Hostels can be somewhat more bewildering than a hotel. How much do they really cost, what do you get for your money, and what do you need to know about them? These vary by country and city; here is some information about what you can expect for hostels in England, especially the pricier London area, and how prices compare in different areas of England.  There are also links of useful websites to book your reservation and read reviews, look at pictures, etc.

First off: What exactly is a hostel?  It is basically a dormitory-style budget sleeping accommodation, generally frequented by young backpackers and other people traveling on the cheap. 

In recent years the line has blurred between hostels and hotels: you can get individual rooms at some hostels, accommodations are clean and bed-bug free, and it’s just generally not a place even your mother could ever object to.

It’s a great place to meet other travelers, as the shared-type kitchen, bathrooms, and bedrooms don’t really allow you to be EMO and ignore everyone else.

It’s also cheap.  Hostels in England are generally more expensive than, say, the Czech Republic, but that’s to be expected.  They’re also considerably cheaper than even cheap hotel rooms.  You can pick up a dorm bed in London for under $30 U.S. a night, if you know where to look, and much cheaper in the country.

Hostels also vary by what hostel you stay at.  Some include free sheets; some make you pay a small fee for sheets.  Some include breakfast; some don’t.  Some give you free wi-fi and rec rooms;some, well, don’t.  What level of hostel you want to pay for is up to you.  The most important thing is to see the essential things that are included, such as:

Do they provide secure lockers to store your luggage?

Can you take breakfast off your bill?  (Usually, it’s cheaper and much more atmospheric to go to a cafe for a croissant than stay at the hostel for a cheap breakfast.)

What are their lock-out times?  Many hostels have a random few hours in the middle of the day when no one can get in or out.  They also have curfews, so find out when these are too.  My friend missed his hostel curfew in Japan and had to spend the night on the streets of Tokyo.  You don’t want to do that.

Some hostels are members of Hostelling International (HI.) You do not have to be a member to stay at these places, but you may get a discount if you are.  If you aren’t, you may have to pay a small supplement and have a card stamped at each place you stay.  Eventually, after (five?) stamps, you automatically become a member.

You can also get discounts at a few hostels with an ISIC, International Student Identity Card, which you can get if you are a full-time student under twenty-six.  This card will also give access to many other discounts on your travels and is worth the twenty dollar cost.

Is there one particular thing that you must have, like wi-fi?  Find out if they provide it free or if you can buy it before you reserve a room.

The best place I’ve found to compare and book hostels online is, which has listings for the entire world.  They have over 10,000 hostels listed.

To do a random example, I searched for a three night stay in a London hostel beginning June ninth for one person.  My very first result was a dorm for $24.62 a night at London Backpackers.  Of course, it was an 18-bed mixed dorm (meaning that both sexes sleep there) and prices go up as you get smaller rooms, but for peak season in London that’s a pretty cheap deal.  A ten-bed female dorm is the same price, so it’s all good.

Most prices, however, average between $30-$50 U.S.  Still not bad, when you think of what a hotel room would cost you.

For comparison, hostels in Oxford also average about $30 U.S. a night.  You can find cheaper, but these are averages.  You can also find much more expensive.

Overall, hostels area  good deal if you don’t mind deviating from the norm and going on a bit of an adventure.  You never really know what you’re going to get.  The best way to get an idea is just to go to a website and look at prices, features, and reviews, and make your own decision.

For the person really traveling on the cheap, looking for adventure, there is this cool thing called couchsurfing, which I will talk about next time.

Until then,