If you're planning to backpack around Europe, chances are you're going to be staying there for a while. A lot of the usual accommodation options can become very expensive over an extended stay. That's where Youth Hostels can be a great help. They're a cheap way to get to know a country. And although they're called youth hostels, many older travelers also stay at hostels when they want cheaper accommodation.
Hostels can get very busy, particularly in the summer months, so it's always a good idea to plan ahead a little. Try and ring the hostel at your destination a day or two in advance to book in. The last thing you need to do is arrive in a town late in the day, only to find the hostel is full and you're wandering the streets in peak season looking for accommodation. Chances are you'll end up paying a lot more than you've budgeted your stay for!
Make sure you take advantage of all the information available at the hostel. Most hostels have links to local restaurants and bars, so you can often get discount coupons. Even if they don't, they will certainly know the places previous visitors have enjoyed the most. Some of the bigger hostels may also offer tour options, or again, have discount coupons available for popular tours. You may also be able to link up with other travelers and share a car or taxi for sightseeing.
Always be very careful with your possessions at a hostel. The people may all seem very nice and friendly, and chances are that's exactly what they are, but crime can also be a big problem. Never leave valuables in your room unattended, and keep all your valuable papers on you at all times, even if that means putting them in your sleeping bag at night. You will need to carry a passport and usually another photo identification if you want to stay at a hostel.
Hostels are available in all sorts of fascinating locations - castles, teepees, and even railroad carriages. So if you have a choice in one city, try to stay at one of these more unique hostels. It will help to give your travels a special touch.
Nowadays, many hostels bear a very close resemblance to budget hotels. The days of dormitory rooms sleeping 8 or 10 people are rapidly disappearing, which will probably mean that you get a lot more sleep! Take note of any lockout time during the day, when the hostel is closed for cleaning. And most important of all, enjoy making new friends, because that's one of the best things about staying in hostels while traveling through Europe.