Everyone stays in a hostel at least once during Interrail, Balkan tours, hitchhiking or a simple holiday. Most people use hostels for a common reason: Budget Accommodation. But still, some of us stay in hostels to meet an extra couple of people or find a travel companion. According to hostels.com (2011), people in deed stay in hostels since they are cheaper than other means of accommodation, they provide the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, and while travelling, it is the destination that counts, not the room or an expensive hotel lobby.
For those who lack the knowledge, the 2005 movie, Hostel, written and directed by Eli Roth is the reference, thus the perception is generally negative, and I have really seen people who believe someone could murder them at a hostel, however, it is safe to say that such a sick torture scene picking up their victims in a hostel does not exist, at least to my knowledge. There are, of course, good businesses and horrible ones and you naturally need to consider cleanliness, safety and noise while choosing your hostel, but this doesn’t mean that there will be a crime scene as there is in the movie.
Before moving on to the interesting facts about hostels, you may also want to have a look at the following articles:
1. Interesting facts about hotels
2. Interesting facts about tourism
3. Cheapest Hotel Search Engine
4. Cheapest HoStel Search Engine
5. The cities with the cheapest and the most expensive hotels
6. How to catch the best rate for any room
Hostels can actually be quite interesting, too, since there are really amazing ones which offer you more than just a bed. For instance, did you know that youth hostel concept is older than 100 years? That a huge jumbo jet operates as a hostel in Stockholm? Have you ever seen a mobile hostel? If the answer is “no”, proceed to the 20 facts about hostels that we compiled for you.
Altena Castle, Germany
1. The first hostel in the world was started in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany in 1912, in Altena Castle. Still in operation, the hostel is called Hostel Altena or Burg Altena.
Built in the first half of the 12th century, Altena Castle actually belonged to the House of Berg, who used to reside in and around Düsseldorf, Germany. The castle was initially called Wulfeshagen, but then its name was changed into Altena.
In 1912, as mentioned above, the castle was turned into a hostel by Richard Schirrmann, founder of the first hostel in the world, who was a German teacher. The same Schirrmann founded the first youth hostel association in 1919.
Today, Burg Altena has 36 beds with 5 rooms, and it is quite popular with all the history involved and the sights it has to offer.
2. There are approximately 2 million hostels in the world (hostels.com, 2013). As the need for budget accommodation increases, so does this number.
And this is exactly why one needs to make a careful choice of hostels while traveling or backpacking. Out of so many hostels, it would be only dreaming to expect that all of them are safe, clean or fun. To my own experience, there are many (really a lot of) hostels with only one toilet and shower, which, sooner or later through the course of your stay, becomes a problem. A discussion on hostelmanagement.com (2009) shows that there should be one toilet for 4-8 people, although I have seen hostels with one toilet for 30-50 people. Avoiding such places might come in handy for backpackers.
3. When hostels were first opened, they had really strict rules. Single-sex buildings, age limits, curfews and lockouts… Hostel “wardens” were responsible for the “order” in hostels.
Today, age limits, curfews and lockouts are not as common as it once was, although there are some who still carry on the tradition. Tokyo Central Youth Hostel, for instance, is reported by a tripadvisor user as still applying a curfew, which makes it impossible to enter the building after a certain hour (tripadvisor, 2014). Another user reports that the Emerald Fields Hostel in Florence, Italy is among those who apply a lockout during the day, probably for cleaning purposes (tripadvisor, 2013). Single-sex buildings, on the other hand, have usually left their places to female-only rooms, mostly targeting solo-female travelers.
4. There are still hostels that don’t let their beds to domestic tourists. It is said that this is applied to keep hostels cheap for international travellers.
A hostelmanagement.com user has a different opinion on this. Putting it quite harshly, s/he states that locals are not allowed in some hostel to protect international travelers, since they can easily be abused by the locals who know what to do / where to go in a particular city. Another user argues that some hostels in Australia allow Australians to stay only if they can provide proof of onward travel. A third user claims that in the US, homeless people tend to use hostels as a temporary means of accommodation and this creates a bad athmosphere (2011).
So it can be said that different managers have different reasons why they don’t let their beds to domestic tourists.
5. A lot of hostels used communal showers in the past, like in prison movies. But of course, girls and boys had to use different common showers.
In the modern sense, these communal showers were first used in the late 19th century by the Frency army, as an economic way of providing personal hygiene. Since then, communal showers have been used in army barracks, schools and prisons. Today, in the hostel business, communal showers are very rare, but they exist. For instance, a tripadvisor user indicates that the All In Hostel in Berlin, Germany still has sex segregated communal showers, but people do not really mind showering (2013).
6. In the past, there were more hostels with an age limit (i.e. 18-25). The reason for that was to call them ‘youth hostel’ for a reason. Today, some hostels still continue the tradition but most of them don’t have an age limit. They even serve children and families.
7. According to the research by Youth Travel Accommodation Association, Hostelworld an Hostelbookers in 2010:
- Occupancy rate: 56%
- Highest occupancy rate: Oceania and Asia
- Beds cover 70% of the total income
- High season average price: 21 Euros
- Low season average price: 15 Euros
- Rent and personnel expenses cover 45% of expenses
- Advertisements cover 10% of expenses
- 8% of hostels have joined ecological certification programs
8. Lots of hostels operate in areas with lower rental fees. This way, they keep their expenses to a minimum and keep the facility steadily economic for backpackers.
However, this may also cause some disadvantages on behalf of the travelers. Since central areas of cities have higher rental fees, economy might mean being at least a little bit far away from the city centre, so one might have to add public transport costs to the cost of accommodation.
Hostel Arlanda, Sweden
9. Hostel/Hotel Arlanda, Sweden is actually a restored 747 jumbo jet. Yes, you sleep in an aircraft!
Nowadays operating under the name “Jumbo Stay”, Hostel Arlanda was converted from a Jumbo Jet 747-212B from 1976. The hostel (rather the aircraft) today consists of 33 rooms with a total number of 76 beds and the number of beds per room ranges from 1 to 4. The price for a night as of January 2016 is around $50 and the aircraft has a cafe & bar within its body.
10. Langholmen’s Hostel, Sweden is actually a restored prison.
Another interesting hostel from Sweden… The hostel (and hotel) is actually what was once called Kronohäkte or the Crown Prison. The building was erected in 1840 as a prison with open floors and single cells and operated until 1970. Today, the visitors stay in cells (no lockdown, don’t worry) designed in a modern fashion and some of the cells even have toilets and showers. Apart from regular activities like guided tours or biking, the hostel also offers interesting activities such as “prisoner for a day” or “prison escape”.
Clerkenwell Magistrates’ Court
11. Clink Hostel (Clink78), London is actually a court house.
Meaning ‘prison’ in the British slang, Clink Hostel was once the Clerkenwell Magistrates’ Court. A Magistrates Court in England is usually of lower status, aiming to come to a conclusion quickly. With a limited power of sentencing, there are around 300 Magistrates’ Courts in England today. However, today this particular court is a beautiful hostel, having a pub, movie and internet lounges within the facilities. Also offering actual prison cells, the hostel has mixed or single-sex dorms along with private rooms. The price for a night in the dorm is around 13-15 Pounds and the prison cell is 50 pounds per night.
12. The term “Sailboat hostel” is used for hostels that are actually boats. Also called ‘Floating Hostels’, a sailboat hostel can be seen in Sweden, namely af Chapman.
There are also many more sailboat hostels, such as “Little Sailboat Hostel”, Taiwan or Sercotel Barcelona, Spain. If you are not a sea-sick sort of person, it could be quite fun to stay at a sailboat hostel.
af Chapman Hostel, Sweden
13. You need to be a member of Hostelling International to stay in a member hostel. If you’re not a member, most hostels offer annual or temporary memberships.
For regular backpackers, being a member of Hostelling International can actually be quite advantageous since member hostels usually have discounts, both for accommodation and activities, even museums, in some cases. Membership can be bought from member hostels or Hostelling International offices, as well as the official website of the organization.
14. Since most hostels do not have room service, you are required to keep your stuff together and use them neatly.
This is especially important in crowded hostels because the lockers in hostels maybe big just enough to store your valuables and your backpack might have to be left around near your bed. If you and your neighbours do not heed the advice, you may end up trying to figure out which clothes are yours and which are not. Furthermore, personal items left in the bathroom might irritate other people. Personally, I keep my stuff packed all the time when I stay in a hostel, use what I need to use and put them back into my backpack.
15. The “mobile hostel” movement started by a hostel called “Hostival” still continues in some festivals. The mobile hostel could be a campsite, a caravan, a bus or anything possible… But beware, a mobile hostel would typically have mobile toilets and showers.
16. Most hostels offer private rooms as well as shared rooms. This has been getting more and more common recently, however, if you are not familiar with the concept of hostel in general, keep in mind that you are not required to sleep in the same room with 40 people in most hostels. To my experience, most private hostel rooms have shared bathrooms, so you won’t have your own toilet and shower, but there is also an increasing number of en-suite hostel rooms.
17. Married couples also stay at hostels, even with their children!
This is for those who (falsely) believe that hostels are for dirty backpackers. First thing, backpackers do not have to be dirty, although a life on the road is for sure a little bit different than a life at home. Secondly, There are numerous hostels that are extremely clean with adequate shower and laundry facilities. Being married, or having a child, does not necessarily have to keep you from staying in a hostel. Even if you are into your privacy, private rooms exist, as mentioned in the previous item.
18. The number of hostels offering free wi-fi is higher than the number of hotels offering the same.
I personally find it quite ridiculous to charge people for using wi-fi, but that’s what many hotel chains do, unfortunately. Luckily, more and more cities offer free wi-fi in central areas, which could be seen as a sign of a wider wi-fi coverage in the future. Still, statistics say that hostels offer free wi-fi. In countries like Greece, it is not really a problem since wi-fi is almost free everywhere, check out our “Travel Tips for Greece” for more info.
A hostel with swimming pool…
19. Some modern hostels have a swimming pool and a sauna. Dream Home Hostel in Laos, Plus Florence in Italy and Oasis Backpackers Hostel in Spain are among the few. If your destination is a sea-side resort, it may not mean much to have a swimming pool at your hostel, but in inland cities, having one might be fun.
20. Bed prices around the world can change between 1 Euro (Garden Village Guesthouse, Cambodia) to 120 Euros (Meininger Berlin, Germany) According to the users of hostelmanagement.com, wi-fi or such amenties do not really add to the price per night, however, increasing real estate prices force hostel owners to increase their prices per night.
As you see, it is not really possible to generalize our knowledge of hostels. It is possible to find a hostel that can serve any kind of need, hosting any kind of people. One thing is certain, hostels are great places to make new friends! If you still have questions regarding hostels, please check out our “Hostels” page…
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