Hostels Are the Best Deals
Hostels provide reasonably-priced accommodations and will put you in touch with travelers from around the world as well as with locals. Just as hostel guests range in age and travel style, there is no such thing as a typical hostel. The accommodations can be anything from a dormitory room that sleeps 30 to a private room in a castle. Hostels may be located in an urban high rise or a five-mile hike from a remote village.
Most hostels require an often minimal membership, such as the International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF), www.iyhf.org, an umbrella for Hostelling International (HI), www.hiusa.org. The International Booking Network provides information on over thousands of hostels and it allows you to find and reserve stays anywhere from 48 hours to six months in advance at hundreds of locations throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, South America, and Africa.
Moreover, many hostels adopt a members-only policy during their peak travel seasons. Your membership also brings a savings at some local attractions including museums, food, and car rentals. Another plus is the free Hostelling North America guidebook given to new members.
A great way to choose a good hostel is by checking online discussion groups such as Rick Steves graffiti board, located at www.ricksteves.com or eurotrip.com. Visitors describe their best-loved hostels as well as those to avoid. Find out about accommodations for couples, children in hostels, and quiet hostels. Hostelers are well known for sharing information and advice.
Each hostel has its own style of operation, and its best to be aware of the rules before checking in or booking: Is there a curfew? (Fortunately, this is a becoming less common.)
Hostels have a very cooperative atmosphere, and everyone usually lends a helping hand. This has led to some wonderful friendships. Many places also offer self-catered kitchens, but before shopping for food check the utensils available in the kitchen. Many hostels have inexpensive cafeterias or pubs--great places to swap information and tips, especially about your next hostel.
That perhaps is the best point about staying in hostels. If trading off a bit of privacy and comfort for meeting people from different countries and backgrounds appeals to you, hosteling is the way to go.
KENT ST. JOHN is senior travel editor for www.GoNomad.com.