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Youth Hosteling International Rip-Off Stamp Cards

Youth Hosteling International Rip-Off Stamp CardsYouth Hosteling International Rip-Off Stamp CardsI 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 [...]

Youth Hosteling International Rip-Off Stamp Cards


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.

I did.

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.

The card:


Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
Barrio Alto, Lisbon, Portugal
December 1, 2007

Filed under: Accommodation, Europe, Portugal, Travel Problems

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3411 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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8 comments… add one

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  • Peter Piper August 7, 2010, 12:25 pm

    The ‘Penis’ at that hostel you mentioned clearly did not understand what these cards are for.

    Normally the way it works, wif you do not have a membership, you get one of those stamps for each night you stay in the hostel (you pay a couple Euros more per night as a non-member). Once you get six stamps on your card, you have a valid hostel membership card and you are eligible for the member price at any other HI hostels. This is actually a good system because you do not have to buy the membership card up front.

    Btw. you mentioned that 13 Euros ($20) is too much to pay for a hostel dorm bed. I agree. But here in the US and Canada, $20 is the norm for a hostel dorm bed. A few places still only charge $18 in some rural areas such as Santa Fe, NM.

    In some places it is even more. In New York City It is about $35 for a night in the dorm. Think about it. They get $35 apiece for six people in a dorm, that’s $220 per night for the room. That’s as much as a four-star hotel costs in Manhattan. Hostels, a non-profit organization?

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com August 7, 2010, 1:18 pm

      It seemed as if something was not right with those cards. Correct, hostels in big cities bring in a lot of money per room.

      I thought that the price of a hostel in Lisbon was expensive, then I worked for a while in hostels in Eastern Europe that charged twice as much. It actually proved to be cheaper for a couple to stay in cheap hotels than hostels in many places.

      The world of backpacking in Europe has become gentrified, and hostels can now not only charge for a bed but for the “experience” of staying. It is my impression that the later aspect is what has pushed the demand — and price — of hostels so far beyond their actual value.

      Thanks for the comment.

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  • Bob L August 8, 2010, 10:43 pm

    “The world of backpacking in Europe has become gentrified, and hostels can now not only charge for a bed but for the “experience” of staying.”

    I have not stayed in a lot of hostels, and have only a few times gone for the dorm room (never more than 4 to a room) but I have paid almost as much for a private room (shared bath) as I could have if I stayed at a nicer nearby hotel. The reason WAS the experience, as staying at the nicer place would have meant spending all my time alone, but I had a blast in the hostels. The reason I paid so much was probably that I was a poor negotiator, and it was still super cheap compared to how much I was spending on beer and gasoline. And time….. Being in a hurry to find a place makes you somewhat of a captive, an easy mark I guess.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com August 15, 2010, 8:16 pm

      Right on, the hostel does provide an easy place to meet and interact with people that is difficult to easily equal elsewhere in a city that you are unfamiliar with. But to charge as much for a dorm bed as nearby hotels charge for a private room? Well, the atmosphere of a hostel is expensive — though if it is worth it to you, then it is worth it.

      It has sometimes been worth it to me in the past, though not so much lately that I travel with my family.

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      • Bob L August 16, 2010, 8:26 am

        “But to charge as much for a dorm bed as nearby hotels charge for a private room? ”

        I have not run into that yet. The Hostel I was talking about I had a private room with A/C and bathroom. The hotel next door was “Nicer” for the same price, but none of the amenities that

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        • Bob L August 16, 2010, 8:30 am

          Not sure what combination of keys I hit to do it, but I somehow sent my last comment before I was finished…. TWICE ?????

          Anyway, the Hotel next door was “Nicer” but I did not care about the amenities that they offered and it would have been a boring stay. I also would guess that if I chose to go on any tours, or get any information on anything, I would get charged more, plus more of an expectation of tips etc.

          Bob L

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          • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com August 16, 2010, 3:10 pm

            I agree, there are major benefits to staying at a hostel. I just think they are way overpriced. They use to be a cheap alternative to hotels. Now they are a choice of preference.

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        • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com August 16, 2010, 3:07 pm

          Go to Eastern Europe haha. I was working at a hostel there that chatged 40 USD a night for a bunk.

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