Hostels (or youth hostels) provide short term accommodation to travelers. In a hostel you rent a bed (sometimes a bunk bed) in a dormitory and share common bathroom, kitchen, and lounge rooms. Private rooms are often available. The main benefit of a hostel is that you get to meet other travelers from all over the world. They are usually less formal and less expensive than hotels. They are most frequently used by young travelers. In the past many hostels had imposed age limits, but today it's more common for hostels to accept guests of all ages. In certain parts of the world, hostels are commonly called "backpackers," particularly Australia and New Zealand.
Though hostels provide great opportunity for multi-cultural enlightenment, there are some potential drawbacks to using them. Theft can be a problem since guests share a common living space. For this reason, most hostels offer some sort of system for safely storing your valuables, and many offer private lockers. Although reasonably rare, it is possible to end up in a bed or room that has been infested with some kind of parasite, such as bedbugs. A less worrisome but more commonly experienced drawback to staying in hostels is difficulty sleeping because of noise, whether it's from someone snoring or someone returning to the room after a late night out on the town. For this reason, having earplugs with you may be a good idea when staying in hostels.
Some hostels also allow long-term residency to local transients or the homeless or ailing with no other resources. Traditionally hostels offered housing at no cost in exchange for doing housework; this is far less common in modern day, but many hostels employ their long-term residents as desk clerks in exchange for free housing.
Many hostels belong to Hostelling International (HI), a nonprofit organization composed of more than 90 associations representing about 4000 hostels in over 80 countries. Hostelling International was formerly called the International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF).
In 1912 in Altena, Germany, Richard Schirrmann created the first youth hostel. It was inside Wewelsburg castle which was then recently reconstructed. The old rooms are on display now, as the youth hostel is in new rooms now, but still inside the castle grounds.
- Hostelling International (http://www.hihostels.com/)
- Hostel listings and reviews (http://www.hostelz.com/)
- Hostel listings and reviews in Spain and Portugal (http://www.infohostal.com/)
- Backpacker Hostels Germany: Backpacker Network (http://www.backpacker-network.de/),Hostel List (http://www.hostel-list.de), Hostel Listing Germany (http://www.hostels.de.tf/)
- Scottish Youth Hostel Association (http://www.syha.org.uk/) - Hostel Listings in Scotland
- Hostel Listings Canada (http://www.backpackers-canada.net.tf/) - Backpacker Hostels Canada
See also: Youth Hostels Association, List of types of lodging
An alternative to hostels are hospitality services.