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					First Timer's Guide to Hostels 1.0   First Timer’s Guide To Hostels
                                     Staying in hostels is one of the best things about
                                     backpacking. You’ll meet loads of new people and share
                                     experiences that you’d never get to try if you were travelling
                                     alone. Hostels often have all sorts of cool facilities, from
                                     swimming pools to on-site bowling alleys. Oh, and they’re
                                     cheap as chips. However, we understand that your first time
                                     in a hostel can be quite a daunting experience, so we’ve
                                     put together this guide to help allay those fears, so you can
                                     get on with having fun.



                                                                              This is a hostel. See, they're really
                                                                              not that scary. As well as a comfy
                                                                              bed, most offer a kitchen with
                                                                              cooking equipment and a sociable
                                                                              chill-out area. You may also get
                                                                              breakfast, internet access, laundry
                                                                              facilities, social activities and other
                                                                              stuff thrown in. Plus ready-made
                                                                              friends and knowledgeable local
                                                                              staff, and all for a few quid. Hoorah!
                                         Belfast International Youth Hostel




                                     About the Author
                                     Author Rachel Ricks has travelled
                                     around the World, staying in
                                     hostels from Bangkok to Brazil.

                                     She’s such a fan of the hostel
                                     lifestyle that even at home she
                                     likes to wear earplugs in bed and
                                     write her name on cheese.

                                                                                       Rachel Ricks
First Timer's Guide to Hostels 1.0                                          -2-


Before You Go…                                                                    Book Ahead…
Before you leave for your destination, check out the discount                     If it’s your first time hostelling, it will probably pay off to always book
accommodation cards available for your destination. One of the                    ahead so you know where you’re staying. Although there’s a thrill
most common is the International Hostelling (IH) card, valid at all YHA           from stepping off the bus or plane and finding yourself in a new
hostels world-wide. It also grants you various discounts at travel shops,         place, with nowhere specific to go, there’s an added layer of
like 10% off at Millets.                                                          security when you know you’ve got somewhere to fall back on. We
                                                                                  highly recommend booking ahead at least for your first night in a
Most countries where hostels are a mass market, like Australia or New             new country. You’ll be jetlagged and disoriented, and it’s quite
Zealand, have their own specific hostel cards. For example, in New                likely you’ll need some help getting your bearings.
Zealand you can find the Budget Backpacker Hostel (BBH) cards. It’s
pretty much identical to the IH card, but can’t be used outside New
Zealand, while IH is a global organisation.

It’s often worth exploring the different cards and packages on offer,
as there are often plenty of promotions tied in with them. Coach
tours, attractions and even plane fares can sometimes be discounted
if you’re a hostel cardholder, so it’s definitely worth becoming a
member even if you aren’t planning on solely using a single chain of
hostels.


                                                                                  Plenty of hostels allow bookings to be made over the internet, and
                                                                                  you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere you can’t book by phone.

                                                                                  Get yourself a reliable, up-to-date guidebook or hop on to the
                                                                                  internet and start browsing the available hostels. You’ll find
                                                                                  countless options available to you, so get choosing!

                                                                                  Try to make sure that your final choice is within your budget and is in
                                                                                  a sensible location; central, but not next to a railway station or
                                                                                  bypass, and try to avoid the red light districts (unless that’s why you
                                                                                  picked the hostel, in which case we aren’t talking to you any more).
                                                                                  Ask other backpackers for recommendations and warnings – and
                                                                                  pay attention to them! They’ll know what they’re talking about.


                                                                                             www.gapyear.com/accommodation
First Timer's Guide to Hostels 1.0                                         -3-



What To Expect                                                                   choosing single-sex or mixed dorms; this is usually in place to make
                                                                                 female travellers feel safer. Don’t be daunted by the size of the
In most hostels, you’ll find yourself with basic, simple (and hopefully          dorms – in some hostels they can be as big as 20 or more people,
clean) accommodation. It’s quite likely the décor will be fairly out-            but as a general rule you’ll find 6-8 or fewer beds per room.
dated, so we hope you see the 70s as an era of great style. If you’re
lucky, you might even find yourself with pine-panelled walls and                 Expect alcohol. It’s unfortunate if you’re a teetotaller, but alcohol
ceilings.                                                                        plays a large part in the backpacking experience for a lot of
                                                                                 people. It can help to break the ice, but be careful, especially if you
                                                                                 haven’t travelled before. Alcohol can remove your inhibitions, but it
                                                                                 can also remove your common sense.

                                                                                 You can definitely expect a lot of friendly and happy people;
                                                                                 hostels are wonderful breeding grounds for friendships, so even you
                                                                                 consider yourself quite shy, talk to new people and get to know
                                                                                 them – it’s what the hostel experience is all about!




In Britain, some of the YHA (Youth Hostelling Association) hostels are
very upmarket, often set in old mansions and country houses. If you’re
used to those, foreign hostels may come as something of a surprise.
The British YHA is a registered charity and trust, while non-YHA hostels
abroad tend to be businesses on smaller premises. While you’ll be                Expect good times and bad times. We won’t lie to you and tell you
spoilt for choice when you’re backpacking, don’t expect the lap of               that every night in a hostel is all rainbows and bluebirds – people
luxury – it’s functionality over looks all the way.                              snore, drunk roommates come home late from a night out, and
                                                                                 things do occasionally get stolen. However, we can promise you
Washing facilities, bathrooms and bedrooms will all be shared if                 that the good times are worth it, and that the positive memories you
you’re choosing the cheapest option. Although you can hire private               have from your experiences travelling will stay with you for the rest
rooms (sometimes they even have en suites!), the most cost-effective             of your life.
way to travel is using dormitory beds. You’ll often have the option of
                                                                                           www.gapyear.com/accommodation
First Timer's Guide to Hostels 1.0                                           -4-


  Arrival and Checking in
  When your flight lands, you’ll be tired, jetlagged and in a strange
  country, so it’s completely understandable if you feel at a loss.
  However, it’s important to look confident – it will help you to feel
  more confident, and it makes you look less vulnerable. Your first
  night away, before you settle in, will be the most vulnerable time of
  your trip.

  Don’t be worried about
  splashing on a taxi to
  reach your
  accommodation. It
  might even pay to stay
  at a mid-priced hotel
  rather than the cheapest                                                         Your first night alone might feel a little daunting, and there’s nothing
  hostel you can find, as it                                                       wrong with feeling lonely or homesick. Keep in mind, though, that
  means you can get a                                                              these feelings pass rapidly. If you’re lying in bed wondering what on
  good night’s sleep                                                               Earth you’ve done (or maybe
  before leaving your bag                                                          you’re crumpled in a drunken
  at reception and                                                                 heap and you’ll do your
  exploring the city the following day.                                            wondering the following
                                                                                   morning), just remember that
  When you arrive at your hostel, don’t be scared! Settle yourself into            everybody feels like that at some
  your room, find an empty bed and introduce yourself to your new                  point, and you will get over it to
  roommates. Break the ice by asking where the kitchen and                         go and have the best time of
  bathrooms are – everyone secretly likes to be a know-it-all and it               your life.
  makes people feel good to help someone else.
                                                                                   For the first couple of days, keep
  Remember that everyone else in the hostel is in the same boat as                 yourself busy. Get social in the
  you. They’re here on holiday, and they want to relax. You should                 social room and find out where people are from, what they’ve
  feel that chilled, holiday-esque frame of mind the instant you walk              done and where they’re going. Try your luck chatting up the
  into the common room.                                                            reception staff and get yourself booked onto some activities,
                                                                                   before sending mass emails home to assure your friends, family,
  If you’re really keen on getting to know people, ask where the                   relatives and pets that you’ve arrived safely.
  nearest bar is, and if anyone fancies joining you. This is better suited
  to the late evening – suggesting a drink at 9am might give you a                            www.gapyear.com/accommodation
  reputation you weren’t looking for.
First Timer's Guide to Hostels 1.0                                   -5-


Security
                                                                           Familiarise yourself with the fire exits. It sounds daft but it could
Hostel dorms lock so that only backpackers that sleep in that              save your life. Some readers may remember the Childers
dorm can access it. However, this doesn’t mean you should                  Hostel fire on the news a few years ago. Fifteen backpackers
ignore sensible security precautions – the people you’re sharing           died that night as the hostel went up in flames following an
a room with are complete strangers, so use your common                     arson attack. There are still no strict regulations on hostel safety
sense.                                                                     or facilities abroad, so make sure to ask sensible, pertinent
                                                                           questions about your accommodation.
Check with the hostel reception where you’re able to stash
valuables like your passport, your travellers’ cheques and your            A few good questions to ask include:
travel documents. It’s often even safer to keep them in a                        - Is there someone to show you around?
money belt, so that your passport never leaves your side.                        - Is there a safe for your valuables?
However, these can become a bit of a nuisance, so ask about                      - Where’s the clean linen? Bathroom? Kitchen?
safes if you intend to stay at a hostel for a reasonable period of               - Are the dorms single-sex or mixed?
time.                                                                            - Are any meals provided?
                                                                                 - Are there any hostel pets? (For allergy-sufferers)
Under no circumstances store stuff under the mattress. It doesn’t                - Can you see a room before booking?
become untouchable if you put it there, and it can actually be
much easier to pinch. If it’s something very important, put it in          A couple of other points to check are:
your day pack and use it as a pillow – that way, if someone tries               - Does the price you’ve been quoted match
to nab it, you’ll wake up.                                                          what you’ve been charged?
                                                                                - Does this include breakfast? Are there any hidden
                                                                                   costs?
                                                                                - Are the windows secured for safety? Can they be
                                                                                   opened in an emergency?
                                                                                - Are there emergency exits?
                                                                                - Are there smoke detectors?

                                                                           This might all seem a little over the top, but a small number of
                                                                           hostels pack beds in to accommodate more guests and block
Make sure you understand the security proceedings for your
                                                                           off the emergency exits in order to do so.
particular hostel – they’re different every time. If you’re out
after a certain time, they’ll usually lock the doors and you’ll be
required to enter a code to re-enter, so take the code with you!

                                                                                     www.gapyear.com/accommodation
First Timer's Guide to Hostels 1.0                                  -6-



    The Next Step                                                         Useful Hostelling Kit

    It won’t take long before                                             A sarong
    you’ve made a whole                                                   These have a multitude of uses,
    bunch of new mates, and                                               including bedsheets, wall coverings,
    you’ll be making plans to                                             towels, and are a great coverup if
                                                                          someone walks in while your pants are
    gallivant off to your next
                                                                          at half-mast.
    destination together.
                                                                          A sleeping bag/sleeping bag liner
    However, if this isn’t                                                Not all hostels provide linen, so take a
    immediately the case,                                                 very compact sleeping back with you at
    don’t worry. Just because                                             the bottom of your bag. If you’re
    you’re not getting on in                                              travelling to one of the main
    your current hostel doesn’t mean you won’t find a friend for          backpacker destinations you probably
    life at the hostel down the street. There’s nothing to stop           won’t need it, but it’s still handy to have
    you sleeping at a different hostel in a different town every          one just in case.
    night – the World is your oyster now!
                                                                          Earplugs
                                                                          You just know someone will snore. We’ve
                                           Just get up bright and
                                                                          just got our fingers crossed it isn’t your
                                           early and pack your            girlfriend.
                                           day pack with your
                                           valuables and                                         Plenty of padlocks
                                           essentials for the day                                These let you leave your bag in your dorm in
                                           – most hostels will                                   comparative safety – make sure you have some
                                           store your full pack                                  way of locking your bag before you buy it.
                                           relatively securely –
                                           and do some legwork                                   A torch
                                           in town. Stock up on                                  Simply because nobody wants to be the person
                                                                                                 on the 5am coach that has to wake up
                                           maps, tourist guides
                                                                                                 everybody else because they can’t find their
                                           and wander round to
                                                                                                 toothbrush in the dark.
                                           familiarise yourself
                                           with the area.

                                                                                     www.gapyear.com/accommodation
First Timer's Guide to Hostels 1.0                                       -7-


Gapyear.com recommended hostel network                                                      Where are our
                                                                                            recommended hostels?
The reality is that there are loads of hostels out there. Hundreds of
the blighters. This is why us lot at gapyear.com have come up with                          Airlie Beach, Australia
a recommended hostel network; essentially a list of hostels across                          Alice Springs, Australia
                                                                                            Brisbane, Australia
the globe that we would happily recommend to our friends and
                                                                                            Byron Bay, Australia
family.                                                                                     Cairns, Australia
                                                                                            Coral Bay, Australia
Our criteria for our recommended hostels is as follows:                                     Darwin, Australia
                                                                                            Hervey Bay, Australia
- Location - should be centrally based or                                                   Magnetic Island, Australia
close to amenities                                                                          Melbourne, Australia
- Close proximity to airport and transport                                                  Mission Beach, Australia
links                                                                                       Perth, Australia
- Clean and spacious                                                                        Sydney, Australia
- Established                                                                               Auckland, New Zealand
                                                                                            Christchurch, New Zealand
- Preferably with a bar                                                                     Paihia (Bay of Islands), New Zealand
- Preferably with a reputable travel                                                        Queenstown, New Zealand
agent/operator attached                                                                     Rotorua, New Zealand
- Reasonably priced                                                                         Wellington, New Zealand
                                                                                            Bangkok, Thailand
You can even send an email to any hostel                                                    Arizona, USA
                                                                                            LA, USA
in the recommend hostel network to get
                                                                                            San Francisco, USA
your bed booked before you leave the                                                        Seattle, USA
country! That way there’ll be no                                                            New York, USA
disorientated town centre rambling once                                                     Honolulu, Hawaii
you step off the plane – you’ll have your                                                   Toronto, Canada
first night already sorted!                                                                 Vancouver, Canada
                                                                                            Rarotonga, Cook Islands
                                                                                            Nadi, Fiji
Another bonus of booking a bed at a gapyear.com recommended                                 Cape Town, South Africa
hostel is that a number of them offer gapyear.com members two free                          Singapore
beers on arrival! Perfect to share with a fellow backpacker to break                        Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
the ice on that dreaded first night. Some hostels also offer free food                      Sartenega, Belize
and internet too! See, we told you that you were going to like this                         London, UK
staying in a hostel lark…                                                                   Belfast, UK



                                                                               www.gapyear.com/accommodation
First Timer's Guide to Hostels 1.0                                                -8-


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