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Don't forget to read the fine print when booking a hostel -- each has its own requirements. The HI (Hosteling International) chain of hostels charges a $3 per night fee for non-HI members upon check-in. Some hostels require proof of travel or a specific form of ID, and a few hostels in the US have a "no in-staters allowed" policy, so you'll need to present out-of-state ID or a foreign passport. A few hostels have curfews, chore requirements or no-alcohol policies.


Hostels


Hostelz.com
Hostelz is like the Expedia of hosteling. It searches all the available booking engines out there and hooks you up with the one that has the best price. It also provides a link to each hostel's website so you can book directly if you choose. With over 30,000 listings, this is the most comprehensive directory of hostels on the web. The customer reviews are lengthy, honest and uncensored (unlike some other sites where hostels are able to remove unfavorable postings). They also have over 1,500 exclusive full-length professional reviews and over 8,000 original photos.


Hostels.com
This popular site boasts a selection of over 24,000 listings with lots of customer reviews and photos. There is a $2 booking fee per reservation which is waived for newsletter subscribers. Another nice feature is the optional $1.50 Cancellation Protection fee. Normally if you cancel a reservation you lose your 10% deposit and $2 booking fee, but if you apt for Cancellation Protection you can cancel (24 hours notice required) and rebook on Hostels.com an unlimited number of times.


HostelWorld.com
This site is owned by the people at Hostels.com so you'll find the same customer reviews, pricing, 10% deposit, $2 booking fee, $1.50 optional cancellation protection, etc. here. There are a few slight differecnes: This site donates a portion of your booking fee to the charity Unicef. It also offers a $10 Gold Card that lets you waive all booking fees for 12 months.


Hosteling International (HI)
This is a well-established, non-profit international organization that operates over 4,000 hostels worldwide. You'll need to purchase a membership ($28 per year at last check). Non-members can stay at most hostels, but are often required to pay a $3 per night non-member fee. Membership also gets you commission-free Travelex currency exchange, free basic travel insurance, and a few discounts for bike and car rentals, local restaurants and attractions, etc. HI properties generally score high marks with hostelers because the organization implements a set of required quality standards and an inspections process. There is a 5% upfront deposit to hold your reservation.