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hostellers in a dorm room at HI Sacramento hostel

Our Hostels are Open Again. Here’s What to Expect.

Updated July 1, 2021

Sick of isolation? Oh boy, do we hear ya. We’ve missed having guests in our hostels this past year-plus just as much as we know you’ve missed being able to hit the open road. That’s why we’re so excited that HI USA hostels across the country are back open. But what will staying at one of them even look like? Will it be safe? Clean? Can you still use hostels’ shared spaces, like kitchens and dorm rooms?

The short answer is, staying at a hostel will look a little different in 2021. But we’re doing everything we can to make sure you can enjoy all the best parts of hostelling while still staying safe. For answers to all your questions about how we’re doing that, and what the hostel experience will be like for a while, read on. 

Are all hostels open again? 

Most of our larger hostels in cities from coast to coast have reopened. A handful of our smaller, coastal hostels in Northern California and Cape Cod are operating this year on a vacation-rental or group-stay basis only. And sadly, we’ve had to close some of our smaller hostels across the country permanently. To see if the hostel you’re interested in booking is currently open and how you can reserve, please check that hostel’s page on Since local regulations across the country may change, we also urge you to research what kinds of local activities and sights are likely to be open during your stay.  

What will check-in look like? 

lobby of HI NYC hostel

Most of the check-in process, while a bit different from what you’d typically see in one of our hostels, should look pretty familiar at this point. Regardless of your vaccination status, it’s a good idea to mask up before you enter the building — in fact, many cities and counties require everyone to wear a mask in indoor public spaces, whether they’re vaccinated or not. We encourage you to look at your destination’s current local guidelines and mandates before you travel (you can find local resources on our coronavirus preparedness page). All of our front desk staff will continue wearing masks, and they’ll check you in from behind protective plexiglass shielding. 

What happens if a hostel guest shows up sick, or gets sick during their stay? 

a guest checks in at San Diego Downtown hostel through a plexiglass barrier

Anyone exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 won’t be allowed to check in. If a guest becomes sick during their stay, we’ll quickly inform local health officials and work with them on whatever needs to be done, from isolating sick guests to assisting with contact tracing. Our top priority is keeping our guests and staff safe and healthy. 

Can I still stay in a dorm room? 

woman reading in a bunk bed at HI Los Angeles Santa Monica

Yes. Choosing a bed in a dorm room is still the most affordable and most social way to stay with us, so we’re excited to say they’re now available for booking (check out your desired hostel’s main page for more details on pricing). All shared dorm spaces have adequate fresh or filtered air ventilation, or approved air purification systems, and guests will have either six feet of space or a physical barrier between where they rest their heads for the night.

What if I’d rather stay in a private room? 

a private room at HI San Francisco Downtown hostel

That’s cool, too. Just like always, our hostels will continue to offer their standard private double and family rooms. Amenities vary by location, but in general these rooms offer added perks like larger beds, convertible work spaces, and sometimes even private en-suite bathrooms.  

Will I still be able to use the kitchen, game room, and lounge? 

two guests in the HI DC courtyard

For the most part, yes. Our guest kitchens are back open so you can store groceries, cook your own meals, and sit down for dinner with new friends. We’ll only be stocking disposable versions of items like plates and utensils for now, and we’ll ask for your help following a triple-sanitization protocol after you use items like pots and pans. Otherwise, our shared-space amenities are unchanged: you can still play pool or board games with your friends in the game room, and hang out and chat in the lounge. And, of course, our outdoor spaces will be open for fresh air and safe socializing.

How is HI USA keeping its hostels clean? 

hostel deep cleaning sign

You’ll see our staff wiping down high-touch surfaces, like counter tops and doorknobs, with disinfectants ‘round the clock. They’ll also be temporarily closing off shared spaces, like hallway bathrooms and kitchens, for sanitizing throughout the day. When our cleaning staff come through, please help them out by vacating the room so they can have all the space they need to get the job done. They’ll let you know when it’s OK to return! 

What about activities like walking tours and pub crawls? 

a solo traveler in san francisco

We’re not gonna lie: this one stings a little. While we love being able to offer free social activities for our guests, for the time being, it’s just not possible to do it safely. But while organized activities like pub crawls, walking tours, group meals, and movie nights may be on hold, we still want to help you get to know our cities and your fellow travelers. Once you arrive at the hostel, ask the front desk staff about self-guided walking tours and other local activities that will help you get to know the city a little better. 

We’re also offering virtual events that you’re welcome to attend each month, whether it’s from one of our hostels or from your own home.

Do I need to bring my own hand sanitizer? 

That’s up to you. We’re buying this stuff in bulk and will have hand-sanitizing stations throughout the hostel for guests to use as often as they’d like. You may want to bring a small bottle of sanitizer to take with you when you head to out to explore the city, though! 

What about masks? 

Pack at least one. In some cities and hostels, depending on local regulations, people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can choose whether or not to wear a mask while inside shared public spaces. But some local businesses around town may still require masks inside or when large groups are present. 

If you haven’t been vaccinated, you’ll still need to wear a mask inside all of our hostels, regardless of local city- or county-wide rules. And in cities where local mask mandates are in place, you’ll need to wear a mask in shared areas of the hostel in accordance with local regulations.

Before your trip, be sure to check the current local health guidelines for the destination you’re visiting. We’ve got a list of resources on our coronavirus preparedness page.

What are hostel staff doing to keep guests safe? 

Putting in a lot of extra work! All our hostel staff have been trained in new safety and cleaning protocols. We’ll provide them with plenty of masks, hand sanitizer, and space from each other throughout their shifts. And each member of our staff conducts a self health-check prior to coming into work each day to make sure no one’s exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. 

What if I need to cancel or change my reservation? 

If your travel plans have changed, you can find out what to do on our change and cancellation policies page.