8 Hostels you’re likely to encounter on the road

Nov 25, 2014

What do you think of when you see the word “hostel?” Travel? Grungy backpacker nests? Bedbugs? Budget travel? Youngsters? STD’s? Whatever pops into your mind, you probably recognize hostels as budget oriented accommodations where guests rent a bed. In this post, we’ll talk about 8 types of hostels you’re sure to encounter on the road.

Now before we get into the list, let me first say that I love hostels. They are a godsend for budget travelers like us and in most instances they are enjoyable places to stay. You’ll find some pictures in this post of some really nice places that we enjoyed quite a bit but you’ll also hear about some places to avoid. Unfortunately, I didn’t anticipate writing this post so I didn’t take any pictures of those dilapidated and disappointing-in-every-way piles of shit; who would want to remember those places anyway? Now this list is in no way complete but consider it a “Part 1” and stay tuned for a future post on the same topic.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, read on.


The “Money Maker” Hostel:

This place is all about making money. They sell snacks and drinks at high prices, will offer to book any tour they can make a buck off, skim some profits from taxi drivers and bus services and do whatever they can to cut costs at every corner. They run lean and are ever perfecting the art of reducing costs. In many instances, these hostels are ok places to stay but don’t expect the cleanest bathrooms or the most well equipped kitchens. Hostels take a lot of wear and tear, at the Money Maker hostel, replacing things is done only when absolutely necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I respect these places for what they do but some have a tendency to sacrifice too much in the name of saving a few cents.


The “Community” Hostel

Community Hostels are usually pretty fun places to stay for a few nights and have a very social atmosphere. You might not find them to be the best value of all the options but more often than not, everything will be adequate and the staff will be super helpful and friendly. The owners of these hostels are pretty active in the day-to-day operation and the hostel itself is in many instances a reflection of the owners’ personality.

Your standard hostel kitchen at Pura Vida Mini Hostel in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Not a bad place.

The “Cheapest Place Available” Hostel

You know before you even step through the front door what you’re getting yourself into with these places. Saggy mattress, maybe a little stinky, too few bathrooms and probably a little filthy, are just some of the characteristics that describe these walled buildings with roofs. If everything else runs about $15 per night and you’re only paying $7.50, expect to get less than half of what the other hostels offer. Given that hostels are pretty bare bones anyway, you’re in for a “unique experience” at these places. Kitchen… maybe. Helpful staff… probably not helpful if you can even find anyone who works here. Common area to hang out in… be sure you have some shots and wear protection. Like wearing skinny jeans, it seems like a good idea until you realize just how little there actually is.


The “Boutique” Hostel

This place might cost a little more than every other option in the area but in most instances, you’re going to get good value. Boutique hostels take pride in being good places to stay without being expensive. Sure, they are in it to make money but they don’t let it go too far. The most important thing for the owners of these hostels is often Tripadvisor reviews and being different than the competition. That’s a very good thing for the average backpacker who wants a nice place to stay but doesn’t have room in the budget for a splurge. In many instances you’ll hear about these places from other travelers who had a great stay and wish they could take the hostel with them to other locations.

The dorms at Happy Budha Hostal in Medellin, Colombia


The “I put beds in every room of my house and now call it a Hostel” Hostel

The quality of these hostels can be hit or miss. If the house is not laid out well then the rooms can be a little strange. Many houses are also not built to accommodate 15-25 travelers on a daily basis so you may have a hard time getting into a bathroom. Kitchens are likely to be pretty good and with any luck, you'll be in a decent area. We've had fairly good luck with these places. In fact, we stayed at one that was really excellent in Cali, Colombia. The owner was a super nice guy and the house was really nice. It was as if he inherited a great house in a really nice neighborhood and decided partying with backpackers was way better than whatever other job he was doing.


The “Travelers” Hostel

A travelers hostel is often characterized by its owner, a fellow long-term traveler turned hostel owner who’s had his/her fair share of hostel stays and knows just what people are looking for in a good hostel. These places are everywhere and generally pretty darn good places to stay. The owners are usually pretty active in the day-to-day operation and they hang out with guests regularly. Travelers hostels are usually good places to stay with excellent value. The owner cares, keeps an eye on things, and while they want to make money they readily recall all the shit holes they’ve stayed in and vow never to join their ranks.

Hostal Tucan in Uvita, Costa Rica. Great owners who live on-site and run an excellent and efficient place. Love it!


The “Party” Hostel

The party hostel is often a mix of other hostels in terms of value but they are equally focused on the atmosphere of the place and the money their bar brings in as they are with the hostel itself. Sometimes, it’s as if someone opened a bar in a prime location and the owner of the building said “hey, I’ve got more building for rent if you also want to have a hostel.” To which the bar owner replied “why the hell not, if nothing else we’ll have a place to dump the regulars when they’ve passed out.” These places are adequate for your needs but let’s be honest, when you’ve been drinking the local gut-rot and making questionable decisions all night, you’re probably not going to notice the thin mattress or untidy bathroom.

Dorm beds at Hotel Trudy's (Underwater Vision( on Utila. Clean, comfy and full of sin... if only these walls could talk.


The “We strive for perfection… sorta” Hostel

This is the hostel that is pretty darn nice inside with good amenities but something important is missing. It could be something as simple as cooking utensils or something as critical as a placed fan to circulate the air in a large dorm room. It’s as if someone put together a hostel with the best intentions in mind but never actually slept in a hostel, let alone their own hostel. I can’t tell you how often we’ve stayed somewhere that had a stellar kitchen but none of the pans had handles and there were literally no spatulas or cooking utensils anywhere. I can only imagine the owner doesn’t cook very often and simply recognized that a kitchen requires a sink, a stove, some counters, cabinets and a refrigerator. The almost perfect hostel is usually a good place to stay but it all depends on that one thing they are missing and how crucial it is.

A super cool place in Santa Marta, Colombia. This is Drop Bear Hostal. Almost perfect but no spatulas...WTF!?


The “Destination” Hostel

Yes they are hostels but they are not there to provide a base for your roaming about the city or seeing the sites. Instead, these hostels are here for the experience. Generally, they are unique in some way like built in a tree, on a cliff, in the middle of the jungle, etc. You go to these hostels to be there and check out the surroundings a little. I have enjoyed all of these hostels for the most part but you have to do your research and understand what you’re getting into. For example, if the place is high in the mountains in the jungle somewhere, chances are good that you will not be cooking your own meals or have access to a simple store for snacks, beers, etc. Depending on the location that might not be such a bad thing but arrive unprepared and you could be in for an expensive stay. (Note from the pros: Always travel with liquor for cheap cocktail making.)

A pretty cool place in Panama named "Lost and Found."


So which type of hostel do I prefer? I would have to say the Destination hostel, the Boutique hostel and the Party hostel in that order. I’ll surely stay at the other places but when I have a good selection to choose from, I usually read the reviews left by other travelers and try to figure out what type of hostel each place is. My top priorities are of course clean and comfortable beds but after that, give me a good location, a decent kitchen and a social atmosphere. As long as I can sleep comfortably, cook a meal and meet some cool people I will be pretty satisfied.


Think I missed an important type of hostel? Well I don’t care… no, that’s a lie. I actually do care and want to know what I missed. Leave me a comment and let me know what type of hostel I should be on the look out for and I may just add it to my Part 2 post. 

Category: Accommodations

Please add a comment

Posted by ryan mondich on
Dont forget the Israeli hostel, although i have yet to stay at one.
Leave a Reply

(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)

Captcha Code

Click the image to see another captcha.