My husband, who spent several years in Europe and frequented hostels, says they are inexpensive hotel, cabin or chateau rooms (sometimes tents with bunks) for one-night accommodations. They are most typically offered to single persons and youths and often run by religious organizations or churches. There is no reservation system for them (or at least when he was in Europe), but were sold at first-come-first-serve basis. Instead of private bathrooms, most offered communal baths or showers. Also, the ones he stayed at offered dinner and a breakfast to the hostel patrons. Sometimes patrons were asked to help clean the areas and/or change the sheets before departing. In some circumstances, as a homeless woman with a small child he met at one of the hostels, the owners of the establishments may exchange room and board for cleaning or kitchen help.