I used to have a bad connotation about hostels. I had heard some had curfews, some had age restrictions, and images of dirty shared dormitory style bathrooms made me stick to budget hotels and B&Bs when I was travelling. But then I was planning a trip with some friends and decided to give it a try. It is now my preferred type of accommodation.
Hostels have come a long way. Most are for all ages, and some are even geared towards families. Depending on the hostel, you can choose from female only rooms, to co-ed, to private. You can find hostels that used to be an old castle or an old jail. Some even claim to be haunted. Most of the hostels I have been to were very clean and modern–only one or two have we had to walk away and find another place.