Find a Youth Hostel

Youth Hostels are a great way to travel on the cheap, and luckily for you, they are just about everywhere. There are many online resources for youth hostels that make it easier than ever to find a cheap place to stay, wherever you are (London hostels, Milan, Helsinki, etc.)

Most European youth hostels have regular amenities, and many offer bars on site, kitchens, and public spaces for meeting fellow backpackers. Of course, every hostel is different. Some offer private rooms, others have huge dorms. Some have bathrooms and showers in the room, others have public facilities.

If you’re the type to shy away from public showers, you can still find a youth hostel to fit your needs, you’ll just want to call ahead or check online for details.

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  • Student Travel Hostels

    Hostelling International is the largest network of hostels in the world. They are nice because you always know what kind of atmosphere you will have. They are more family oriented, and some have curfews. But many of these hostels are also in historic houses, castles and other cool places which are nice.

  • Daniel

    When looking for budget accommodation you really have three choices- the web, the travelers you meet, or the locals you haggle with. Websites like travelpunk and hostelworld allow you to book rooms in advance. The hostels on these sites are rated by other travelers so you won’t end up in a complete dump, unless, for some reason, you really want to. Couples traveling together should also check out pensions and budget hotels. While you won’t get the same sort of social atmosphere, you’ll often find more amenities for less. Usually these can be arranged with locals in major train stations like Paris or Rome- just be careful and trust your instincts. If you’re like me you’ll want to hit up the popular hostel as a hang-out- but retire at the end of the night to quieter, cheaper digs.

  • Jennifer Cox

    At first glance, hostels may seem like simply an inexpensive place for young travels to lay their weary heads, but they can be so much more. They are one of the few places where people from all over the world stay in very close quarters. This can lead to a closeness and familiarity few other opprotunities can afford.

    Throughout my own travels, I’ve had plenty of great experinces in hostels, and only a couple of negative ones. Still, it is always important to use good judgement, especially for women. Always make sure to do as much research as possible on the places you will be staying. Some places offer small rooms with only 5 or 6 people and personal showers, while others have large rooms filled with rows upon rows of bunk beds. Some places have curfews while others will have people coming in and out all night long. There are also sometimes options to have gender specific rooms. Almost every rooming option has its positives and negatives, so make sure you know which one is right for you.

    One of my most memorable hostile experinces was in Coppenhagen, Denmark on Christmas Eve. The owners of the hostel prepared a holiday meal for everyone and ate there with us. There weren’t too many of us there, maybe fifteen, but we all stayed in for the night and played board games. It was like a holiday home away from home. This is just one example out of many. If you make sure you find the right hostile, you too can have a great experience.

  • zach

    when i stepped foot into my first hostel a smile probably formed because i knew immediately they were for me. It was early in the morning, people were walking around in there pajamas with no shoes on, others were passed out on couches, cute girls on the computers, cute girls eating breakfast. Being one who has always envied the “bohemian” lifestlye that I have imagined the people in the sixties lived, I finally felt like I had found it. Everyone was so laid back and brought together by the common goal of seeking. Seeking art, history, cool people, good food, a good party, adventure.
    We were in Athens, but the guys running it were Australian, and they were in their twenties, and having a good time was much more important to them than running a tight ship. Me and “the boys” I was travelling with got the last four beds and the party began. After checking out the Parthenon and what not we settled on the roof of the ten story hostel where the bar was perfectly located with a view of the Acropolis. A group of Australian guys were already up there, and a few rounds ahead. They had a guitar, and we’re taking turns passing it around singing aussie drinking songs. I couldn’t pass up the oppurtunity, and did my best Bob Dylan in Don’t think twice it’s alright. The guys running the place then took just about the whole hostel to a local bar to watch the world cup, where we met four norwegian girls who wanted to go dancing, so we got cabs to the coast where we heard the nightclubs were, but apparantly we were underdressed for the ferarri driving crowd, but made the best of it by taking a midnight swim in that beautiful water.
    My other hostel experiences we’re not all quite so good, but most of them were close, and they all had something to offer: a chance. Every night’s a chance to meet some cool people and have an adventure.

  • Eric

    Regardless of whether you’re going to have a set itinerary or not on your travels, you’ll need a list of hostels for the cities you’ll be going to. Use a search engine, get a list with a price range you’re comfortable with and a few that are a bit too expensive. Scan the web for posts by travelers about the specific hostels you’re considering to get a realistic, or at least varied, feel of the social atmosphere and the surrounding area. Realize that many of the hostel listing websites are in the business of selling rooms, which can result in the negative aspects of the hostels being left out of the description.

    So if you’re making all your reservations ahead of time, it’s all pretty straight forward. If you’re traveling by whim, I recommend taking night trains out of where ever you are leaving. This means you’ll have a place to stay for the night, and- if you remembered to call the hostels on your list before you got on the train- it means you’ll be asking for reservations a day in advance, improving your chances of staying in one of your preferred hostels.

  • adevisingh715

    Affordable travel on a string budget includes hostelling. There are ways to prepare and find a hostel suitable for you. Not everyone, I can say would be ready for the condition of one hostel over another. In my experience, I have found that travel books are imperative! It gives the traveler a starting point on how to look. Also, use the internet. Ratings from tourist are the best way to find out how the accomadations as far as cleaninless and safety. These are the most important qualities in looking for the right hostel suitable for the traveler. As a person travelling alone, one needs to be ready for what is to come… being ready and prepared for living and sharing with other strangers whom you wonder whether you can trust or not. Dorm hostels are the most affordable and it could be quite an experience learning about people from other parts of the world. For couples, it is easier to share a room rather than placing yourself in a dorm. Privacy plays a huge factor when booking a bed or room. There may not be any, but on the otherhand, some offer accommodations that compare to a hotel room. Sharing a common bathroom isn’t that bad, as long as they are kept clean. Hostelling is affordable and can go along way, especially when on a shoestring budget…Think about it, why pay more, when you can travel for longer periods, and not only that, but it gives you the chance to meet people from all over the world.

  • Christine

    Like anyone holing up in a hostel for a night or more, I was on a tight budget.
    A student studying in Rome, I opted to spend my Spring Break in Barcelona. Wise decision for location, poor decision for the hostel I blindly chose.
    Let me clear something up: I’m all for roughing it. In fact, I like living lean and mean, forgoing a shower (or two) if accommodations don’t provide. I like being a wanderer, bouncing from one shared room to another.
    That said, Youth Hostel Barcelona is strictly for those who can rough it with the best of them, which evidently excludes me. Instead of a bunk bed, imagine an aluminum hole. A module, if you will. Said aluminum modules are approximately 4×6 feet and contain only a pillow. Wait- scratch that- I brought my own pillow. They contain nothing.
    Cold, and unheated, these modules are stacked one on top of another, making a tower of cold metal sleeping holes that can only be accessed by a teetering ladder.
    Fun in retrospect, at the time I was one unhappy camper.
    Lesson learned: Do your research before booking a hostel. Don’t be afraid to ask to see the rooms and ask about security.

  • Nick

    Hostelling can be a strangely medieval experience. Shacking up with unknowns in a trust-nobody age; living how man had lived for the majority of his existence on earth. That, and of course, waking up next to a hairy-backed male.

    There is nothing quite like allowing your head to hit the hay after a hard days travelling and then being awoken by everyone cramming belongings into backpacks at ten past six in the morning (the bastards). Taking your shower bag to find the plughole caked shut with pubes.

    This is all part and part of hostelling and believe it or not, actually what makes it so bloody enjoyable.

  • Lindsay

    Ahhh, the hostel life…what can I say, it’s THE ONLY way to meet 50 people in an hour! Head to any hostel kitchen at dinner time and you’ll see what I mean.

    No really, hostel life is great. If you’re travelling to meet people from all over the world and share your experiences with, than staying in a hostel is the best option. If you’re going to be alone and “learn life”, well, hostel life can still be good!

    One of my best hostel experience was at “Dougies” in Port Douglas, Australia. It was crazy! They had a camp ground in the back, so I lived in a tent for 2 months. That way I still got a bit of privacy, but lived a hostel lifestyle. Many people lived at that hostel and worked in the town, so we bacame a huge close group of friends. Sunday mornings at 9am, a community train (think one you’d see at a zoo) would pull up with austrailian vacationers staying in fancy hotels. Now try to picture this- vacationers on a train, pulling up to a hostel with about 50-75 dirty backpackers standing there drinking champagne and oj!! Hillarious! Mainly because most of those backpackers only went to bed 2 hours before. Needless to say, the sunday morning champagne and oj’s were a fantastic way to start the day!
    Every hostel has something special and unique to it and the easiest way to find out which one is the best, is to ask other backpackers.

  • snyder

    Traveling as a student internationally can be rough, especially on your wallet. If you’re anything like me you dream of being pampered in luxurious hotels while over looking your city du jour but the reality of the situation can sometimes be far from it. Hostels are a great amenity for those on a budget while traveling in places unknown.
    My advice would be to do a little research before your big trip if you feel there is nothing worse than getting to a foreign country, knowing little of the landscape and language and having no idea where you’re sleeping. Availability changes with the seasons, so unless you want to end up in the metro station at 4am on bench, like I did, plan ahead. Before you go, consider an international student card as well, those rather inexpensive cards can save you some big bucks for a small fee, and not just at hostels. As a traveler it is imperative to be kind to your hostel caretakers, most of the hostels I’ve stayed in have been family owned and they have all appreciated respectful guests, and hey, you may even get breakfast out of it!

  • arden

    Ranging from the scummy to the snazzy, by way of Switzerland, Italy and Spain, I’ve seen it all! While the worst have you bunking with grumpy guests, sharing showers and using not-so-appealing lavatory facilities, the best offer breakfast to go, rooms for two and hair dryers to boot! Most hostels give you tips for touring the city and serve as a watering hole for lonely travellers, which is a great way to gain a partner in crime. Whatever you do, plan ahead! Roaming the streets in the pouring rain searching for accommodations is enough to put a damper on anyone’s first night in town


    “Hostels?” My mother scowled, “Disgusting.”
    While backpacking through Europe, I stayed at many hostels and found that doesn’t have to be the case if you do your research. Before prioritizing necessities to each of my hostel stays, I ended up in the dark corners of the red light district, showering in my socks for fear of fungus, sleeping in my jacket for lack of linens, and cursing my 15th peanut butter sandwich of the week in my kitchen-less accommodations. Knowledge of my hostels location and amenities in combination with fine-tuning the definition of “roughing it” made all the difference.

  • Ryan

    Hostels are a mainstay for the student traveler for many reasons. They’re cheap, have a fun atmosphere and are mostly located in the parts of town you want to be. As a student traveler, hostels will become a close friend. Just make sure you choose your friends wisely.

    Here are some things to take into account about staying in a hostel:

    -Don’t stay at a hostel you’re uncomfortable in; pack it up and look for new digs. If you’re in a major city, chances are there’s a better hostel down the street.

    -Secure all of your belongings in a locker, especially money and passports. If a hostel doesn’t offer lockers make sure to never leave your belongings unattended.

    -Make sure you know which part of town your hostel is located. You don’t want to get lost and every city in the world has it’s bad neighborhoods. Know what area you’re heading into ahead of time, especially if you’re arriving at night.

    Those are just some of the things to keep in mind while staying at a hostel, but don’t let that scare you. Every year thousands of students stay at hostels without incident, and as long as you’re smart about it, you will too. Just remember, the benefits of staying at a hostel far outweigh the few hassles you may encounter.

  • Steve AJD

    While travelling, one of the most important things to take into consideration is where to park your carcass. I find that one usually has three options:

    1) Sleep on a park bench
    2) Sleep on the train
    3) Find a hostel.

    Though I love the open air as much as the next guy, I most often opt for this last one.
    Not only is hosteling the only way most of us can afford to travel with our post secondary budgets, its also a big part of the adventure. The hostel is the natural habitat for all the world’s restless wanderers. It’s here where you will likely meet the most interesting people of your journey. It is also your first stage of interaction with the local culture, more so than any of the tourist spots. Every hostel, (even the standardized Hosteling International branches) is carved out of its locale, and no two are the same. While staying in a hostel, you can’t help but taste the atmosphere of the place you’re visiting.

    And contrary to popular belief, most are remarkably comfortable and safe, considering what you’re paying. Some even include breakfast!

    For enjoyment, experience, and education, to say nothing of economy, the Hostel is the way to go. Believe me, it beats the park bench. . .

  • Kim

    If you’re looking for a solitary, relaxing travel experience without much contact with other people bedsides the guy who answers the room service calls, then Hostels probably aren’t for you. But if you are looking to have some fun, make new friends in a youthful energy filled haven, Hostels are a great resource for anyone seeking budget conscious travel. What you lack in privacy and luxury is more than made up for with cheap rates, funky décor and volumes of interesting people coming and going around the clock.

    My friends and I stayed in 5 different hostels as we traveled throughout Scotland and each was uniquely different. The Hostels were all clean and comfortable both in the bunk rooms and communal bathrooms. Some rooms were decorated with themes based on old folklore of the area. The facilities were cleaned everyday by staff members with lockers available for your valuables. They provided a very inexpensive breakfast and a clean kitchen available for you to cook with throughout the day. There were endless amounts of literature and recommendations from staff for the “not to be missed” places to eat, drink and see as well as discounts on equipment rental if you needed bikes, or other gear.

    Probably the best part of the Hostel experience in my opinion was the people. The staff members were all young friendly people who love to talk to you about anything and everything from the history of the area, to trips they’ve taken to their favorite drunken stories. There were social areas available in every hostel so you could talk with other people, watch TV, play a board game or read a book. Some places organized movie nights for everyone staying at the hostel, pot luck dinners, or other group activities at night. We met numerous other student travelers as well as people who permanently live in the hostel. We met people from dozens of countries and all walks of life with some fantastic stories to tell about their life experiences. The friendships and memories we made at those hostels were a highlight of our trip and I’d recommend Hostels to anyone looking for a similarly unique experience.

  • Lindsay Winters

    Remember your freshman year of college? The thrill of meeting a “different” person everyday, the seemingly free-flowing booze, the anxious exhilaration of moving one step closer to independence. Such is hostel life. A summer spent trekking through Europe left me scratching my head and thinking, “You can take the girl out of the dormitory, but you can’t take the dormitory out of the girl.”
    Even a somewhat introverted person like myself will be beckoned by the call of the wild, err, call of the hostel, to engage in some debaucherous though undoubtedly culturally enriching activities. Of course, I’m implying that hostel life consists of drunken nights and endless partying…and it is. But it’s equally filled with stimulating debates on British foreign policy, the awesomeness of French techno, and a myriad of topics to get your (intellectual) freak on to. So while your hostelmate may be spending hours fruitlessly attempting to hook up with that hot Swede, you can effectively champion the significance of American hip hop to your Aussie boho counterpart. And if you ever decide to take the plunge into the animal house we call a European hostel, rest assured there’ll be at least one Jean-Paul, Maria, or Stefan who’ll dive in head first with you.

  • Angryjed

    All hostels are not created equal, regardless of their affiliation with Hostelling International. I’ve stayed at some great ones, others I’d rather forget.

    Sometimes, depending upon the country Hostels might not be the cheapest bed in town. In countries like Spain, France and Italy, family run pensions may be cleaner, friendlier and cheaper.

    If you value privacy and sleep, you might want to skip the larger dorm style hostels. But if you want to meet fellow travelers, save a few euros and only need a bunk to crash then you can’t beat the hosteling experience.

  • geoffrey

    Depending on what you’re looking for, the youth hostel scene may not be for you. Youth hostels tend to be almost entirely patronized by other North American or Austrailian tourists, and though you will likely meet plenty of other foriegners staying there, chances are you will not meet many from the country you’re visiting. The hostel’s cozy insulated environment is meant to attract those with Western standards of comfort, which has the Western effect of keeping people indoors and away from the everyday activity of the city or village. Hostels can often times be an island of Americana, leaving the traveller sometimes feeling he or she might as well be back home.
    Exceptions do occur, and generally the rule of thumb is that the further from Western countries you are, the more down-home and ‘local’ the hostels will be. Many nations may even boast hostels per se, but rather ‘pensiyons,’ which almost certainly contain a larger portion of provincal travellers. If you’re looking for that more local and regional experience, then always search for the cheapest hostel, which, in certain places and at peak seasons, may not be much cheaper than splitting a hotel room with a friend. In this case the choice is yours.

  • Gina

    Hostels are great. Even the not so great ones will give you fabulous memories. And believe me, hostels definitely range from the fantastic to the scary. Though hopefully nothing as scary as that movie Hostel. Which I didn’t go see for obvious reasons.

    Anyway, let’s start at the top. The Pink Palace in Corfu. The hostel to beat all hostels. For me, The Pink Palace lived up to its reputation. No, of course it’s not going to be the Four Seasons, and don’t expect a whole lot of culture. But if you want a break from your break (because backpacking can get tiring!) come here for a few days of fun and beauty. Corfu is stunning and I have never seen water so clear. Which definitely came in handy when I went snorkeling for the first time, courtesy of The Pink Palace’s famous Booze Cruise, which I must say was one of the most fun days of my life. The Pink Palace is a great place to have a lot of fun with cool new people.

    Then there was the Archi Rossi Hostel I stayed at in Florence which, because of how hostels are set up, changed my two week tour of Italy – for the better. My friend and I were eating in the hostel dining area when a guy came up and started chatting to us. This is common in hostels: everyone becomes your instant friend. It’s great. So this guy asks us where we’re heading and we tell him, and he is stunned to see that Cinque Terre is not in our itinerary. “Cinque Terre? Where is that?” we ask. So he tells us about it and is so passionate that we decide to work it into our trip. Thanks to that random guy at that hostel, Cinque Terre became my favorite place I visited during my travels.

    On that same trip around Italy, we traveled down to Salerno, and stumbled upon a hostel (I say stumbled because we were completely lost and I don’t think it was the hostel our guide book was talking about, but that’s another story). We affectionately came to dub this hostel the ghetto hostel because it was bare, bare minimums. Crappy mattresses, dirty bathrooms, and a crazy old guy who kept yelling in the hallway in the middle of the night. But the three nights we stayed there were totally worth it because…drum roll…it was only eight euros a night! Which allowed us to totally splurge on dinner on our day trips to the Amalfi Coast. That’s the other great things about hostels – they’re so cheap! Ok, so most are not as cheap as eight euros. That was a stroke of luck – which we only acknowledged when we left the hostel still alive and with all our belongings. But because of that, I’ll always smile fondly when I think of that hostel.

    I’ve stayed in many hostels, but those three stood out for very different reasons, but ones that highlight why hostels are so great. Each hostel you stay at offers new friends and new adventures just waiting to be discovered. Cheesy, right? But so true.

  • alena

    My hostelling career began in London about two years ago, at the start of a three-week whirlwind tour of Western Europe. A friend recommended a place where he claimed several of his intoxicated adventures had begun, so my fellow travelers and I booked our beds online, took the tube from Heathrow, and rocked up to a funky historical building complete with neon lights and a thumping bass line. We had a good night and took advantage of the bar, but I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that we really could be anywhere – for all of its hipster attitude, the place lacked character.

    From that point on, we threw caution to the warm spring winds. We found our accommodation by wandering around our destinations until time, money or fate brought us to our room for the night, and in the process experienced a much wider spectrum than that found in your average hostel pub. Barcelona introduced us to the brothel next door; Madrid provided scaffolding which we climbed for fabulous sunrise views from the roof; and in Cinque Terre, we somehow stayed in our own three bedroom apartment, complete with kitchen, Jacuzzi and garden terrace, for around 30 bucks a night. While we still popped into a hostel bar or two along the way, our wild and varied homes across the continent brought us closer to the culture and further from the norm. Forget the internet- chat to the locals, tie up your kicks, and find somewhere that inspires you.

  • Agnes Cao

    Forget the daily fresh towels, having your sheets changed by the maid, and being able to take one-hour showers. When traveling abroad, you will not be able to meet a group of more culturally diverse individuals in your age group than in a youth hostel. Youth hostels are an excellent choice for low-cost accommodations, especially for student travelers on a budget. Most hostels are conveniently located in walking distance from trains and to the city’s main attractions. In Europe, you can stay in a decent room for as little as $15 per night, some which come with a room key, lockers, free internet access, breakfast and even full use of the kitchen.

    Staying at a youth hostel is a special experience within itself, where you are able to learn about other people’s backgrounds, swap stories about each others’ travel adventures, and perhaps even create a life-long friendship with someone who lives across the world. You can also chat with the hostel’s employees and try to get them to show you the local hot spots. I wouldn’t have been able to experience the local bars and clubs in Rome, the hilltop night view of the Nice, the flea market in Amsterdam, or the pastry and baguette store in the suburbs of Paris if it weren’t for the generosity of the locals and hostel workers. Anyone can stay at a youth hostel (unless you’re over 30 years old, or however old the hostel’s age limit is). Just keep an open mind and be ready to have the time of your life.

  • Karisma

    At best, you could share a room and bathroom with one other person, with complimentary toiletries and sheets, maybe even a satisfying breakfast, all for less than the price of some cheap jeans. At worst, you could be stuck in a room with a couple of snorers, humpers, and escape into a shower with untouchable walls, a tattered curtain, and a button you must push every 15 seconds in order for the water to flow.

    In both of these scenarios, you are guaranteed to meet people you will never forget. There’s always a lounge with plenty of travelers like yourself reviewing their trips so far or planning their next adventure. There’s no better travel guide than a fellow traveller. So go online, research some hostels in your desired budget around your chosen destination, and don’t forget to pack a towel!

  • Kwan

    Of Poker and Pigeons

    I suck at Poker in English, playing in Catalan I was just a moron.
    We were sitting on a balcony overlooking the plaza, weekend tourists and old couples lounging in the coffee shops below us. A young boy fed a flock of pigeons on the square, corralling them with the promise of bread crumbs, while men in dark clothes played the shadows, whispering their hustles to young backpackers.
    The old man and I held our cigarettes at the same angle, the smoke our only shared language. He was determined to teach me to play Poker. The fact that he didn’t speak a lick of English and I had just recently discovered Catalan didn’t seem to bother him at all. But it was a nice day in Barcelona, the hostel was empty, there was a cool breeze and I had no plans. Poker seemed like a fine idea.

    As the day waned and the sun moved from one side of the plaza to the other, the old man and I threw down our cards, smiled, pointed and laughed our way into the afternoon. I still have no idea how poker works and my Catalan is still nonexistent, but the good memories of that hostel balcony in Barcelona still peek through, whenever I see pigeons in flight.

  • Allaina

    When I went to Lisbon, the hostel in the downtown area was booked full and they redirected me to their other location near Nation’s Park, site of Expo ’98. Aside from tourist attractions, the water front lined with newer condos let me see another side of the city. Being centrally located is convenient, but staying away from the main sites can force you to see more of a place. When I travel to NYC, I stay in Brooklyn and get the advantage of being in a borough most tourists never venture to see. Rather than stay where the sites and shops are, try staying where the locals live and near places they frequent.

  • Allaina

    Whenever I go to Ireland, I spend the extra buck and stay at a Bed and Breakfast. Not only can I still meet other travelers and local people, but it is often the best option in areas outside of main cities. If they have children, it can be similar to a homestay. Staying in multiple B & Bs exposes me to more families and allows for a more realistic and broader experience of the people. The owners treat me more like a guest than a client, chatting with me over a traditional Irish breakfast made to order. Check out for more information.

  • Johanna

    For about two days I did nothing but shift my ass from one train to another inching towards the Jungfrau Mountains of Switzerland. A gondola finally brought me to a remote hostel high in the mountains. It was late. I had nothing more than an on-line reservation. When I walked into the place it immediately reminded me of the taverns of old Europe–men and women of all ages crowded around wooden tables eating, drinking, and talking in booming tones. What was more, my bed was clean and the hot tub was bubbling. The moral of the story is that in the wild world of hostelling you win some you, you loose some. Cut your losses, plan ahead as much as possible, keep a tight reign on valuables and you never know… there could be an amazing night stay right around the corner.

  • Vitaly

    Aside from learning how to read a train schedule in 14 languages, finding a hostel that’s both fun and reasonably priced is a traveler’s biggest challenge. Let’s face it, decent accommodation is the first thing you look for upon arrival in a new town, and a dingy place can really put a damper on your enjoyment. Sometimes you get lucky; other times, you’re wandering the streets of a questionable Milan neighborhood because you didn’t realize there was a big rock concert that night and all hostels are full. Probably the biggest lesson a traveler needs to learn is that if you are planning on arriving after sunset – make reservations! And if you’re lucky enough to land a fun hostel, pick a bottom bunk (so the light doesn’t hit your eye) and always carry ear plugs.

  • Jess

    Do your research! Always know what kind of hostel you’re headed for, before you reserve a bed. In big cities like Paris, you should really save up a couple of extra francs and pay for one of the nice ones… unless you like staying at places with no sheets, no blankets, not much heat to speak of, and a large drunk Polish guy snoring in the top bunk. Other hostels, like the Yoho hostel in Salzburg, are clean and comfortable but feature a daily viewing of The Sound Of Music (which attracts the sort of tourist that make some of us want to throw up a little). But the fact of the matter is that hostels are always going to be cheap, convenient, and full of some of the coolest people on the planet. Who cares about ambience? Make your own!

  • Anna

    On a budget? Well, if you’re not then consider yourself extremely lucky and the envy of every backpacker. I had only stayed in a few hostels before I started backpacking Down Under. However, after four months spent bouncing from one hostel to another I consider myself a youth hostel veteran. Australia and New Zealand are renowned for their well kept and lively hostels. They are THE best way to meet friends!

    Hostel tips: Come ready to cook, you’ll meet most people over meals, and make sure to clean up after yourself if you want to stay friends with the staff. Group BBQ’s and pub crawls are always popular and are local traditions. Pack your bags at night if you plan on leaving before sunrise or else fear the wrath of your roommates.

  • H

    My second trip to Ireland started with less than a bang. I wandered down to the hostel’s commons room bleary-eyed, but grateful for the space to move. After 24 hours in planes, in airports, catching cat naps (which seem to be nearly useless to humans), and hoping for the Dramamine to kick in, you’d think I would sleep like the dead. But no, no, the predator Jetlag had its grip, slowly suffocating my sanity. The commons were usually godsends—there was always someone up. I slipped down the sweating stone stairwell so typical of old Irish buildings, rounded the corner, and, well, lookie here, a cute one at the long table. Bright blue eyes looked up. “Couldn’t sleep either?”

    Hostels are the fulfillment of Europe’s ancient tradition of roadside inns. Serving as occasional long-term homes for the poorer workers, they also serve as welcome refuges for weary travelers. The outcome is an eclectic, multi-flavored, and ever-churning mix of locals, students, life-long wanderers, and immigrants. Quixote spoke of them often; Hugo used their cousin—the pension—as stages for countless revolutionary chats. Refreshingly, nothing has really changed save the technology: At worst, hostels are dodgy establishments filled with drifters and scammers; at best, they are community-oriented, temporary homes incubating those unique connections only wandering souls coming together can produce. There simply is no substitute for the myriad of scenes you will play out with the troop of characters you will meet. Western-style hotels, with their isolated rooms, down hallways in which no one speaks, cooks together, sleeps together, flops down in the same room after a long day together, just can’t breed the cultural babies of interaction hostelling forces (hopefully welcomingly) on its guests. Think of it as a more mature, much more entertaining version of the dorm. If you can be happy for the humpers two beds over, and don’t mind breaking language barriers with the owner over a gallon of tequila, you’re going to be just fine.

    Basic establishments will offer a commons area in which to realx and socialize, shower rooms, and group sleeping quarters. The better ones will have a choice of amenities, including kitchen and laundry facilities, private rooms, internet connections, keyed storage to secure belongings, 24-hour front desk service, and some version of security. When choosing a hostel, be careful, but not overly cautious. Check out your guidebook–a good one will give you a range in prices and on-site options. Some are coed, and many have curfews, so be sure to ask about these. If it’s high tourist season, book one in advance, but keep your options open. Listen to the locals once you get there, and combine their knowledge with your own—they often know priceless secrets, such as which one has the best kitchen, or who will give a discount if you ask.

    Once you find a few you like, check out the neighborhood, and keep your eyes peeled for other hostels; there are usually smaller establishments in the same area that are just as nice, and sometimes cozier. Precisely because hostels are what they are—a haven for transients and travelers—the atmosphere can change from week to week, month to month, and you want to make sure you are comfortable. Ask questions. This is no time to be shy; after all, it will be your home for however long you stay. Remember to watch your back, and that loneliness is a choice: there’s always a cutie, hiding in the corner.

  • jeff

    In Spring of 2006, I ventured out on my first overseas trip, to Israel. Three weeks in the Middle East brought me to youth hostels in Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem. At each location, new friends were made, and daily travel plans were made in the morning over a couple shots of espresso, and then recounted that night over a couple beers. Listening to people from all walks of life giving their perceptions on the country and the people was insightful and educational. A truly invaluable experience is brought to life when you can let go of all the baggage you carry in the day-to-day routine, and be free to let go and be yourself; learning about the world around you at the same time. A nice quiet walk back home is good, but that pales in comparison to the personal and worldly reflections that are brought to light when spending three days bumming around Jerusalem’s Old City, with no plan and no itinerary, just a goal to get out there and see what the world is all about, and how you can become a better citizen because of it.

  • Eva David

    Youth Hostels offer travelers maximum experience for minimum cost. While visiting New York City, you could stay at Hostelling International for about $35/night sharing a room along with travel tips, tales, and plans with seven other backpackers from all around the world. Hostel management generally posts calendars of free or cheap opportunities that their guests might enjoy. You can choose between Opera or Shakespeare plays in Central Park, an outdoor movie screening, or one of many concerts or shows in the area all for free! Experiences available to everyone create the privilege of interacting with a diversity of fascinating people.

  • na1414

    a packing list to help you Survive the dorms:

    -Shower Slippers
    Get some that are rubber or plastic. They dry instantly, and save you from those “questionable” surfaces.

    Even if you fork over for a single, you never know what your neighbors might be up to later. Ahem.

    Bring a couple. And use them! While most people are totally trustworthy, there are always a few who are looking for creative ways to extend their trip.

    -Deck of Cards
    Want to meet people? Having a deck of cards is one of the easiest ice breakers out there.

    Most hostels will give you sheets and blankets, but it’s always nice to have something you know is clean and cozy. Just take an old sheet, fold it in half, and sew the edges. It barely takes up any room in the backpack.

    -Marking Pen
    If you’re planning on cooking, write your name on your food. For some reason, a lot of backpackers convienently forget that they didn’t buy that box of cereal they’re eating.

    -Postcards of your Hometown
    You’ll meet tons of people, and exchange heaps of emails. While you may or may not actually write to your new friends, it’s kind of fun to give them a sense of where you’re from, with your info on the back.

    Some people don’t like wet clothes hanging on their bed. Especially if they’re on the lower bunk. Fashion a clothesline and you’ll be a hero.

    -A Flashlight
    You’re jetlagged, and just want a quiet place to read. The common room is way too loud, and everyone in your room is asleep. Or you come in late and can’t find your toothbrush. Don’t be that guy that turns on all the lights and wakes everyone up.

  • sophia

    Youth hostels are awesome for cost, but also experience. In my experience, roommates were young, budget travelers just like me, so I’ve never had problems with stealing food, sharing bathrooms, privacy etc. I never risked leaving my stuff unlocked, but they weren’t chained chain to my wrist either.

    Utilize the front desk, they can answer any questions about local restaurants, bars, or entertainment. In really classy hostels, they can even arrange your tours (at a discount price). But in all hostels you’re likely to find a group of people willing to explore with you– great way to make wonderful friends.