What is a hostel? It is not a hotel, but it is not a homeless shelter either. In one of these establishments, a guest frequently does not rent a hostel room, but rather a bed or a bunk in a room with other people, usually strangers. This is done so not only to cut costs and make for affordable hostel accommodations, but also to promote social interaction. The vast majority of patrons are young students or backpackers who visit countries other than their own, and sharing a hostel room with like minded individuals is a surefire way of getting in contact with and learning from different cultures.
The widespread growth of international hostels has led to the creation of organizations like Hostelling International, a federation with more than 4000 affiliated youth hostels including Hostel Venezia. Such federations facilitate the flow of information among travelers, for instance hostel reviews that will help interested persons to find cheap hostels and in general ease the process of staying at one of them. In spite of their low rates, hostels are more than a bed, four walls and a roof. As a matter of fact, many of them provide different additional services like airport shuttle transfers,internet cafes, pools and spas, tour booking and car rentals. Likewise, they may have a wireless internet connection, allowing guests to access the world wide web in their hostel rooms, provided they have a portable computer.
Hostels should not be confused with a hostales. Hostales are a type of lodging located mostly in Spain and Hispanic America, which tend to be cheaper than hotels and have a bar or a restaurant where drinks and food can be purchased by both guests and locals. As opposed to a hostel room, accommodations usually include private bedrooms, and sometimes apartments, available for either short or long term stays. Guests may share a common bathroom, but rooms with en suite bathrooms may also be found. Hostales are frequent in Spain but also operate in Mexico, Central and South America and California.
A similar establishment is a bed and breakfast hostel. However, a bed and breakfast is meant mainly for overnight stays, including breakfast served the morning after, but usually no further meals. They are usually family run businesses operated by the owners themselves. If outside staff is hired to perform the duties related to a guest house, then it would not be deemed a bed and breakfast, rather falling into the category of inn or even hotel. Unlike a hostel room but more similar to a hostal, guests are typically accommodated in private bedrooms with private bathrooms. This information may be useful when it comes to deciding between a hostal, a bed and breakfast, or a hostel room.