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Why do increasingly amount of hostels ask you to pay to make your bed comfortable. I mean, you can buy a dorm bed for a night and then get there just to realise they charge for pillows, blankets, towels, everything that a hostel should really (in a normal world) offer you. Sometimes they charge such silly amounts on-top of your stay. It may cost you £17 for a bed per night, but if your bedding costs £2 per night, it's a hidden £19.

I understand towels shouldn't need to be required, doesn't take much to pack one with you, people overuse them if they're free... But bedding? That sounds like it's just a money grab to me.

Any idea why they do this or how to pick out the ones that do from their bookings/website? It's quite annoying, hostels aren't really a very cheap option any more.

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    You're ending up at the wrong hostels! I've stayed in hostels all over the world the last 8 or so years, and don't remember ever paying for bedding...towels yes, but bedding no. Maybe consider the chain ones like YHA / HI? – Mark Mayo Sep 2 '15 at 11:26
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    Is this really a question, or just a complaint? It's just an a la carte pricing model - they're very common. Why do airlines charge extra to check bags? Why does McDonald's charge extra for fries? – Nate Eldredge Sep 2 '15 at 13:14
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    @insidein: A significant number of hostel customers are backpackers who carry their own sleeping bags. They do not need bedding and would be happy to go without it for a lower price. Of course, you can carry your own sleeping bag too, if you don't want to rent bedding. Similarly, if you don't want to pay for a meal on an airplane, it doesn't mean you have to starve: it just means you have to bring your own food. – Nate Eldredge Sep 2 '15 at 14:43
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    Are there hostels which rent bedding and also forbid sleeping bags? And I'm not claiming the base price went down - I'm saying it might otherwise have gone up (by more). – Nate Eldredge Sep 2 '15 at 14:54
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    The reason hostels don't allow sleeping bags is because they can get infested with bedbugs and hostels are always terrified of guests bringing in bedbugs. But nearly all hostels do allow you to bring your own sheets (which are less likely to carry bedbugs). You can also buy a "sleepsheet" or "travelsheet" on Amazon and other places. – traveld Sep 2 '15 at 17:32
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Some Stats

I ran some stats for you (from our data on Hostelz.com, a travel website that I represent) and currently 97% of hostels provide free bedsheets, and the remaining 3% charge a fee. Towels are a different matter. Currently 50.5% of hostels include free towels, 46.9% charge a fee, and 2.6% don't offer towels at all.

The History

Over the long term, the trend is actually moving in the opposite direction of what you may think it is. In the past hostels traditionally didn't provide bedsheets or towels at all. When staying in hostels, you were expected to bring your own "sleepsheet" (usually made from two bedsheets sewn together). As recently as the early 2000s, guidebooks recommended always having your sleepsheet when staying in hostels because most hostels charged extra if you didn't bring your own sheets, and some didn't offer sheets at all.

Over the past couple decades, hostels have been more and more offering amenities similar to what you would expect from hotels (and they've been raising their rates as well). Some may still charge for sheets because they traditionally have always done that, but some hostels may be just doing it as a way to profit from added fees (the Ryanair business model).

How to Find Out

To answer your question about how to find out ahead of time which hostels charge for sheets or towels, most of the hostels' own websites don't include that info from what I've seen. If you're looking on Hostelz.com, we list that information in the column on the left side of each listing, usually including the specific price they charge if the hostel provided that information. Other websites may list information as well (Hostelworld for example will usually say "sheets included" if they're free, so if you don't see that, there may be a fee).

Consider Bringing Your Own

Personally I still always bring a sleepsheet (or "travelsheet") with me anyway. I just like sleeping in my own familiar sheets. You could bring a simple bedsheet with you, or if you don't mind spending some money, you can get a really nice silk travelsheet. Silk is ideal because it's super lightweight, compacts to a very small size, durable, breathable, and super comfortable.

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    Thank you! Perhaps I've been hearing from the wrong people + guides for too long. – insidesin Sep 2 '15 at 18:52
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    I'm not sure about travel.SO, but on other sites we would require explicit disclosure. (on Hostelz.com, we list, our data on Hostelz.com). EDIT - looks like you've already been warned on an earlier answer - you should probably make it a habit whenever typing the site name here :) – Ordous Sep 2 '15 at 19:30
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    @Ordous I consider from our data on Hostelz.com to be an explicit disclouse. At least it was clear for me after reading the sentence that the use ris affiliated with that web page. – dirkk Sep 2 '15 at 23:16
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    I did try to be clear about that by saying "our data on ..." in the first sentence. But in any case, I have added another more specific clause to that sentence. – traveld Sep 3 '15 at 6:45
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    A silk travelsheet can be not that expensive – you can find for example these in France (19 €). – tricasse Sep 3 '15 at 9:03
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Sometimes you pay per-night for the bed, but per-stay for the bedding. So if you stay for 3 nights and reuse the same bedding you will only get charged once for the bedding.

The separate charging then makes sense, as they are charging you the cost of washing the bedding.

(EasyHotel operates a bit like this, in that you have to pay for your bedding to be changed, but you do get clean bedding on your first night included in the price.)

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The answer is simple: because they can. It's a good business idea to charge you extra because:

  • It cuts down a bit on their laundry costs, as some travelers will save every penny.

  • It makes their prices more attractive on hostel websites. Because let's face it: many people just end up booking whatever is cheapest.

  • Most travelers won't even notice the extra $2.

The only downside is a potential negative review on the booking website.

  • It's a shame hostels are affected by monopoly, but yes I agree this is the greedy perspective (answer). – insidesin Sep 2 '15 at 14:50
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    Most hostels do either give the option to use your own, therefor you do not need to pay for theirs or use theirs at a modest cost. Some hostels only give you the option to use theirs and in that case you should not have to pay extra. Hotels included sheets at no extra costs. – Willeke Sep 2 '15 at 15:20
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    @Willeke that comment is good for an answer. – Gayot Fow Sep 2 '15 at 18:42
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This is a problem of information asymmetry:

In contract theory and economics, information asymmetry deals with the study of decisions in transactions where one party has more or better information than the other. This creates an imbalance of power in transactions, which can sometimes cause the transactions to go awry, a kind of market failure in the worst case.

The problem in this specific case is that you don't know, when you book, whether or not the cost of bedding is included. The hostel may, or may not, levy a 'hidden charge' for bedding, which is not immediately evident at the time of booking.

The solution is for you to contact the hostel before booking and ask what is included (and what is not included) in the standard price. Then use this information to decide whether to place your booking at that hostel or at a competitor.

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In theory, such unbundled (or à la carte) pricing benefits the consumer. Those consumers who are happy to go without bedding (and despite your skepticism, I'm sure some such consumers exist) are not forced to subsidise those consumers who want it. Everyone pays for exactly what he wants and the market works efficiently.

It's like those airlines that charge even for carry-on luggage that you want to put in the overhead compartment (Spirit in the US). Those who are travelling super light are not forced to subsidise those who insist on carrying more stuff.

Of course the theory works well only if consumers are perfectly well-informed about the pricing scheme.

So in practice it's just a trick to squeeze more money out of you. They catch your eye with the low base fare, then make you pay more later with all sorts of "optional" add-ons. Which is not necessarily a smart move on their part, because this may merely alienate your consumers. (As in the case of Spirit Airlines which has a terrible reputation, at least in this regard.)

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    "Of course the theory works well only if consumers are perfectly well-informed about the pricing scheme." ... and the price is actually decreased, not simply increased for a 'standard' to be bought. – insidesin Sep 3 '15 at 8:23
  • You forget to mention that in air travel the system of 'a la carte' pricing is relatively new, in hostels it is a very old rule that you had to bring your own and if you did not you could be lucky and find that the hostel had sheets for rent. – Willeke Sep 3 '15 at 15:10
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I consult for a hostel and am involved directly in pricing decisions.

We provide the basics as part of the base price; clean sheets, a pillow, and a blanket.

We currently provide towels on request but we are moving to a model where we charge five dollars.

We also to plan to offer a comfort package in the future that includes a more expensive comforter and a better pillow for an additional charge.

Other answers have touched on it: a la carte pricing is a consideration for our customers.

Guest feedback shows that a small segment would prefer nicer bedding.

We have two options, replace all bedding and raise our base price, or purchase a limited amount of premium bedding and pay it off with up-charges.

Our pricing is designed to cover our costs and provide us a return. When the costs increase, the price increases.

Many of our guests come to us with bedding, sleeping bags, or other options. We want them to enjoy a low base price so they don't have to pay for things they aren't using.

  • "We want them to enjoy a low base price so they don't have to pay for things they aren't using." low, in context. Not exactly cheaper, just not raised. – insidesin Sep 4 '15 at 8:09
  • Okay. I feel like $25 for a safe, comfortable place to rest your head is "low" but I concede that it's entirely subjective and very region-dependent. – Preston Sep 5 '15 at 4:11
  • @PrestonFitzgerald: $25 for a hostel room can be considered "low" only in the the very most expensive cities in the world. – Kenny LJ Sep 5 '15 at 9:21

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