Hostel Vs Backpackers

Australian Backpackers or Australian Hostels?

When it comes to budget travelers accommodation you might wonder why in some countries we say "hostels" and in some other countries we say "backpackers".

The history of hostels (youth hostels)

The term "hostel" comes from the old French "hôstel" which meant 'inn, lodgings or shelter' way back in the 13th century. The expression "youth hostel" was first recorded at the beginning of the 1900's in Germany.

The first youth hostel was founded by Richard Schirrmann around 1909. Schirrmann was a German teacher who organized trips & visits with his students. During one of these excursions, a sudden rainstorm forced his group to seek shelter in an empty school.

Schirrmann then had the idea of using schools that were empty during holidays as guest houses for young people that were travelling in groups in the countryside. The idea caught on very quickly, and by the 1930s there were more than two thousand hostels in Germany.

The idea spread out in the rest of Europe and after an important international conference in 1932, the idea was exported to the United States and many other countries. From there the International Youth Hostel Federation was born, with the idea of providing cheap accommodation for young travellers.

With time, the concept of a hostel has broadened, and now hostels accept guests of all ages, providing cheap but comfortable accommodation and a unique atmosphere that cannot be found in traditional hotels or holiday accommodation.

"Backpacker" refers to the person travelling with a backpack. Hostels and youth hostels became backpackers' hostels in Australia and New Zealand due to the fact that backpackers were the main customers. In New Zealand, we are not too sure why (probably laziness!) but from backpackers' hostels, they slowly moved to "backpackers" only referring to the accommodation. To be fair, down under we're known for shortening words (McDonalds being known as Macca's Mickey D's, Bottle Shops being known as Bottle-O's, service stations known as 'servo's' etc).

Australia and New Zealand being a bit isolated it took a little while before the rest of the world became aware that down under we call hostels 'backpackers'.

If you were wondering what the difference is between a hostel and a backpackers, you'll have to come and pay us a visit down under to get your answer...