It is the eternal question: What is a Hostel? The definition of a hostel can be complex and at the same time quite simple. One part is the definition of the hostel by book. The other one is the ideology.
We decided to dedicate a full article to the topic of what is a hostel. As part of our extensive guide to hostels, we are keen to walk you through the different hostel definitions out there. We will walk you through the process to understand what is the meaning of hosteling. We will be starting with the very basic definition of a hostel. Then we will jump into the details to see what Hosteling actually means – for travelers, for the owners.
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So, what is a Hostel? Is it a lifestyle, simply a low budget accommodation? Maybe a place with certain values? We at Hostelgeeks knocked from hostel door to hostel door to get answers. Owners and managers of the 5 Star Hostels gave us their point of view.
Our full guide to hostels covers every single part you need to know about hostels. From booking platforms, facilities, and background information.
Let us start at the very beginning.
The simple answer: „What is a Hostel“
Do you want an easy answer. Here you go. There is a very basic definition by the book.
“a hostel is a budget accommodation with a minimum of 1 dormitory and 1 common area.”
Simple as that. Period!
Traveler usually share the common areas and stay at a dorm, but also private rooms are nowadays common. We wrote a detailed article about the different hostel room types. The wikipedia entry about hostels also covers the different meanings of hostels across the UK, Ireland, India, Australia, Pakistan, and South Africa.
In total, there are 7 types of hostels. You will notice that hostels nowadays cover a wide range from a cheap-cheaper-hostel up to Boutique Hostels and finally 5 Star Hostels.
„What is a Hostel“ – The Definitions
As you can see, it is quite simple to find out “What is a Hostel”. However, there is more. In fact, there is plenty of more things to consider. We asked several hostels owners and managers of the 5 Star Hostels about “What is a Hostel?”.
The hostel definitions range from complex, to simple, and ideological.
1. Lollis Homestay in Dresden, Germany
The Lollis Homestay is a genuine backpackers hostel with a social heart. It is the awarded 5 Star Hostel for Dresden, an absolute gem, perfect to visit in between Berlin and Prague. Here you can find our full review of Lollis Homestay.
So, we asked Lolli, the owner of Lollis Homestay on his opinion. Here is what he says:
“A hostel is a place, where backpackers stay. It can be a huge crowded party hostel in any capital of Europe, it can also be cheap place where mainly long term guests sleep or even a private hostal in Ecudador.
Actually, it could be even a hotel, if that’s the only choice at the place you go. I experienced all of them and despite they are very different, they all combine one thing:
It will be the place, no matter of facilities, dorms or private rooms, manned or not, where you will most likely meet other travelers.
Because this is the idea of a hostel: Meet other like minded people. A good hostel is a hostel, where you will easily find some company.”
2. Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof, Interlaken
The Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof is the 5 Star Hostel in Interlaken, Switzerland. It is popular for being the calm and cosy home for the adventurous traveler. After a long, adrenalin-loaded day, the Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof invites the guests to relax and kick-back.
So, what is a Hostel? This is what Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof says:
“A clean, safe, friendly place to stay overnight. You can share a room, called dormitory (dorms), with other travelers that you don’t know. This way traveling gets cheaper and a lot more fun. Usually you find anything from 4-10 bed dorms.
One can expect to find lots of public space to be and socialize, often a self catering kitchen. Young and cool staff that help with things to do. Some hostels can be particularly cool for the party crowd, others for families or adventure cracks. Have a look what’s on offer and make sure to find the right spot for you!
Be prepared to get talked to, because this is part of the hostel experience.”
3. Sunset Destination Hostel Lisbon
There are many fabulous hostels in Lisbon. However, there is only 5 Star Hostel in Lisbon. The Sunset Destination Hostel is a special hostel with a big roof top terrace. But that’s not it. The Sunset Destination Hostel also comes with a great swimming pool on its very roof top terrace. EPIC!
What is a hostel? Here is the hostel definition of Sunset Destination Hostel:
“Until few years (probably the best secular definition will be of before and after the Internet and of the Low Cost airlines companies), the Hostels were spaces for “backpackers”, the habitual tourists with heavy backpacks and little money in the pocket.
Today, the Hostel is the result of an evolution from the conventional Youth hostels, being fit somewhere between these and Charm Hotel. The model is mush more flexible, being able to co-exist private rooms (also “ensuite”), as in any conventional Hotel unit, with dormitories.
With the Charm Hotels it has in common the care for tasty decoration and the personalized attention given to the customer, complementary with the hygiene and good services.
The essential in a Hostel is its social spaces.
Joao, Sunset Destination Hostel
And these are common and made to be used in a way that will raise opportunity to meet other guests.
A stay in a Hostel is out of a Hotel standard, and more than a bed, it is an all experience that is sold. Although a room is considered low budget exists an increasing requirement from these customers, as for example, free access to the Internet, breakfast included, high standards conditions for hygiene, safety and security.
The customer type is what currently is called FlashPacker (evolution of the Backpacker), a fast-growing segment of travelers who choose a economic lodging, while they spend freely in activities in the chosen destinations. One mixes of low cost and luxury.”
4. Ani&Haakien Hostel in Rotterdam
The Ani&Haakien Hostel is the 5 Star Hostel in Rotterdam. Known for its artsy vibe, Ani&Haakien is a perfect example to show what is a top hostel. Their various common spaces are comfy and inviting. And they even have a hostel cat, giving it a homely feeling.
We at Hostelgeeks asked the owners of Ani&Haakien: What IS a hostel?
“When people ask us what we do for a living, we tell them we run a Hostel..A hostel..what? Yes a Hostel! Its a place where travelers share everything with each other! It’s a feeling, a lifestyle, a way of thinking! Don’t you know? If you’ve been brave enough to leave your life for a while, to discover the world with just a backpack, you know what we are talking about.
For us, most hostels felt like home. Before we even knew where we gonna stay that night, we talked about taking a nice hot shower upon arrival when traveling through the cold Siberia. Or talking about painting our nails after climbing the Chinese wall…’tonight when we get HOME’ we can kick off our shoes and walk around on our socks.
There is no fun in experiencing something beautiful without sharing it with others.
Joyce, Ani&Haakien Hostel
There is a big feeling of solidarity. A huge community of travelers wandering around the world. They meet each other in little homes called hostels. When you enter a good hostel you feel it immediately. It is the music they play, the smiles and friendly faces you see, the smell of food coming out of the kitchen, the conversations guest have..you know you can get good travel information there. And finally get rid of that heavy backpack!
Entering your bedroom, you meet your new friends for the next couple of days. It’s not only about sleeping for a cheap price, it’s more about meeting people. Sharing stories, learning about other ways of life, learning about yourself, meeting new friends for life.”
5. Swanky Mint Hostel in Zagreb
We just learned from Ani&Haakien: enter a good hostel, and you will feel immediately comfortable. The Swanky Mint Zagreb is such a place Awarded with the 5 Star Hostel Award, the Swanky Mint managed to combine an outstanding industrial design hostel with the soul of a true hostel.
We at Hostelgeeks asked Swanky Mint Hostel: WHAT IS A HOSTEL? Here is what they say:
“In our opinion and in our hostel philosophy, we like to think that sleeping is just a human need. We all have to have a good and clean bed. But we also know that our guests need adventure, experience and local, social vibe when they travel. That is why we always emphasize the letter S in a word HOSTEL.
It simply means Social and makes a huuuuge difference between hostel and a hotel, as can be confirmed by TripAd analysis.”
6. Maverick City Lodge in Budapest
Let’s talk about Budapest. The city is known for its party nightlife, and so many Hostels. We at Hostelgeeks awarded the Maverick City Lodge Budapest with the 5 Star Hostel Award. It brings together the worlds of a cosy, comfy, yet social and active vibe. The Maverick City Lodge is located in Budapest, but certainly not a party hostel. It appeals to the different, modern travelers as well as families.
So, what do they think is a good way to describe a hostel?
“Our definition of a hostel: By the book it is an accommodation where you can rent not just rooms but beds too. By the ideology it is a place where travelers unite, have a good time and with the help of the hostel operator, they also get to know more about the city, country which they visit.
Just like a very large family.
Sandor, Maverick City Lodge
By me as a hostel owner it is a great experience to meet people from all around the world with different background and age and provide them a good stay in Budapest.”
7. The Spot Cosy Hostel in Cluj, Romania
The Spot Cosy Hostel – the name says it all! The Spot Cosy Hostel is a handmade design hostel in Cluj, Romania. Their design is a wonderful reflecting of the local art. Upcycling deluxe while hammocks are found all over the place. The Spot Cosy Hostel is truly a 5 Star Hostel with an artistic heart.
We asked the artists about their point of view.
“A Hostel? This is You, waking up in a bed, on a lazy, warm morning.
This is You enjoying the sweet tickle between your face’s skin and the pillow below it.
This is You smiling and smelling the breeze of home.
This is You, forgetting the word ‘guest’ in a place that feels like the most natural spot on the face of the Earth at that point in space and time.
This is Us, behind the curtains, making sure that the tea sip you’re tasting at our place gets the best possible surrounding.
This is Us, the decorators of your Soul’s experience. The hosts of your well-deserved pause. The characters that make your journey feel just right.
This is Our Place. Yours and Ours. The Hostel. With all the stories behind it, with its birth and its reason to be. That can’t be separated from our reason to be. This is a lifestyle. Behind walls and pieces of furniture, behind sheets and gardens there is the vibrant life itself. That gathers all of us together.”
8. Happynest Hostel in Chiang Rai
This is Happiness, this is Happynest Hostel. The Happynest Inspiring Hostel is an outstanding Hostel, awarded with the 5 Star Hostel award. This accommodation understands the value of a hostel. An open-space design concept, combined with design details, cosy common spaces, and a welcoming ambient.
Happynest Hostel keeps it simple:
“A home away from home. A place to socialize with strangers, get to know local culture and sleep tight at night.”
9. Ecomama and Cocomama in Amsterdam
Usually, there is only one 5 Star Hostel in each city. But not in Amsterdam. The two 5 Star Hostels in Amsterdam belong to the same owners. The most remarkable is that they managed to create a unique style for both Hostels, yet matching.
A hostel is your travel mama’s house.
Anika, Cocomama Hostel
Cocomama Amsterdam is the first boutique Hostel in Amsterdam. It comes with a large garden, a boutique design, and only groups of max 4 people are allowed here. This ensures a cosy, social vibe. Each room comes with a theme e.g. the “Royal Room”, the “Big Brothel Dorm”, and they even a “Cheese Dorm”.
What about Ecomama? Ecomama Amsterdam is the green sister of Cocomama. The hostels design is based on upcycled furniture and design elements. A green inspiring design. The rooms have names like “boys are smelly” and “Luxury with an attitude-Travelers”. Here, bigger groups are more than welcome, and the common areas a spacious.
Here is a definition of a Hostel by the owners of Ecomama and Cocomama:
“a hostel is your best starting place for a new adventure.
a hostel is your home base while traveling.
a hostel is a meeting point for new friends you haven’t met yet.
a hostel is your travel mama’s house.”
10. Oxotel, 5 Star Hostel in Chiang Mai
The Oxotel is the 5 Star Hostel in Chiang Mai. The WOW-Effect is included. Whether you enjoy your comfy room, the bohemian café or even the green garden – wow is a common word here.
“In our opinion, the hostel is like the accommodation where guests can share and exchange the cultural experience. By Oxotel, we have a lot of space for the social common areas where guests can share their experience to each others and I hope they feel like home while they’re staying with us.
The “X” in Oxotel feels like the people from over around the world (North, South, East, West) could meet each others here and some will get a good relationship back on their mind”
11. Sputnik Hostel and Personal Space in Moscow
The Sputnik Hostel and Personal Space is a gorgeous, small Hostel in the heart of Moscow. From outside it looks shy, but from the inside you will be blown away by its beautiful interior design. We asked as well the Russian team behind Sputnik Hostel and Personal Space.
“Hostels are so much better than hotels and much more interesting than regular apartments.
You have locals to ask for anything and foreigns to make bunch of new friends.
– Kristina from Sputnik Hostel
At the same time you can think about a hostel as a hotel and be on your own or you can be the heart of the hostel, all up to you! But just imagine, what can be more exciting than having a cup of mate with tango dancers from Argentina, at the same time discussing The Great Wall of China with Chinese school workers and enjoying a real Dutch cheese from Amsterdam backpackers. Hostel is a lifestyle and our own personal world, which we are so happy to share!”
12. Yim Huai Khwang Hostel, Bangkok
The Yim Huai Khwang Hostel is the 5 Star Hostel in Bangkok. “Yim” is thai and it means smile. Now, this is a great starting point, right?! We asked them what hosteling means.
“In our opinion, a hostel is a place where like-minded travelers sharing smiles, laugh, stories and friendship.”
Finally: Is there only 1 answer?
The answer is: no, there is not the one and only definition of what is a hostel. Other than for hotels, there
is was no standard for hostels. The only fix standard for hostels is the 5 Star standard, unique to Hostelgeeks.com
It is one of the reasons why we at Hostelgeeks started the 5 Star Hostel award. You can find all official 5 Star Hostels with us.
Find out what is a 5 Star Hostel with us.
Summary “What is a Hostel?”
You see, a Hostel has different angles to look at. Besides the fact that a hostel is a budget accommodation, it is also an easy way to find fellow travelers. Whether it is for having a drink together, share travel tips, or whatever you fancy. A Hostel comes in handy when traveling around and looking for fellow travelers.
And then there is the ideological part of your questions “What is a Hostel”. It is a space to share, a community, a a travel style, and even lifestyle. It is the home and the 2nd home. After all: A hostel is a shared accommodation. Share the space, laughs, stories, and smiles.
Do you want to learn more about Hostels? In our full guide to European Hostels we cover everything you need to know. We even created a post for a packing list when staying at Hostels, including free download.
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