What is a Youth Hostel?

27 July 2016

What is a youth hostel? A hostel is a type of budget accommodation where people have the option of staying in dorms or private rooms, and there are usually shared bathrooms, a communal kitchen and common hangout areas. Hostels also usually offer activities for guests so they get to know each other and the city they’re visiting, which makes them good for folks travelling on their own and people looking to hit many destinations in one trip. So that’s a hostel; but…

What is a HI USA hostel?

hostellers talking in HI Chicago dormroom

It’s where the shared spaces of this type of accommodation are taken full advantage of so travelers can gain a better understanding of people, places and cultures through their interactions with one another. From the moment you walk into one, you get this feeling where you just know that good things are going to happen, and it somehow feels like home while seeming new at the same time. The common areas are catalysts for aha-moment conversations; the hostel activities are educational underneath the fun; and there are genuine opportunities to make a difference within the communities where these hostels are based.

What is a HI USA Hostel Like? A portal to the rest of the world!

hostellers talking in HI Washington DC kitchen

Walk into any HI USA hostel and at some point, someone will ask, “Where are you from?” This question is the doorway to open and real conversations as people give a glimpse of their own lives, talk of their home countries, answer questions and challenge preconceived notions, and listen to others’ experiences. You’ll find yourself having these kinds of conversations in the morning over a cup of coffee and piece of fruit from the hostel’s complimentary breakfast; or while you’re sitting on a comfy couch waiting for the next hostel activity to start; or next to a fire as you look at the stars and remember how small we all really are. A HI USA hostel is like a mini United Nations where barriers of borders and languages don’t matter as much as people do, and you are able to shed a layer of your own personal bubble. It’s easy to say yes, it’s easy to talk to strangers, and it’s easy to find a kindness within yourself and others you may never have anticipated – like in this story of a traveler who was lent clothes after her luggage got lost on the way to Spain.

A real taste of the local

New York City tour

Most hostels offer activities for guests, like walking tours and pub crawls that are meant to be a bit of fun while allowing people to mix and mingle. At HI USA hostels, these events are taken to the next level so that by the end you’re not only exhilarated by the good time, but you’ve also had your eyes opened to aspects of a city that aren’t necessarily on the well beaten tourist track. HI USA activities are led by passionate local volunteers and staff members eager to show off their city’s neighborhoods and cultures, so it’s like having a friend take you around their home town.

A chance to grow

IOU Respect participants in Morocco

HI USA also offers opportunities to go above and beyond on your travels, with programs like Sleep For Peace, the Great Hostel Give Back and IOU Respect, where you can do some volunteer work, take part in unifying activities, or even travel to new countries. We recognize the importance of giving back to the communities where we’re located, and encourage our guests to do the same, whether it’s just by pointing them to our favorite local burger spot or guiding them to volunteer opportunities so they can help out while in town. We also feel that it’s important to try and keep the spirit of travel Zen alive even when you’re in between destinations, so we have opportunities to volunteer at HI USA hostels. That way, you get to share your passion for your city while keeping connected with the wanderers and adventures of the world.


So, what is a HI USA hostel? It’s a place where you get to stay with people who are different from you and realize that your essences are the same; where you get to discover that you’re a traveler, and not just a tourist.