Should I join Youth Hosteling?
September 12, 2009 4:44 PM   Subscribe

Is joining Youth Hosteling International cost effective for me?

In the UK, if you stay in a YHA Youth Hostel, you pay 3 pounds when you're not a member of YHA.

Joining Youth Hosteling costs $25. That means if I pay 3 pounds six times, then I've lost money compared with being a hostel member.

So here's my question: is this 3 pound fee charged per hostel, or per night? If its charged per hostel and I stay in four hostels, then membership is not cost effective. If its charged per night and I stay ten nights in hostels, then membership is more cost effective.

Does anyone know the best course of action for me?
posted by jefficator to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total)
This is not directly answering your question, and it may be different in the UK where hostelling is (I'm guessing) more popular, but I joined YHI in the US and then discovered that all the good hostels were not YHI. So for me it was a waste of money either way, I wouldn't do it again. I'm pretty sure you could always join when you got to a hostel and they answered your questions anyway.
posted by Post-it Goat at 4:57 PM on September 12, 2009

Two hostelling questions in a day! The non-member fee is per night, so in your example, if you stay six nights as a non-member, you have lost money. As well, hostels set up discounts with local attractions: ten percent off at this restaurant, half-price internet access at that internet cafe, two dollar/pounds/euros off admission to yon museum. And on top of all that, almost everyone forgets that there are discounts available after your trip -- in Canada, for example, there is a discount available on Greyhound buses and a national one with one of the car rental agencies. Really, unless you are going somewhere for only a couple of nights and are certain you will not travel again before the card runs out, you have to work pretty hard not to save money with one. On top of all that, in some countries, you need to be a member to stay in HI hostels (the UK not among them, as I recall).

Post-it Goat: No offense, but did you ask if they have discounts for hostel memberships? There is nothing to keep independent hostels from giving discounts to HI members and in my experience of hostels (both HI and independent, on five continents), lots of independent places do this just to poach HI members. Discounts for ISIC holders are quite common as well.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:17 PM on September 12, 2009

as ricochet says, the extra fee is per night.

That said, I have stayed at a couple of YHA hostels in Britain, and they will usually point it out to you whether you would save money or at least not lose any. My friend wasn't going to get one, but did after they pointed out to her on her check-in that it would essentially be free because she was staying 4 nights.

Now, we were living in Britain at the time; can non-UK residents just register at the desk, or do they have to register in their country of residence? I'm pretty sure my mum, who had just come for 2 weeks from Canada, registered at the desk.

Are you going to the UK? The YHA hostel on Oxford Street is a bit pricier than some, but very good for a nice quiet hostel with a great kitchen and a nice lounge (I like my hostels very quiet). The YHA Hostel in Bath is one of the nicest I have ever stayed in - totally worth the climb up the hill at night (and the stunning view you get coming down in the morning).
posted by jb at 5:25 PM on September 12, 2009

Yes, it's charged per night. In the US, it's $3 though.

If I was estimating the worth, I would assume I'd only spend 50% of my yearly nights in an affiliated hostel. Sometimes they are booked up, other times they are not the best choice in a city.

Interesting thing is that when I stayed at a YHA in Australia, they gave me a card and stamped it for every night. If I got to fifteen stamps, then I'd be a member. I vastly prefer that system, but they don't do it in the US ones. (They do have it in New Zealand and it's called the Down Under Card.)
posted by smackfu at 5:26 PM on September 12, 2009

do they have to register in their country of residence?

Strictly speaking: yes, one can only join the hostelling association in his or her country of residence. People abroad can buy what is known officially as a Full Value Guest Card (or occasionally, just to confuse people, an "international membership"). This will vary from country to country in price, but is probably about $20 US. This gives the same discounts as a membership but it has two major shortcomings compared to an actual membership: it is valid for a much shorter period, and if you lose it, you are skunked: unlike a membership card, they are not replaceable.

they gave me a card and stamped it for every night.

The Full Value Guest Card is the linear descendant of what was known as the Welcome Card. Each night that a guest stayed in a hostel, he would receive a stamp on the back *. After six nights, the card was full and acted as a membership, just as with a Full Value Guest Card. These were discontinued for various reasons several years ago and supplanted with the FVGC, but a few countries still maintain some system like this.

*This is what the non-member fee paid for -- in the US, the non-member fee was three bucks, in Canada, it was four dollars. The Welcome Cards themselves were free. When the FVGC arrived, it was priced at eighteen dollars in the US, $24 CDN in Canada... the price of six stamps, if you follow. The FVGC was the equivalent of buying the six stamps for a Welcome Card all at once.

Full disclosure: I do work for HI.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:05 PM on September 12, 2009

You must be a member of a hostelling organization to book at night in some hostels as a walk-in. It was Alberg Juvenil Palau in Barcelona, I think, where I ran into this. They were not affliated with HI, but without seeing my HI card, or that of some other hostel group, they would not rent to me. So that's something to consider.
posted by Methylviolet at 7:26 PM on September 12, 2009

Yeah, this is the preferred access strategy, which is what I was referring to upthread when I said that in some countries you needed a membership to stay. As well, the difference between member and non-member rates is sometimes a member's discount and sometimes a surcharge for non-members. Here is a list of which countries have what.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:04 PM on September 12, 2009

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