Do you have to be a backpacker to stay in a hostel?

One common misconception about hostels is that you have to be a young 18 – 35 backpacker to stay in one. In my travels I’ve seen many other people who don’t necessarily fit into that stereotype of young single backpackers who have stayed in hostels as they travel. The following are some of the demographics I have came across that don’t fit into the norm:

1. Families

Particularly in HI hostels, I’ve come across many families with children of all ages. Typically, they’ll be staying in a private room with their parents, and not in the standard mixed dorms rooms that us backpackers would. In fact, any hostels I have stayed in which allow children will usually make it a requirement for them to stay in a private room with at least one parent or guardian. Some hostels specifically do not allow anyone under 18, and this is usually because they have a bar, and therefore their licence restrictions do not allow them to do so. Therefore, if you do want to travel with children, although definitely possible to stay in a hostel, always be sure to check with the hostel first as to whether they have any age restrictions.

2. Elderly Couples

Some hostels, particularly the hostel associations have been around for many years. My own Grandparents used to tour the hostels in Scotland with their SYHA (Scottish Youth Hostel Association) memberships some 60 years ago. I’m sure if my Gran still had the fitness levels she did at 17 or 18 years old, she’d be cycling round Scotland doing the very same thing today. Occasionally, when staying in some of the HI hostels you’ll find elderly couples staying there too. Again, like families with children, they’ll tend to stay in prviate rooms. If they have mobility issues they’ll also be in the rooms reserved for such, but nevertheless you do still find them.

3. Single people age 35+

Out of all the demographics named here, this is probably the most common one you’ll find after 18 – 35 year old backpackers. Contrary to popular belief, there are actually many people over the age of 35, some only just, and others a lot older, who want to travel. They may be recently divorced, having a career break, spending some of that cash they have saved up over their working life, or just single and out to enjoy life. In most hostels I’ve stayed in, either independent or chain, you’ll usually find at least a few over 35s in each hostel. There are some hostels that operate an 18 – 35 age restriction, which will only allow people within that age group to stay in their hostels. Personally, I would advise against anyone staying in these hostels, whether you are in your early 20s like me, or older, as it’s a form of discrimination in my mind. Also, it just makes no sense to turn away business from a hostels point of view so it’s something I just don’t understand. The majority of people travelling will be under 35 anyway, so a few people over that are not going to be detrimental to that party atmosphere. Regardless of this small minority of hostels who have age restrictions however, the majority of hostels do not operate like this, and you’ll find lots of over 35s as you travel.

4. Married Couples

Most people you meet in a hostel will be young single backpackers, or young couples travelling together having just recently graduated uni. More and more however, you do find married couples too. There’s not a lot of them, but sometimes you’ll find recently(ish) married couples (who don’t yet have children) travelling together, or middle aged/older married couples who’s children are all grown up and flown the nest, so they’ve decided to hit the road.

5. Tour Groups

Sometimes you’ll arrive into a hostel and there will be a large tour group hanging about, booked into their own private dorm rooms. I’ve stayed in hostels as part of a tour group during a short 5 day tour I took in South West Australia before, and it wasn’t hugely different to when I’ve stayed in hostels independently. However, I was travelling with a particularly small group, to locations which didn’t have a high number of visitors compared to big cities/tourist spots. If a hostel sets up a regular arrangement with a tour group it can be really good for business. Personally, from someone who is usually there an independent person it can be a bit annoying when there’s a particularly large tour group staying. They tend to keep to themselves rather than socialise with all guests, and depending on the group they can get quite rowdy. I especially don’t like it if it’s a school group, or kids of some sort as it’s like being back at high school. It does really depend on the group though, as some groups can be really cool. I can understand however why some hostels may choose not to allow large groups and/or tour groups to use their hostels after seeing how annoying and/or destructive they can get.

– It would be a lie to say that most people who stay in hostels aren’t 18 – 35 year old backpackers. The majority of travellers do fit into that demographic, but it’s important to be aware that they are not the only demographic. Just because you may be a bit older, or are travelling with kids etc, it doesn’t mean that you can’t stay in a hostel, and travel on a budget.