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I stayed at the YHA in Whitby, after being invited to the seaside resort for a wedding reception. When planning the trip, and adding up all the costs (petrol, wedding gift, new outfit, spending money for the weekend) I decided that it would be far too expensive to stay at a 3/4* b&b or hotel. My partner had stayed at a YHA before, but I was somewhat skeptical. I didn't want to share a room with strangers! However, we found that they offered rooms that had one single bunk bed, and some that even had proper beds (although they were fully booked!). The price was excellent - £40 for a Saturday night for two of us. When we got there the car park was slightly small, but the guy on reception helped to jiggle a few cars around that were leaving. We were right next to Whitby Abbey and even got free entry while we were there (saving us about £15 each!) and there were spectacular views from the room. The room was clean, basic, and warm. We had to make our own beds up but this was quick and I was surprised at how clean all the linen was. My other fear - sharing a bathroom - turned out to be fine also. There was a WC and wash basin in one room, and a full bathroom in another room, so plenty of facilities for the few bedrooms that were sharing. Again, very clean. There was a great cafe/restaurant in the YHA that did lovely big portions of homemade food for very low prices. I had the beef stew with a big doorstop of bread, and my partner had the pizza and a sponge pudding with custard. Another good feature was that we were very close to the shops,bars and restaurants. To get to the wedding reception, which was a few miles away, we needed a taxi and the reception staff sorted this out for us. All in all, a great cheap stay, very comfortable and the staff were very friendly. Perfect if you want a handy and cheap base to explore, and don't mind sleeping in bunk beds!!
I first joined the YHA just over a year ago. I had been looking for ways to save money when I travelled around the country and abroad and as I was able to get my first years membership free through my student bank account, I decided it was insane not to join! The card entitles you to discounts at youth hostels around the UK and abroad, so if you like visiting different places across the country but need to do it on a tight budget; this can only help you out even further, saving you around £3 a night extra with the membership card. I have also used the YHA card abroad as it is also a 'Hostelling International' card. This entitled me to an extra Euro2.50 a night off the listed hostel prices. Saving me Euro25 in one trip alone! Definitely worth the £9.95 membership fee for Under 26s or £15.95 for over 26, especially if you're travelling for long periods of time going from one hostel to the next. The benefits do not simply end at savings on accommodation though. The YHA card entitles the holder to many additional discounts too, including 10% discounts at millets, Columbus direct travel insurance, blacks and even higher discounts on ordinance survey maps, insight guides, geographical magazine, national trust membership, SeaFrance ferries and many more. I found the Millets discount particularly useful when buying tents and sleeping bags for a festival, but also for some of their excellent weather proof clothing. For anyone interested in travelling, this is more than a worthwhile investment as the potential savings are huge.
YHA, The concept is old, young travellers of like mind, staying together and keeping costs down. Apparently, when first operative, the YHA concept meant you had to do a list of duties before you left the hostel, this ensured it was clean, safe and ready for the next lot of young travellers. Nowadays, mostly, you don't have to do anything, but pay: it is all done by staff, generally young people from all over the world or local, well trained managers employed by YHA. The only YHA I have visited where you had to do chores was in Winchester, the manager was proud to still promote the original ideals of the association. It was due to close this year. I mostly travel on my own and use YHA hostels because I am not sure I would be confident about the standards, security and cleanliness of a backpackers establishment. You most definitely could not describe me as a 'youth' but that no longer is a criteria to be allowed to book YHA. One Easter weekend at a YHA in a remote rural area of Cornwall the average age of guests was 65 years old. From my experience of the YHA concept in action, at around 25 YHA's in Britain, I have seen frontline staffing to high levels. When you chat with them they have obviously been well trained, have support in their roles and quite honestly it shows in the service and information they share to make sure you get the best out of your visit to their area. Having said that I do have memories flooding back of two managers who left a little to be desired. One was in the north of the country and he was so drunk I had to fill in my own credit card details and put it through his machine! The other was so growly because we pressed the bell five minutes before opening time as we wanted to ask where to park the car,as there was not a carpark at the YHA. We were keen not to attract the 'ire' of the parking officer who was lurking nearby. The aforementioned manager was extremely cross that our watches did not tell the same time as his. We felt a little piqued that he did not see our plight as worthy of pressing the bell five minutes before he was going to open the door anyway. Just added this in to get a balance on this story! Actually that is perhaps a matter worth mentioning, some YHA hostels stay open all day but others do close from around mid morning until 5pm. So, if you are booked in for a few nights you have to be sure you have something to do during the day and to be back if there is a night curfew in the form of a lock up at a certain hour later at night. If there is a night curfew, staff usually let you know how to get in should you arrive back late. Another thing you might not like is the fact that you do take your own towel but bedding is mostly included in the tariff. Now, on the subject of tarrif. YHA's are really good value, especially if you are taking a family on holiday. I'd say the average I've paid is around ten to 12 pounds in Britain and perhaps up to 15 pounds in some parts of Europe. There are differing prices: individuals prepared to share with 4 others, 6 others, up to 10 others and even 12 others at some hostels; family units and rooms for 2 hostellers. Some do bed and breakfast, but not all. Ask when you book. Now, booking is easy, either phone up or use the internet which has secure booking service. On the website there is heaps on information which will easily show you whether YHA hostelling is for you. Depending on the hostel you often get the chance to do your own catering in the Members Kitchen, or to eat chef meals in the hostels dining room. Many have a laundry where you pay to do your own washing, drying and sometimes ironing. (I don't like ironing so I obviously have not ever ironed in a YHA and do not intend ever to do so!) In Britain you will find YHA's in some fantastic old buildings, some I've seen are castles, historic homes, a flour mill and some other gems. I personally like being a YHA member. You do have to join but if for any reason you do not want to you can pay an extra fee and stay anyway. I joined in my home country of New Zealand and have had a lot of use out of its international status, in UK and Europe which is how I've met so many interesting people. As mentioned in my disadvantages, you may not like the idea of sleeping with people you've never met before but I can honestly say I have only once had to ask to be shifted; that is from around 25 hostels in 6 years so give it some thought. If meeting people, staying in cheap but safe and clean hostel accommodation interests you, give YHA a go.