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front desk at HI San Diego Downtown hostel

New to Hostels?

Thinking about staying in a hostel for the first time? Check out answers to our most frequently asked questions so you can decide whether hostel travel is right for you.

Hostelling 101

A hostel is a type of accommodation that allows you to travel better, cheaper, and for longer, all while meeting new people. Hostels generally offer both shared dormitory-style and private rooms, and offer common areas for guests to hang out and meet each other. If you’re considering staying in a hostel for the first time, you may want to read up on the difference between a hostel and a hotel.

We want our travelers to be able to relax as though they’re at home, so the number-one priority of HI USA hostels’ staff is our guests’ safety and security.

While features vary by location, most HI USA hostels offer secure in-room storage for your belongings and secure baggage storage before and after check-out. Front desks at our larger city locations are staffed 24 hours a day, and only hostel guests are allowed past our hostel lobbies. Please don’t hesitate to speak with any of our hostel staff if you have any questions about safety or security on site.

Within the HI USA brand, each hostel is unique and has its own personality and style. The common theme is the quality of the accommodations for our travelers.

Guests can choose dormitory-style accommodation in male, female, or co-ed rooms, and most hostels have private rooms as well.

Dorm beds are typically bunk style and very comfortable, and dorm rooms offer free secure storage, charging stations and, of course, free Wi-Fi! Private room types and sizes vary by location and may sleep anywhere from one person to an entire family, with or without en suite bathroom. Details on room and bed types by hostel are available on each hostel’s main page on this site.

In addition to dorm and private rooms, all HI USA guests are welcome to use hostel common rooms including lounges and fully equipped guest kitchens.

We strive to keep our hostels affordable in order to allow more people to travel. In a big cities like New York and San Francisco, rates will usually be higher than at our smaller hostels in more off-the-beaten-path destinations. Rates vary by location and can increase during special events or holidays.

Hostels are ideal for solo travelers because they’re great place to meet new friends. Lots of solo travelers choose HI USA hostels specifically because we have free events and tours designed to not only let you explore the destination, but also meet other guests. Many lifelong friendships start in hostels!

Although not required, hostel reservations are always advised, particularly during the busy summer months and holidays when our hostels are likely to be sold out. Reservations are always recommended for private rooms and groups.

Yes, HI USA hostels offer kitchens that hostellers are welcome to use. Our kitchens are typically equipped with basic cooking utensils including pots, pans, and dishes; refrigerators and shelves to store your food; and standard kitchen appliances such as stoves and microwaves. Hostel kitchen and dining areas are a great meeting place where you can prepare a meal and eat with new friends, or sit around and talk with fellow travelers.

Frequently Asked: HI USA Hostels

When you stay at a HI USA hostel, you enter a community designed to bring people together. There are shared spaces where you can meet and get to know travelers from all over the world. Our hostels offer comfortable, welcoming common areas to sit, relax and connect; kitchen and dining areas to prepare a meal and eat with new friends; and fun activities and events that bring travelers and the community together.

If you are traveling with friends and want to stay together, we will do our best to get you all in the same room. Be sure to have one person book everyone’s stay at the same time, rather than each person making individual reservations, so we know you’re all together.

Our hostels often have a variety of different dorm sizes, so when you book you can choose the room type that suits you best!
If you’re traveling in a group of 8 or more people, please contact our group sales team for assistance with your booking.

All HI USA hostels can accommodate groups, subject to availability. 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. Please contact our group sales team directly so we can ensure that we have all your needs covered.

HI USA has nearly 50 hostels in historic urban buildings, converted mansions, and reinvented lighthouses all across the United States. Our hostels are in major cities like New York and Los Angeles, but you will also find hostels in smaller towns, rural areas, and national parks. Check out a map and list of our hostels coast to coast.

As a non-profit, HI USA’s purpose is to inspire in our travelers a greater understanding of people, places, and cultures for a more tolerant world. All monies made by HI USA are reinvested into providing transformative, travel-based experiences and programs for future hostellers. We do not distribute dividends to investors or stockholders.

Yes, you need to be a member of Hostelling International to stay at a HI USA hostel. If you are not a member, you have the option of either purchasing a full annual ($18) or lifetime ($250) membership, or a daily membership ($4 per night) during your stay.

If you plan to spend more than 4 nights at any HI hostel within a one year period, you will save money by buying an annual membership. HI USA memberships are valid at HI and YHA hostels around the world; HI or YHA memberships purchased in other countries are also valid at HI USA hostels.

In addition to saving you money on your stay, annual and yearly membership gives you access to lots of great member benefits.

HI USA hostels welcome visitors of all ages. While most of our hostel guests are between 18 and 30 years of age, seniors, families, and groups also enjoy using HI hostels across the United States and around the world.

While we have no age limit, most travelers under the age of 18 are required to be traveling with a parent, legal guardian, or leader of an organized group in order to stay at our hostels. Emancipated minors aged 14 or older are exempt from this rule at all HI USA hostels, but must present proper documentation and meet all other check-in requirements.

In the state of California, non-emancipated unaccompanied guests aged 13-17 may stay at HI USA hostels only after submitting a HI USA Minor Reservations/Request form completed by their legal parent or guardian. Please contact your desired hostel directly to request the necessary form.

If you are traveling alone as a minor, please contact the hostel directly in advance of your trip for more information on required documentation.

If you are an adult traveling with a minor, we encourage you to consider booking a private room, though this is not required.

Some HI USA hostels have on-site cafes that serve beer and wine, and some host events where beer and wine is served along with non-alcoholic beverages.

At most HI USA hostels, guests aged 21 years and older are permitted to keep their own alcohol on site. Because we strive to make our hostels safe, welcoming environments for travelers of all ages, we require guests to store their alcohol in designated, secure storage areas. If you have questions about alcohol policies at a specific hostel, please contact that property directly.