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Old 02-24-2009, 09:25 AM   #1
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Default The best way to book a hostel

Hey tpunks. This is for all you new members and first time backpackers.

Conventional wisdom is that one should book their hostels on 3rd party sites like hostels.com or hostelworld, that give you a nice transaction number where you pay a small deposit for peace of mind and a guarantee of a bed.

This approach, while it works, leads to a somewhat false sense of security. I've known many people (and had it happen myself), who have encountered hostel staff that had no record of your reservation - despite the transaction number.

You'll be standing there and looking at their pencil written list of hostel guests and beds, and wondering how it is possible that some far off 3rd party computer system that issues transaction numbers somehow made it through the internet, through the website administration, and into the handwritten book of the sleep deprived hostel staff.

And also, it a waste of money. What happens when you want to change your travel plans? you lose your deposit.

So the best way, in my opinion, and the way that I've been doing it so far, is to just call the hostel directly, speak to someone - get their name - and make a booking from there. Also effective is going to the hostel site directly and booking directly on their website. Direct contact with a hostel has never failed me. And as a bonus, usually (not always), when you do it this way, there is no need for a deposit.

This way, you'll increase your changes of saving money and guaranteeing yourself a bed.
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2009: Japan & HK, Southern Spain
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2011: India (Goa), Jordan, Jerusalem, San Sebastian (Spain), Amsterdam (again), London, Driving from Vancouver to L.A. (stopping in Portland, Seattle, San Fran and all the little stops), Montpellier (France), Geneva and Lausanne (Switzerland)

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Old 02-24-2009, 10:24 AM   #2
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I agree whole-heartedly! I had an incident my very first day in Germany last year, on my first solo backpacking trip. I was smart and printed out all my confirmation emails, and showed it to the dude but still had no record of anything, he told me I'd canceled my reservation! And he was already booked for the weekend. Thankfully, he got in touch with another hostel that was not booked.

Another thing I notice about places like hostelworld.com and such is not all the hostels in a city are on there! I'm planning a trip to Cartagena, Colombia for next month and according to all these sites, there's only one hostel in Cartagena, and after reading all the reviews (which is the nice thing about those sites), to me it looks VERY sketchy and not a lot of ppl had a positive review. I made a reservation anyway thinking it was my only hope. But I was googling the other day and found out there is another backpacker hostel which is in a much better neighborhood and so I sent them an email and they were able to give me a few names of people who worked there that I can speak with in case my travel plans changed, etc. Much better.

Another thing, if you book a room on hostelworld or whatever and then your travel plans change and you forget the cancel, they will charge you for the first night's room rate. I had no idea and lost about 60 euros that way.
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Old 02-24-2009, 12:08 PM   #3
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If you are going to use a booking engine, why not use TravelPunk's? I used it on my last trip to Spain and it gave me the best rates.

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Old 02-24-2009, 12:28 PM   #4
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^ agreed on that one, I always compare. honestly the only time I ever use hostelworld.com is to use the reviews people put up there which are helpful.

but again, some worthwhile hostels aren't even on any of the search engines. the one I stayed at in Cologne wasn't on any search engine and it was very cool.
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Old 02-24-2009, 04:05 PM   #5
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Everything above is great info ^^

I also write the contact info down when I book. And sometimes I call ahead to confirm (if there is time).
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Old 02-24-2009, 04:18 PM   #6
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Booking online gives you the benefit of being able to research and plan out your trip.

If you do book over the phone make sure that you get (1) the name of the hostel worker, (2) tell the worker what time you plan to arrive and (3) ask the location.

I'm currently working at a youth hostel in Hawaii and all I have to say is remember the workers name because sometimes workers make screwy plans for bed arrangements (ie maybe they overbooked the dorms but are setting it up for you to be in a private room with two beds, so they can rent both beds as dorm beds - get it?) - occasionally they may forget to pass on this to whoever you encounter at the desk.

A lot of hostels have lock out policies/curfews, or perhaps they close office early. This way they know when to expect you.

Workers can usually give better directions than you can figure out on google maps - sometimes they may offer pick up from the train station or airport.
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Old 02-25-2009, 12:00 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pinknic38 View Post
^ agreed on that one, I always compare. honestly the only time I ever use hostelworld.com is to use the reviews people put up there which are helpful.
I'm a shameless plugger, but the best site for hostel review is hostelz.com!

Remember that's hostelz with a 'Z'
__________________
Vincent: "So what you gonna do?"
Jules: "Well, basically, I'm just gonna walk the earth."
Vincent: "What you mean 'walk the earth'?"
Jules: "You know, like Kane in 'Kung Fu'...go places...meet people...get in adventures."

Trips (only counting recreational travel):
FIRST TRIP (2005): FIRST EUROTRIP EVER! UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Holland
SECOND TRIP (2007): First Solo Trip! Greece, Turkey, Syria, Spain
2008: China (Beijing, Shanghai, Yangshuo) ...right before the Olympics!
2009: Japan & HK, Southern Spain
[size=1]2010: All over Lebanon, Ibiza (Spain), Oktoberfest (Germany), Thailand.
2011: India (Goa), Jordan, Jerusalem, San Sebastian (Spain), Amsterdam (again), London, Driving from Vancouver to L.A. (stopping in Portland, Seattle, San Fran and all the little stops), Montpellier (France), Geneva and Lausanne (Switzerland)

"Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it."
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Old 02-25-2009, 12:01 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blinkchick2134 View Post
I agree, calling the hostel directly is the best bet for getting a room. Make sure when you book a room that you get (1) the name of the hostel worker, (2) tell the worker what time you plan to arrive and (3) ask the location.

I'm currently working at a youth hostel in Hawaii and sometimes the booking sites don't send us the requests for rooms - doesn't happen a lot but it does happen.
So that's where you are! Damn I am jealous... feezing my ass off here in Canada.

Good tips!
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Vincent: "So what you gonna do?"
Jules: "Well, basically, I'm just gonna walk the earth."
Vincent: "What you mean 'walk the earth'?"
Jules: "You know, like Kane in 'Kung Fu'...go places...meet people...get in adventures."

Trips (only counting recreational travel):
FIRST TRIP (2005): FIRST EUROTRIP EVER! UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Holland
SECOND TRIP (2007): First Solo Trip! Greece, Turkey, Syria, Spain
2008: China (Beijing, Shanghai, Yangshuo) ...right before the Olympics!
2009: Japan & HK, Southern Spain
[size=1]2010: All over Lebanon, Ibiza (Spain), Oktoberfest (Germany), Thailand.
2011: India (Goa), Jordan, Jerusalem, San Sebastian (Spain), Amsterdam (again), London, Driving from Vancouver to L.A. (stopping in Portland, Seattle, San Fran and all the little stops), Montpellier (France), Geneva and Lausanne (Switzerland)

"Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it."
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Old 02-25-2009, 01:46 PM   #9
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I have seen thousands of hostel bookings over the past 7 years through hostelworlds search engine, which is the company that powered TravelPUNKs booking engine for many years and have only known less than 5 incidents of any kind of problem. One, of which that I fully refunded myself for $40.

That's about a 99% success rate.

Can booking engines make mistakes? Sure. No ones perfect. Your bank can make mistakes, your grocer, your mechanic, your teacher, your boss, your mom, etc...Does this mean you stop banking there? Stop going to school? Start looking for another job? Drop your mechanic? Shop at another grocery store because the scanner didn't catch the item being 10% off?

Didn't think so...

While contacting hostels yourself is great, don't discount hostel booking engines that serve to protect you and even refund you should you run into any problems.
Also, as stated above, read their cancellation agreements as well...should you book through them (each hostel and or booking engine has their own cancellation agreement).

In an effort to reduce your costs even further, TravelPUNK has since moved over to hostelbookers search engine which gives you more savings with no booking fees.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Canadian Bacon View Post
I'm a shameless plugger, but the best site for hostel review is hostelz.com!

Remember that's hostelz with a 'Z'
Yeah, and when you're done reading the reviews and choose to book online, use our hostel booking engine which is the same booking engine that powers their site!
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Old 02-25-2009, 05:15 PM   #10
 
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Tony, I'm glad when Travelpunk switched to HostelBookers.com. Once I discovered them, I then made all of my bookings through them (unless it was a hostel they didn't list).

I think the best approach is a combination of all the approaches listed here. Here's what I do...
First, I check hostelbookers through Travelpunk. If they have a hostel that fits my needs, has decent reviews and a good price, I book. If I can't find anything I like on hostelbookers, I check the other search engines and Google hostels in the city I'm traveling to and make a booking that way.
After I receive my booking confirmation, I've often called the hostel to make sure they have a record of it. Jazz Hostels, my favorite New York City hostel chain, actually sends you a confirmation e-mail when they receive your booking from the booking engine and enter it into their own system. This way, you know that the hostel has a record of your reservation.

Then, you get the benefit of the less expensive booking engine rates, as well as the assurances of knowing the hostel has a record of your reservation.
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