For most travelers who have been on the road, there comes a time where you starting sighing to yourself, "man, I'm definitely getting too old for hostels." It usually comes after one too many sleepless nights and has you immediately craving a good old four-star hotel to get you feeling normal again. So while some travelers will eventually decided to move away from dorm beds and common rooms, others don't have much say in the matter.
That's because, yes, some hostels do have age limits.
Why Do Hostels Have Age Limits?
It seems pretty weird, doesn't it? Don't hostels want to welcome travelers of all ages? Don't they want everyone's money? Well, you probably won't be surprised to hear that it's typically the party hostels that have an age limit rule. This does make sense, though: many party hostels will have a bar built into the accommodation, so they don't want to have kids running around and potentially trying to sneak some alcohol. In this case, you'll usually find that the hostel only allows over-18s (or whatever the legal drinking age is) to stay.
Upper age limits exist, too, and again, they're usually at the party hostels. They like to have a certain atmosphere at their places, so want to keep everyone within a certain age range. I've seen places banning over 40s, and even a couple banning anyone who is over the age of 30!
Are Hostel Age Limits Enforced?
I've actually never seen a hostel enforce their age limit on a traveler. On a big Eastern Europe trip I took with my boyfriend, we stayed at several places that banned over 30s, and he (at age 36) never had anyone turn him away. They even took a copy of his passport and didn't say anything.
I will say, though, that he does look young for his age, so your mileage may vary.
If there is a particular hostel you're dying to stay at, but are over the age limit, there's no harm in going for it because you'll probably be fine -- just have a backup hostel ready in your mind in case you're turned away. If, however, you're under 18, I'd steer clear of anywhere with a younger age limit, because you probably won't be able to get in.
How Can You Tell if a Hostel Has an Age Limit?
Easy -- you'll be able to tell when you book your hostel. No matter which booking website you decide to use, take a look at the full description of the hostel and any of the rules, and it'll tell you whether there's an age limit or not.
Are Age Limits a Good or a Bad Thing?
It depends on your point of view. Some of the advantages of having an age limit include the guarantee that you'll be spending the night with people who are in a similar range -- nobody wants to spend the night in a dorm room with several kids under the age of five (which happened to me in Singapore), and there have definitely been some dorm rooms where I was staying with creepy older men that I would have preferred hadn't been there. If you're hoping to hook up with someone on your travels, you'll have more opportunity to meet someone close to your age at one of these hostels.
The main disadvantage is that it excludes people from a wide range of backgrounds, with different life experiences. Some of the coolest people I've met in hostels have been the 70 year olds who have spent a decade wandering the planet.
Are You Ever Too Old to Stay in Hostels?
You know the answer to this: of course not! I've stayed in hostels with backpackers who were 90 years old, and they were loving having the opportunity to meet new people form all around the world. And the younger guests were more than welcoming and happy to hang out with older travelers.
I will say, though, that if you plan on traveling frequently, you will find that after six months of staying in hostels, you'll end up craving something else. Hostels are fantastic for saving money and meeting people, but after you've had months and months of sleepless nights, you do start craving a few more comforts, some privacy, and some peace and quiet.
A lot of travelers feel guilt over this -- as though they're not a "real traveler" if they're no longer staying in dorms and opting for the cheapest options all the time -- but don't let yourself fall into this mindset. Transformation and growth is in important, so if you're starting to feel as though hostels might be too much for you, there's no shame in opting for a guesthouse, Airbnb, or hotel once in a while, if not forever.
To finish, I'll say that age limits in hostels are rare. I've only come across them half a dozen times in over five years of travel (although I will admit that I avoid party hostels...), so it's not something you need to put any significant amount of time into worrying about on your travels. Read the description of a hostel before you book, weigh up the pros and cons of the age limit if they have one, and, most of all, have fun!
This article has been edited and updated by Lauren Juliff.