I was wondering what are the Youth Hostel associations that I should join so I can use their beds when I travel round Europe?

Here are the main countries I will be visiting:

  • France
  • Italy
  • Croatia
  • Hungary
  • Austria
  • Germany

How do hostels operate in Europe?

Will my YHA card work there?

In the UK if you do not have a YHA card you cannot use the hostel to sleep in.

What cards do I need to get to use Hostels in Europe?

Is there any discounts or promotional cards I can get that will reduce my costs?


Note: I have only had experience of Youth Hostels when I was a kid travelling in the UK so things might have changed since then.


3 Answers 3


Firstly, I have slept in plenty of hostels in the UK, without using a YHA card. Any hostel on HostelWorld or HostelBookers will let you stay there without any loyalty cards.

Your best bet is to follow this approach:

  • Go to Hostelbookers (often cheaper than Hostelworld). Choose country, city, and dates.

  • Look at the ones available. Generally they have dorms (multiple people in a room) from 3-30(!), depending on the hostel.

  • Evaluate based on amenities, price, reviews and the type - some are party hostels (generally the atmosphere rating is high then), some are more low key and friendly. Check for things like - are families welcome (you may not want kids around), does it have a bar (often louder and drunker), and so on.

  • If it's a HI Hostel (Hostelling International) or a YHA one, you can get discount cards for those groups. Often however, you can negotiate on arrival if it's not too busy, or ask for a discount for multiple nights - generally for smaller or owner-operated hostels.

  • Book ahead, especially in summer - if you have a limited selection, some towns sell out fast at certain times, when festivals are on, for example.

  • Sometimes you'll start to see similar hostels - chains - in different cities (eg The Point hostels in South America). This gives you an idea as to the standards and conditions and style of the hostel (also Base in New Zealand, and Wombats in much of Central Europe - Austria and Germany). You sometimes get discounts for staying at the same chain - loyalty if you will. The Point used to give free drinks and a t-shirt. Go figure.

Of your country list, one exception is Croatia. There are still hostels, but if you go to the Plitvice National Park, there are entire streets near the entrance with normal homes. They have signs outside with either 'no room', or a price - and you can rent a room in a house for a night. It was fantastic, private, and very reasonable.

  • Thankyou for your insightful response. When you say "book ahead" what kind of time frame do I have. I am planning to do my European trip very loosely i.e. I will just float into a town and find a hostel/ place to stay. Will this be difficult ? Commented May 30, 2012 at 22:27
  • 2
    Last summer I went from London to Mongolia overland, through Europe. I never booked more than 0-4 days in advance, and often would just rock up in town. The only places I had trouble doing this were Luxembourg (but stay in Vianden anyway, it's cheaper and nicer), and Helsinki, where there was only one hostel available. Oh, and central Asia where there were no hostels, but could usually find a guesthouse or the equivalent :)
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented May 30, 2012 at 22:37
  • You may also be interested in Hostels in US vs. Europe
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented May 30, 2012 at 22:41
  • 2
    One thing I would add about chains: sometimes the hostel in City A can book you into a hostel from the same chain in City B, even though that hostel shows as booked up on the web reservation systems. I did this for Wombats in particular, and some other one that I don't remember. Really saved me. Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 17:42

In Europe you have hostels that are in the (Youth) Hostel International, but the most hostels are not associated. You will need the card only if you go to these hostels. In my experience, the HI Hostels are more expensive than regular hostels in some Europe countries, but they assure a minimum quality standard. So if you are worried about cleaness, staff, etc, perhaps it's a better choice to go these hostels.

Last time (some years ago) I had one of these cards, it cost me 6 euros. And if I remember well, there is an option where you can get a card "by stamps" (you pay one new stamp each night until you fill your card and then you have one year, it's more expensive but better if you don't use it extensively).


IME many hostels will accept people who aren't members of a hosteling organisation, but they might sometimes charge you more. Some hostels will let you join the organisation when you turn up, though it might be cheaper in your home country.

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