Hostels provide budget-oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge and sometimes a kitchen. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex, although private rooms may also be available.
Hostels are generally cheaper for both the operator and the occupants; many hostels have long-term residents whom they employ as desk clerks or housekeeping staff in exchange for free accommodation.
In a few countries, such as the UK, Ireland, India and Australia, the word hostel sometimes also refers to establishments providing longer-term accommodation (often to specific classes such as nurses, drug addicts, or court defendants on bail) where the hostels are sometimes run by Housing Associations and charities. In India, Pakistan and South Africa, hostel also refers to boarding schools or student dormitories in resident colleges and universities. In other parts of the world, the word hostel mainly refers to properties offering shared accommodation to travellers or backpackers.