Is Hostelworld Legit, Safe and Reliable? An Honest Opinion

Last Updated: April 12th, 2024

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Used by budget-savvy travelers all around the world for decades now, Hostelworld has become a staple of the backpacking world.

That being said, with more and more accommodations signing up to use the Hostelworld portal and questions about the different payment rates, is Hostelworld legit?

Let’s dive in and find out.

Is Hostelworld Legit?

So, overall, Hostelworld is a legit website, app, and business that has been used by hundreds of thousands of travelers (myself included!) since 1999. While some of the hostels or properties on their website might not be the nicest or the most legit themselves, Hostelworld as an online travel agency and booking facilitator is a safe and legit way to book budget travel accommodations.

Is The Hostelworld Website And App Safe To Book Through?

A-Young-Men-At-Hostel-Reception

First of all, we need to talk about the safety of the Hostelworld website and app. After all, you’re trusting this website with your hard-earned money and vacation dreams, so it needs to be up to standard. The same goes for the much-used Hostelworld app.

Overall, both the Hostelworld website and app are safe to book through. According to the website, all transactions and exchanges of sensitive information are encrypted using SSL. This is the high standard that many reliable e-commerce stores use and helps fend off scammers and hackers along the way.

However, the safety of a website is much more than transaction protection, it also feeds back into how reliable Hostelworld actually is. Will your booking be honored by the end vendors? Can you get your money back if you need to? How trustworthy are those reviews? So, let’s find out if the Hostelworld website is safe or not.

Payment Protection

We’ve touched on Hostelworld’s payment and data protection methods a little bit before, but it’s worth reiterating. Hostelworld’s website and its app both take steps to protect your data when you’re logged in, making bookings or if you’re signed up to their email newsletter by using SSL encryption.

Also, if you scroll to the bottom of their homepage, you’ll find the Secure Global Sign padlock which is an externally-awarded certificate given to businesses who operate in secure and safe ways online, especially in regards to payments and data transactions.

Traveler Reviews

As with many accommodation websites, Hostelworld features tons of traveler reviews from all around the world. One of the best things about these reviews is that they show you the age range of the reviewer and the country they’re coming from.

This might sound like a weird detail to include but it does help you figure out which reviews to trust and which don’t really apply for you. For instance, if you’re in your late 20s after a chilled-out hostel and an 18-year-old from the US says it doesn’t have a social vibe, then you might take that review with a pinch of salt.

To leave a review on Hostelworld you have to be logged into your account and have completed a booking with that specific hostel which does make it difficult to fake reviews on the site.

It’s not impossible of course, but it seems to be less of an issue than on other sites like Booking.com. This makes Hostelworld feel like a safer and more reliable place to book your accommodation through.

HostelWorld’s Partners

It’s worth noting up front that Hostelworld is an online travel agency or OTA, which essentially means they’re a travel middleman. Hostelworld itself isn’t selling anything, it’s facilitating bookings through the hostels and B&Bs that feature on its site.

Overall, it’s pretty easy to become a property manager on Hostelworld. You just have to fill in a form and a Hostelworld representative will call you to help set up your profile within 72 hours. Of course, you will be paying Hostelworld a commission, but in terms of vendor vetting, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot going on.

So, as with any online booking site or OTA, research your hostel elsewhere before booking. You cannot rely on Hostelworld to have vetted every single place on its website, so check the reviews on Hostelworld and elsewhere on the internet, and if something seems too good to be true, it probably is and you should avoid it.

What Are The Benefits Of Booking Through Hostelworld?

Girls-Sitting-On-The-Bunk-Bed

So, there are plenty of benefits to booking through Hostelworld. This huge travel brand wouldn’t be as successful as it is if there weren’t a whole host of plus points to consider.

With Hostelworld being the go-to for many backpackers and budget-conscious travelers, it keeps adding new features and deals to help that demographic have a seamless traveling experience.

Reviews

Having (mostly) genuine traveler reviews that are categorized by demographic is a really cool feature that makes it easy to filter out the unnecessary comments that you always get with accommodation reviews.

Let’s be honest, normally, people only leave reviews for amazing experiences or terrible ones, there’s not a whole lot in between, and people love to complain, so filtering out these kinds of comments is easy when you can see the demo of the reviewer.

The other great thing is that you can see the person’s gender. Now, this might not sound like a huge thing, but for solo female travelers, this is a big deal. If I see a place and it’s pretty much all male reviewers or the male reviews seem to be better than the female ones, I’m likely to steer clear.

Realistically, when you read reviews, you want to find someone similar to you and your situation so that you know what to expect. So, being able to see someone in your age range, from your country, who is the same gender as you, helps you to make an informed decision.

App-Only Deals

Okay, so this was definitely a marketing move on Hostelworld’s part, but if you download the app, you can access app-only deals that are often cheaper than those offered on the website.

They’re not the only company to do this – if you log into a Booking.com account, you can see Genius deals as well so it’s all about collecting data so they can email you later.

While these app-only discounts don’t apply to every property or room/bed style, there are plenty out there. They’re also really clearly marked with a big app discount sticker, so they’re hard to miss.

This obviously makes it a cheaper way to book your favorite hostels that you might not get elsewhere.

Customer Service

As with a lot of online travel agencies (OTAs), Hostelworld has a pretty huge help center for self-service issues. This portal answers all the common questions and directs you to where you need to go if they need more details.

This can be reassuring if you don’t want to book directly through a hostel. Together with the fact that you tend to pay a deposit with Hostelworld and then pay the rest on site when you arrive, it’s useful and reassuring to know that you can get extra assistance if you need to change your booking, cancel and try and get your money back, or have any other issues.

Social Features

Okay, so one of the biggest new features that Hostelworld has added is the solo travel social suite. This includes access to group chats about two weeks out from when you arrive at your destination with other travelers who have booked stays through Hostelworld.

The default groups tend to be one for the city or town and another one for the individual hostel. These are great for solo travelers who want advice on the best places to go, or if you want friends to go out with, or just fancy a chat.

One of the coolest things I’ve seen through these chats are when people are looking at day trips out of a city. Hiring a car alone can be expensive, so seeing if anyone wants to join is a great way to cut costs and explore with like-minded people.

I’ve also used it for rides to the airport and seeing if people want to split a cab, which is a no-brainer.

If you don’t want to constantly receive alerts from these chats you can also mute them or leave the conversation, so the amount you get involved is completely up to you!

Can You Get Your Money Back Through Hostelworld?

A-Tourists-Outside-The-Hostel

So, a big question when we talk about the legitimacy of a travel website is whether or not you can get your money back. Now, Hostelworld works a little differently from a lot of OTAs in that they do take partial payments and hold onto the payment up until a couple of days before the trip.

Partial Payment Bookings

The way the partial payment system works is that you’ll pay about 15% of your overall hostel booking upfront with Hostelworld. This secures your booking and depending on the individual hostel or B&B, you’ll be able to cancel for free up until a couple of days or a week before you’re due to arrive.

It essentially just secures your place at the hostel and then when you arrive, you’ll pay the outstanding balance, normally in the local currency. Check on the listing to see if this is in cash or by card as some places won’t allow one or the other and you don’t want to be caught out.

Can You Get Your Deposit Back If You Cancel On Hostelworld?

Depending on the booking type, you can get your deposit back and not have to pay the outstanding amount at the hostel itself. That being said, there are four different types of booking and you can only get your deposit back in some form on two of them.

  • Free Cancellation Booking
  • Flexible Booking
  • Non-Flexible Booking
  • Non-refundable Booking

So, free cancellation is exactly what it says, you can cancel your booking up until the specified date (normally 24 hours before check-in) and you’ll have your deposit refunded directly to your bank account and you won’t be charged any further by the hostel.

Flexible booking means that when you cancel, the deposit refund goes into your Hostelworld account as a voucher to be used at another time.

Non-flexible means that when you cancel your booking you will lose your deposit, but you won’t be charged any further by the hostel.

However, non-refundable bookings mean that not only do you lose your deposit but the hostel can also charge you for the remaining amount. This is an expensive cancellation so avoid this rate unless you’re 100% sure that you’re going to use the booking!

Can You Change Your Booking Through Hostelworld?

Yes, you can change your booking through Hostelworld as long as the hostel has space. You’ll need to contact the hostel directly to see if they can accommodate your new dates or room style and if they can, the hostel will make a note of the changes on their end and update the booking.

You used to be able to change your booking through your Hostelworld account, but apparently, this functionality is no longer working. This will hopefully be fixed soon, and when it is, if you have a flexible booking you’ll be able to change your booking directly through the app without having to contact the hostel themselves.

Does Hostelworld Charge More?

A-Young-Peoples-Playing-Games-On-Table

Another reason why many people feel scammed or ripped off by Hostelworld is the claim that they charge more than booking directly with the hostel.

This is true of many OTAs as properties need to factor in Hostelworld’s commission when pricing rooms and beds through their site. The trade-off, of course, is exposure to a wider network of travelers that probably wouldn’t otherwise find their hostel.

Commission

The main reason why some of the rates on Hostelworld may be more expensive than going directly through the hostel website or phone line is due to the commission. Hostelworld charges between 10-25% commission so hostels have to factor this in when using the platform.

Deposit Safety

Another reason why Hostelworld is more expensive is that they offer deposit systems that they have to manage in-house. This is more reassuring for the end user if they have to cancel a booking and won’t have to lose all their money, but it is a cost to the company and sometimes can inflate the prices slightly.

The Role of Online Travel Agents (OTA)

Many people don’t question Hostelworld’s legitimacy because they don’t know the role that online travel agents or OTAs play in the travel industry. You’re largely just booking through them like a portal to get to your desired hostel.

So, when you arrive at the hostel, or even after your cancellation period has lapsed, Hostelworld has little to do with the transaction or service.

If there’s a problem with the hostel itself when you arrive, this isn’t Hostelworld’s problem and they bear pretty much no responsibility. This can be frustrating for visitors as they believe that Hostelworld has a responsibility to vet properties before they’re allowed on their platform.

Whether that should be the case or not, and whether it’s realistic or not, that’s not how the travel industry and OTAs work at the moment.

Final Thoughts on HostelWorld

As we’ve discovered throughout this article, yes, Hostelworld is a legit website and app, that’s trusted and used all around the world. That being said, as with any OTA, it’s worth researching and checking out the individual hostel before you spend any money. After all, there’s very little Hostelworld can do if the place isn’t up to standard when you arrive.

Here are some takeaways to end on:

  • Getting your deposit refunded relies solely on the type of booking you’ve made and the amount of time before you’re due to travel.
  • Hostelworld can be more expensive than buying directly through the hostel, but you can also have more flexibility with deposit payments and you don’t have to scour the internet for accommodation as much.
  • The Hostelworld app often has better deals than the Hostelworld website, so make sure you download it before you book!

Have you ever used Hostelworld before? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below.

About The Author

Rebecca Crowe is a freelance content writer who specializes in writing about travel, food, drink, and adventure. She specializes in budget and adventure travel content and can usually be found climbing some rocks, eating some tacos, or waiting around at the nearest airport. Her best budget travel achievement was spending a weekend in Paris with Roland Garros tickets for under £150, although she's always on the lookout for even better adventure and travel deals! If you want to keep up with her next adventure, check out her website at Wandering and Wine.

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Picture of Rebecca Crowe

Rebecca Crowe

Rebecca Crowe is a freelance content writer who specializes in writing about travel, food, drink, and adventure. She specializes in budget and adventure travel content and can usually be found climbing some rocks, eating some tacos, or waiting around at the nearest airport.

Her best budget travel achievement was spending a weekend in Paris with Roland Garros tickets for under £150, although she's always on the lookout for even better adventure and travel deals!

If you want to keep up with her next adventure, check out her website at Wandering and Wine.

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