YHA Hostels VS Chains & Independents

YHA (Youth Hostel Association) hostels are distinctly different to those not in the association. This has always been my experience having stayed in all kinds of hostels many times all over the world. The main reason for this is that the association has a strict list of rules and guidelines of what a hostel must have before it can become a part of the YHA. We often talk about chain hostels VS independent hostels and which is better, but actually YHA hostels sort of don’t fit into either of those categories. They’re not a privately owned chain, and it’s also not just one indie hostel on it’s own. So what is the difference between staying at a YHA and staying at any other hostel?


The YHA has been around for many years, starting in 1930 to be exact. In fact, my granny was one of the first people to go ‘hostelling’ around Scotland, England, and Ireland with my grandad on their bikes back when it all began, and they used to stay at YHA hostels or the Scottish equivalent.

The YHA has been in the hostelling game for such a long time that they’ve clearly learned a thing or two about what makes a good hostel. Their history is also an endearing part of why you may want to stay in one sometime.

It’s a charity, not a profit making company…

The YHA is an official charity, not  a private profit making company. Unlike some hostels (particularly some chains I can think of) where it’s all about getting you to spend as much money as you can at the hostel, the YHA is not about that.

Broader range of customer

With the name ‘youth’ in the title, YHA hostels are obviously aimed at young people just like most hostels are, but where I’ve found a difference in my personal experiences with them is that you also see a lot of families, kids, elderly people, and tour groups too. It’s not like a typical backpackers hostel where you only really see 18 – 30 year olds plus the occasional 40+ person. This can be both an upside and a downside depending on how you like you to travel. I remember when I was 17 – 18 and first started travelling. All I wanted to do (pretty much) was party, and although some YHA’s in big cities are marketed as party hostels, the mix of age groups never allows them to be as party focused as a typical backpackers hostel. That said, on my hungover days a night in a YHA was always bliss! I think if you’ve travelling as a couple, you’re a little bit older, or you don’t want to party (for whatever reason) YHA’s are a nice retreat away from things.

Facilities and Cleanliness

Other than a few really good chain and independent hostels which I’ve come across, I don’t think any hostel has ever competed with the YHA hostels as far as both cleanliness and facilities goes. I’ve never come across a dirty YHA yet, and I’ve stayed in a lot of them… They also always seem to have everything you need in them(and more sometimes) such as washing machines, irons, kitchens, shops etc. I think this is the strong point of a YHA hostel, and I would assume why a lot of families and tour groups use them, because they can rely on the standard of facilities. Also, I notice that YHA hostels are also always fitted to allow disabled access. There are so many ordinary hostels which don’t have great access for disabled people.


In my own personal experience, YHA hostels usually tend to be at the higher end of the hostel price scale in most locations you’ll go to. They are still a lot cheaper than hotels because there are dorm rooms available, but usually you pay a price for the higher standard of facilities on offer.  On a side note I also notice that usually in smaller locations where there is only 1 hostel in the town, it always seems to be a YHA in my experience! So this saves you a bit of money on a hotel…

– Overall I think if you’re looking for a quiet, chilled out hostel with high standard facilities then booking a YHA is usually a good bet.

One Response to “YHA Hostels VS Chains & Independents”

  1. Rachael Smith says:

    I like the YHA because you always know that you will get somewhere clean!


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