submit to reddit GoNOMAD Travel          Instagram
View of the city outside the Manhattan hostel.
View of the city outside the Manhattan hostel.

Not Your Fathers

Hostelling Intl Breathes New Life Into Old Hostels

Both in the US and abroad, generations of avid adventurers have helped turn hostelling into a time-honored traveler’s tradition. Hostelling is a scene made famous by countless Hollywood films and popular stereotypes, causing us to imagine seedy accommodations teeming with dirty backpackers and burnt-out hippies.

However, despite our pre-conceived notions and an array of LA horror flicks, hostelling within the US remains a viable and legitimate option for travelers of all types.

Hostelling International, the innovative and devoted non-profit organization that is responsible for the majority of US hostels, has made a commitment to ensure a cheap, cleanly and secure respite for travelers at all 60 of its US locations.

Now, nights marked by crusty cots, dirty laundry and freezing showers are a thing of the past. Instead, you’ll find clean beds, secure storage space, and a well-stocked kitchen. HI promises that travelers spending the night will capture the true spirit of hostelling without sacrificing the integrity of their stay. HI offers the best of both worlds; the traditional shared-accommodation style of hostels abroad, alongside hot showers and clean water.

“We have a commitment to a certain quality and set of standards, but we also have a commitment


to maintaining the very spirit of travel and hostelling.” Says Vidalin. “All our hostels offer secure baggage storage and on-site security. We also have a common space, a fully furnished kitchen and dining area, Internet and outdoor patios.

“The way our hostels are set up allow you to either sleep in shared-stay dorm rooms or in a private room more suitable for couples. Our goal is for people to leave our hostels with an open mind and a global vision.”

Nine Reasons To Become An HI Member

As one of the world’s largest membership organizations, HI is able to offer travelers hundreds of tangible benefits. These perks make it easy for overnighters to branch out and take advantage of the restaurants, bars and attractions around their hostel. Members also enjoy an additional discount, up to 10 percent per night at all HI hostels.

Because HI is solely a membership organization, you must be a member to stay at an HI Hostel. However, at the meager cost of $28 annually (ages 18-54), it is well worth the investment. Travelers can purchase their membership either online, or at any hostel the night of their stay.

Here are nine reasons to take advantage of HI…

1. Access to the World’s largest network of safe, clean hostels

Hostel kitchen being put to good use.
The kitchen being put to good in Manhattan's hostel.

2. Discounted member prices in many hostels

3. Be part of a global community of like-minded travelers

4. Discounted trips and activities in many countries

5. Concessions on entertainment during your travels

6. See the world on a budget

7. Reduced price admissions to museums and cultural centers at home and overseas

8. Savings in retail outlets

9. Reductions on a wide range of travel service.

Money Makes The World Go Round

With higher scale amenities and services, HI hostels have greatly improved the quality of their accommodations. But has the number one reason for hostelling been lost in translation?

Exactly how cheap are HI hostels?

In addition to the annual $28 fee, most HI hostels will run you between $30 and $40/ night. Prices have been known to fluctuate slightly during the high season, varying by location.

With hostels in locations such as New York City, Boston, Washington DC, and Santa Monica, $35/

Caliofrnia's lighthouse hostelCalifornia's lighthouse hostel.

night turns ‘a steal’ into an understatement.

“For us, hostels aren’t just a place to stay. They’re about providing a forum for travelers to connect and build a sense of community.” Says Mark Vidalin.

We try to facilitate connections with local communities so travelers can get a real sense of whatever part of America they happen to be passing through. Hostels aren’t just about staying overnight somewhere, they’re about the journey and what you do while you’re there.

HI recently committed to making each of their US hostels eligible for the International Youth Federation. This translates into a hostel with a mission that extends far beyond simply affording weary travelers a place to stay.

“We try to structure our hostels around what the typical, weary backpacked would expect, and then take the quality and services up another notch or two,” says Vidalin. “But it’s important that we don’t lose the aspects of hostelling that give it that unique flavor.

For example, we keep all of our major hostels open 24 hours a day to accommodate backpackers and travelers who are just getting off the bus or have had a kink in their plans. Hostelling is all a part of the greater mission to promote person-to-person interaction, sharing and learning. That’s really what traveling is all about.”

Built On Inspiration

When you stay in an HI hostel, location suddenly becomes synonymous with fun, exploration, and intrigue. Inspiration comprises the foundation of HI hostels, which can be found in such bizarre places as a jumbo jet in Stockholm, a lighthouse in California and a boat in Budapest.

Rendering of the new Boston Hostel
Rendering of the new HI hostel in Boston.

However, there are a few HI hostels within the US that require special attention for not only location, but also innovation and green thinking as well.

“There’s a handful of hostels in the US that we’re really proud of,” says Vidalin. “The hostel in Manhattan is really something special. It occupies the largest private green space in all of Manhattan, and is set in a historic building with gothic American architecture.

The building itself presents a challenge to make environmentally friendly because of its age, but we have to work with what’s available to us. The same man who conceptualized the Statue of Liberty designed the building, and its well connected too, just off the city subway and Broadway Street.

Then there’s our hostel in San Francisco that sits high up on a hill overlooking the bay. Were literally talking about a million-dollar view that we are able to share with travelers for $30/ night.

“We’re building a new hostel in Boston, and that’s our latest big project. It’s set to open this coming June (2012), and it will serve as our flagship

An outside view of the Manhattan hostelAn outside view of the Manhattan hostel.

hostel and one of our biggest in the country with 480 available beds. Like our hostel in Manhattan, Boston’s will be converted from an old heritage building, which adds to the challenges of making it eco-friendly.

Still, we’ve made a big commitment to do just that by implementing green practices such as rainwater reclamation. It took us a long time to develop the facility into something we can work with, but as a non-profit organization we often have to work with what we can get.”

HI hostels work to both expose travelers to the community, and the community to travelers. In California, Ray’s Hostel is used as a community forum to educate and inspire young people about international travel. In the true nature of the hostelling community, Rays is used to promote and expose future travelers to an exciting and niche in the world travel scene.

“We are a nonprofit organization, so every sent we make on our hostels is reinvested into bettering them,” says Vidalin. “We often use our hostels as points of interaction with the community. We’ll have guest speakers come in and talk about their experiences and share stories. Because hostelling is all about give and take with the community, we’ll sometimes open our hostels for community functions.”

When HI embraced the mission to offer travelers an authentic hostel experience in the 1990’s, they also embraced the mission to keep the true spirit of travel alive and well. Now, all 60 of HI’s US hostels operate in that spirit. In a new age of travel, HI is leading the way in an effort to retain the essence of the journey, the unknown, and the open road.


Peter Sacco


Peter Sacco is an editorial assistant at GoNOMAD. He also writes our Travel Reader blog, updated daily.




Read more articles about hostels on GoNOMAD.


Photo courtesy of Goldeneye James Bond Slept Here: Top Island Lodgings
A My Teepee or Yours? North America's Most Uncommon Lodgings By Ann Waigand
GoNOMAD MINI GUIDE Beyond the Hotel: Alternative Family Lodgings Around the World
Birds and Beaches: Unique Lodgings in Honduras By Pamela Conley In the aftermath of Hurricane
Courtesy GA(r)tes de France Voulez-Vous Couchez Avec Moi?: Alternative Lodgings
Top Lodging Lodge Picks in Africa By Ann H. Waigand, GoNOMAD LODGINGS GUIDE A
cleared at a good rate. All in all I considered a good journey. Lodgings It is said
on photo to enlarge. Cool Lodgings: Living Like Royalty in a Chateau in Brix, Normandy By Max
. Waigand, GoNOMAD LODGINGS GUIDE Why spend the night in a non-descript hotel, when you could stay
in Central America By Ann H. Waigand, GoNOMAD LODGINGS GUIDE Giovanna Holbrook rescued a rainforest
A Top Lodging Picks in Europe By Ann H. Waigand, GoNOMAD LODGINGS GUIDE Are Youth
pineapple just outside the village of Airth in Central Scotland. Lodgings like these beat a prefab
A yurt for rent on the Isle of Wight. Photos by Meredith Bower. Cheap Lodgings

Tags: storySection: Lodgings
New Travel Articles


Subscribe to GoNOMAD's monthly enewsletter for all of our new travel articles
Get our free monthly travel newsletter
and help support sustainable and responsible tourism.
No spam, no selling
your email, we promise!

Subscribe to our email newsletter!

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter!

amazon ad300x250