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Your Youth Hostel Stay

How to Book, What to Bring and What to Expect


How to Reserve a Youth Hostel Room

There are several ways to book your youth hostel stay. You can go to the Hostelling International website and reserve a room online. Consider researching available youth hostels on their national association websites, too, because some hostels can be booked online only through their own national hostelling association. In some cases, you’ll need to contact the hostel by email or send the staff a fax to make a reservation.

If you’re a spontaneous sort of person, you can simply show up at the hostel and ask for a room. Some hostels set aside a few rooms for same-day travelers, while others sell out weeks in advance.

It’s always a good idea to read independent reviews before you book. Try reading comments at VirtualTourist or Hostelz.com to get an idea of what to expect at each hostel.

Be sure you understand each hostel’s cancellation policy; you may lose your deposit if you don’t cancel at least 24 hours in advance.

What to Bring

Hostel rooms are comfortable but small. It’s best to travel light. You’ll definitely want to bring the following items:

  • Passport
  • Cash and credit card (payment preferences vary by hostel)
  • HI membership card, if required
  • Shower shoes and towel, if you plan to shower
  • Personal toiletries, including soap and shampoo
  • Padlock and coins for lockers
  • Sleep sheets, if the hostel doesn’t rent them

Checking In

Before you arrive, find out when your youth hostel’s front desk is open. Don’t be late, because you may lose your room. In fact, it’s a good idea to arrive when the desk opens, especially during peak travel season, as some hostels overbook their rooms. Expect to fill out a form or two when you check in. You will be asked to show your HI membership card if you’re staying at an HI hostel where membership is required. You’ll also be asked to pay for your stay in advance. You may have to pay a key deposit or leave your passport at the desk during your stay.

When you check in, be sure to ask about sheets and hand towels, breakfast hours and checkout procedures.

Once you’ve checked in, the desk clerk will give you a key and, perhaps, a door access code. (Don’t lose either, unless you enjoy being locked out.) You’ll be told where to pick up sheets and hand towels, and what to do with them the next morning.

Resolving Problems

Most problems can be resolved at the front desk because they involve checkin, checkout, meals or showers. Late-night noise problems may be a different story if the front desk has limited hours.

Breakfast and Checkout

When you awake, you’ll want to tidy up, strip your bed and pack your gear before breakfast. This will give you plenty of time to enjoy your morning meal and check out. Be punctual; you’ll miss breakfast if you arrive late.

Expect a line at the front desk as the checkout deadline approaches. Once you’ve returned your keys and settled your account, you’ll be ready to enjoy the local sights.

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