[:en]When you’ve never been on a backpacking trip, it might be hard to imagine what you can expect. A hostel is probably a good place for you to stay, as they have shared dormitories (bedrooms for 3-10 (or even more) people, usually with bunk beds) and communal areas where you can meet other travellers.
This weeks question is about the different types of hostels you might come across in Australia:
I’ve heard about hostel membership cards. Do I really need them and which one should I get? – Manon
Hi Manon, You are right. Some hostels have their own membership cards. Back in the days, a backpackers hostel (or youth hostel) used to be for members exclusively. You had to be registered, after which you were able to stay in all connected youth hostels in certain countries. Most hostels these days don’t require you to become a member. You can just make a booking and they will only ask you for personal information the moment you sign in at reception (that can be your passport number, contact information and sometimes they will ask you where you’ve stayed before and where you will go after your stay, for marketing purposes). Some hostels, mostly bigger hostel chains, have their own membership card. In Australia this means that you can still book a hostel without the card, but members will receive a discount on their stay. Some membership cards will give you even more, such as drink and meal vouchers, discounts on tours and activities and their cards can even be used in their oversees hostels. The most popular hostel cards in Australia are:
1. YHA (Youth Hostel Association)/ Hostelling International / Stayokay
YHA is a big network of international youth hostels, coming together under the name of ‘Hostelling International (HI)’. In some countries the hostel chain ‘Stayokay’ is part of the Hostelling International group as well. Memberships are valid in over 4000 hostels in about 80 countries worldwide. In Australia, there are 95 YHA Hostels. The cards costs AU$ 32 (18-25 years) and AUS$ 42 (26+ years) and is valid for 1 year (they also have 2 and 3 year memberships). Check the HI website for all advantages you get with this card.
2. VIP Backpackers International Discount Card
This is an Australian organisation for backpackers and helps you to get discounts on both accommodation as other products and services. VIP is the biggest independent backpackers organisation network in the world, with more than 1200 hostels in 80+ countries. The cards costs AU$ 37. Check the VIP website for all advantages you get with this card.
Not only do you get a discount on every night you stay in a Nomads (affiliate) hostel, you also get a booklet with over AU$1000 discount vouchers on drinks, meals, entertainment, phone calls and activities. This card is also a Global Gossip internet and calling card. There are 87 Nomads hostels in 16 countries, of which 23 in Australia. The cards costs AU$ 38 (including the MAD Discount Guide, or AU$19 without). Check the Nomads website for all advantages you get with this card.
BASE is a modern hostel chain with high standard accommodation. Expect brand new rooms and the best facilities. BASE has 17 hostels in Australia and 9 hostels in New Zealand. This card is a 10-night flexible accommodation package with the opportunity to stay at any BASE Hostel in Australia. The cards costs AU$ 249. Check the BASE website for all advantages you get with this card.
5. Independent Backpackers
This organisation for backpackers issues the ‘Discount Gold Card’, which gives you discounts on accommodation, tours, transport in Australia, Fiji and New Zealand. The cards costs AU$ 35 for 1 year ($AU 50 for 2 years). Check the Independent Backpackers website for all advantages you get with this card.
Besides the hostel membership cards, there are also some other cards that might give you some backpacker discounts in Australia. These are the International Student Identity Card (ISIC, for fulltime students), the International Student Exchange Card (ISEC) the International Youth Travel Card (IYTC, for everyone under 26 years) and the International Teacher Identity Card (ITIC, for fulltime teachers and professors). You might not get a discount with these cards in your hostel (although, you always want to check just in case), but don’t forget to use them when you’re booking tours, activities, flights or any other form of public transport. They can sometimes give you discounts in shops and restaurants as well! Some of the cards can also be used as calling cards, can wave your commission at Travelex exchange offices and even give you advice or help when you have medical problems, need to get insurance or when your airline goes bankrupt. Definitely worth to check! To answer your question ‘do you really need a membership card?’, I would say no, you don’t necessarily need one to travel Australia. But there are a lot of advantages with either of these cards that can save you a lot of money, especially if you’re in Australia for a longer period. I would recommend to choose a card after arriving in Australia and after you’ve decided how and where you’re going to travel:
- Will you only book guided tours that includes accommodation? You don’t need one.
- Will you hire a car and camp mostly? You don’t need one.
- Will you be visiting more countries this year? It might be worth getting a card that has hostels all over the world, be sure to check if your card of choice has a hostel in those specific countries.
- Will you book a travel pass, for example with the Greyhound bus company? Usually you will get a 10$ discount if you have a hostel card. In that case it might be a good idea buying one. (For example: if your bus pass is $400 and the hostel card costs $37, you basically get it for free! The 10% discount would be $40, which is more that the whole hostel card, such as VIP or MAD costs)
- Will you use internet a lot or do you plan on calling oversees? Have a look at a card that also gives you discounts on these services to save even more!