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#8054 - 04/09/05 11:21 AM Confused about the difference between hotels and hosteles
Mo Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/02/05
Posts: 4
Loc: NJ
I think I'm working with an outdated concept of hostels as huges rooms where college kids bunk en masse, have lockers and share a shower room. It appears from what I'm reading that they are really more like small hotels.

So, could you please help me - what exactly IS the difference between a hotel and a hostele?? (other than, apparently, pricing!)


#8055 - 04/09/05 01:40 PM Re: Confused about the difference between hotels and hosteles
MadridMan Offline

Executive Member

Registered: 05/06/00
Posts: 9072
Loc: Madrid, Spain (was Columbus, O...
Hello Mo! What do you know? wink Your confusion is quite common among English speakers and non-Spanish-speakers. Also, the term "hosteles" doesn't exist - common misunderstanding.

English: Hostels
Spanish Equivalent: Hostales
Explanation: Private rooms, your own key, private or shared bathrooms
Note: The word "Hostals" doesn't exist in any language other than "Catalán" - spoken only in Cataluña and the Barcelona region. Hostels are typically family owned and operated.

English: Pension
Spanish Equivalent: Pensiones
Explanation: see "Hostels" above - nearly identical
Note: You'll also find pensiones - same term - in Italy and are the same kind of establishment. Pensions are typically family owned and operated.

English: Youth Hostels - commonly abbreviated to the term "Hostels" in the non-Spanish-speaking world
Spanish Equivalent: Albergues Juveniles
Explanation: Community sleeping rooms oftentimes with bunk-beds, community bathrooms, common areas for eating, watching TV, etcetera.
Note: Cheap. And if you enjoy listening to other people snoring, coming in the room at all hours, and walking around in a towel then this is the place for you! wink Youth hostels are typically owned by companies but some are owned by individuals or families.

English: Hotels
Spanish Equivalent: Hoteles
Explanation: The same as any hotel in the world, private room, usually a private bathroom, concierge front desk attendant, more expensive

You'll find my explanation of what a HOSTEL is in Spain in the 2003 thread entitled " Are hostals really hotels? ". But... I'll quote the text from that thread below:

Mongo, you've just opened "MadridMan's Can-O'-Worms" but I'll try to restrain myself this time as I'm sure everyone is tired of hearing it from me.

But in short (if possible), I agree with you. I too wish that the Spanish tourism bureau would RENAME this, probably, 1,000-year old word of "Hostal" to "0-star Hotel" - although "0-star Hotel" doesn't sound all that nice either.

But the Spanish tourism bureau has not and won't likely rename these establishments. Instead, when translating the word "hostal" to English they use the word "hostel". (uh-oh.. I'm startin' to roll now....)

I/We often see English-speakers attempting to 'make plural' the Spanish word "hostal" into "hostals" when the word "hostals" doesn't actually exist in any language except in Catalán - the language spoken in the Barcelona region. In Spanish, the plural of "hostal" is "hostales".

Only Spain and Latin America use the term "hostal" and I have to make the explanation each time I'm speaking in English and use the word "hostel" for "hostal". When speaking English we must use English words. When speaking Spanish we must use Spanish words. If we mix them we get "Spanglish" - something I don't support but understand it's sometimes necessary when making sure your audience will understand.

I'd rather Spain/Latin America use instead the word "Pension" or ("Pensión" in Spanish) and this way EVERYONE can make and understand the distinction with no problem. Pensions (or "pensiones" in Spanish) are usually identical to hostels (called "hostales" in Spanish - and shouldn't be confused with the English word "youth-hostels" which is "albergues juveniles" in Spain/Spanish - afterall, "outside of Spain and Latin America, in English, people abbreviate the term "youth-hostels" to the term "hostels" and this is where the confusion begins) but the establishment may have fewer rooms or some other parameter set forth by the city council who says what is a pension ("pensión") and what is a hostel ("hostal") and what is a hotel ("hotel" - HEY! That's the same word!!! - but pronounced differently in Spanish).

I'll leave it there. This is one of those things in life which seems to have become an "project of educating the masses" but seems to be futile. There will always be new people who haven't heard/read/understand the distinction and I'll explain it all over again. Spanish is definitely different from English and somethings aren't easily translated into English. Sometimes we're more confused AFTER the translation than before. Ever read the English version of a hostel's website and not really understand it until you go and read the Spanish version of the same page?

Okay. Enough. Mongo, I agree with you but I don't think we have the power to collectively change the 1,000-year old word "hostal" to something else so the rest of the non-Spanish speaking world can more easily understand. Chalk it up to the differences in language.

I too have difficulty convincing people to stay in hostels/pensions instead of hotels. They think, afterall, if the establishment is run by "normal people" that it can't be clean, safe, charming, or nice. The first time someone encounters one of these hostels with its small room, small bathroom, thin(ner) walls, and an innkeeper that doesn't speak English might very well put off a newbie.

Enough for now (didn't I already say this?). Gotta go to work. Have a nice day, everyone!

Saludos, MadridMan
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