Hostels: Wikis

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Hostel dormitory room in Taiwan

Hostels provide budget oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed, sometimes a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge and sometimes a kitchen. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex, although private rooms may also be available. Hostels are generally cheaper for both the operator and the occupants; many hostels have long-term residents whom they employ as desk clerks or housekeeping staff in exchange for free accommodation.

In a few countries, such as the UK, Ireland, India, and Australia, the word hostel sometimes also refers to establishments providing longer-term accommodation (often to specific classes of clientèle such as nurses, students, drug addicts, court defendants on bail) where the hostels are sometimes run by Housing Associations and charities. In the rest of the world, the word hostel refers only to properties offering accommodation to travellers or backpackers.

Within the 'traveller' category, another distinction can be drawn between hostels which are members of Hostelling International (HI), a UK-based, non-profit organization encouraging outdoor activities and cultural exchange for the young, and independently operated hostels. Hostels for travellers are sometimes called backpackers' hostels, particularly in Australia and New Zealand (often abbreviated to just "backpackers").

Contents

Differences from hotels

Youth hostel in Japan

There are several differences between hostels and hotels, including:

  1. Hostels tend to be budget-oriented; rates are considerably lower, and many hostels have programs to share books, DVDs and other items.
  2. For those who prefer an informal environment, hostels do not usually have the same level of formality as hotels.
  3. For those who prefer to socialize with their fellow guests, hostels usually have more common areas and opportunities to socialize. The dormitory aspect of hostels also increases the social factor.
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Communal accommodation

High-tech hostel lockers with electronic key locks.

There is less privacy in a hostel than in a hotel. Sharing sleeping accommodation in a dormitory is very different from staying in a private room in a hotel or bed and breakfast, and might not be comfortable for those requiring more privacy. The lessened privacy is also an advantage in some ways, because it encourages more social interaction between guests.

Theft can be a problem, since guests may share a common living space, but this can be avoided by securing guests' belongings. Most hostels offer some sort of system for safely storing valuables, and an increasing number of hostels offer private lockers.

Noise can make sleeping difficult on occasions, whether from snoring, sexual activity, someone either returning late or leaving early or the close proximity of so many people. This can be solved by carrying earplugs.

Traveller's hostels

The traditional hostel format involved dormitory style accommodation. Some newer hostels include en-suite accommodation with single, double or quad occupancy rooms, though to be considered a hostel they must also provide dormitory accommodation[1][2]. In recent years, the numbers of independent and backpackers' hostels have increased greatly to cater for the greater numbers of overland, multi-destination travellers (such as gap-year travellers, and rail-trippers).

The quality of such places has also improved dramatically. While a few hostels do still insist on a curfew, daytime lockouts, and/or require occupants to do chores, this is becoming a rare exception rather than the rule, as hostels adapt to meet the changing expectations of guests.[3]

"Youth Hostel" beginnings

Dorm room from a hostel in Budapest, Hungary

In 1912, in Altena Castle in Germany, Richard Schirrmann created the first permanent Jugendherberge or "Youth Hostel". These first Youth Hostels were an exponent of the ideology of the German Youth Movement to let poor city youngsters breathe fresh air outdoors. The youths were supposed to manage the hostel themselves as much as possible, doing chores to keep the costs down and build character as well as being physically active outdoors. Because of this, many Youth Hostels closed during the middle part of the day. Very few hostels still have a "lockout".

Hostelling International (HI)

The idea rapidly spread overseas and eventually resulted in Hostelling International, an organization composed of more than 90 different Youth Hostel associations representing over 4500 Youth Hostels in over 80 countries.

Some HI Youth Hostels cater more to school-aged children (sometimes through school trips) and parents with their children, whereas others are more for travellers intent on learning new cultures. However, while the exploration of different cultures and places is emphasized in many hostels, particularly in cities or popular tourist destinations, there are still many hostels providing accommodation for outdoor pursuits such as hillwalking, climbing and bicycle touring; these are often small friendly hostels retaining much of the original vision and often provide valuable access to more remote regions.

Despite their name, in most countries membership is not limited to youth.

Independent hostels

Independent hostels are not necessarily affiliated with one of the national bodies of Hostelling International, Youth Hostel Association or any other licensing body. Often, the word independent is used to refer to non-HI hostels even when the hostels do belong to another hostelling organization.

The term "youth" is less often used with these properties. These non-HI hostels are often called "backpackers' hostels". Unlike a hotel chain where everything is standardized, these hostels can be very diverse, typically not requiring a membership card.

As the hostel industry evolves, independent hostels and HI hostels are becoming more similar, with the word "backpackers" also now applying to many Hostelling International hostels[4].

Industry growth

Wintergarten at a Munich hostel.

The independent hostel industry is growing rapidly in many cities around the world, such as New York, Rome, Buenos Aires and Miami.[5] This is reflected in the development and expansion of dozens of hostel chains worldwide.[6] The recent eruption in independent hostels has been called "probably the single biggest news in the world of low-cost travel".[7]

The development of independent backpackers hostels is a strong business model, with some cities reporting a higher average income per room for hostels than hotels. For example, in the city of Honolulu, Hawaii, upscale hotels are reportedly making $141 to $173 per room, while hostel rooms in the same city can bring in as much as $200 per night.[8]. Even during the 2008 economic crisis, many hostels are reporting increased occupancy numbers in a time when hotel bookings are down.[9]

Even as the city’s hotel occupancy rate has fallen to 66 percent in February, from 81 percent in the same month last year, despite steep discounts, many youth hostels are reporting banner business.

Though in the past, hostels have been seen as low-quality accommodation for less wealthy travellers, at least one Australian study has shown that backpackers (who typically stay at hostels) spend more than non-backpackers, due to their longer stays.[11] Backpackers make up as much as 10% of international visitors in Australia.[12] In New Zealand, backpackers hostels had a 13.5% share of accommodation guest/nights in 2007.[13][14]

Hostels in popular culture

A former youth hostel in Rome, Italy.

Motion pictures have portrayed hostels in two ways: as fun places for young people to stay (for example, The Journey of Jared Price and A Map for Saturday), or alternately, as dangerous places where unsuspecting Americans face potential horrors in Eastern Europe (see, e.g. Hostel (film) and Hostel: Part II). There are some popular misconceptions that a hostel is a kind of a flophouse, homeless shelter, or halfway house, though this does not reflect the high quality and level of professionalism in many modern hostels.

Self contained facilities and services

In attempts to attract more visitors hostels nowadays provide additional services not previously available, such as airport shuttle transfers,[15][16] internet cafes,[17] swimming pools and spas[18][19] and tour booking.[15][20]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Define: Hostel - what is a hostel? | Hostel Management
  2. ^ "Hostel managers discuss definition of the word hostel" (in en). HostelManagement.com. pp. 12. http://www.hostelmanagement.com/forum/f15/definition-hostel-284.html. 
  3. ^ McGrath, Ginny (2008-04-29). "Whatever happened to Youth Hostels?" (in en). London: Times Online. http://travel.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/travel/news/article3840062.ece. 
  4. ^ http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Ahihostels.com+backpackers&num=100
  5. ^ Laboy, Suzette (2009-07-27). "South Beach becoming backpacker hot spot" (in en). Associated Press. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/travel/2004419334_websouthbeach16.html. 
  6. ^ List of Hostel Chains - Hostel Wiki
  7. ^ Arthur Frommer Online: The eruption of low-cost, private hostels all over the world is among the biggest developments in budget travel
  8. ^ starbulletin.com | Business | /2006/07/09/
  9. ^ CNN story
  10. ^ Allen Salkin, In Hostel Basement, Newcomer Sets Sights Far Up the Ladder," New York Times, March 14, 2009. Accessed March 16, 2009.
  11. ^ http://www.tra.australia.com/content/documents/Snapshots/2008/BackPacker_07_FINAL.pdf
  12. ^ Backpacker Tourism
  13. ^ http://www.tourismresearch.govt.nz/Documents/Tourism%20Sector%20Profiles/TotalAccommodationSectorMay07.pdf
  14. ^ http://www.tourismresearch.govt.nz/Data--Analysis/Tourism-Sector-Profiles/Accommodation/
  15. ^ a b Chillis Backpackers Hostel. "Chillis Backpackers Facilities". http://www.chillis.com.au/facilities.html. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  16. ^ Banyan View Lodge. "Banyan View Lodge facilities". http://www.banyanviewlodge.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4&Itemid=3. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  17. ^ Elke's Backpackers Resort Darwin. "Hostel Facilities". http://www.elkesbackpackers.com.au/facilities.html. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  18. ^ Frogshollow. "Budget backpacker accommodation in central Darwin". http://www.frogs-hollow.com.au/. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  19. ^ Melaleuca on Mitchell. "The Deck". http://www.melaleucaonmitchell.com.au/html/deck.html. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  20. ^ Youthshack. "Hello". http://www.youthshack.com.au/. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

This article is a travel topic.

Hostels (more commonly referred to as "youth hostels") are a loosely-defined form of guest house, generally low-budget compared to other places to sleep. Although often used by youth there is usually no upper age limit.

  • Hostels provide dormitory-style budget accommodation to travelers, with anywhere from two to dozens of guests sharing a room, depending on its size. Many hostels also provide private single and double rooms in addition to dormitory accommodation. Shared bathrooms are still the norm. For many hostelers, the opportunity to meet other travelers is part of their appeal.
  • Hostels vary widely in their rules and regulations, with a few hostels imposing a curfew (to avoid disturbing other guests, and so they can lock the doors) while most let you come and go at all hours. This depends on the hostel and its affiliation. Some hostels for instance, impose a limit to the number of days you can stay. However, this is quite rare and usually not the case in Europe, Australia and North America. Guests may have to provide their own sheets or standard "sleep sack" (a sheet folded over and sewn into a sleeping bag), and usually their own towels.
  • Some hostels separate accommodations for men and women (so a couple might have to split up for the night), while others place them together.
  • The quality of lodging can vary widely; some hostels are in beautiful historical buildings, resort style camping villages or well-kept modern facilities, while others are in spartan, aging structures. Some are clean and immaculate, others demand shower slippers and a strong stomach. All hostels which are part of the Hostelling International network to adhere to stringent quality guidelines and are subject to regular inspection. To find the best hostels, read hostel reviews online on different hostel websites.
  • Common facilities include a shared lounge, laundry room, and kitchen. Others have their own computer room with internet access. Many hostels now offer free wifi Internet.
  • If it's your first time staying at hostels, you might want to try somewhere near home and only one location, and see how you like it. Some of these places can be very cozy and welcoming, but a laid-back personality is definitely a must. This might include, for example, feeling comfortable leaving your backpack on top of your bed without any security while going out and about, simply risking to have all of your belongings stolen. Some hostels, but certainly not all, have lockers, or at least a secure lockable drawer.
  • Resist the desire of taking your latest hi-tech gadgets with you (bleeding-edge cell phones, cameras, computers and music players). Leaving the good ones home and taking the cheapest ones will certainly give you a more careless outlook of your staying, and hence you will enjoy it more. If you do have electronics with you, try to find hostels that offer free lockers.

Hostelling International organization

Many national hostelling organizations have joined together to form Hostelling International [1] (formerly International Youth Hostel Federation), which maintains lists of youth hostels around the world and even takes bookings for some online. Affiliated hostels usually offer a certain minimum standard of lodging and a degree of accountability, although usually the largest risk (in terms of theft) is your fellow travellers, not the management.

Note that in some countries, many hostels are not affiliated with HI. Hostels are less common in North America than in Europe. Particularly in poorer countries, the IYHF network may be very limited and possibly even more expensive than alternative accommodations. Also beware of hidden charges: for example, in Scandinavian countries it is typical to charge extra if you do not provide your own bedding.

Sailboat hostels

A sailboat hostel is a boat that has been redone for or dedicated to use as a hostel for international backpacker travelers. A sailboat hostel is a great way to see things that would otherwise be inaccessible or too expensive on a shoestring budget. A hostel of this sort should offer their beds at what could be considered a hosteling rate (roughly between $5 and $60 per day, depending on the country).

Sailboat hostels, depending on their size, can accommodate 3 or more people. Generally they would include a breakfast and some general sailing instruction and safety guidelines, as well as activities related to the sea such as snorkeling and surfing, to name only a couple.

While there are several stationary and motor-powered boat hostels, currently there are only a small handful of boats that could be considered sailboat hostels. This is a new kind of adventure, taking the spirit of international backpacker travel to the sea.

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