth hostels is the communal kitchen, where guests can prepare their own meals. These kitchens are equipped with stoves, refrigerators, cooking utensils, and often have designated storage spaces for guests to store their food.


6. Dining Areas: Some hostels provide dining areas where guests can enjoy their meals. These areas may include communal tables or smaller seating options for more intimate gatherings.


7. Free Wi-Fi: To stay connected with loved ones or plan the next leg of your journey, many hostels offer free Wi-Fi throughout their premises. This ensures that guests can stay connected, share their experiences, and access information about their destination.


8. Luggage Storage: Hostels often provide luggage storage facilities, either in the form of lockers in dorm rooms or secure storage rooms. This allows guests to store their belongings safely while they explore the destination without the burden of carrying all their luggage.


9. Laundry Facilities: For travelers in need of fresh clothes, some hostels offer self-service laundry facilities. These typically include washers, dryers, and sometimes even ironing boards and irons for guests to use.


10. Organized Activities: Many hostels organize social activities, such as city tours, pub crawls, game nights, cooking classes, and cultural workshops. These activities aim to foster community and create opportunities for guests to connect with each other and experience the local culture.


11. Travel Desk and Information: Hostels often have a travel desk or designated staff who can provide information about the local area, recommendations for attractions, and assistance with booking tours or arranging transportation.


12. 24-Hour Reception: To ensure guests’ comfort and security, many hostels have a 24-hour front desk where staff members are available to assist with any queries or concerns.


It’s important to note that the facilities and services offered may vary between different hostels. Some hostels may provide additional amenities such as on-site bars, bike rentals, swimming pools, or even in-house entertainment options. When booking a hostel, it’s recommended to check the specific facilities and services available to ensure they meet your needs and preferences.


Overall, youth hostels strive to create a welcoming and comfortable environment where travelers can connect with others, relax, and make the most of their travel experience.


Cost and Accommodation Options in Youth Hostels

One of the main advantages of staying in a youth hostel is the affordability it offers to travelers. Youth hostels provide a range of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences. Let’s take a closer look at the cost and accommodation options you can expect when staying in a youth hostel.


1. Dormitory Rooms: Dormitory rooms are the most cost-effective option in youth hostels. These rooms typically have bunk beds and can accommodate varying numbers of guests, ranging from four to twenty or more. Dormitory prices are usually per bed, allowing solo travelers to share a room with other like-minded individuals, reducing the overall cost per person.


2. Private Rooms: Youth hostels also offer private rooms for guests seeking more privacy. Private rooms in hostels can range from single or twin rooms to larger rooms suitable for families or groups of friends. While private rooms are usually more expensive than dormitory beds, they still tend to be much more affordable than traditional hotel rooms.


3. Room Amenities: The amenities available in dormitory and private rooms can vary depending on the hostel. Dormitory rooms typically provide a bed, bedding (such as sheets, pillows, and blankets), and often a small personal locker or secure storage area for valuables. Private rooms usually offer the same amenities as dormitories but with the added benefit of more personal space.


4. Shared Facilities: In youth hostels, guests share common facilities such as bathrooms and showers. These facilities are often well-maintained, clean, and separate for each gender. Sharing facilities helps to keep costs down and fosters a communal atmosphere where travelers can interact and share their experiences.


5. Additional Costs: While the base cost of a hostel bed or room is typically lower than traditional accommodation options, it’s important to note that there may be additional costs associated with certain services or amenities. These can include rental fees for towels, access to laundry facilities, breakfast or meal options, luggage storage, or any organized activities or tours provided by the hostel. It’s advised to check with the hostel for any additional charges before making a booking.


6. Membership Discounts: Many youth hostels are affiliated with international hostel associations like Hostelling International. Becoming a member of these organizations can provide discounted rates on hostel bookings. Membership fees are usually nominal, and the savings can quickly outweigh the cost, especially for frequent travelers or those planning extended stays in hostels.


It’s worth mentioning that the cost of a hostel bed or room can vary depending on several factors such as the location, seasonality, and amenities provided by the hostel. Hostels in popular tourist destinations or major cities may have higher prices compared to those in more off-the-beaten-path locations.


When booking a youth hostel, it’s advisable to research and compare prices, read reviews from previous guests, and consider the hostel’s location and the services they offer. Many booking platforms provide clear information on prices and room types, allowing you to make an informed decision based on your budget and preferences.


Overall, youth hostels provide budget-friendly accommodation options without compromising comfort or the opportunity to meet fellow travelers. Whether you choose a dormitory or private room, staying in a youth hostel is an excellent way to experience the world without breaking the bank.


Safety and Security Measures in Youth Hostels

When it comes to staying in youth hostels, safety and security are of utmost importance. These establishments prioritize the well-being of their guests and implement various measures to ensure a safe and secure environment. Let’s explore the safety and security measures commonly found in youth hostels.


1. Secure Access: Many youth hostels have secure access systems, such as key cards or codes, to restrict entry to the premises. This helps to ensure that only guests and authorized personnel have access to the hostel, enhancing overall security.


2. Lockers and Storage: Hostels typically provide lockers in dormitory rooms or common areas for guests to secure their valuables. These lockers are an essential feature and give guests peace of mind by offering a secure place to store passports, electronics, and other valuable possessions.


3. CCTV and Surveillance: To maintain a safe environment, some hostels have installed closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras strategically throughout their premises. These cameras assist in monitoring and deterring any potential security threats.


4. 24/7 Staff Assistance: Hosting a 24-hour reception desk ensures that there are trained staff members available around the clock to assist guests with any concerns, queries, or emergencies. This immediate support contributes to guest safety and peace of mind.


5. Fire Safety Measures: Youth hostels adhere to strict fire safety regulations. They are equipped with fire alarms, emergency exit signs, and evacuation plans clearly displayed throughout the premises. Regular fire safety drills may also be conducted to ensure guests are aware of evacuation procedures.


6. First Aid Kits: Many hostels have first aid kits readily available in case of minor injuries or ailments. Trained staff members may also be able to provide basic first aid assistance, offering an added layer of safety and support.


7. Safety Information and Policies: Hostels often provide guests with safety guidelines and information upon check-in. These may include instructions on how to lock doors and store belongings securely, as well as policies regarding noise, visitor access, and respect for fellow guests.


8. Collaboration with Local Authorities: Youth hostels maintain close relationships with local law enforcement agencies and emergency services. In case of an emergency, the hostel staff can quickly contact the appropriate authorities for assistance and guidance.


9. Guest Vetting and Identification: Hostels may request identification from guests during check-in to maintain a safe and secure environment. This process ensures that only registered guests have access to the premises and helps prevent unauthorized individuals from entering.


10. Staff Training: Hostel staff members are often trained in security protocols and emergency procedures. They are well-versed in handling various situations and can provide guidance and support to guests during their stay.


It’s important for guests to be mindful of their personal safety while staying in youth hostels. This includes being aware of their surroundings, taking necessary precautions when exploring unfamiliar areas, and respecting the rules and guidelines set by the hostel.


While youth hostels prioritize the safety and security of their guests, it’s always recommended for travelers to take their own precautions. These may include keeping personal belongings locked, using common areas responsibly, and following any safety instructions provided by the hostel.


By combining the efforts of hostel staff and responsible guest behavior, youth hostels aim to create a safe and secure environment where travelers can enjoy their stay to the fullest.


Membership and Booking Information

Membership in youth hostel organizations can offer numerous benefits and discounts for travelers. Let’s explore the advantages of becoming a member and the process of booking a stay in a youth hostel.


1. Membership Benefits: Joining a youth hostel organization, such as Hostelling International (HI), can provide access to a wide range of benefits. Membership often includes discounts on accommodation rates, exclusive offers, and savings on affiliated services and attractions. Members may also have access to special events, travel resources, and the opportunity to connect with a global community of travelers.


2. Membership Types: Youth hostel organizations typically offer different membership types, such as individual, family, or group memberships, to suit the needs of travelers. Membership fees are generally affordable, and the benefits can quickly outweigh the cost, especially for those who frequently stay in hostels or plan to travel extensively.


3. Booking Platforms: Youth hostels can be booked through various platforms, including their official websites, hostel booking websites, or through the membership organization’s online booking system. These platforms allow travelers to search for hostels based on their preferred dates, location, and room type, offering convenience and flexibility in finding suitable accommodations.


4. Booking Process: When booking a youth hostel, select the desired destination and dates of stay on the booking platform. Browse through the available hostels and room options, taking note of the pricing and amenities offered. Once you have chosen a hostel and room type, follow the prompts to make a reservation. Input your personal information and any membership details if applicable. Payment can usually be made online using various methods such as credit card or online payment platforms.


5. Membership Discounts: If you are a member of a youth hostel organization, make sure to indicate your membership during the booking process. This will often unlock discounts and special rates available exclusively to members.


6. Cancellation Policies: Pay attention to the hostel’s cancellation policies before making a reservation. Each hostel may have different policies regarding cancellations, changes to bookings, and refunds. It’s important to familiarize yourself with these policies to avoid any potential issues.


7. Hostel Reviews: Prior to making a booking, consider reading reviews from previous guests to gauge the quality and suitability of a youth hostel. Review websites and booking platforms often feature ratings and feedback from travelers, giving you insights into the hostel’s cleanliness, staff friendliness, and overall guest experience.


8. Early Bookings: It is recommended to book youth hostels in advance, especially during peak travel seasons or popular holiday periods. By securing your reservation early, you have a better chance of securing your preferred hostel and room type.


9. Membership Card: Upon becoming a member of a youth hostel organization, you may receive a membership card. Carry this card with you during your travels, as some hostels or affiliated services may require it to validate your membership and unlock the associated discounts and benefits.


10. Flexible Stays: Youth hostels often offer flexible stays, allowing guests to extend their stay if desired. If you find yourself enjoying your hostel experience and wish to prolong your visit, inquire with the hostel staff about the availability of additional nights.


By becoming a member of a youth hostel organization and utilizing the convenient booking platforms available, you can take full advantage of the benefits and discounts offered, ensuring an affordable and enriching travel experience.


Popular Youth Hostels around the World

Whether you’re an experienced backpacker or embarking on your first adventure, there are numerous youth hostels around the world that offer unique experiences and memorable stays. Let’s explore some of the popular youth hostels that have garnered a reputation for their quality accommodations, vibrant atmosphere, and excellent services.


1. Generator Hostels (Europe): With locations in major European cities such as London, Paris, Berlin, and Barcelona, Generator Hostels are known for their stylish design, lively social scene, and top-notch facilities. These hostels offer a range of dormitories and private rooms, as well as bar areas, game rooms, and organized events to foster interaction among guests.


2. The Yellow (Italy): Located in Rome, The Yellow is a vibrant hostel with a reputation for its amazing social atmosphere. Offering both dormitory and private rooms, The Yellow organizes daily events, including pasta parties, pub crawls, and live music performances, ensuring an unforgettable stay in the Eternal City.


3. Wombat’s City Hostels (Europe): Wombat’s City Hostels can be found in several European cities, including Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, and London. These hostels combine comfort, affordability, and a welcoming atmosphere. Guests can enjoy spacious common areas, on-site bars, and free walking tours to explore the city with fellow travelers.


4. Base Backpackers (Australia and New Zealand): Base Backpackers is a popular chain of hostels with locations in Australia and New Zealand. Known for their vibrant bars and energetic social scenes, these hostels offer a mix of dormitory and private rooms, as well as organized activities like beach parties, barbecues, and adventure tours.


5. The Mad Monkey (Southeast Asia): The Mad Monkey hostels have gained a reputation for their lively party atmosphere and excellent services throughout Southeast Asia. With locations in popular destinations like Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Indonesia, these hostels offer a variety of room options and organize exciting events such as jungle parties and island hopping tours.


6. HI Santa Monica (United States): Situated in the beautiful beach city of Santa Monica, California, HI Santa Monica is well-known for its prime location and welcoming atmosphere. With a range of private and dormitory rooms, guests can enjoy easy access to the beach, explore nearby attractions like the Santa Monica Pier, and unwind in the hostel’s common areas, including an outdoor patio with barbecue facilities.


7. The Flying Pig (Netherlands): The Flying Pig hostels, located in Amsterdam and Noordwijk, are beloved by backpackers visiting the Netherlands. These hostels offer a lively and social atmosphere with comfortable dormitory and private rooms. Guests can relax in cozy common areas or join in on events like barbecues, beer pong tournaments, and canal tours.


8. Gili Backpackers (Indonesia): Situated on the idyllic Gili Islands in Indonesia, Gili Backpackers is a paradise for backpackers seeking an island getaway. With a laid-back vibe and dormitory-style rooms, this hostel provides access to stunning beaches, snorkeling and diving excursions, and beachside bars for memorable tropical experiences.


These are just a few examples of the many popular youth hostels around the world. Each hostel offers its own unique atmosphere and experiences, ensuring that travelers can find a suitable option for their preferences and budget. Whether you’re looking for a lively party scene, a relaxed beachside retreat, or a centrally located base to explore a new city, there is a youth hostel waiting to welcome you with open arms.



Youth hostels have transformed the way travelers explore the world, providing an affordable, social, and culturally immersive accommodation option. These establishments prioritize community, camaraderie, and exploration, offering a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere where connections are made and lifelong memories are created.


From their humble beginnings in Germany over a century ago, youth hostels have grown into a global phenomenon. With hostels spanning major cities, scenic landscapes, and popular tourist destinations, travelers have access to a wide range of options to suit their preferences and budgets.


Staying in a youth hostel not only provides budget-friendly accommodations but also opens the doors to a world of social interaction, cultural exchange, and unique experiences. Whether you choose to stay in a shared dormitory or a private room, you’ll find a sense of camaraderie, with like-minded travelers coming together to share stories, adventures, and laughter.


The facilities and services offered by youth hostels ensure comfort and convenience, from dormitory rooms and communal kitchens to common areas for socializing and organized activities. Hostels prioritize safety and implement security measures to ensure guests’ well-being, giving travelers peace of mind as they explore new destinations.


Membership in youth hostel organizations can provide additional benefits, such as discounts on accommodations and access to exclusive events and services. Booking a stay in a youth hostel is a straightforward process, with online platforms offering easy access to availability, pricing, and reviews from previous guests.


As you journey through the world of youth hostels, you’ll encounter popular establishments known for their excellent services and vibrant atmospheres. From stylish design and lively social scenes in major European cities to tropical island getaways in Southeast Asia, there’s a hostel to suit every traveler’s taste.


In conclusion, youth hostels offer much more than just a place to sleep. They embody the spirit of adventure, connection, and affordability, making travel accessible to all. So, embrace the world of youth hostels, immerse yourself in the vibrant communities they cultivate, and create unforgettable experiences as you explore the wonders of the world.