What’s a Hostel?

Hostels provide friendly, inexpensive overnight accommodations for travelers. All hostels are different and unique in their own way. But the common element is the interaction among guests.

To help all, especially the young, gain a greater understanding of the world and its people through hostelling. — Mission Statement of Hostelling International USA

Hostels offer dormitory-style rooms with separate quarters for men and women, and some hostels also offer private rooms. All hostels provide a blanket and pillow. Linens are often included in the price, or available for rental.

Most hostels offer fully equipped self-service kitchens or cafeterias, dining areas, secure storage and common rooms for relaxing and socializing with other travelers. Some hostels have laundry facilities, travel libraries and concierge service. There are a few that even have hot tubs, swimming pools, barbecues and an ocean at its front door. Most urban hostels have secure 24-hour access and are handicapped accessible.


In 1912, in Altena Castle, 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 require chores beyond washing up after self-catered meals or have a “lockout.”