Boutique Hostels – New Trend Or Misnomer?

The Ace Hotel, Portland, OR

I’m not a fan of hostels. There, I’ve said it. Call me unadventurous, call me a snob, I don’t care. I want to like them and am fully aware of their virtues, but I simply can’t hop aboard the Hostel Love Train. This is a major problem for David, who has traveled alone through most of Europe. The boy loves hostels. Then again, he’s a boy, and he’s social. Whereas I am a self-proclaimed high(er)-maintenance girl and not quite as social. I’m not looking for new people to chat with when I check into my lodgings, I am looking for a decent bathtub and a bar.

Granted, not all hostels are created equal. And, admittedly, I don’t have a tremendous amount of hostel experience. I’ve stayed in four, all in Scotland, and only because I was forced by a tour I took with friends. I had a blast, and I didn’t mind the hostels; but in my post-college and coupled state, I would really prefer to avoid bunk-beds and nasty communal showers.

Enter the Boutique Hostel, which, according to Budget Travel, is the “new trend.” The idea piqued my interest, but upon further investigation I learned that some of the hostels were…..well, not really hostels at all. All, with the exception of those featured in Bangkok and Lisbon (where it’s cheap to travel, period), will cost you over $100 for a private room. You can find a similar deal at thousands of other boutique hotels around the world, many of whom offer European (read: shared showers) lodgings. That said, I love discovering new and affordable places to stay.

Budget Travel Recommends

Mama’s Shelter
Paris, France


  • Designed by Philippe Starck.
  • All private rooms, all with kitchenettes, iMacs and showers.
  • Located on the Right Bank.
  • Attached restaurant head by star chef.

Aschau Im Chiemgau, Germany


  • 13 private rooms.
  • TV-free and 1000+ books.
  • Located in a medieval hamlet located 90 minutes by train from Munich and 45 minutes by car from Salzburg.
  • Lots of restaurant local choices, from budget to foodie.

Los Angeles


  • Private and shared rooms.
  • Near Little Tokyo and MOCA.
  • Restaurant and bar planned for the future.

Lub d
Bangkok, Thailand


  • Broad range of rooms are available, from private to shared.
  • Located near Silom district, with plenty of shopping and eating nearby.
  • Walking tours offered every Thursday morning.
  • Hotel movie theater, with free popcorn!

Amsterdam, The Netherlands


  • Located near the Schipol Airport.
  • All private rooms with XL beds and touch-screen mood/temperature control.
  • 20-minute train ride into Amsterdam.
  • Second location slated to open in Amsterdam’s business district.

Living Lounge Hostel
Lisbon, Portuga


  • Located in the Baixa section of Lisbon.
  • 17 artists designed the rooms, ensuring that none are the same.
  • Singles, doubles and dorms available.
  • Morning walking tours with wine tasting and 4-course meals served nightly, for 10 bucks.

Penny Plastic Recommends

The Ace Hotel
NYC, Portland, Seattle, Palm Springs

I’ve made no secret of my love for Ace Hotels. And any hotel offering $100/night rates in NYC, much less an awesome hotel like Ace, gets my vote. Big time.

The White House
Melbourne, Australia

Joie de Vivre Hotels
San Francisco

Galleria Park Hotel is a fabulous hotel near Union Square that feels quite decedent for the price.

Personality Hotels
San Francisco

Hotel Metropolis is positioned just north of Market Street near Union Square. I’ve stayed here quite a bit, as it’s very close to my favorite SF club, Mezzanine and one of my favorite SF restaurants, Zuni Cafe. It’s simple, modern, and they serve wine every evening. They also offer special rooms just for children. Rates from $70/night.

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7 Responses to “Boutique Hostels – New Trend Or Misnomer?”

  1. Britni Says:

    Those are some of the prettiest places I have ever seen. I don’t have much travel experience, so I can’t really put my two cents in there. But my goodness, what gorgeous decor!

  2. May Says:

    A lot of the hostels I went to in Mexico had private rooms. I think you still have to walk to the shower (which is private too, but is not located inside the room).

    You should try it out sometime! It saves a lot of money.

    I personally hate hotels because they feel like a huge waste of money to me. My parents never let us stay in hotels during family vacations (only cheap motels or renting an RV) so I’ve gotten to be a real cheapo snob about them.

    But really, if a hostel is clean and you have your own room, walking to the shower may be the only issue. :)

  3. pennyplastic Says:

    Very true, but my question is, when do you stop calling it a hostel and start calling it a hotel? The Ace, for example, has private rooms with shared showers, and it’s a “hotel.”

    Really, I just end up looking for super cool and cheap places to stay, hostel OR hotel. It’s all about the value for me.

  4. Melissa (AthertonMerriweather) Says:

    My boyfriend and I are going to Seattle in September. We were excited about Ace Hotel because it was cheap and seemed young and artsy (although he thought it looked too hipster). However, it got HORRIBLE reviews on Yelp saying that it was noisy, freezing and dirty. Have you stayed at the one in Seattle? Boyfriend is about to book the Ramada, but I’m hoping I can change his mind to Ace.

  5. pennyplastic Says:

    Melissa, I have not, just the one in Portland. We were going to stay at the Ace in Seattle but also read reviews about it being noisy. I wanted to move ahead with it but our friends wanted something else, so I gave in.

    Personally, I would try it – online reviews can be hard because you never know what other’s expectations are.

    David would tell you to not book at all and find a room when you get there (he’s big on this). It might be okay to do this, as it’s not a busy travel time.

  6. JessMess Says:

    You’re not alone in the anti-hostel sentiment. I wasn’t fortunate enough to travel outside of the US but at one time a group of friends and I were discussing a backpacking trip. I always heard people praising hostels for the people-meeting reason, but I’m not too hot on that aspect. Just leave me alone and let me do my own thing. Now that I’m older and coupled up, I’m definitely not into the communal thing or bunk beds, either!

  7. Kivrin Says:

    Slightly O/T, but I recently dealt with a similar feeling when asked to interview at a grad school. The program offered to put me up for two nights with a grad student, but said the applicants might be doubled-up, so I might have to sleep on a couch. I thought to myself, “Dude. I am 28 years old. I cannot sleep on some random person’s couch and get ready in some stranger’s bathroom before a major interview!” So I will be staying in a small, affordable hotel several blocks from the campus.

    Anyway, your comment about not being into hostels in your post-college state…that really rang true to me, because I thought the same thing about sleeping on some grad student’s couch! ;)

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