New York Hostels: What You Need to Know



Q. What is the New York "hostel scene" like?

A. The New York hostel scene varies greatly, as it does in most cities, although in New York a hostel's character seems to be more heavily influenced by its location. For example, there are a handful of hostels around Times Square, Midtown, and Hell's Kitchen. Since this neighborhood tends to quiet down around midnight, and because the buildings are taller (you're more likely to be staying farther from the street), the hostels in this area tend to be quieter than those downtown.

Hostels located south of 14th street or across the river in Williamsburg tend to be affected more by the ubiquitous bar scene. The hostel scene downtown and in Brooklyn tends to be younger and more social, because guests who choose to stay in these hostels have a more outspoken interest in nightlife than travelers who choose to stay in midtown where more of the typical New York sightseeing takes place. If downtown sounds up your alley, try the SoHotel on Broome Street in Little Italy – the only place to stay in the area for less than a million dollars!


Q. How much do hostels in New York cost?

A. For a notoriously expensive city, the average price of $30 per bed in most hostels is actually a pretty good deal, (especially when compared to hotel prices, which run upwards of $500 a night!). Travelers on a strict budget should check out Harlem's Jazz on the Villa hostel where beds in mixed dorms go for just $10 a night.

For only $2 a night more, however, you can stay right next to Central Park and a handful of museums at the Columbus Studios hostel. If you're traveling with a friend, you can get a private room at the Hotel 31 for just $35 each, where you'll be right in Murray Hill, a few blocks from the Empire State Building.

And if you're traveling solo, you can get a private single room at the Greenpoint YMCA in fashionable Greenpoint, Brooklyn for just $65 a night.


Q. What do I get for my money?

A. New York hostels almost always have phone and internet service (free or for a small charge), TVs, DVD players, cafés or bars, storage lockers, common rooms, city maps and guides, and laundry and kitchen facilities. Many hostels also include a continental breakfast free of charge. Unlike in Europe, sheets in New York hostels are almost always provided. Towels are a less reliable commodity – it's best to bring your own just in case.


Q. What are the cancellation policies?

A. When you book through, hostels will keep your 10% deposit (paid when making a reservation) in the event of a cancellation or no-show. Additionally, hostels may charge for the first night if you cancel within 72 hours of check-in.


Q. What else can I expect to find at a typical New York hostel?


• Besides being in the interesting neighborhood of Harlem, the Wanderer's Inn West has a backyard deck and garden, plus free pizza every Wednesday night.

Hostelling International New York, on Manhattan's fancy Upper West Side, has a pool table, a PlayStation 2, an outdoor garden and patio, and organized city tours (some of which are free!).

The Greenpoint YMCA across the river in Brooklyn offers a fitness room, swimming pool, and sauna.

• The Swiss 1291 hostel in Midtown West (within walking distance of Times Square and Central Park) has a backyard patio with shaded sitting areas and a bicycle and scooter rental on site!


Q. Where are most hostels in New York located?

A. Many New York hostels are located on Manhattan's Upper West Side, an upscale, largely residential neighborhood of attractive brownstones, high-rise condos, famous museums, and an assortment of restaurants, bars, and cafes. Central Park constitutes the neighborhood's eastern border, and Riverside Park lies a few avenues to the west. For affordable Upper West Side accommodation, try the laid back International Student House on 88th street.

North of the Upper West Side and Central Park is the famous African-American neighborhood of Harlem, which in recent years has become more gentrified and consequently more popular with tourists. A great bet for affordable Harlem accommodation is the Wanderer's Inn West.

There are also plenty of hostels to choose from south of the Upper West Side, in the Midtown West neighborhood of Manhattan. This area boasts some New York's most notable sights, like Times Square, along with the Broadway theaters and the famous restaurants of Hell's Kitchen. Try the Times Square Beds hostel on 39th street (they've got much more than just beds).

A short ways south of Midtown West you'll find yourself in the neighborhood known as Chelsea, where there is a smattering of hostels available. Chelsea's multi-million dollar brownstones are the apple of many a New Yorker's eye, while its delicious restaurants, swanky boutiques, bars, and impressive collection of art galleries make it a great place for tourists and locals alike to visit. Try the Manhattan Inn hostel for an authentic Chelsea experience.

Then you have the famous East Village and Lower East Side, which have a distinctly younger population than the other neighborhoods listed here. The East Village is an eclectic cluster of affordable eateries from every corner of the globe, progressive cafes (with every variety of milk imaginable), peculiar specialty shops, and all manner of bars, from the refined to the raucous. The Lower East Side, to the south, is a bit grungier, with bigger streets, more traffic, cheaper food and drink, and more diversity among its residents. Try the SoHotel or the Bowery's Whitehouse Hotel for quality lower-east hostel accommodation.


Q. Where are the "official" hostels in New York located?

A. The non-profit membership organization Hostelling International operates only one hostel in the city – the aptly-named Hostelling International New York on Manhattan's upscale Upper West Side. HI New York offers dorms with between six and ten beds in each; single-sex and co-ed dorms are available. Prices stay at $30 no matter which room you book, although non-members are required to pay an extra fee of a few dollars per night. The hostel itself is a fun, social, cozy, well-run establishment, offering organized city tours, an outdoor patio and garden, a pool table, and a big-screen TV.


Q. Do hostels in New York have curfews?

A. Some of the quieter bed and breakfasts in New York may have curfews, but most of the city's hostels do not. A hostel's property description will always tell you whether or not they impose a curfew.

Most popular hostels in New York (by views)

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Swiss 1291 Hostel
thumbnail of Swiss 1291 Hostel

Doubles from $45

Distance 1.08 km

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YMCA Vanderbilt Hotel
thumbnail of YMCA Vanderbilt Hotel

Doubles from $89

Distance 1.36 km

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The Wanderers Inn West

Doubles from $0

Distance 5.78 km

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Times Square Beds

Doubles from $0

Distance 0.58 km

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Manhattan Inn Hostel

Doubles from $0

Distance 1.01 km