New York City Hostels – What You Should Know

By: Josh -
Last Updated: April 19, 2013

If you’ve already read through our articles about saving money on hotel rooms with Priceline or subletting apartments and you still want to save more, you may want to consider staying at a New York City Hostel.

No, hostels are not only found in Europe. New York City has a massive collection of great hostels to choose from. Over the years, friends of mine and I have had situations during which we’ve stayed at a number of these hostels. Some are dirt cheap, but are further uptown than most would typically like to stay and/or may require you to stay in a room with up to thirty other people. Some are a bit more expensive, but provide you with a room which you only share with a few others.

When you start your hunt for a hostel, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Some NYC Hostels Have Coed Bedrooms, Some Do Not

If the hostel is coed, that means you will be sleeping in a room with both males and females. You may be sharing a bunk bed with a member of the opposite sex. If this makes you uncomfortable, this may be something you want to avoid. If you have a boy or girlfriend with you of the opposite sex, you may also want to keep this in mind, so that you can both sleep in the same room. Some hostels which are mostly co-ed give you an option to pick a “girls only” or “men only” room, but they typically cost a bit more to stay in. Make sure you check on the policy of the hostel before making the reservation.

Most NYC Hostels Provide Little Secure Storage Space

Most hostels provide you with a small locker in which you can lock your most sacred items. Almost all of them require YOU to have your own lock, so make sure you bring one with you. Typically your suitcase will not fit in this locker and so must be stored under the bed or in the corner of the room. Remember, you are sharing this room with strangers. Lock your most valued items in the locker or take them with you when you leave, or better yet, leave that stuff at home. I’ve never had any trouble with things turning up missing, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

Bathroom Situations in NYC Hostels

Some hostels have large bathrooms on each floor or for the whole building that everyone must share (Men in one bathroom and women in another) and some offer one bathroom per bedroom. I’ve stayed in both. Typically the larger hostels have one large bathroom with ten to fifteen showers in it and a row of toilets which everyone of the same sex must share. This can be kind of nice, as you don’t have to wait for someone to get out of the bathroom if you want to get in. If you are shy, though, this may be an issue. Most of the time the shower stalls are semiprivate, meaning there are shower stall walls and a door which keeps things kind of private. Some, though, simply have a big room of shower heads, which can be awkward for some.

Some other hostels offer one single bathroom per bedroom. So, you share the bathroom and shower with everyone else in the room that you bunk in. So, if you are in a coed room in a hostel you’ll be sharing the bathroom and shower with those of the opposite sex. They are typically single use, though, so you don’t have to worry about someone else being in the bathroom with you. The downside is that if someone beats you to the bathroom and you’re in a rush, you’ll simply have to wait. Be considerate and dry your hair and/or put on makeup in the bedroom not in the bathroom. Also remember to clean up after yourself.

Location! Location! Location!

Before booking your hostel, check out where exactly it is located. By staying uptown or in a borough other than Manhattan, you can save yourself a bit of green. If you’ll be spending most of your time downtown, you may want to take that into consideration when you look for your hostel. The good news is that NYC has one of the greatest public transportation systems in the world. Even if you stay far away from the action, you won’t have to worry about getting there. A $2.50 cent subway ride will get you anywhere you want to go.

NYC Hostel Curfews

Some hostels (often the smaller, family owned ones) have curfews. That means they will actually lock the door at a certain time and won’t open it again until morning. If you think you’re going to be out late a lot, then before booking you may want to check to see if the hostel you are interested in has such a curfew. You don’t want to be stuck out in the cold, sleeping on a park bench.


Some NYC hostels require a passport. This is usually done to ensure that only travelers stay at the hostel. Sometimes an out of state driver’s license can be used. If you don’t have a passport, you may want to first check with the hostel to see if they require one to check in.

Limits on Length of Stay at a NYC Hostel

Many hostels have a limit on the number of nights you can stay there. Some are a week or two, some a month and some have no limit. They do this to insure a fresh variety of faces and to make sure no one actually starts living there. Many hostel owners strive to make their hostel a community of travelers, and so, they do what they can to try and dissuade people from “moving in” long term. If you are planning to stay in NYC for an extended period of time, you should look for a hostel which has no limits on the length of your stay, or you should plan to stay at two or more hostels for the duration of your visit.

The People Who Stay in NYC Hostels

From my experience, those who stay in NYC hostels are typically world travelers and students. I’ve seldom met anyone who could be considered “shady”. If you are traveling alone, staying at a hostel can give you an opportunity to meet others who are doing the same. Often travel related stories and experiences are exchanged and friendships are made.

Cost of a NYC Hostel

And finally there is the cost. Hostels in NYC range from $15 to over $100 per night. It totally depends on what kind of room you want (5 people, 30 people, single, co-ed, single sex, etc.) where the hostel is located (downtown Manhattan, Brooklyn, Harlem, etc.), the demand for rooms (More during the summer months) and what amenities are offered (breakfast, sheets, towels, nothing at all). By doing a little research on the internet, you’ll be sure to find a room that matches your needs and budget. Typically the larger hostels offer cheaper prices and more amenities, but less character and personal attention.

Book Your NYC Hostel Well in Advance and Do Your Research!

New York City hostels, especially the better ones and during the summer months, can fill up quickly. Try to book your hostel at least a month in advance. Make sure you do plenty of research before you book. Use the internet to look up lists of hostels, check their locations and browse for reviews and discounts. Make sure the hostel meets your needs and wants (Coed ok? Passport needed? Curfew? Location?). If you know someone who lives in the city, ask them if they have any recommendations for you. I’d write some reviews myself, but my reviews would quickly become outdated, so it is best to check out recent hostel reviews by recent hostel visitors. Use the web!

Hostels have their ups and downs. If you’re looking for luxury, steer clear. But if you’re looking for a cheap place to sleep at night and don’t plan to be in the room much, a NYC hostel is the way to go. One thing is for sure, other than crashing on a friend’s sofa or a park bench, there is no cheaper place to stay in NYC than a hostel.