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Last updated June 09, 2014. 

Raileurope.com: See Europe by train

Hostel FAQ for Europe

Frequently asked questions by travelers planning a budget trip to Europe

 
What is a hostel?
Who can stay at hostels?
How much does it cost to stay in a hostel?
What is Hostelling International (HI/IYHF)?
What are "Independent Hostels"?
Where can I make reservations for hostels?
Where can I search for hostels on-line?
Are there ways to get hostel discounts?
Where do I leave my backpack when I'm out exploring?
What kind of services/amenities  do hostels offer?
What is a sleep-sheet?

What is a hostel?
A hostel offers low priced accommodation that provides a bed, pillow, blanket, and bathing facilities, usually in dormitory style.  Many hostels include a free breakfast in their nightly price, have low priced meals available, and/or have a kitchen available for guests to use.  Most hostels require that you have your own sheets and towels.  If you do not bring your own, it may be possible for you to rent those items from the hostel. I recommend bringing your own sleep-sheet &
travel towel.

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Who can stay at hostels?
Student groups, families, couples, independent travelers, college students, seniors citizens, etc. may stay at hostels. Most hostels require that guests be at least 18 years old or they must be accompanied by a parent/guardian/chaperone. With the exception of the Bavarian region of Germany, there are no upper age restrictions at most hostels. In Bavaria, most, but not all, hostels require guests to be under 26 years of age.

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How much does it cost to stay in a hostel?
Adult prices range from $15.00-$45.00 (per night, per person), with the most common prices being between $20.00-$30.00 (per night, per person).  Large cities like London and Paris tend to be more expensive than smaller towns.  Hostels in Eastern and Southern Europe tend to be on the low end of the price range.

Price is also determined by how many beds are in a room.  Dormitories are the cheapest with anywhere from 10-20 people in a room.  Many hostels also have 6, 4, 2, and 1 person rooms or offer special rooms for families--each at an increasing price.

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What is Hostelling International (HI/IYHF)?
Hostelling International is the brand name of the not-for-profit organization the International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF) and its member associations. While HI hostels do not require membership, you will have to pay a supplement if you don't have a hostel card.  If you plan to stay for more than 6 days in HI hostels during you trip, then becoming a member is advisable. 

Pros: 

  • Hostelling International hostels are generally clean and well-run.  
  • Most offer rooms with keys.
  • Many have kitchen and laundry facilities
  • Most offer advance on-line booking.
  • Good environment for families with children.
  • Usually offers a quiet sleeping environment.

Cons:

  • Hostelling International hostels often have very restrictive curfews (some as early as 9:00 p.m.!!).
  • They often have long "lock-out" periods (this means that guests are required  to be out of the hostel during certain times--for example 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
  • Not the best place to meet fellow travelers.
  • Lots of families with children and large student groups stay at HI hostels.
  • Often located on the outskirts of the town/city you are visiting.
  • Prices tend to be higher (Hostel International card required to get reduced rate).

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What are "Independent Hostels"?
Independent hostels are owned and operated  by individuals or small groups, not by world-wide hostel groups like HI.  In general, independent hostels are less restrictive (later curfews and shorter lock-out periods, if any) than HI hostels.  Prices and quality of these hostels vary as with HI hostels.

Pros: 

  • Independent hostels usually have no curfews.
  • No or shorter "lock-out" periods.  
  • Many offer rooms with keys.
  • Many have kitchen and laundry facilities
  • Many offer advance on-line booking.
  • Great environment to meet fellow travelers.
  • Usually centrally located in the town/city you are visiting.
  • Usually cheaper than HI hostels (no special card needed to get good rate).

Cons:

  • Independent hostels can be hit and miss in the cleanliness department. 
  • Sometimes they are not the best places for families with children because they tend to cater to independent travelers looking for a good time. 
  • No curfews mean the chances of your sleep being disturbed during the night is greater.

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Where can I make reservations for hostels?
Make an on-line Hostel Reservation and check the price and availability of hostel rooms in the city and on the dates of your choice, then book on-line. Prices available in many different currencies. Hostel Reservation FAQ.

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Where can I search for hostels on-line?

Hostels On-Line check on-line for room availability and find out basic information about hostels (amenities, curfews, photographs, etc.)

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Are there ways to get hostel discounts?

ISIC Student, Youth, or Teacher Identity Card  If you are a full-time student or teacher, or if you are under 26, there are many discounts and special arrangements available to you at home and when you travel. Recognized in over 100 countries, an international identity card can prove you belong to one of these special groups anywhere you go.

VIP Backpackers Card VIP gives you hundreds of locations worldwide with discount accommodation to match.  Backpackers can choose from more than 1,000 independently operated backpacker resorts in 43 countries including over 135 in Australia, 90 in New Zealand, 65 in Southern Africa and over 500 in the UK and Europe.

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Where do I leave my backpack when I'm out exploring?

Some hostel have lockers or luggage rooms where you can store your backpack while you are out exploring during the day. Many have hostels with rooms locks (so at the very least this restricts the amount of people who have access to your room). Most people generally leave their backpack on or under their bed while they are out during the day.  Keep essentials like your passport, money/credit cards, camera, and any other valuable items with you at all times in your money belt or day pack while you are out.  Very few incidents of theft occur at hostels, but it is always best not to tempt thieves by leaving valuables out in the open.  


What kind of services/amenities do hostels offer?

Here are examples of what some, but not all, hostels may offer:

  • Key or key card for your room (usually a small deposit is required)
  • Sheet, blanket, & towel rental (small fee or deposit)
  • Train station and/or airport pick-up (usually free)
  • Continental breakfast and/or coffee & tea (usually free, sometimes for a  fee)
  • Laundry facility access (small fee)
  • Kitchen access (free)
  • Internet access (sometimes free, but usually for a fee)
  • Pay phone access
  • Discounted meals
  • In-house bar and/or restaurant
  • Satellite television (free)
  • VCR & video library (sometimes free, but usually for a fee)
  • Travel & reading libraries and book exchanges (free)
  • Pool tables (usually free, but sometimes for a small fee)
  • Bicycle rental
  • Book your next hostel (usually for free)
  • Bookings for backpacking tours, day trips, city tours, walking tours, etc. 

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What is a sleep-sheet?

 Many hostels require you to bring your own sleep sheet or you can pay a fee to rent sheets at the hostel. A sleep-sheet is a sheet sewn together like a sleeping bag/sleeping bag liner. You can buy one or make your own by folding a queen or double sized flat sheet in half and sewing up the bottom of the sheet and 1/3 of the open side. 

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