I'm new to these boards and was looking for a little advise on the best hostel card to buy?
Starting July myself (27) and partner (33) are going on a RTW trip.
Where on a fairly tight budget and wanted to keep our accommodation cost down by staying private rooms in hostels... We don't mind sharing a bathroom and socializing with others but when it comes to bed time we like our own space. If you catch my drift
Our current Itinerary is as follows:
Cuba 3 weeks
Mexico 2 Weeks
USA 6 weeks
Vanuatu 2 Weeks
Fiji 2 weeks
NZ 6 weeks
SE Asia 5 Months
China 1 month
Japan 2 weeks.
Any help and advise on which type of card for which country is best. And if anyone can recommend a nice Hostel/B & B for our first destination in Havana I'd be really grateful.
AFAIK the only hostel card there is is the HI/YHA membership card. (And I personally almost never bother with that since I prefer to stay in independent hostels.) It is an international card, you join the HI/YHA organisation in your home country and it is valid world wide.
BTW, if you value your privacy I have found that instead of a private room in a hostel taking a tent and staying at a camping site is better value. This might also work out best in the USA, especially if you are on a budget.
With 4000 hostels in 80 countries, HI/YHA is the only truly worldwide card (and you don't necessarily have to join in your home country - you can join anywhere), but VIP has 1200 hostels in 80 countries as well, and although there's many countries in which their coverage is decidedly spotty, their coverage might be good enough in the countries you're travelling to to make them a contender as well. You'll have to check the VIP website yourself to see if this holds for your trip.
It's almost always worth getting either card, as they pay themselves back in an average of 10 (YHA/HI) or 20 (VIP) nights, which you'll reach in no time.
For discounts it doesn't matter which organization to join, as their discounts are indistinguishable in pretty much all countries (and in fact in places like Australia, for discounts with trains and busses, all that is specified is that you need a backpacker or ISIC (international student) card).
So in the end it comes down to which organization you prefer, where YHA hostels are in general considered to be cleaner and quieter (but characterless in the larger hostels), while VIP ones are preferred by people looking for a party. (But that's a huge generalization, and many individual hostels from both organizations differ from this.) What might also be relevant to you is that YHA/HI is a non-profit organization, with a philosophy about promoting understanding and global awareness, while VIP is just a for-profit organization which otherwise independent hostels can join in order to promote themselves.
Personally I'm a YHA/HI fan, but YMMV.
[ Edit: Edited on May 23, 2008, at 7:19 AM by Sander ]