Well I was reading on hotelchatter (great website by the way) about hostels that start going more upmarket by converting dorms into private rooms and couldn't help thinking of one well, ahem, well known example of what quite frankly I can only decribe as a scam, in my vicinity. I recall a new hostel opening a few minutes downhill from where I live (lets just say the restaurant is particularly prized, and rightfully so, its bloody good) when I started visiting Cork in 1992, and I recall staying in one of their spanking new private hotel rooms back around 1995 or 1996 while visiting a conference in UCC. Now looking at the photos now there is no doubt that the decor and design of the rooms are hugely upgraded, but my are they small compared to purpose built if simple hotels further out of town. In fact I suspect that most of the rooms themselves haven't changed much at all.
In fact even a check on Hostelworld - a good site if you are just looking for a dorm, but a minefield if you want more, is rather misleading. To give an example, take Budapest - a good one since many hostel/hotels coexist in the same buildings, having previously been residences for workers. Immediately at the top of my page a colourful photo shouts "20 euro" privates!! But upon clicking it, I find that a room for a solo on their own really costs 40-44 euro per night, as the pricing is per person.
Likewise, if I go on further down the list a room that lists itself as "from 14.84" turns out to be really over 150 euros a night, since the "private room" is for 8 people and no discount for singles. In fact the 632 euros you'd squander on this room could also be spent on a 5 star Kempinski Hotel Corvinus and you'd still have enough change to experience their 30 euro breakfast, which I should hope it suitably extravagant for that price.
I did manage to find one place that would book out a 4 bed room for 1 person for just 140 euros, but lots more that demanded the full per person rate price, thus bringing the cost of flying solo in a secure fashion in a hostel to higher than the price of a 4-5 star hotel room. In fact, for 140 I noticed that I could easily find an ensuite private room in an Eravis chain hotel that is attached to a hostel (its a trend in this city for hotels and hostels to be placed in the same building, with different marketing really). But sometimes the hotel wings are far better value for single travellers, as the per room rates for hostels rack up. In fact guesthouses seem to be by far the best deal for single travllers in this city.
Of course we Irish remain the kings of rip-offs. While hostel beds appear stupidly cheap, try getting even a double for yourself and immediately the price escalates to well beyond what even a lot Dublin based hotels now would dare to charge for a room-only deal. For example, one hostel offers a bed in a 14-bed dorm for as little as 13 euros a night, but a single room escalates to 45 euros a night - which is roughly the price range of budget guesthouses and small hotels just outside the city, some of which offer parking as a perk.
Another one shamelessly offers single rooms for 70-75 a night - for which you can trade in your pine bunk for a more snug ensuite 3 star hotel room in North Frederick Street for about 55 euros less for the entire trip, and breakfast included. In fact if you really want a bit of style, for another tenner you can get a room only deal in the former Berkeley Court in Ballsbridge and enjoy a proper sized hotel room with discounted parking and a really nice location. It just goes to show how the cram-them-in philosphy of Irish hostels is really gouging tourists both from home and abroad.