leaving to auz in sept. i have never traveled before and everyone says stay in a hostel...honestly i have no idea what a hostel is like and how long you can stay in one for? bout all i know is they are fairly cheap i think. do you have to book for them or you can come and go and stay whenever you want for long as its not full? plz let me know anything you know or any other suggestions.
Ok, well I've done lotsa hostel travelling, including in Aussie, so I'll tell you what I can
Apart from tents, hostels are the cheapest form of accommodation you can use. You are paying for a shared room (dorm), that can sleep anything from 4 - 20 people. Yes 20!! This'd be the extreme, most dorms hold maybe 6 - 10 people. In Aussie you could be paying $13 - $35/night for a bed in a shared dorm. The hostels other facilities will vary, some of them are very new and pretty luxe, others are older and just provide you with the basics, a bed and a shower. You can also get single or double rooms at some hostels for a higher price. A good site for helping you choose which hostel to stay at is http://www.hostelz.com. It'll tell you all about each hostel, and has reviews from people who have stayed there recently
Of course you can book ahead, and this is a very good idea if you'll be staying in a popular town or city, or in peak season. Even a phonecall the day beforehand to check availability is a good idea.
Honestly, I could keep going, but might let someone else fill in the bits I may have left out lol!! But feel free to PM me if you'd like and I'll ask any specific questions you may have
Ok, a little hostel 101.
Hostels are budget accommodations geared toward travelers who don't need a fancy place to stay nor privacy, but rather just need a place to lay their head and are keen to meet fellow travelers. It's really more than just a place to stay, but it's also very much a social environment where travelers meet. You will find them just about anywhere the world where budget travelers go, including every major city and tourist destination across Canada. You will often here them called "youth hostels", but the name means nothing these days as you will find every type of traveler staying in them, from families on vacation to 70 years olds touring the world. However, far and away the most common demographic is 20/30 somethings on "backpacking" trips.
Hostels tend to offer a few different options for accommodation. Most common are dorm rooms. These are usually a room with 2-4 sets of bunk beds, however I've stayed in ones with 30 beds in a room (never again) and some with only 2 twin beds. As a solo traveler these are ideal because you pay for just the bed which is almost always far far cheaper than having to get a hotel room. You will be sharing a room with however many other travelers. It sounds off putting to some people, but for most its great because it gives you the opportunity to meet other travelers. Some hostels offer only separate sex dorms, some offer only co-ed dorms, and most offer both. Most hostels also offer private rooms of some nature for those who don't like sharing a room with strangers.
Hostels will also have a common room of some sort. These range from just a room with some books and a tv or something, to nice lounges with comfy couches, a pool table, travel info, a book exchange, a bar etc... These rooms are meant for guests to hang out in and meet others, share travel experiences and whatnot.
Almost all hostels also have a kitchen and dining room that is there for the guests to use. Usually there are fridges and storage areas where you can leave food for the time you are staying there. Though quality varies, the kitchens are usually fully stocked with utensils and cookware and what not and are big enough for a number of guests to cook together. I have been in a couple hostels that make you get cookware from reception with a deposit. Again, this is also a great place to meet people.
Bathroom/showers vary from hostel to hostel. Some have a bathroom for every room, but more often there is a one communal facility on each floor.
In most countries in the world, there are actually two types of hostels.
One is the classic "youth hostel". These are usually affiliated with "Hosteling International", a global network of hostels. In some countries these are also known as YHA (Youth Hostel Association). At these, they like you to have a membership that costs something like $25 a year, and gives you a cheaper rate than people without one. An HI membership bought in any country will give you discounts at HI hostels anywhere in the world. Many people prefer to stay at youth hostels exclusively because the standards are very consistently excellent. They are usually very well run and clean. However, they do have their downside. Often there are curfews, or restricted reception hours, and many people (including myself) often find them a little sterile and institutional feeling with not a whole lot of character. Of course there are many exceptions, some youth hostels are fantastic places to stay and in places like the UK particularly they are often old converted castles, mansions, and even churches, full of character.
The second type of hostel are independent ones and are usually referred to as "backpackers". In my opinion, these are better places to stay. They work the same as hostels in every way except that they are privately owned and so aren't restricted by the standards of the HI network. This means that backpackers have more character, are all very unique, and are more open for things like bars, organizing social events etc... Of course this also means that quality can vary quite a bit. There are backpackers out there that are dives, but there are also many out there that are absolutely fantastic places to stay. It's a little more luck of the draw because you never know what your going to get, so getting recommendations from guide books, other travelers etc.. is quite useful when finding a backpackers.
As for reception and max stays, that all depends on the hostel. HI hostels are more likely to have a max stay of a week or two (just a guess) , but some backpackers do to. Some backpackers in resort or fruit picking towns on the other hand cater to temp workers and allow guests to stay for a month or two at a time. As for reservations, it generally works the same as a hotel. You can always walk in and ask for a bed, however, you are risking it being full. In popular tourist destinations during peak season its always good to book in advance (even if only the day before) the same as you would for a hotel.
I hope this answers some of your questions and I hope you now have a general idea of what hostels are all about.
Many people prefer to stay at youth hostels exclusively because the standards are very consistently excellent. They are usually very well run and clean. However, they do have their downside. Often there are curfews, or restricted reception hours
YHAs in which countries still have curfew? I honestly have never been in a YHA with a curfew... (A search on hihostels.com bring up 40 hits for "curfew" - randomly clicking through the results, all of them have the hit because they say "no curfew".)
many people (including myself) often find them a little sterile and institutional feeling with not a whole lot of character. Of course there are many exceptions, some youth hostels are fantastic places to stay and in places like the UK particularly they are often old converted castles, mansions, and even churches, full of character.
It should be noted here that (in my experience), the "exceptions" are the rule. The only character-less institutional YHAs I've known are the huge 'flag-ship' hostels in the very largest cities with international airports, and those cities are then usually large to such a degree that there will be more than one YHA, with the smaller ones often being charming little places full of character. If you from there go out into the country, most YHAs you'll encounter are really nice places.
Things differ a lot from country to country, though. My view is based on extensive experience with YHAs in Australia and New Zealand, with a few decent experiences from the rest of the world (Canada and Norway and Northern Ireland) thrown into the mix (and one really bad experience in Germany).
The YHA hostel I worked at in Northern England had a curfew. I was reminded of this a couple times a week when it was I who had to get out of bed at midnight to let late guests in. It seems many hostels here in Japan have a curfew as well. I've stayed at hostels that I would describe as institutional feeling and therefore less pleasant than backpackers in England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. I'm not saying they are bad places to stay, as I said they are very consist ant in offering excellent, clean, and very safe facilities. But I have heard the "less character" complaint from many other travelers other than myself.
it is not the curfew that matters, it is YHA's 2pm to 5pm closing time that bugs me. think of it, i travel to a town around lunch time and i cant register myself in YHA because it is closed. this happened at a couple of YHA places in Britain
That closing time doesn't really exist in Australia/New Zealand. (Although reception at a couple of the smaller YHAs (not in the big cities) does sometimes go on a long break around noon when people don't tend to arrive, in order to help with the cleaning and such. This is always indicated on the YHAs website e.a. so you can take it into account when planning.)