Hostels and Budget Accommodation in North America

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Types of Accommodation

For the purposes of this article, we'll include the U.S. Canada, and Mexico. Other Western Hemisphere countries can be found in other regions including Central America and the Caribbean and South America.

North America covers a large area of land that is separated by only a small number of nations. These countries are diverse in their cultures, geography, and sights. In general, this region is a fairly expensive to visit, with Mexico being somewhat affordable, while the U.S. and Canada are generally expensive. However, some pockets of these countries can be less expensive than others.

A variety of budget accommodation options are available in all of the countries in the region. Hostels are a popular option with young backpackers and students, who are looking to save as much money as possible while experiencing as much as they can. Hostels usually offer social and fun environments at an affordable price, which appeals to backpackers and young independent travelers. In North America hostels are usually only found in the larger cities, while smaller cities and rural areas only offer hotels. If you're traveling as a couple and plan to stay in a private room, prices in hostels and budget hotels can be somewhat comparable. The main difference between these two options is that typically hostels offer kitchens and common areas where it's easy to socialize with other guests. Hostels are known for their social setting, so if you want a more quiet and private environment, then a budget hotel may be more your style, but if you're on a particularly tight budget, having access to a kitchen can significantly cut down on costs as you'll be able to cook many of your own meals.

Budget hotels in the U.S. and Canada are very common, especially in rural areas along the highways and in small to medium sized cities. Look for chains such as Motel 6, Super 8, Econolodge, Best Western, and others if you're looking for the cheapest prices. These hotel chains tend to offer basic rooms with private bathrooms and no frills. Some offer a free breakfast, although this might vary by location.

Traveling Alone

North America is a popular travel destination with independent and solo travelers. It's not hard to get around many of the countries due a good infrastructure of roads and long distance buses, and it's relatively easy to meet fellow backpackers if you stay in hostels. If you're traveling by yourself, the most affordable accommodation option is usually a dorm in a hostel. The size of the rooms can range from just a couple of beds to dozens of bunk beds. Prices are usually lower in the larger rooms, but the noise is predictably louder. If you're hoping to meet other travelers, look for a hostel that organizes activities for guests, has a lot of common space, and has a kitchen, as meal time is a common time to meet fellow guests.

Looking for a Party

Some travelers head to some North American cities specifically for the nightlife. In larger cities like New York, L.A., Miami, Montreal, Seattle, San Francisco, and Vancouver, you'll find no shortage of bars and clubs that draw large crowds. It is not hard to find hostels that cater to young backpackers who are prioritizing the nightlife scene. "Party hostels" often have nightly pub crawls, on-site bars, and music. If you're looking for a good night's sleep, then these hostels are best avoided, but if your goal is to hit all of the best bars and clubs, then these hostels are for you.

Dorms vs Private Rooms

Often hostels in North America usually offer both dorms and private rooms. Dorms usually have bunk beds for guests and a shared bathroom that may or may not be attached to the room. In general, dorm beds are the cheapest option for solo travelers. It's also not uncommon for small groups of friends to fill a whole dorm room.

Private rooms appeal more to travelers who have a companion with them. Some rooms have twin beds while others have double beds. Both shared and private bathrooms may be available, but rooms with private bathrooms are typically more expensive. Do note, that just because you're in a private room, it doesn't always mean you'll escape the noise of a social hostel. If a peaceful setting is your priority, you might do better in a private hotel room.
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