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So what exactly IS a hostel?
Independent Hostels, Backpacker Hostels, International Youth Hostels, Backpacker Hotels ... read on to find out what differentiates a hostel from other accommodation alternatives.

Once upon a time not so long ago a hostel was a very unique form of accommodation where rooms were dormitory style with bunk-beds and you may have had the pleasure of sharing bathroom facilities with up to twenty fellow backpackers. But the good news for any of you who might have reservations about taking a shower in the company of strangers is that hostels have changed a great deal and very much for the better since they first opened their doors to road weary travelers. As a result it is quite tricky to define a hostel as such. For example, many of the hostels listed on offer private rooms with ensuite facilities, smaller dorms for groups of between two and eight or larger dorms where you could share with up to twenty others, bars and restaurants, twenty four hour opening etc. Think you get the picture.

As well as this also offers a number of alternatives to the above to cater for the rapidly changing requirements of backpackers the world over. From three star hotels in Paris to campsites in Italy or safari lodges in South Africa, there is a vast and varied selection of accommodation available for budget travelers.

Some information that might come in useful:

  • Most hostels offer private rooms and dormitories. Private rooms are usually singles, twins or doubles though some properties also offer triples.
  • Dormitories vary in size from location to location but generally range from 4 beds to up to 20 beds (or even more sometimes in European cities!). Most dormitories offer bunk-beds though some offer a selection of bunks and regular single or double beds.
  • Most hostels offer some ensuite rooms - this comes from the French word meaning 'in the suite' and means that you have your own private bathroom in your room. A private bathroom is located outside your room but is for your personal use only. Both will generally consisting of a toilet, wash-hand basin and shower. Standard or non-ensuite rooms involve sharing communal shower / toilet facilities which are generally provided not too far away on the same corridor.
  • Many hostels have a self-catering kitchen where you can cook your own meals, some even have their own restaurants, café's and bars.
  • Almost all hostels offer lockers either free of charge or for hire so that people staying on dormitories can lock up their valuables. These are either provided in the dorms or in a separate area.
  • Some hostels have curfews or lock-outs, though this is becoming less common - always check the microsite for an individual property before you book.
  • Almost all hostels provide linen, though some do charge an extra hire charge - again check the microsites for individual details.

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