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Staying at a Canadian Hostel for the first time?

If you've never stayed in a hostel before, you might not know what to expect.  You might be wondering what will the facilities be like?  Will I be able to cook?  Will I need bedding?  Will I ever get a moment's peace?

Don't worry.  Hostels aren't as fancy as hotels, but they're comfortable and fun. 

A good hostel should be clean and secure.  You'll be able to tell if the place is dirty.  Hostel security can be as complex as requiring a code for entry and having guards on duty; or, it can be as simple as having the receptionist monitor who comes and goes.  No hostel should allow non-guests to access sleeping areas.  Most hostels provide individual lockers for your valuables, though you'll need your own lock.  Otherwise, you can leave your valuables under lock and key at the reception.

Most hostels provide clean linens for free, or will rent them to you for a few dollars per stay.  In fact, many hostels forbid outside linen and sleeping bags, due to hygiene concerns.  Always carry your own towel.  

Most hostels provide kitchen facilities where you can cook, eat, and store your food.  Write your name and room number on your food.  Clean up after yourself.  Pay attention to notices that state when the refrigerators are cleaned, so your food doesn't get thrown away.  Don't be surprised if someone helps themselves to your munchies after a night out at the pub.  Many hostels offer free or cheap breakfasts.

Many hostels provide inexpensive laundry facilities.  Line-drying clothes in your room is frowned upon, but you can get away with it if it's just your socks and underwear.

Most hostels provide internet access.  Sometimes, it's free, but if so you'll have to wait your turn.  If it's not free, find an internet cafe, they're usually cheaper.  Many hostels have wireless internet and this should always be free, but you'll need your laptop. 

A wide range of other amenites are on offer at hostels, but these are some of the basics that most people look for.  Don't be too quick to pass judgment if the hostel is small or a little run-down; older, smaller hostels can be more fun than large, modern, corporate ones.  Always check out a hostel's facilities before you book.  Booking in advance will save a lot of worry and walking, but I recommend not booking your whole stay in advance.  That way, if you hate the place, you can leave.

You'll most likely be staying in dorm rooms shared between four to twenty people.  You can choose a single-sex or mixed dorm.  Small dorms are more comfortable; large dorms are cheaper.  If you're craving privacy, some hostels offer private rooms with shared or private bath.

Hostels have social areas and some have their own bars.  There, you'll find games, books, and information about the area.  Most hostels offer activities, ranging from trivia nights to walking tours, for affordable fees.  These activities are a great way to have fun, make friends, and experience the highlights of a city or region.  Your receptionist can give you tips and help you find your way around.

If you arrive in the morning and your bed isn't ready, don't raise a stink.  Hostels have a lot of guests, and cleaning up is hard work.  There will be a luggage room where you can stow your pack, and a toilet or shower where you can get cleaned up.  No one will mind if you take a nap in the lounge.  Check-in and check-out times vary, but generally check-in starts around 2 PM, and check-out begins around 11 AM.  If you've booked in advance, plan to arrive no later than four hours after your ETA so you don't lose your reservation.  You can re-stow your pack in the luggage room while waiting to catch your train, bus or plane to the next stop.

Some hostels will assign a specific bed in your dorm; others let you choose.  If you choose your bed, put the linens on right away and put some of your things on top so that others coming into the room will know it's taken.  Put your pjs, toothbrush and anything else you'll need at bedtime where they'll be easy to find in the dark.  You may come in later than expected, and you don't want to disturb anyone by turning on lights and making noise.  Take off your shoes before you enter your dorm at night.  Be considerate, and don't take it personally if someone wakes you up.  You can always take a nap the next day.

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