How to Find Hostels in North America

Hostels are a universal, international traveling accommodation--but before you can lay your head down to sleep, you have to track down a hostel with an open bed. Canada, the United States and Mexico may be the largest countries in North America--but they're only 3 of 23 sovereign countries and territories considered part of the North American continent. Other North American countries you can find hostels in include Greenland, Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Central-American countries like Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica. Travel guidebooks and international hostel associations are just a few of the ways you can find cheap lodgings in these countries.


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    Consult any travel guides you might already have; many list hostels in the lodging or accommodations section.
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    Consider joining Hostelling International (HI), an international network of membership hostels that offers member benefits like booking discounts, exclusive hostel locations, travel discounts and deals on guidebooks.
    • You can also search for North American hostels through HI, at You might have to pay an extra fee to stay at the hostels if you're not an HI member.
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    Search for North American hostels through major online travel bookers such as:
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    Consider purchasing "The Hostel Handbook," a slender book with hundreds of listings for hostels around North America.
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    Search for hosteling apps for your mobile device of choice. These apps, such as the one released by in early 2010, allow you to locate and book hostels.
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    Scour the yellow pages, in print or online, for the area you intend to visit. You'll often find cheap lodging listed under "Hostels," but it's up to you to vet each hostel in the list for safety and quality of accommodations.


  • A hostel isn't just a cheap hotel. Although you can book private rooms in most hostels, the least-expensive rooms are dorm rooms. You rent a single bed in the room, and share the room--and a bathroom, either en suite or down the hall--with anyone else that books in. Most hostel dorms are separated by gender, but some hostels offer mixed-gender dorms.
  • Once you've found a likely hostel, do a quick Internet search for user reviews and feedback about the hostel. Many of the booking websites listed above and some travel review sites, like, allow user reviews and ratings of hostel accommodations.
  • Just because hostels are inexpensive doesn't mean they offer shoddy accommodations. You may encounter newly renovated buildings, plush common rooms, eco-friendly designs or unusual themes. On the other hand, you can't expect typical hotel amenities. Towels and sheets might cost extra or not be provided at all. Some hostels offer light meals at specified times or lunches packed to go, and almost all have a common kitchen/food prep area.
  • Consider booking ahead for hostels during peak seasons. Some popular hostels may book weeks or months ahead, and hostel availability can change at the drop of a hat with visitors sometimes arriving in large groups.
  • Hostel quality varies enormously. Membership in a large organization like Hosteling International can usually be taken as a guarantee of decent quality, but don't feel shy about asking to see the accommodations before you pay for your room. Check for cleanliness, and ask yourself whether you'll feel comfortable coming and going from your room to the common and entrance areas in the dark.
  • Look for hostels that provide safes or secure storage for your valuables. Most hostelers are honest, but it takes only one bad experience to ruin your trip.

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Categories: North America