Hostels in France ☆☆

An 8-bed dorm room at the Hiphophostel Le Village Montmartre hostel (Photo courtesy of the property)
An 8-bed dorm room at the Hiphophostel Le Village Montmartre hostel

Cheap bunks in shared dorms and a backpackers-of-the-world-unite atmosphere

Ah, hostels. The traditional cheap bed for the solo traveler. 

If you're really scrimping on every pound and pence, or are particularly fond of fraternizing with primarily youthful backpackers, you might want to stay in hostels, where you can get a bunk in a shared dorm for as little as €17 to €30.

I'm not a fan of hostels. Never did like them, really, not even when I was a backpacking student, but that's just me.

You, though, might enjoy the camaraderie, the chance to rub elbows with other travelers, the evenings of contributing an ingredient to the communal spaghetti dinner someone is whipping up in the kitchen while your laundry spins in the back room, a dreadlocked dropout strums a guitar, and everyone sits around and shares travel tips and recently discovered gems not yet in the guidebooks.

How much do French hostels cost?

It can vary widely, from €17 to €30 for a bunk in a shared dorm room up to €35 to €100 for a private twin or double (sometimes with a private bathroom attached).

There are often also private triples, quads, and family rooms available, for comparable per-person rates (usually €20–€45).

Then there are the extras. Most hostels charge for breakfast (€3–€10), many for towels (€2–€6), or for padlocks for the in-room lockers (€3–€7)—just pack your own to avoid these daily fees.

What are French hostels like?

Aside from the dorm-like sleeping arrangements (detailed below), hostels are defined by their backpackers-of-the-world-unite atmosphere.

Most hostels have a friendly, laid-back, budgeteers-on-vacation vibe. They are places for the young and young-at-heart to live and travel in a college student kind of way.

There are playful murals on the walls or retro-chic lounges for cocktails, TV rooms, tour desks and games rooms with Foosball and billiards tables, restaurants (ranging from bland cafeteria to cheap ethnic) and communal kitchens where newly-minted friends can pool ingredients to whip up a spaghetti dinner.

There are usually computer terminals for Skyping home and booking your next hostel down the road. Nearly all have WiFi—some free; others at a cost of €2 to €5 per day.

Many have pubs (which can be great fun—unless you want to go to bed early, at which point they become annoyingly noisy).

Some hostels host theme nights, from dance lessons to DJs, movie nights to karaoke.

There is cheap laundry service or D.I.Y. machines, vending machines, ATMs, and library shelves where travelers can swap books.

What is a "dorm bed" or "shared dorm"?

In most hostels, you sleep in a bunk bed in a shared dorm room (some sex-segregated; others mixed).

That said, virtually no hostels these days are of the old-school variety: 30 cots in a large room with a single large bathroom down the hall shared by the entire floor.

Most modern hostels have rooms with only 6 to 8 beds in them (up to a max of 10 or 16 in some). Sometimes each room even has its own attached bathroom; at others, you do share baths down the hall.

Some rooms have TVs (though I view that as a drawback: what if you want to go to sleep early but another resident wants to blare a reality show at 11pm?).

Most hostels have rooms of varying sizes, and offer sliding scale of rates: the more beds per room, the cheaper it is to stay.

Since these rooms are shared with strangers, hostels also provide lockers for guest use.

Increasingly, hostels provide all bedding, including sheets (in the old days, they'd just give you a blanket), but it still behooves you to bring your own sleep sack (kind of like a thin sleeping bag made out of a sheet). Note: Do not bring your own sleeping bag. Many hostels have a rule against using them—and for a very good reason. (Two words: bed bugs.)

Plenty of hostels also offer private accommodationssleeping 2–4 people (with or without attached private bathroom) at rates competitive with cheap hotels—an excellent choice for families.

What do I get at a hostel?

You get a bed—usually a bunk bed— in a shared dorm, though, again, private rooms are usually also available.

The cheapest hostels are on an a la carte model, charging extra for every little thing, including WiFi (€2-€6) and breakfast.

Other hostels throw in the WiFi and breakfast for free. Some even have amenities like free soft drinks, salsa lessons, and other perks.

Why would I stay at a hostel over a hotel?

Money. Hostels are cheap.

Traveling solo, a hostel offers a great savings over the cost of a single room at a hotel.

Even for two people traveling together, you can often stay at a hostel for €35–€70 total, making it cheaper than most hotels.

Also, some folks simply like the backpacker vibe, laid-back camaraderie, and mingling of travelers that a hostel provides. It can be as much a lifestyle and community choice as a lodging one.

Are there drawbacks to hostels?

Thankfully, most of the old, draconian hostel rules have since faded into bitter memories.

Mostly gone are the evening curfews and midday lockout periods. Some still do put a limit on how long you can stay (often no more than three days).

Here are three of the biggest downsides to hostels:

  • Noise in your room: Just imagine sleeping in a room with 5–11 other people and all the noises that can emanate from that many snoring (and remarkably flatulent) bodies tossing and turning on squeaky cots.
  • Noise in the building: Hostelers tend to skew younger, with all the benefits and drawbacks that entails. Even if there is no on-site pub, the noise of late-night revelers returning at all hours and carrying on their raucous conversations in the hallways can make sleep difficult.
  • The insular nature of many hostelers: If you truly came to see the local country and meet its people, that ain't gonna happen if you always hang out with groups of Americans studying abroad, Australians on a gap year before college, and party-hearty German twenty-somethings. Many hostels end up feeling more like international pick-up scenes than in-country cultural experiences. You can ignore all that, of course, if all you are in search of is a cheap bed, but it can get annoying.

Tips

About the lodging star ratings (☆☆☆ to ★★★)

You will notice that all hotels, B&Bs, and other lodgingds (as well as sights and restaurants) on this site have a ReidsFrance.com star designation from ☆☆☆ to ★★★.

This merely indicates that I feel these accommodations offer a little something that makes them special (or extra-special, or extra-extra special, etc.).

These star ratings are entirely based on personal opinion, and have nothing to do with the official French hotel ratings—which have more to do with quantifiable amenities such as minibars, and not the intangibles that make a hotel truly stand out, like a combination of great location, friendly owners, nice style, and low prices.

In general, a pricier place to stay has to impress me that it is worth the added expense.

This is why I give ★★★ to some (official) "two-star" hotels or B&Bs that happen to provide amazing value for the money—and similarly have ranked a few (official) "four-star" properties just (★★☆).

About the lodging price brackets (€–€€€)

Accommodations rates vary wildly—even at the same hotel or B&B—depending on type of room, number of people in it, and the season.

That's why here at ReidsFrance.com we simply provde a general price range indicating the rough rate you should expect to pay for a standard double room in mid-season.

There are three price ranges, giving you a sense of which lodgings are budget, which are moderate, and which are splurges:

under €100
€€ €100–€200
€€€ over €200
Useful French phrases

Useful French for lodging

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is? Où est? ou EH
...a hotel un hôtel ehn OH-tel
...a B&B une chambre d'hôte ooun SHAHM-bruh DOH-t
...a rental room une chambre de location ooun SHAHM-bruh de lo-kah-SION
...an apartment for rent un appartement ehn ah-part-teh-MOHN
...a farm stay un agrotourisme
or
un gîte

ehn ah-grow-tour-EES-muh
or
ehn ZHEET

...a hostel une auberge de jeunesse ooun oh-BEAR-dzh de szou-NESS
     
How much is...? Combien coute? coam-bee-YEHN koot
a single room une chambre pour une personne
or
une chambre simple
ooun SHAUM-bra pour oou-n pair-SOHN
or
ooun SHAUM-bra SAHM-pluh
double room for single use [will often be offered if singles are unavailable] une chambre double ooun SHAUM-bra DOO-bluh
a double room with two beds une chambre twin
or
une chambre double avec un duex lits    
ooun SHAUM-bra TWEEN
or
ooun SHAUM-bra DOO-bluh ah-VEHK ehn grahn lee
a double room with one big bed une chambre double ooun SHAUM-bra DOO-bluh
triple room une chambre triple ooun SHAUM-bra TREE-pluh
with private bathroom avec salle de bain ah-VEHK sal de bah
without private bathroom sans salle de bain SAHN sal de bah
for one night pour un soir pour ehn swa
for two nights pour deux soirs pour douh swa
for three nights pour trois soirs pour twa swa
Is breakfast included? C'est compris le petit déjeuner? say coam-PREE luh p'TEE day-zhuh-NAY
Is there WiFi? Y'a t'il du WiFi? yah-teel doo WHY-fy?
May I see the room? Puis-je voir la chambre? PWEE-zhuh vwah lah SHAWM-bra
That's too much C'est trop  say troh
Is there a cheaper one? Avez-vous une chambre bon marché? ah-veh VOO ooun SHAWM-bra bone mar-SHAY


 

Basic phrases in French

English (anglais) French (français) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you merci mair-SEE
please s'il vous plaît seel-vou-PLAY
yes oui wee
no non no
Do you speak English? Parlez-vous anglais? par-lay-VOU on-GLAY
I don't understand Je ne comprende pas zhuh nuh COHM-prohnd pah
I'm sorry Je suis desolée zhuh swee day-zoh-LAY
How much does it cost? Combien coute? coam-bee-YEHN koot
That's too much C'est trop say troh
     
Good day Bonjour bohn-SZOURH
Good evening Bon soir bohn SWAH
Good night Bon nuit  bohn NWEE
Goodbye Au revoir oh-ruh-VWAH
Excuse me (to get attention) Excusez-moi eh-skooze-ay-MWA
Excuse me (to get past someone) Pardon pah-rRDOHN
Where is? Où est? ou eh
...the bathroom la toilette lah twah-LET
...train station la gare lah gahr

Days, months, and other calendar items in French

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quand est-il ouvert? coan eh-TEEL oo-VAIR
When does it close? Quand est l'heure de fermeture?   coan eh lure duh fair-mah-TOUR
At what time... à quelle heure... ah kell uhre
     
Yesterday hier ee-AIR
Today aujoud'hui ow-zhuhr-DWEE
Tomorrow demain duh-MEHN
Day after tomorrow après demain ah-PRAY duh-MEHN
     
a day un jour ooun zhuhr
Monday Lundí luhn-DEE
Tuesday Maredí mar-DEE
Wednesday Mercredi mair-cray-DEE
Thursday Jeudi zhuh-DEE
Friday Vendredi vawn-druh-DEE
Saturday Samedi saam-DEE
Sunday Dimanche DEE-maansh
     
a month un mois ooun mwa
January janvier zhan-vee-YAIR
February février feh-vree-YAIR
March mars mahr
April avril ah-VREEL
May mai may
June juin zhuh-WAH
July juillet zhuh-LYAY
August août ah-WOOT
September septembre sep-TUHM-bruh
October octobre ok-TOE-bruh
November novembre noh-VAUM-bruh
December décembre day-SAHM-bruh

Numbers in French

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 un ehn
2 deux douh
3 trois twa
4 quatre KAH-truh
5 cinq sank
6 six sees
7 sept sehp
8 huit hwhee
9 neuf nuhf
10 dix dees
11 onze ownz
12 douze dooz
13 treize trehz
14 quatorze kah-TOHRZ
15 quinze cans
16 seize sez
17 dix-sept dee-SEP
18 dix-huit dee-SWEE
19 dix-neuf dee-SNEUHF
20 vingt vahn
21* vingt et un * vahnt eh UHN
22* vingt deux * vahn douh
23* vingt trois * vahn twa
30 trente truhnt
40 quarante kah-RAHNT
50 cinquante sahn-KAHNT
60 soixante swaa-SAHNT
70 soixante-dix swa-sahnt-DEES
80 quatre-vents  kat-tra-VAHN
90 quatre-vents-dix  kat-tra-vanht-DEES
100 cent sant
1,000 mille meel
5,000 cinq mille sank meel
10,000 dix mille dees meel


* You can form any number between 20 and 99 just like the examples for 21, 22, and 23. For x2–x9, just say the tens-place number (trente for 30, quarante for 40, etc.), then the ones-place number (35 is trente cinq; 66 is soixsante six). The only excpetion is for 21, 31, 41, etc. For x1, say the tens-place number followed by "...et un" (trente et un, quarante et un, etc.).

‡ Yes, the French count very strangely once they get past 69. Rather than some version of "seventy,' they instead say "sixy-ten" (followed by "sixty-eleven," "sixty-twelve,' etc. up to "sixty-nineteen.") And then, just to keep things interesting, they chenge it up again and, for 80, say 'four twenties"—which always make me thinks of blackbirds baked in a pie for some reason. Ninety becomes "four-twenties-ten" and so on up to "four-nineties-ninteen" for 99, which is quite a mouthful: quartre-vingts-dix-neuf. 

 

Top hostels in France

An 8-bed dorm room at the Hiphophostel Le Village Montmartre hostel (Photo courtesy of the property)

Auberges de jeunesse (hostels) and other fun, cheap shared dorm lodgings in Paris from €19 per person

 
★☆☆
A room at the Résidence Sainte-Marthe in the historic center of Avignon (Photo courtesy of UniversityRooms.com)

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