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American hikers freed from Iran prison, United announces new rewards programme, Price gouging for London hostels could be worse than expected during the Olympics, and more. Here are the stories that travellers are buzzing about:

Even London's budget hostels experience price gouging for 2012 Olympics
It has been well reported that hotel prices for London's 2012 Olympics are on the rise — in some cases nearly triple the normal rate. In the case of budget hostels, it could be even worse. A 28-bed all-male dorm room at Palmers Lodge Hostel is going for $157.50 per person on, while a basic double room at the same hostel is going for $500, according to By comparison, the rates are usually less than $20.

The good news is, the hostel’s website offers significantly cheaper rates than major booking sites. Still, experts recommend waiting until early next year to book a room for the Olympics because of the likelihood that prices will drop.

United unveils new rewards programme as merger with Continental nears completion
United announced the plans for its new rewards programme yesterday, and some loyal to the airline are not thrilled. The airline will start rewarding customers who spend more money on tickets rather than how often they fly, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. United is also adding a fourth tier to its previously three-tier elite programme, and reduced elite bonuses could irk frequent fliers who don't normally spend the cash on first class tickets. But, while making the rewards program less beneficial to people with lower status, increased bonuses for travellers buying first class tickets and full-price coach seats could make United an attractive option for business travellers accustomed to paying for pricey, last-minute tickets

Residents with view of Hollywood sign not happy with influx of tourists
While GPS units have been a blessing for travellers searching for the ideal spot to view Los Angeles' Hollywood sign, residents of the area are up in arms about the recent influx of tourists. The address of the ideal viewing point was published on the internet, and the buses and cars full of tourists have led to complaints about people standing in the middle of the street and possible fire hazards. Now the local homeowners association has begun pressuring the city council to set up an official viewing area away from their neighbourhood, the Telegraph reports. 

"Today can only be described as the best day of our lives. We have waited for nearly 26 months for this moment and the joy and relief we feel at Shane and Josh's long-awaited freedom knows no bounds. We now all want nothing more than to wrap Shane and Josh in our arms, catch up on two lost years and make a new beginning, for them and for all of us."

-- A statement from the families of Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, the American hikers who were released yesterday after spending more than two years in an Iran prison after being convicted of entering Iran illegally and spying for the United States. The pair — who say they got lost during a hike in neighbouring Iraq — flew into Oman yesterday to meet their families. CNN has video of their departure from the plane and statements from both men. 

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