I will be studying abroad in England this coming year and am interested in traveling all over - however, this needs to be done as cheaply as possibly. Thus far, I am interested in the HI company. Anyone have any experience with them? I like them because of the cheap membership fee - 25/yr - and the fact that you get traveler's insurance with each trip you book through them. I'm interested in traveling all over western Europe. Please help, experienced hostellers!!
Also, how safe are hostels? Does theft, etc. occur frequently? Will they hold your things while you go walk about the country for the day?
I've hostelled all over Ireland, alot in Germany, Scotland, Paris and Norway & I've never had anything stolen yet. However I do take the precaution of locking my bag and wearing a money belt at night, I don't invite trouble. Some hostels have a luggage cage under the bed but not that many. If not, you could always lock your bag to the bed, I've never felt the need to do so. I've hostelled both with HI and Independent Hostels, there is no reason you can't stay in both. HI tends to insist on segregated sleeping quarters between both genders, independent hostels couldn't care less. You more also need to look into the curfew rules regarding HI hostels. Some hostels also require you leave say by about 10am and don't return until the early evening but usually not the big city ones.
I did get hiking sandals taken once in a hostel in Oz but the culprit was more scatty than bad but it left me in a very difficult situation travelling through much of Oz with no sandals. Most hostels are now of a high standard especially the ones in Germany and there is alot of contrast between the types of accomodation. You can opt for dorms of a certain size or a more pricey single room. The main benefit of hostelling besides the cheapness is its a great way to meet likeminded people from all over the world. You'll never be lonely hostelling.
There is usually a left luggage room though how well policed it is I think depends on the hostel. From my experience there is a certain code of honour among hostellers but of course human nature being what it i,s you need to prepare for the vey few that don't go by it. almost 6 years ago