The Meaning of Hostel 

Updated: Jan 3

European hostels. The backpackers go to. With thrifty prices and all the necessities, it’s the perfect over-night stay that, in most cases, beats sleeping on a park bench.


During my first trip to Greece in 2007, we stayed in some badass accommodation for next to nothing. Pensiones/ hostels for 10 euro a night for both me and my bestie. Sure, one time the owner came in at 3 am trying to steal our chair and that same lady knowingly gave my friend’s passport to a total stranger but those moments are precious and well worth the 10 euro price tag.


I went back to Europe in 2010 where I stayed in hostels costing 11 euro a night per person for a 4 bedroom with an ensuite. Still reasonable. It was in Prague and it even had a swimming pool. I stayed in glorious hostels like the Budapest Bubble in Hungary where the owner took us out drinking and showed us crazy cool things around the city. The common area was more like a living room since everyone sat there chatting like they had known each other for years. There was a computer available and WIFI but hardly anyone had smartphones or cared to check their email let alone social media. We were content with being in the moment, chilling with strangers on a couch. I remember when the amount you got for your 11 euros was more than just the bed and shared kitchen, it was your home away from home. LAME but true. You could walk downstairs wearing your retainer and no one would think anything of it.


That was then.


Flash forward to 2016 in Spain where the cheapest accommodation (excluding one that looks like bad things would happen to me) was a 12 bed mixed dorm for 15.00 euros a night. My nights were averaging 16 euros which aren’t including the odd one charging an extra 3 euros for bedding. An extra charge for that thin sheet you get to sleep on that may or may not have been washed. I couldn’t believe it. I haven’t even mentioned the private rooms that cost more than a hotel room or the price increase on weekends and festivals. I kid you not, in Amsterdam, you can spend over 100 euros on a hostel night. You end up being charged a hotel room price but then still have to communally share a shower and have to clean your bedding up afterward like some peasant.


When did this happen? Was I sleeping for the last 6 years?


Not only are they charging almost double what it was but I feel as though they have distorted the meaning of hostel. I have recently stayed in hostels where check-in was only between 4-8 pm. Where I had to phone someone to answer the door in order to be let in. Where the person working barely gave me a hello let alone any tips and advice. Where there was no free Nutella and bread for breakfast. Now don’t get me wrong, they are not all like this. I stayed at one hostel called Duermevela in Segovia, Spain which was fantastic. The owner sat down next to me and explained the entire city including his favorite places to get free tapas when you buy a drink. I just find now it is less common than it was. Before this was the norm, now I am surprised when someone takes the time to explain their city to me. I never assumed that owning a hostel is a huge moneymaker. I genuinely believed that hostel owners were once backpackers themselves. So why are they trying to money grab? Charge for a locker, charge for a towel. Some hostels are straying away from what a hostel is actually supposed to be. For backpackers. For people who love to travel but can’t afford a hotel and want to meet people. Some hostels now are almost hotels disguised as hostels which is very deceiving.


I get it, stuff like inflation and Airbnb makes it harder than it once was but I am poor and want to travel so if you could please bring back the meaning of hostel that would be chill.

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