Hostels have the unique ability to conjure a very specific scene in our minds: six unwashed strangers sharing bunk beds in a dingy backpackers’ hub, comparing travel stories and the emptiness of their wallets. That scene is changing. Hostels have traditionally attracted travelers by offering a cheap alternative to more expensive hotels and a young, social atmosphere conducive to meeting others. With the rise of Airbnb and boutique hotels, hostels are feeling the pressure to stay competitive and financially viable. That means shedding their classic vagabond vibe and evolving into something more contemporary, and perhaps unrecognizable.
“Cool vibes” are becoming “expensive vibes”
Hostels were extremely popular in the mid-20th century because they catered to the budget traveler with no interest in frills and trends. Now, in many cases, hostels have become synonymous with stylish hospitality. Some properties have become so renowned for their unique aesthetic and “cool vibe” that they’ve morphed into destinations in their own right. But when hostels drink the trendy Kool-Aid, they start to lose what inherently made them attractive to some travelers in the first place and transform into something that more resembles a boutique hotel.
Nabila Ismail, a travel blogger who has worked at