Your Guide for a Complete Hostel Experience

The term “hostel” may not always evoke excitement, but it truly deserves to!

What exactly is a hostel, and what’s the experience like? Loosely defined as “an establishment providing affordable lodging and food for specific groups like students, workers, or travelers,” hostels, particularly youth hostels, have evolved beyond mere cheap, budget accommodations. Many hostels are well-maintained, offering individual rooms and unique opportunities to immerse in various cultures and enhance your trip through social interactions. In the current era of travel and technology, where Couchsurfing and Airbnb have gained popularity, hostels often don’t receive the credit they deserve.

For instance, I managed to explore Southeast Asia on a budget of approximately $3 per night, thanks to the availability and affordability of hostels. No prior bookings were necessary – I simply arrived with a guidebook and a friendly demeanor, and finding a hostel was often quicker than locating an internet cafe. While it might not be as straightforward in certain countries, hostels in some places resemble hotels (at a fraction of the cost). In Morocco, I reserved a stay in Fez through Hostelworld and ended up in a stunning riad, a traditional Moroccan house with an interior courtyard.

This brings us to the topic of…

Finding the Ideal Hostel

Although not every hostel experience is a 5-star one, positive experiences tend to outnumber the negatives. The key to discovering the right hostel abroad lies in research. The following websites offer reviews and comparisons of amenities like free WiFi and breakfast

Hostelworld: Widely known and comprehensive, Hostelworld is an excellent starting point for seeking the perfect hostel. You can filter searches by neighborhood, explore house rules, and get details about upcoming events. The site covers everything you need to know about your prospective stay.

Hostelz: This site is a versatile tool for hostel travelers, offering smart and easy price comparisons across various booking platforms. It includes hostels not listed on other platforms and provides reviews and information about different types of hostels.

Hostelgeeks: Featuring detailed reviews of some of the world’s most impressive hostels, Hostelgeeks is a great resource. It also offers comprehensive city guides and top hostel recommendations for each destination. Though more renowned for general travel bookings, is also useful for hostel searches and even provides cashback benefits.

Hostelworks: Offering opportunities to exchange work for free accommodation in highly-rated hostels worldwide. This arrangement allows travelers to save money while immersing themselves in local culture.

How to Book a Hostel

Hostels can be booked in various ways, including online in advance or in-person upon arrival.

Online Booking: If you prefer planning ahead, booking online is ideal. This method reduces travel stress and usually requires a partial payment to secure your reservation. Most sites offer free cancellations up to 24 hours before arrival. In-

Country Booking: If you’re more spontaneous, booking in-country offers flexibility. You might have limited room options, but you’re not tied to specific dates. Arriving without reservations might lead to open beds due to cancellations or staff recommendations for nearby hostels.

What to Expect During Your Hostel Stay

During your hostel stay, you can anticipate a sense of community, camaraderie, various travel opportunities, engaging games, delightful food, and plenty of fun! High on my list of the most memorable hostel experiences is my time in Melaka, Malaysia. My friends and I hadn’t made advance reservations; instead, we arrived in the city and sought recommendations from fellow travelers. To our pleasant surprise, we were directed to a distinctive hostel where it was hard to distinguish guests from staff. It’s common for travelers to contribute at the front desk or take on roles like cleaning and kitchen duties in exchange for free accommodations and meals.

As mentioned earlier, Hostelworks is a platform that can help you discover such work, living, and travel arrangements. These types of hostel experiences foster an incredible sense of belonging and community. Some travelers had been living under this arrangement for months! We were warmly embraced by a diverse community of hostel dwellers hailing from Malaysia, Germany, France, Australia, India, Switzerland, and the United States. After introductions and mingling, we all went out for dinner at a local spot frequented by hostel guests. The next day, a few of our new roommates and us even explored the city together! This account is just one among numerous exceptional hostel stays.

While hostels in the U.S. aren’t as popular yet—road-trippers often lean toward budget motels and accumulating rewards at chain hotels like Holiday Inn Express—you can discover them in select cities. When you do stumble upon one, it’s akin to discovering a hidden treasure. Consider Austin, Texas, for instance. With its breathtaking views of Ladybird Lake and an eccentric, lively downtown area, you’ll feel transported to a tropical haven rather than the rugged Texan landscape. Yet, this desert oasis is no illusion; it quenches your thirst for live music, travel tales, vintage shopping, and diverse culinary experiences. Every seasoned hostel-goer has a recollection of a notably disappointing hostel experience. For me, it was in Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur. This subpar hostel was challenging to locate, featured extremely cramped rooms devoid of windows (which made it hard to ignore my roommate’s cigarette smoke), and lacked air conditioning. While the absence of A/C is usually manageable, the lack of fans and windows combined with soaring temperatures rendered it nearly unbearable. However, I soldiered through for a night, knowing I’d be moving to a much improved hostel the next day. This less-than-ideal hostel experience was my own doing—I had arrived late, leaving me with limited choices, the last pick of rooms/beds, and no reviews to guide me. I hope you can learn from my misstep and conduct thorough research (or at the very least, inspect the room upon arrival) to make informed decisions.

How the Travel Landscape has Been Reshaped by Hosteling?

Travel hasn’t always been attainable for young people, women, or those on tight budgets. However, hosteling has significantly eased global exploration for these demographics. Hostels existed before the rise of popular online travel apps and remain a fantastic option for those seeking to embark on journeys without depleting their funds. Furthermore, aside from being an excellent method to travel economically, hostels abroad offer several advantages. These encompass access to dependable, complimentary WiFi, communal meals with free breakfast commonly included, opportunities for mingling with fellow travelers from diverse nations, and the flexibility to manage reservations and stays. Hostels frequently present day-trips and other experiences that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive or challenging to arrange individually. The presence of knowledgeable local guides and seasoned travelers within overseas hostels is an invaluable asset. You might even join their ranks by enrolling in a hostel work exchange program through Hostelworks. Such exchanges provide a sustainable approach to global exploration while fostering responsible travel.

Work Exchange

Engaging in a work exchange is a departure from the typical vacation norms. It’s possible that you might not personally know anyone who has engaged in a work exchange before. I, too, underwent a range of emotions and thoughts about embarking on a journey through a work exchange before I took the plunge and embraced the experience. On one hand, there was a sense of trepidation, apprehensive about the prospect of investing my valuable vacation time in collaborative efforts with unfamiliar individuals. Conversely, I was struck by the incredible opportunity to allocate my travel budget judiciously and indulge in authentic experiences at remarkable global locales.

Looking back, I’m immensely grateful for having cast aside my concerns and embraced the concept of embarking on travels through work exchange opportunities. These experiences have proven to be profoundly meaningful and transformative. As you consider the possibility of immersing yourself in a work exchange opportunity, I urge you to explore the following ten questions. These introspective inquiries are indispensable tools to prepare yourself for the enriching journey of traveling through a work exchange facilitated by Hostekworks.


I trust that my recommendations for hostel stays within this guide have motivated you to explore alternatives beyond traditional travel and accommodation methods. By supporting hostels, you’re not only backing local communities but also promoting affordable and accessible travel for everyone!