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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 and facilities.

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 and bars.

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 traveler.

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 restrictions.

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.

Extra Items
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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