Frequently Asked Questions

What is a hostel?

A hostel provides a comfortable night’s sleep at a low cost in private or dorm-style accommodations. Hostels are located in unique settings all over the world. They come in all shapes and sizes, from historic buildings with 20 beds to renovated hotels with 600 beds, and often reflect the special character of their surrounding communities.

What is Hostelling International?

Hostelling International, or HI, is a brand name that makes it easy for travelers to find a hostel they know will meet high standards of cleanliness, service, and safety. The nonprofit International Youth Hostel Federation adopted the HI brand name in the early 1990s. Now travelers can just look for the trademarked HI blue-triangle logo to find quality accommodations. Hostelling International USA is an affiliate of IYHF, and operates a network of 57 hostel accommodations throughout the United States.

What makes HI hostels unique?
HI hostels offer an opportunity to interact with other travelers of any age, culture, background, or experience in a safe environment. HI hostels also provide free or low-cost programs, self-service kitchens, comfortable common rooms, and additional amenities. HI hostels are the trusted source for quality at a great price because they meet international quality standards for cleanliness, service, and safety.

Are hostels safe?
Safety and security for guests and their belongings are a high priority at all HI hostels. Because space is often shared in dorm-style accommodations, common sense dictates keeping valuables and important documents in your possession at all times. However, all of our Northern California hostels provide small private lockers for valuables as well as secure storage areas for luggage and bicycles. Guests are advised to bring a padlock (or purchase one at the front desk).

How do I find hostels?
For HI hostels in Northern California, see our Hostels page. For hostels across the United States, visit For worldwide locations, visit the international HI website. HI also publishes an annual hostel guide that can be purchased from HI-USA.

Is there an age limit to stay in HI hostels?
HI hostels welcome people of all ages and are no longer referred to as youth hostels. In fact, there are more and more families, couples, groups, and people 55 and older using our hostels. 

Do I need to be a member?
HI membership is not required to stay in our hostels in the United States. However, nonmembers may be charged an extra nightly fee of $3. Some European HI hostels will only admit members.

Do I have to sleep in a dorm?
Hostels are designed to facilitate and encourage interaction between guests of different cultures, backgrounds, and points of view. This interaction happens throughout the hostel, in common areas, kitchens, and dorm rooms. For those guests who are in need of greater privacy but still wish to have the hostel experience, we do offer options for exclusive use of a room. In fact, all of our Northern California Hostels offer private rooms in addition to shared, dorm-style rooms.

Will I have to do chores?
Daily housekeeping is provided at all hostels; there are no chores at large urban hostels, and chores are voluntary at other hostels. However, all of our guests are asked to respect the communal nature of hostels by cleaning up after themselves – i.e., washing their own dishes after using the kitchen, keeping their areas in dorm rooms tidy, and stripping the linens from their beds before checking out.

Are hostels closed during the day?
Most major urban HI hostels are open and staffed 24 hours a day. Some smaller and rural hostels have limited reception hours during the day, due to limited staffing. However, guests still have access to common areas throughout the day. All of our Northern California hostels are open 24 hours.

Are there kitchen and laundry facilities?
All of our Northern California hostels provide clean and fully equipped self-service kitchens. You'll find cookware, dishes, utensils, appliances, and refrigerator/freezer storage space. Guest laundry facilities are available at the Marin Headlands Hostel, Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel, Sacramento Hostel, San Francisco Downtown Hostel, and San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf Hostel.

Are your hostels wheelchair accessible?
All of HI-USA’s Northern California hostels meet ADA compliance standards set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and are wheelchair accessible.

Can I bring my service animal to your hostels?
Service animals are allowed as specified by law. Please inform the front desk about your service animal when you make your reservation. Staff may ask you if your animal is required because of a disability and that you keep your service animal with you at all times and on a leash. Owners of service animals are responsible for cleaning up after their pets.

Do your hostels offer programs?
In San Francisco, our dedicated Activities Coordinators offer daily programs such as walking tours, bike rides, pub crawls, hostel dinners, and movie nights. The Golden Gate Council also offers a range of outdoor education and intercultural programming for youth and student groups; please see Programs for details.

Who stays at hostels?
HI hostel guests all have a few things in common: they want accommodations that provide quality, value, and a friendly atmosphere that makes it easy to meet other travelers. Aside from that, our guests are incredibly diverse, coming from all different cultures, countries, backgrounds, and age groups. HI hostels are not just for young people, although the majority of guests at most hostels are between 18 and 30 years old.

Can groups stay at hostels?
School groups or social, community, professional, or religious organizations are welcome at HI hostels, but advance reservations are required. Many HI hostels have special meeting/event facilities or group programs. For more information, please see Groups.

Do I need a reservation?
For peace of mind, HI recommends that you make a reservation; however, walk-ins are welcome if space is available. Please see Reservations for more information.

Do you accept credit cards and traveler’s checks?
All of our Northern California hostels accept VISA, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and JCB, as well as traveler’s checks. A credit card is required to make a reservation.

What do I need for check-in?
Check-in requires a valid government-issued picture identification card (passport, driver's license, or state or military ID card). If you're an HI member and want to receive the member rate, you must also present your membership card.



More Questions?

For general inquiries about Hostelling International, please contact HI-USA’s Northern California administrative office.

If you have questions about a specific hostel, please contact that hostel directly:

Marin Headlands Hostel
Marin Headlands/Sausalito, CA
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Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel
Pescadero, CA
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Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel
Montara, CA
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Point Reyes Hostel
Point Reyes National Seashore, CA
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Sacramento Hostel
Sacramento, CA
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San Francisco City Center Hostel
 San Francisco, CA
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San Francisco Downtown Hostel
San Francisco, CA
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San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel
San Francisco, CA
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