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Tips on Finding Hostels in North America

Updated on March 26, 2013

Hostels Are Mainly Found In Major Cities

Las Vegas, Nevada Hostel
Las Vegas, Nevada Hostel | Source

What's A Hostel? Who Goes To Hostels?

A hostel is a place where the a person can sleep (usually in a bed that is among other beds in a shared room) with a shared bathroom, kitchen, and having a shared common area for the travelers to visit with each other. This type of lodging is very inexpensive for the single traveler or couple but starts to rival the cost of a cheap private hotel room when the payer is paying for a whole family of four or five. It's the mode of choice for many students, workers, backpackers, and world travelers who happen to be on a budget. In a hostel, travelers usually have the option to rent an entire room - if privacy is what is sought after.

New York City, New York Hostel
New York City, New York Hostel | Source

What Do Hostels Offer?

In the hostel, visitors find many of the very things commonly associated with staying in a hotel. There is a front desk person to assist with the check in process, though that person may be a volunteer who lives on site in exchange for free lodging. The front desk person can point travelers in the right direction, help them understand local maps or sometimes assist with booking area tours or excursions. Most hostels will have wi-fi. But be forewarned! Sometimes the wifi is throughout the hostel. Sometimes, the wifi is just in the common area - the living room or lounge. Sometimes the wifi is shut off at night. Call ahead if having wifi is an important part of the travel experience. For me, I have a hotspot so it doesn't matter but to many travelers, it does matter. Laundry and lockers are becoming more common place in hostels. Game nights and pizza party nights have been the norm for some time and are usually on a designated day of the week. Some hostels offer some of these amenities but it's less common to find one that offers all of them. Some hostels are places of partying and drinking. Others are quiet sanctuaries. Check with your hostel if the energy and vibe is important to your experience. Some hostels offer some of these amenities but it's less common to find one that offers all of them at any one hostel. However, things are improving and continuing to expand on the hostel front so more and more hostels are trying to accommodate guests by offering a wider array of options.

Denver, Colorado Hostel
Denver, Colorado Hostel | Source

How Do Travelers Find A Hostel In North America?

Unlike other areas of the world, it's not so easy to just ask anyone you see on the street where the nearest hostel is. So, for such a large and spread out population that exists in the North American countries, it's best to use a locator. Though hostels are usually budget friendly, sometimes you will save more by going the traditional route.

Last year, even though I had a guide book that listed my hostel of choice on the beach I wanted to visit in Southern California, near the United States / Mexico border, I found out it would cost me $80 a night to stay there ($20 a person for four of us). In other countries, hostels can be as low as $2-5 per night but in the States, it runs about $15-30 a night, depending where you are. So, I decided to get a $60 hotel room for the night instead. Not all hostels in the United States are this expensive but this just happened to be a bit more than my budget allowed... Just a little something to keep in mind is to have a back up plan. A hostel is a good deal most of the time but not necessarily all the time.

Vancouver, Canada Hostel
Vancouver, Canada Hostel | Source

Are There Risks To Staying In A Hostel? Are Hostels Safe To Stay In or a Dangerous Risk?

Hostels are places where like minded travelers convene. While generally low-risk, items of value (wallets, tablets, cell phones, etc.) should be not be left alone. Some people sleep on a backpack that serves as a pillow that happens to be filled with their prized travel possessions. Some sleep in regular pants or cargo-pants and stuff their pockets with the things that matter most to them. While most people seem kind hearted, I do keep a money pocket on my person and put all my travel papers, passports and money in it. I also sleep on my "pillow" - a travel bag with my laptop, tablet and phone in it... Yes, I do take it with me to the bathroom when I shower. I'd rather be safe than sorry. You'll see some people take the risk and leave their things on their bed but not me!

What's In a Hostel? What Is The Hostel Experience Like?

Hostelling International, Student / Teacher Discounts, and Sleep Sheets

Hostelling International or HI, as it is known, is an organization for youth travelers and most HI hotels have an early curfew. To learn more about HI, check out their website: Hostelling International.

There are discounts out there. Check out these websites, if you qualify by category:

Sleep sheets are sheets you can make or rent from the hostel. They look similar in shape to a sleeping bag but they are just made from bed sheets. You can cheat, if you're short in height, by buying a queen size duvet cover and sleeping inside it (or putting your sleeping bad inside it and sleeping in that). While not required everywhere, sleep sheets are required in most hostels.

Find A Hostel in North America

When booking a hostel, keep in mind some places require a two night stay during certain times of the year or in popular locations. Here is a list of hostel locators that can help ease the search in finding a hostel in North America:

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