Hostels are dirt-cheap, basic places to stay, often with shared dorms (but also often with private rooms as well) and shared baths.
If you're really scrimping on every eurocent, or are particularly fond of fraternizing with primarily youthful backpackers, you might want to stay in hostels, where you can get a bunk in a shared dorm for around $19 to $40.
I'm not a fan of hostels. Never did like them, really, not even when I was a backpacking student, but that's just me.
You, though, might enjoy the camaraderie, the chance to rub elbows with other English-speakers, the evenings of contributing an ingredient to the communal spaghetti dinner someone is whipping up in the kitchen while your laundry spins in the back room, a dreadlocked dropout strums a guitar, and everyone sits around and shares travel tips and recently discovered gems not yet in the guidebooks.
Oh, and the massive savings. That's the upside to the hostelling experience. The downsides, though, are enough to keep me away, despite the savings.
Hostelmania.com (www.hostelmania.com) - Another biggie, with about 20 hostels in Paris.
Federation Unie des Auberges de Jeunesse (www.fuaj.org) - The official hostelling body of France. Useful for rules and links to offial HI hostels (though note that official HI hsotels are usually the least interesting and most restrictive).
Centres d'herbergement pour jeunes - Cheap lodgings for the young (and young-at-heart) that also frequently host events: www.bvjhotel.com, www.cisp.fr, www.ciup.fr, www.fiap.asso.fr, www.ligueparis.org, www.ethic-etapes.fr.
Hostelling International (www.hihostels.com) - The official international hostelling body, giving its stamp of approval to one or two hotels in cities and town around the globe. For Paris, this means four properties —though only one (Jules Ferry) is actually downtown. Still, the site is seful for membership info and hsoteling basics.
Though per-person cost for a bunk in a shared dorm is typically €20 to €30 ($25 to $40) per night—though it can range as low as €15 and as high as €35 ($19 to $45).
Private rooms typically go for from €55 to €140 ($72 to $180)—or ever-so-slightly less than a hotel.
The following apply to most hostels, whether independent or official:
Most of what follows applies primarily to official HI hostels. Private or independent hostels freqeuently do not suffer from many, or even any, of these drawbacks.
Note I keep calling them simply "Hostels." The only ones that are still officially "youth" hostels are in Southern Germany, where the old under-26-only rule is still applied.
Most hostels are now open as cheap digs for anyone of any age, and increasingly budget-minded families, adventurous folks in their forties, and even backpacking grandparents are availing themselves of this cheap-o option.
Most hostels provide a blanket, but require that you use your own sleep sack , which is basically a sheet folded in half lengthwise and sewn across the bottom and most of the way up the side—sort of like an ultra-thin sleeping bag.
However, note that you cannot use your own sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, or anything else with a thick pile to it
This is because Lord knows where you've been and for all the hostel know your bag is infested with bedbugs, which they'd rather you not introduce into their beds.
Should you lack one, some hostels will sell you a sleep sack on the spot.
Grabbing a bed in a traditional hostel is a bit like staying at summer camp, only without the lanyards. These days, such rooms full of bunk-beds are being replaced with teensy "dorms" of just four to eight beds each.