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I came across hostelworld whilst browsing the Internet for an affordable place to stay in Dublin on New Year's Eve given that hotel prices appeared to double for that night.
I found its search facility excellent - it immediately offered me a wide range of hostels that fitted the criteria I had entered; whilst going on to display the availability of beds in that particular property. Its database apparently boasts over 10,000 hostels worldwide, so if you want to shop around first, then here's the place to do it!
The descriptions of each hostel were complete and helpful, offering information on the facilities provided by each, plus some background history and each hostel's policies regarding smoking, curfew etc. which was especially helpful to us when choosing.
The site offers comprehensive prices, maps and directions - and, in fact, not only hostel bookings. Also from the haven of the site you can book tours, various activities, sightseeing trips, day trips and travel guides for a huge range of cities all over the world.
Booking is simple and easy, with a small card charge payable - I paid about £5 then and there, and the remainder of the cost upon arrival at the hostel (review of that coming soon too!)
I was immediately sent a confirmation e-mail detailing all that I needed to know - handy for a self-confessed scatterbrain!
Perhaps one of the best features of hostelworld is that, after your stay at the hostel, the site will automatically e-mail you and invite you to offer feedback and rate the hostel for various aspects, as it were. These include : character, cleanliness, security, staff etc. It is an incredibly useful system to anyone then looking to book a hostel - it can aid you in making your final judgement, too given that each hostel has a rating next to it.
There is a Support Centre within the site, which is essentially FAQ, but nevertheless handy.
Support is in fact on hand from the 'Travel Gurus', who share information, tips, advice on working abroad and experiences which I feel is an essential to any young traveller. You can read travel diaries from people all over the world and interact with others via the message boards.
It is regularly updated with news and relevant articles, features the top 10 hostels and pointers on how to save money.
If budget travel is your bag, then you'll love this site.