Interpreting Hostel Listings

It can be tough sometimes deciding where to stay along your travels particularly outside of major destinations. Your best information often comes from other travellers but sometimes you just don’t run into anyone who’s been to those out  of the way places. In times like that you’re stuck relying on Hostelworld, Hostelbookers, Travelocity, or Lonely Planet for your information. Sometimes a last resort is to just wander through town. If you’re looking through listings or at hostel signs to find the next place to rest your head, the handy guide I’ve created below will help you interpret these listings for what they really are, because as we all know, not all hostels are created equal.


No seriously they do have it, see that meager signal that you can pick up when you hold your phone at a 45 degree angle a foot over your head. Yep, that’s it. Oh, you can’t connect to it? Well that’s probably your phone.

Even if you can connect to it, you might be better off sending carrier pigeons, they’d likely get the message to your mother sooner than the dialup you’ve just secured.

Hot gas showers

Well, actually warm, sometimes, if you let it run for 15 minutes first. Once it’s hot be ready to jump out of the way because it will probably fluctuate between scalding and freezing with a three second pause of comfortable every once in a while just to tease you into complacency.

Hot electric showers

There’s a good chance you’re going to electrocute yourself on the bad connections or exposed wiring while you stand in a puddle of water and fiddle with that electrical switch. Oh, and you can have a choice between a hot dribble or a cold torrent, your call.


They don’t actually have enough for everyone and even if they did you aren’t going to fit much more than your passport in there anyway. Hotel safe, what’s that? I guess you could leave it behind the counter here, we’re usually around and I’m pretty sure no one’s going to take it from the open drawer.


There’s a sink and a stove, that’s all you needed right? Oh, pots and pans, yeah they’ve got one of each for this 75 person hostel. If you’re going to leave anything in the mini fridge be sure to label it so they know who’s food they’re taking or throwing out even if you’ve still got another week in the hostel.

If you’ve looking for plates, utensils, or really anything else you can ask the restaurant attached to the building but they won’t really want to give you anything because they’d rather you buy their overpriced food.

Hostel bar

This sounded cool until you realized that what they really mean is they sell a few beers and drinks as overpriced as possible and if they catch you with your own liquor you’ll be kicked out. Not to mention the bar is in the courtyard which all the rooms face, so if you had any intention of sleeping during you stay, good luck.

Tour agency on premises

They’re 50% more expensive than the guy across the street who sells the exact same thing but they’re hoping you don’t realize that.

24 Hour reception

Yes you can come back from the bar at 4 a.m. but there’s a good chance that Jose the door guy is going to be passed out. You should be able to wake him after 20 minutes of knocking, if not, some other exhausted traveller will get sick of the banging and let you in anyway.

Laundry service

They’ll wash your clothes for a whole lot more than the place down the street. They may even give you some of them back.

Hopefully these handy (tongue in cheek) translations should help you in your future hostel searches.