Hostel vs hostal

This item appears on page 57 of the February 2011 issue.

The reader’s contribution titled “Madrid, Prague & Budapest hostels” (Dec. ’10, pg. 29) confuses “hostel” with “hostal.” Hostal Gonzalo in Madrid is not a hostel; it is a hostal.

As the Lonely Planet guidebook “Spain” explains in the “Accommodation” section, “Spain’s 200 or so youth hostels, not to be confused with hostales (budget hotels)…” and “…places to stay are classified into hoteles (hotels; one to five stars), hostales (one to three stars)…”

I’ve stayed in hostales all over Spain but never in a hostel, because hostels never provide private baths while hostales typically do, although some hostales may also offer a shared bath and I always want a private one.

Livingston, TX

“Hostal” is a Spanish term used most commonly in Latin America and Spain to refer to small, basic accommodations similar to pensiones or guest houses. Some online booking websites book rooms in Spain for both hostels and hostales. The resulting lists of available facilities can be confusing, and travelers should examine the descriptions carefully.

According to the website of Hosteling International, while most hostels have dormitory-style sleeping quarters with shared bathrooms, a growing number of hostels now are offering “family rooms” that sleep two to four persons and include en suite facilities.