Hostel Frequently Asked Questions

We've been in the hostelling business for over 75 years, and hostellers have always asked questions about our hostels, reservations and other things. Below are some hostel frequently asked questions that can assist you in making your decision to stay at a Hostelling International USA hostel.

Are hostels just for young people?
Hostelling International USA welcomes visitors of all ages. While the majority of our hostel guests are between 18 and 30 years of age, seniors, families and groups also enjoy using our hostels across the United States and around the world.

Where are hostels and how many are there?
Hostelling International USA has nearly 4,000 hostels in over 80 countries worldwide, including nearly 60 hostels here in the United States. Our hostels are in major cities like New York, London, Paris, Beijing, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro and Nairobi, but you will also find hostels in smaller centers, rural areas, points of interest, national parks, along with mountainous regions and coastal shores.

What does it cost to stay in a hostel?
Big city hostels, like New York and London, will run $25-$45 per night. Smaller and medium sized hostels can be as little as $15-$20 per night. Staying at our hostels makes your trip more affordable and allows you to spend your money on other things.

Do I have to be a member to stay at an HI hostel?
Yes, you need to be a member of Hostelling International to stay at an HI-USA.  If a guest is not a member they have the option of either purchasing a full annual membership or temporary membership during their stay.  If you are not a U.S. resident you can still purchase an HI-USA membership while traveling in America.  This membership is also valid around the world, including your home country.  To ensure that you always have access to the HI global network, along with the many other membership related discounts and benefits in the US and around the world, it is highly recommended that you become a member before you travel. (See membership section on this site for more information on how to become a member).

Do I have to make a reservation to stay at a hostel?
Reservations are recommended during busy travel seasons, although not required. A variety of reservation options are available click here. Without a reservation, we recommend that you arrive early to obtain a bed.

What does a hostel look like?
Hostels are as varied in their looks as in their locations. Some are in modern, multi-story buildings and historic buildings that have been totally renovated. You can stay in a lighthouse on the California coast, a castle in Germany, a 19th century sailing ship in Sweden - just to name a few.

What equipment do I need to go hostelling?
Basically you will need a very small amount of the same stuff you would normally travel with plus a couple of extra items. Then you will need something comfortable and practical to carry it all in. Pack Lightly! While hostelling you won't find baggage porters, suitcase racks or hanging closet space. You will likely be traveling on public transportation and walking from place to place. Traveling light is fundamental if you are going to have an enjoyable time.

Don't bring a different item of clothing for each day of the week. Bring clothes that can be worn in several combinations and are easy wash along the way. In most of the larger HI hostels laundry facilities are available. The easiest way to carry your stuff from place to place is with a backpack.

This is the single most important piece of equipment for the long-term hosteller. For this reason, when buying a backpack, don't skimp. Find a store that will patiently let you try on lots of different packs. They are all sized and shaped differently so make sure it's comfortable. In particular, consider a travel backpack with a light internal frame and rugged exterior, as opposed to the more traditional external frame packs used more for long distance hiking and backcountry camping. Travel backpacks are specifically designed for hostel type travel. Good backpack stores will have beanbags or other weights so you can try packs on with something inside. As already mentioned, you will probably want to bring a few items you might not bring when staying in hotels. The main ones are soap, a towel and a sleep-sheet. Also, check out our packing section on the travel resources section.

What is a sleep-sheet?
Basically a sleep-sheet is two sheets sewn together to form a sack. When you go to bed you get inside the sleep-sheet so the bed always stays clean. Many hostels now provide all bed linens to guests within the cost of the overnight, while others will rent sleep-sheets to you for a additional fee. All HI hostels provide blankets.

Can't I just use a sleeping bag?
Most HI hostels do not allow sleeping bags. Only in a few cases, like remote and rustic mountain locations. Because sleeping bags have lots of tufts and seams, it's easy for bugs like ticks to get inside the sleeping bag while you are camping and later come out when you unroll the bag in the hostel. Sleeping bags are also much heavier than a simple sleep-sheet and much harder to wash. So unless to plan to go camping you may want to leave the sleeping bag at home.

Where do I keep my belongings?
Backpacks containing non-valuable items such as clothes and toiletries are usually left in the sleeping dormitory. Valuables such as cameras, passports and money should always be safeguarded and ideally kept with you at all times. All hostels will have a safe storage area and many larger city hostels will have lockers in the rooms for your backpack. Theft is relatively uncommon in hostels but it would be nice to keep it that way. Either keep valuables with you or place them in the hostel's safekeeping facilities. If you do have something stolen, report it to hostel staff immediately. While hostels (like most other public facilities) are not responsible for lost or stolen items, you will be helping in the effort to catch thieves.

Do hostels have kitchens?
Yes, most HI hostels do offer self-catering kitchens. These are another way that hostels can save you money. They are usually equipped with basic cooking utensils including pots, pans, and dishes. Hostel kitchens are also a great meeting place where you can sit around and talk with fellow guests for hours on end comparing travel notes.

May I make group reservations at any HI Hostel?
Yes, based on availability, all HI hostels can accommodate groups. However, we know from experience that each group is unique and therefore a little extra care and attention may be required when it comes to arranging accommodations and itinerary planning. This is where we can connect you directly with the staff at the destination hostel to ensure that we have all your needs covered.

Are hostels closed during the day?
Most major urban hostels are open 24 hours a day. Some smaller and rural hostels are closed during the day, usually from 10am to 5pm. If a hostel is closed during the day, most hostels offer a place to store your luggage.

Do hostels have chores?
At all hostels you are asked to pick up after yourself to contribute to the hostel's upkeep. This occurs in the common areas, like the kitchen and living area. All major urban hostels have a professional cleaning staff.