Youth Hosteling International Rip-Off Stamp Cards
I usually tend to steer clear of the squeaky clean, whitewashed, characterless hostels that are a part of the Youth Hosteling International chain. In many countries they are usually more expensive than ‘local’ alternatives and carry with them an entire slew of unnecessary rules and regulations- such as you cannot stay in them during the day and you have to be in bed by midnight. (Note: in Morocco, Japan, Beijing and a few other places I have found them to be relatively reasonably priced.) The only merit to these places that I can find is that they are usually packed full of other foreigners and are set up in a way that allows for conversation. In point, if I ever feel like a night of telling bad jokes in my native tongue, I can stroll into a Youth Hostel that will be crawling with English speakers. Generally, the drawbacks are not worth a few foreigners pretending to laugh at my very dry jests and puns.
So Mira and I stayed at an International Youth Hostel in Oeiras (near Lisbon) for a few nights a month ago. We were not members of the Hosteling International organization, so we paid 11 euro each for our dorm beds. Fine. Not cheap, but, relatively speaking, not expensive. We then set out on our bicycle journey down the Portuguese coast and stayed at a Youth Hostel in Setubal. Once here we bought ourselves two Hosteling International membership cards. We were charged a 2 Euro fee each for these cards and a little stamp was stuck upon them to indicate that we stayed there.
We now had five empty places for future stamps to go.
“What happens when this card gets filled up with stamps?” I asked, thinking that I might be awarded for staying six nights at their hostels with a free stay.
“You get a new card when you return to your home country,” was the reply.
A new card that I can redeem in the USA? I must say that this was not much of an incentive to collect as many HI stamps possible. But at any rate, I viewed these stamp cards as a silly travel impertinence and only cracked a few jokes about their uselessness. We stayed in the hostel in Setubal for three nights and were only charged a two euro fee for price of the card the first night.
But regardless of the lack of incentive to carry these useless cards, Mira and I toted them around with pride; for the first time in my traveling career I had a Hosteling International membership card. When we arrived back at the (Oeiras) Youth Hostel after a month of riding bikes around Portugal, we displayed them to the check-in guy (who we knew from our first visit as being a real penis) with glee.
“We have cards now!” Mira exclaimed.
“Oh,” said the Penis, “now I have to charge you more money.”
“What!” Mira and I yelled in unison.
“Yes,” the Penis continued, “now that you have those cards I have to charge you an additional two Euro each for every stamp that you get. And you have to buy a new stamp every night that you stay here. When you stay here for six nights, and all of the blanks are filled with stamps, you get a new card. ”
So now that we bought the Hosteling International membership card, we were being charged three dollars more each every night.
13 Euro- $20- is far too much to pay for a dorm-bed at a Youth Hostel in any country. Especially one that is presided over by a Penis. The next day Mira and I disputed this matter further with another Penis check-in boy, and got nowhere. Yes, we were again told that because we had those stupid little stamp cards that we would have to pay three dollars more per night than the last time we slept in those same beds. 26 Euro for two dorm-beds. $40. We could stay in the heart of downtown Lisbon in a private room with a sink for that price. I curtly informed the hostel staff of this. They told me to go and do it.
Upon this end to our negotiation with the Hosteling International manager (Penis) we promptly grabbed up our gear, checked out, and I ripped up my membership card and tossed it to the wind.
I guess I am no longer a member of Hosteling international.
No more Youth Hostels in Europe.
I hereby proclaim that I will sleep outside through the coldest, meanest blizzard before I pay another three dollars for a useless stamp that I cannot even mail a letter with.
Youth Hosteling Internationals: another travel rip-off.
Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
Barrio Alto, Lisbon, Portugal
December 1, 2007