Staying in hostels
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Whether you’re backpacking around the world on a gap year or going on a city-break with your uni mates, hostels are likely to be your homes away from home. You’ve probably heard a mix of stories about amazing and amazingly awful experiences from hostel stays, but it doesn’t have to be all bad – if all you’re looking for is a clean place to sleep and shower, a little research beforehand can guarantee you get what you need.
If you’re a complete newbie to staying in hostels (and still wondering if it’s really hotel spelled wrong), here’s some basic info that will help you make sense of what’s available. Always ask other travellers about which hostels they recommend, and which they advise avoiding at all costs.
Most youth hostels offer a mix of private rooms and dormitories. Private rooms are usually singles, twins or doubles, though some hostels also offer triples. Dormitories vary in size from location to location, but generally range from four to 20 beds (or even more sometimes in European cities!). Most dorms will have rows of bunk beds, though some offer a selection of bunks and regular single or double beds.
A lot of hostels have some ensuite rooms available, meaning that you’ll have your own private bathroom. Standard or non-ensuite rooms involve sharing communal shower/toilet facilities, which are generally provided not too far away on the same corridor.
Many hostels have a self-catering kitchen where you can cook your own meals, and some even have their own restaurants, cafes and bars. Almost all hostels offer lockers (either free or for-hire) so that people staying in dormitories can lock up their valuables.
Some hostels have curfews or lock-outs, though this is becoming less common – still, it’s always worth checking the website for this kind of info before you book. A hostel’s website should also give details about whether linens are provided. Sheets usually will be as this helps to cut down on bedbug problems from dirty sleeping bags, but you’ll probably either have to hire towels or bring your own.
Signing up for Youth Hostel Association membership can save you a few quid off the cost of stay per night at registered hostels. Visit www.yha.org.uk to find out more.