Frontier gap year banner

iGap Newsletter

Hostels and Backpackers, booking cheap rooms

Hostels are everywhere and it is usually possible to find one located right in the centre of a city, or very close to areas that interest you. Hostels are a brilliant place to meet fellow travellers. All types and ages of people stay in hostels, and there are usually communal areas where people hang out – where it is easy to get talking and strike up conversations. You are likely to find a few people who will be travelling on in your direction, who may even be keen to travel together.

We would advise that you book your hostel in advance, especially during peak holidays or a festival season. If you can’t book in advance, try to turn up early in the morning to give yourself time to find an alternative hostel. It is a good idea to at least book somewhere for the first night of your trip, or visit to a new city or country. You’ll have the security of knowing where you will be staying when you arrive, and won’t be such a target for touts at airports and stations.

What is hostel accommodation like?

All hostels will offer a different mix of accommodation, but basically rooms will range from private rooms with en suite facilities, smaller dorms for groups of between 2-8 or larger dorms where you could share with up to 20 others. The cheapest way to hostel is obviously to share a dorm. Even if your roommates try to keep the noise down, it can get noisy in dorms at night. People will come in at different times, and may be up early to travel on to their next destination. Some dorms will be separated by sex, and some will be mixed. If you have a preference, make sure you check in advance.

Unless you pay for a room with an en suite, shower facilities will probably be communal. They will almost always be separated by sex. Sometimes, the shower area can be open, but there will usually be either lockable cubicles, or curtains to pull shut. In the few hostels that have mixed sex showers, there would be cubicles.

Many hostels also offer bars and restaurants, 24-hour opening, self-catering kitchens, Internet cafes and many more added facilities such as TV and laundry rooms.

There may be a curfew at night (some like you to be in bed by midnight), and you may be expected to be up and out of your room by 10am.

What do you need to bring?

Bring your own towels, soap and shampoo as hostels do not provide these in the cost.

Some hostels won’t let you use your sleeping bag because of the risk of bringing bugs in with them. They will either provide, or rent you a ‘sleep bag’. You could make your own sleep bag by sewing together two sheets – it will take up only a little space in your rucksack and could save you some money.

You often need some form of identification to check into a hostel – but as you’ll probably be travelling with your passport, you can just use that. A few hostels may have an age restriction (if they have a bar on the premises), so if you are under 18 (or under 21 in America), you should probably check in advance.

Be theft aware

You will normally leave your backpack in the dorm while you are out and about during the day. Make sure that you don’t leave any valuables, such as cameras, passports and money, lying around. Most hostels should have a safe storage area, and some will have a locker for your backpack. If not, you should really keep your valuables with you. Although most people staying in hostels will be honest, don’t risk losing something you really value or that could be a real hassle to replace. If you do have something stolen you will need to report it to the police if you want to claim it on your travel insurance.

Don’t expect luxury – because you probably won’t get it! But don’t let that put you off – on the whole you should find hostelling to be a very rewarding experience.

Do I need a hostel membership card?

You don’t need a hostel membership card, but they can save you money through discounts on your accommodation.

The ISIC– International Student Identity Card – is the only internationally recognised student ID card, and offers thousands of discounts worldwide on accommodation, attractions, flights, museums, restaurants, shopping etc. If you are not a student, you can get the International Youth Travel Card.