Guide to Hostels
For backpackers, students and all budget travellers
If you are looking for 5 star luxury accommodation with valet parking, room service and a personal butler then a hostel is unlikely to be your first choice of accommodation. In order to keep the price of rooms to a minimum expect only the basics, but don't be too surprised by those hostels which go one step beyond. Keeping a broad mind is essential when hostelling and travelling on a budget.
What are Hostels? Hostels are fundamentally a form of budget accommodation which
bridge the gap between hotels and Bed and Breakfasts. More
often than not they cater to backpackers, students, travellers
and those on a budget but a good number also have facilities
for groups, families and those with special needs. To try
and pigeonhole hostels is complex as there are so many types
but the basic ingredients that characterise the majority are
cheap, basic beds dorms or rooms; fun group atmosphere and
facilities (kitchens, restaurants, bars, tours, bike-rental
etc.) which the modern traveller finds useful and appealing.
In some regions, North-Western Europe especially, there are
a profusion of hostels on well travelled routes. In other
regions such as Southern Europe, pensions, B+B's, and budget
hotels take in backpackers but tend to lack the hostel atmosphere
The increase in popularity of budget travel has lead to Hostels
opening in almost every popular tourist location. These independent
hostels tend to have better facilities, more room options
and a welcoming local atmosphere. Most backpackers head first
for the Independent hostels as they do not require memberships,
and have fewer (usually no) restrictions. All the 3,000 hostels
available to book on kasbah.com
require no memberships as all are independent. They are places
where you can relax and enjoy the company of fellow budget
travellers. All the hostels you can book through kasbah.com
are carefully chosen and all have more than 70 beds. Many
have group facilities, family rooms, kitchens, restaurants
If you choose not to book online with kasbah.com you may find
that some hostels so called 'associated hostels' require a
membership to Hostelling International (HI). To stay at one
of these hostels it is preferred that you purchase a membership
from the nearest Youth Hostel Association Office before you
arrive. If you fail to do so you must purchase a Welcome Stamp
(an extra charge levied for non-members, one per night up
to a maximum of six) when you arrive at the hostel. You will
find a range of restrictions often apply : some associated
hostels require you to have, or rent, a sleep sheet and bedding
and most have restrictions like lockouts during the day and
early curfews. Memberships can be obtained through some travel
agencies or through your nearest hostel. Using Kasbah.com
to book online will make sure you
avoid these extra charges and restrictions.
All hostels vary widely in quality and facilities, some are
very good for backpackers and travelers, others better for
young school groups. The more information link in the hostels
search will tell you everything you need to know before you
book a hostel online with kasbah.com.
Hostels - Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to book in advance?
No - but particularly in the peak travel season it's best
to book ahead. Often reservations are not accepted as due
to the spontaneous nature of hostel guests, the hostel does
not know how many beds they will have available on a given
date. You can avoid the difficulties of trying to reserve
a room by booking online. All that
is required is a ten percent deposit to hold a place for you.
This will avoid the problem of having to arrive at a hostel
in the morning as all hostels in the kasbah.com reservations
system have agreed to hold a percentage of their beds for
internet reservations. If you don't book online then its always
best to arrive in the morning. This gives you an opportunity
to get a bed and leaves you with options should the hostel
be full or does not meet your expectations. This is particularly
true if you are traveling to a popular city destination.
At some hostels you can reserve for other hostels in advance.
Inquire at the hostel you are staying at to see if they can
make reservations at any other hostels for you. Then do your
research and see if the hostel they recommend is someplace
you'd like to stay.
Can I stay in a hostel in my native country?
Not in the USA but as a general rule Yes - However you
should be traveling like the other guests at the hostel. Hostels
will not let you stay if you are a local resident of the area.
The logic behind this rule is that if hostels allowed local
residents to stay it would be full and not have space to provide
accommodation for budget travelers. Some hostels require guests
be an international traveler and have a passport. If you plan
to travel in your home country and stay in hostels you might
want to invest in a passport to prove you are indeed an international
Are Hostels clean?
Most hostels are fairly clean places. With the numbers of
people passing through them they pretty much have to be. Now
this doesn't mean you can expect a red carpet and a fanfare
when you arrive, but the basics cleaning tasks have been done.
In some hostels the guests are expected to carry out a cleaning
chore in addition to their nights payment, this is however
starting to become less and less commonplace. Cleaning is
a constant process at most hostels. However, every once in
a while you may find a hostel that has mildly or severely
failed in the cleaning department. It's these hostels that
prompt many hostellers to bring a pair of shower shoes with
them. The hostel custom is that all guests clean up after themselves.
You will make things a lot more pleasant for other guests
if you simply wash your own dishes, pick up your rubbish,
and generally leave things like you found them.
Are hostels safe?
Across the 1000's of hostels in varied locations throughout
the world it is extremely rare to hear of any harm coming
to hostellers. Theft can occasionally occur as it can in hotels
or an campsites, but if you are careful with your belongings
and streetwise this shouldn't happen to you. Remember that
the other guests in hostels are friendly, helpful fellow travelers
and not strangers as some people who have never hostelled
call them. With that said, you should however use common sense while
hostelling in general. You are often traveling on foot or
on public transportation. Sometimes you may receive a bad
tip about where to stay. While hostelling it's important that
you be smart and look after yourself and keep a close eye
on your belongings. Be wary of someone who meets you at the
airport and stays they will take you to a good hostel. Do
your homework and trust your intuition. If on arriving at
a hostel you don't feel you will be safe there, by all means
don't stay there. Find another place to stay. This is another
good reason to plan on arriving early in the day.
Do I need a membership to stay in a hostel?
The official answer is No - in almost all locations you will
find an Independent Hostel. Even if you plan on staying at
HI (Hostelling International) hostels you can pay a small
extra fee for non members. If you book
online with kasbah.com you are assured you will only find
quality, safe hostels that have no hidden charges or cumbersome
What documents will I require for my stay?
More than likely you will need identification of some sort.
Because the majority of hostels are dormitory style more information
is needed about guests than is needed in the private room
arrangement of hotels. This is for your own protection so
that if something happens the hostel owner knows who was staying
in the room with you. Common identification used to stay in
hostels are passports, photo drivers licenses, and state or
country identity cards.
Do I need a sleeping bag or "sleep sheet" ?
No - hostels available to book online
through kasbah.com will not require you to provide bedding.
Some HI associated hostels require you to either have, or
rent, a sleep sheet. These are not necessary for Independent
hostels. Whether you take a sleeping bag on your journey is
up to you. You may find their use in hostels is frowned upon
as they are a method of hostel access for all manor of insects
and bugs. The thinking behind this is simple. You roll out
your bag whilst camping, the bugs crawl in you roll it up
again and roll it out in the hostel releasing your unwelcome
travel companions. If you plan to camp out on part of your
trip they are essential and in general they will come in useful
but whether it justifies the space in your rucksack is your
decision . In some cases hostels will rent you bedding, but
the majority include bedding.
What will I need for my stay
Remember to travel lights whilst hostelling. You will likely
be traveling on public transportation and walking from place
to place. Because hostels are in unique locations they are
often difficult places to get to. Most first time hostellers
ignore this advice and almost always pack too many things.
Within the first couple of weeks they send most of it home.
Hostellers don't bring a different item of clothing for each
day of the week. Some clothes are often worn several times
before being washed as laundry facilities are not always available.
In some cases the hostel may have clothes washing facilities.
The best method of carrying your belongings from place to
place is with a backpack. This is the single most important
piece of equipment for the long term hosteller. For this reason,
when buying a backpack, don't economise. Try on lots of different
packs. They are all sized and shaped differently so make sure
it's comfortable. Its also a good idea to test any pack you
are thinking of buying weighted.
You may need a few items you might not bring when staying
in hotels. The main ones are soap and a towel.
I am no longer a student, but still want to stay in hostels. Are there age restrictions?
Very few hostels have age restrictions. In Bavaria, Germany
- it is rumored that preference is given to younger travellers
however this is extremely rare. Bear in mind that a lot of
hostels are noted for catering for mainly younger, backpacking
students and may not be suitable if you are looking for a
quiet, restful retreat. Again check out the more information
link in the kasbah.com hostels search
to tell you everything you need to know about the hostel you
are planning to book.
We are a family with young children, can we stay at hostels?
Yes, almost all Hostels have rooms with 2, 3 or 4 beds suitable
for families. You will find several Hostels which specifically
cater to families in the kasbah.com reservation system.
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