Youth Hostels: What Are They and How Do They Differ From Normal Hostels?

Youth Hostels: What Are They and How Do They Differ From Normal Hostels?

So, what exactly is a youth hostel? And how does it differ from a normal hostel?

The original purpose of a youth hostel was to offer affordable communal accommodation to young travelers—specifically students in their teens and early twenties.

This allowed them to explore the natural world safely and within a budget.

Today, although the targeted age group has broadened, the essence and mission remain unchanged.

But first: if you're looking for a youth hostel, check out our articles on the best youth hostels throughout different cities.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Brief Definition of a Youth Hostel

  • Youth Hostel 101: A youth hostel is a budget-friendly, communal accommodation designed primarily for young travelers. Think of it as a place where you can get a good night's sleep for an affordable price. They’re usually cheaper than a standard hostel, making it perfect for those who are young and on a budget.
  • Key Differences: The main difference between youth hostels and normal hostels is the target audience. Youth hostels cater specifically to younger travelers, typically offering lower prices and a more youthful atmosphere (no crazy party scene or older adult-like atmosphere).

Groups: It is also worth it to mention that many Youth Hostels cater to large groups like school trips or sport teams.

How Old Are People in Youth Hostels?

  • Age Range: Typically, guests range from 18 to 35 years old. Some youth hostels accept teens under 18 as well, but you’ll need to specifically check requirements (parent permission, etc…)
  • Age Limits: Some youth hostels have age limits to keep the atmosphere consistent, usually around 35 years old.

Here is our guide on age limits in hostels.

History of Hostels

  • Humble Beginnings: The concept of youth hostels started in 1909 when a German schoolteacher, Richard Schirrmann, had a vision to provide affordable accommodations for young travelers. He believed in creating a space where young people could explore nature and learn from each other.
  • The First Hostel: Schirrmann opened the first youth hostel in Altena Castle in Germany in 1912. It was a simple setup with straw beds and communal duties, but it marked the beginning of a global movement.

Types of Accommodations Available


Trek Global Backpackers, one of the best youth hostels in Wellington, NZ.

  • Dorms: The most common option, dorms can range in size (accommodating anywhere between 4 or 32 people) and are often the cheapest. You'll share the space with several other travelers, which can be a fun and social experience.
  • Private Rooms: For those who want a bit more privacy, many youth hostels offer private rooms.
  • Female-Only Dorms: To cater to the preferences and comfort of female travelers, many youth hostels offer female-only dorms.
  • Specialty Rooms: Some hostels offer themed rooms or unique sleeping arrangements, like pod beds or tents, adding a bit of novelty to your stay.

Differences Between Youth Hostels and Normal Hostels

Youth hostel

Ucpa Sport Station Hostel, one of the best youth hostels in Paris.

  • Age Matters: Youth hostels mainly attract travelers in their teens to early 30s, while normal hostels welcome people of all ages. You say it’s like comparing a college dorm to a mixed-age community center. Here is our guide on age limits in hostels.
  • Budget-Friendly: Youth hostels are usually cheaper than standard hostels. They understand that young travelers are often working with tight budgets, so they keep costs low without sacrificing too much comfort.
  • Social Atmosphere: While youth hostels are social, they’re not necessarily party-central. They foster a friendly, communal atmosphere with shared spaces for hanging out, playing games, or cooking together. Don’t expect wild parties every night; it's more about making connections and sharing experiences.
  • Facilities and Perks: Youth hostels often have fun designs and offer amenities like game rooms, cozy common areas, and sometimes even special events or tours aimed at young travelers.

Hostelling International


Auberge de Jeunesse HI Paris Le d'Artagnan, one of the best HI youth hostel in Paris.

You might have heard of the global youth hostel network called Hostelling International (HI).

Here's what they offer:

  • Global Network: With thousands of HI hostels in over 80 countries, you can find a welcoming place wherever your travels take you.
  • Quality Standards: HI hostels adhere to specific standards for cleanliness, safety, and amenities.
  • Sustainable Practices: HI is committed to environmental responsibility, implementing eco-friendly practices.

HI Membership: While staying at HI hostels is open to everyone, becoming a member unlocks additional benefits:

  • Discounts: HI members enjoy discounts on accommodation at HI hostels worldwide, as well as discounts on local transportation, attractions, and even gear rentals.
  • Exclusive Access: Some HI hostels offer members-only rates or special deals on activities and events.
  • Community Connection: HI membership connects you to a global community of like-minded travelers who share your passion for exploring the world.

You should also know, each country has its "own name of Hostelling International". Basically, these are the member associations operating over 2,650 hostels around the world. HI has a list of their entire network here. Here are a few examples:

  • DJH (German Youth Hostel Association): With over 450 hostels across Germany, they offers a diverse range of accommodations, from castles to modern eco-friendly buildings.
  • Stayokay (Dutch HI Association): Stayokay operates over 20 unique hostels throughout the Netherlands, many housed in historic buildings like former schools and monasteries.
  • New Zealand: Youth Hostels Association of New Zealand Inc
  • Spain: Red Espanola de Albergues Juveniles
  • Japan: Japan Youth Hostels Inc.
    National Olympics Memorial Youth Center (NYC)

HI vs Hostel Chain

Hostelling International (or short simply: HI) is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organisation working with UNESCO and the World Tourism Organisation UNWTO. It is not a hostel chain! All hostel chains are privately owned companies. The chain Selina is an exception, since it is a public company, listed on the stock market. Here you find all hostel chains in the world.

You can find HI hostels and more on, where we compare prices from different booking platforms to bring you the best hostel prices. We help you save money on hostels, so you can travel longer.

Travel Cheaper, Travel Longer

Smart Hostel Price Comparison

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