Thursday, December 8th, 2016

My Favorite Hostels

52

Hostels have played such a huge role in my travels and my life — especially party hostels.  If I added up the happiest memories of my travels, hostels would be responsible for quite a few of them.  Most of my closest travel friendships began in hostels as well.

At the same time, though, I’m getting older and my patience for shared dorms and a party atmosphere is waning.  I figured that now, while I’m still enjoying the hostel scene, would be a great opportunity to share my favorite hostels with you.

When I look for a hostel, the single most important attribute is free wifi, and I especially love free in-room wifi.  Beyond that, I look for a good location; good security; and free breakfast if possible.  If the hostel offers cheap communal dinners, I love that as well.  I used to look for hostels with a social atmosphere, but now that I work so much these days, I tend to seek out quieter hostels.

These are a selection of my absolute favorite hostels around the world.

Gallery Hostel, Porto

Best Overall Hostel: Gallery Hostel, Porto, Portugal

Gallery Hostel blew me away when I stayed here in September: it’s by far the best hostel I’ve ever experienced.  Absolutely gorgeous and beautifully decorated, very clean, ridiculously comfortable with beds ready-made with sheets and blankets, a warm and wonderful staff, delicious nightly group dinners, even port tasting.  It feels like you’re staying at a rich friend’s house rather than a hostel!

And beyond that, it’s incredibly cheap for the value you get.  Put this one on your list for Porto.

Rates start at 15 EUR ($20) for 6-bed mixed dorm.  Group dinners are extra.

Best Party Hostel: Hanoi Backpackers Hostel, Hanoi, Vietnam

If you’re on the Southeast Asia party backpacker trail, you absolutely must stay at Hanoi Backpackers.  No other hostel has its legendary status (or sells as many t-shirts)!  It seems like every backpacker in Hanoi gathers on the hostel roof at happy hour each night before going out into the early morning.  There are heavy-duty party trips within the city, like the epic snake restaurant.  There’s free beer on Sundays.  And then there are the trips — the greatest party cruise of all time in Halong Bay, and trips to Sapa and Hue as well.

Beyond that, the rooms have ensuite bathrooms and are very comfortable.  There are two of these hostels in Hanoi (I stayed at the original) and one in Hue as well, where I also stayed and which is very nice as well.

Rates start at 120,000 dong ($6) for 6-bed mixed dorm.

kex-hostel-gallery

Fanciest Hostel: Kex Hostel, Reykjavik, Iceland

Kex Hostel is the fanciest and hippest hostel where I’ve ever stayed.  At what other hostel can you actually order roasted bone marrow off the dinner menu?  Kex is decorated like a hipster’s ultimate fantasy, down to the ancient maps on the walls, elegant library, old-fashioned gym, and 1940s-style barbershop in one of the closets.

If you like style, but you’re not picky about where you actually sleep, a hostel like Kex is the perfect solution.

Rates start at 2300 ISK ($18) for 16-bed mixed dorm.

Best Stay-Here-For-Weeks Hostel: Monkey Republic, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Oh, Monkey Republic.  I practically moved into the dorm here on my two multi-week trips to Sihanoukville (and for $3 per night, why not?).  The upstairs loft was the perfect place to work before going to the beach.  Monkey Republic is one of the big party bars near Serendipity Beach, but the bar shuts down by midnight, when people leave and head out to other bars.  That means it’s pretty quiet…until 7 AM, when the dive shop next door starts blasting music, waking up the entire dorm.

I loved how every morning you would wake up and see different couples paired up in each others’ beds.  Every morning was different.

Rates start at $3 for 10-bed mixed dorm.

Best Located Hostel: Old Town Hostel, Split, Croatia

Diocletian’s Palace is the main attraction of Split — and Old Town Hostel is actually located inside the palace.  It’s on the second floor of an apartment building, and feels like you’re staying in a home rather than a hostel.  The walls are purple, the quilts are orange, and the staff goes out of their way to show you all the nice places in town.

This is also a friendly hostel that doesn’t go overboard with the partying.  People don’t gather here to get drunk off their faces — they get together to watch a Californication marathon from one of the many box sets available!

Rates start at 15 EUR ($20) for 8-bed mixed dorm.

Haggis Hostel -- Comfy Beds

Most Comfortable Hostel: Haggis Hostels, Edinburgh, Scotland

The owners of Haggis Hostels, Al and Chris, originally offered me a comped stay when I arrived in Edinburgh for the first time — and since then, they’ve become good friends of mine.  They made the decision to invest in quality at their hostel from the very beginning.  As a result, the showers are the best showers I have seen in any hostel — and the bedding is so nice, it feels like you’re SLEEPING IN A CLOUD.  Staying as warm as possible is of paramount importance in Scotland.

Whenever I go to Edinburgh — and you know how often that is! — if my lodging isn’t already sorted, this is where I stay.

Rates start at 18 GBP ($27) for 10-bed mixed dorm.

granada-plaza-nueva-gallery

Best Hostel Activities: Oasis Backpackers Hostel, Granada, Spain

What I loved most about Oasis Granada was that so much was always going on — you could never be bored.  Four or five free tours originated at the hostel each day, and there were also group trips to nearby hot springs, bike tours, segway tours, trips to the mountains, and more.  There were group dinners every night, homemade tapas crawls later, and the tiny bar was always packed with guests.

There are plenty more Oasis hostels — I stayed at the ones in Lisbon and Sevilla as well.  All three are quality places with lots of activities going on, but Granada was my overall favorite.

Rates start at 16 EUR ($21) for 10-bed mixed dorm.

Most High-Tech Hostel: Lub*d Silom, Bangkok, Thailand

Lub*d is huge and boasts a cute cafe and a movie screening room.  I went through three levels of key-card security to get to my all-female dorm.  Each dorm bed in the air-conditioned room had its own cubby with electrical and USB outlets and high-speed internet in every room.  The only strange thing about Lub*d was that it seemed to be filled with people who hated Bangkok and were only there because they were in transit.

As much as I liked this place, it’s expensive for Bangkok.  In the high season, the rate is $20 per night. You could spend less than half of that for your own room in a nice guesthouse.  Still, though, it’s nice to drop by for a few days for the super-fast internet and hot showers.

Rates start at 400 baht ($13) for 10-bed female dorm and 420 baht ($14) for 8-bed mixed dorm.

Agora Guesthouse Common Room

Best Common Room: Agora Guesthouse, Istanbul, Turkey

Agora Guesthouse was an incredibly cozy place to stay for a few days.  The dorms were good, the bathrooms were ridiculously clean, and the location was excellent, just steps from the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya in Sultanahmet.

But what I loved most was the common room, which was perfectly set up to either work for the afternoon or hang out with new friends.  Turkish music videos would play all day.  The roof had views to Istanbul’s most important monuments and the Asian side across the Bosphorus.  The free breakfast was outstanding — I would start every day with a big bowl of the traditional Turkish tomato-cucumber-feta salad!

Rates start at 13 EUR ($17) for 10-bed mixed dorm.

Samsung Galaxy SIII

Most Homey Hostel: Atlantic Point Backpackers, Cape Town, South Africa

I was only at Atlantic Point for a night, but it made such an impression on me — this is another place where I could have moved in, easily.  The common room featured a pool table, a ping-pong table, and tons of couches — you could socialize if you wanted, or just hang out and do your thing.  The dorm was beautiful and the bathroom was spotless, as well.

It wasn’t anything unusual or fancy — just really comfortable, really friendly, and really nice.  At the end of the day, that’s what hostels should be about.

Rates start at 145 rand ($16) for 8-bed mixed dorm.

Note: I received complimentary stays at Kex Hostel (from the hostel itself) and Old Town Hostel (from the hostel and HostelWorld). I received complimentary lodging on some but not all of my stays at Haggis Hostel (from the hostel itself) and a reduced stay at Agora Hostel (from the hostel itself). All other stays were paid in full by myself.

What’s your favorite hostel in the world?

Comments

52 Responses to “My Favorite Hostels”
  1. Now I understand what you mean by larger photos! I will learn from you oh great sensei!!!

  2. Hey, I’ve been to two of these! I stayed at Haggis Hostels the first time I ever went to Edinburgh – I agree they’re really excellent, and I’d happily stay in them again even though my taste in accommodation has become very middle-aged at my advanced age of 26. 🙂

    And I totally agree about Oasis in Granada – I was there on my own at the end of a REALLY fast-paced trip to Andalucia, and I was feeling a little zonked and brain-fried…Oasis was a great place to just turn up in the morning and have people point me in the direction of something fun and interesting. Plus the location was gorgeous (of course, in Granada it’s hard to find buildings that aren’t).

  3. Good call on Gallery Hostel! I will have to check out the others.

  4. Nicole says:

    Most welcoming hostel: Stephen and the team at Paddy’s Palace, Derry/Londonderry.

    Wins the award for nicest hostel owner, best common room, and best party room as well. 🙂

  5. Christine says:

    I stayed in Hanoi Backpackers Hostel and even if you don’t want to party, it’s still an awesome hostel! Super clean, great location, really nice custom bunks. And if you do want to party–the Halong Bay cruise is killer 🙂

  6. Arti says:

    Excellent list! I will be staying at Agora later this week, and it will be my first hostel stay (ever). You mentioned party hostels – how would you discern whether a hostel is party central or not in advance of being there? Are the reviews a good indicator?

    Oh, and would you happen to have any recommendations for a sedate hostel in Barcelona? I read your posts on your iffy experiences in Barcelona, so I’m wondering if it’d be best to just get a hotel.

    • Arti, the reviews on HostelWorld and HostelBookers are usually good indicators of whether it’s a party place. Also look at their websites for details — if they have a bar on-site, it’s probably at least a bit of a party hostel.

      I stayed at a place in Barcelona called The Hostel Box that opened this September. Decent, pretty quiet, not a party place.

  7. Katrinka says:

    I stayed at a great hostel in Split called Three Turtles, which wasn’t in the Palace but was small and beautiful and friendly, with a big garden and the kindest owners and (more than) three turtles wandering around outside. Every night the guests would all get together and eat dinner or play games before going out… one of the chillest, friendliest hostels I’ve ever been to.

  8. Craig says:

    Thanks for the recommendations! I haven’t been to any of those but i’m tempted to nip along and try out the haggis hostel. I find it hard to choose a favourite but some of mine are;

    Backpackers villa sonnenhof, Interlaken, Switzerland.
    Gimmelwald mountain hostel, Gimmelwald, Switzerland. (this is a special hostel)
    Valley hostel, Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland.
    HI Banff alpine center, Banff, Canada.
    Circus hostel, Berlin.
    The Garden backpacker, Seville.
    Home hostel, Lisbon

  9. Kristy says:

    I stayed at Giovanni’s Home in Naples, Italy and it was awesome! The hostel itself was good, but the owner (Giovanni) was great! He made us homemade pasta, gave us great detailed advice on where to go and what to do in Naples, and he brought us to the best pizza place ever! Talk about good hospitality!!

  10. I am so glad you wrote about this and that a few of them are in SE Asia. I’ll be looking out for these for sure. I sometimes wonder what the hostels were called that you stayed in.

    • The thing about Southeast Asia, though, is that guesthouses are far more common than hostels and often cheaper. I couldn’t even find a single hostel in Bali (which is why I arrived late without a place to stay, as you can see in a later comment…)

  11. Mathieu says:

    Great list Kate! I’ll second Arti: it’d be great if you could publish your pic of sedate hostels, particularly for those of us aging travelers

    My favorite: The Kalani Hawaii on the North Shore of Oahu. It is basically like a resort, with hammocks, resident cats and until recently the most well loved dog on the Shore (she passed away sadly.) It is a bit pricy but well worth it, particularly during the surfing contest.

  12. Mike says:

    The Oasis hostel in Granada looks awesome. It’s almost too bad I lived in Granada and didn’t have a chance to stay there. These other hostels look great too. I always find something fascinating about every hostel be stayed in. I like that they all have their on unique personalities and each provide their own individual perspective of the city they’re in, even if it may not be the most enjoyable perspective.

  13. I spent the last night of my first year in Spain at Oasis. While I preferred to be alone in my thoughts about a year teaching and living in Seville, the views at breakfast of the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada were incredible. I’ve stayed several times at El Olivar, also in Granada, and another one of my favorites was Sir Toby’s in Prague. Who can say no to a happy hour where the beer is less than a euro?! And those beds!!!

  14. Amanda says:

    Sweet list, Kate! I’ve only stayed at one of the hostels on your list – Haggis Hostels in Edinburgh. I totally agree about the cloud-beds! Soooo warm and comfy!

    Trying to think back on all the hostels I’ve stayed in, I realize that I haven’t stayed in that many memorable ones! I need to work on this…

    One of my recent favorites you’re familiar with – Morag’s up near Loch Ness. But my warm fuzzy memories of that place stem more from the people I was with there rather than the hostel itself!

    • Morag’s was really nice and had awesome food (love the haggis-stuffed chicken!) — but their internet was a mess most of the time. That might have been because there were too many bloggers in the house!

  15. Kelly says:

    One of my favorites was Balmer’s in Interlaken. I was obsessed with the hostel I stayed in in Dublin a few years ago because of the amazing breakfast but I can’t remember the name anymore 🙁

    • Kelly, I’ve been to the basement there (I stayed at the Funny Farm across the street). My impression was that it was all teenagers. (And I was 20, hahahahaha.)

      • Kelly says:

        Haha maybe I just went at an old time! I was 24 at the time and my sister was 21 and she was one of the youngest but after our hostel in Nice, Balmers was amazing. We could have also just been loving the mountain air. I also loved my hostel in Dublin a few years ago but I can’t remember the name 🙁

  16. Sam says:

    My absolute number one favourite hostel is Krumlov House in Cesky Krumlov, southern Czech Republic. It was a mix of great services (well stocked kitchen, fast wifi, free towels), small things like no bunk beds, and making friends with the managers that kept me coming back. I think between 2010 and 2012, I visited about 7 times. This is a nice list; lots of goodies to try in the future!

  17. Robyn says:

    I love hostel lists! I haven’t been to the ones you’ve mentioned, but I’ll refer to it when I’m in those places.
    I’m currently in Sucre, Bolivia and I’m staying at the Casa Verde B&B – not a hostel but a great place to stay. Quiet but close to the Plaza.
    However, up beyond the Recoleta is Casa al Tronco. I just wrote a post about these places.
    Thanks for the informative post, and blog!
    best,
    rc

  18. I second the vote for Lub-d #Awesome hostel

  19. Charlotte says:

    I’ve only stayed in 3 hostels so far but my absolute favourite is 132 Backpackers in Pretoria. The owner is friendly, welcoming and helpful and the location is amazing (5min walk from the Gautrain station and Hatfield). The rooms, bathroom and kitchen are super clean and the garden is just beautiful with a small pool and sheltered bar/dining area. Met some awesome people here and was invited to stay in Canada with one (which I did!). Rooms start at about R100 for a dorm.

  20. Shaun says:

    Excellent list!

    My fav so far has been Plus Florence. It has a freakin pool & sauna. Perfect roof top terrace and a big friendly staff at the front desk.

  21. Robyn says:

    P.S.
    I’d love to know if anyone has recommendations for hostels in Japan – esp the Kyoto area, Hokkaido and Okinawa.
    Thanks!
    rc

  22. Lauren says:

    Free wifi is my top must-have too… and, well, it’s the one thing that’s driving me absolutely crazy about New Zealand!

    The last place I was in charged $2 per 10 minutes, some places charge $10 for 100mb. I’ve stayed in around 30 hostels so far and only 3 of them had free wifi… and even then it was so slow it was barely useable.

  23. Elle Croft says:

    I love that hostels are no longer dirty, grimy and uncomfortable…there are so many different types to choose from! I wish I’d known about Kex when I stayed in Iceland; my ‘hotel’ was horrific, and far more expensive!!

  24. David says:

    Where do you find hostels? Hostelworls and hostelbookers?

  25. Kristine says:

    I’m bookmarking this post :). I stayed at the Oasis in Granada too and thought it was pretty awesome. We went to the rooftop at night and it was beautiful…but then we got yelled at, so I don’t think you’re really supposed to, haha. The family dinner was AMAZING and I loved the setup of the hostel.

    My favorite hostel is Sant Jordi Alberg in Barcelona. It’s a party hostel so it gets pretty rowdy at night, but during the day everyone hangs out in the common room and it’s just so easy to meet people. I’ve stayed there a bunch of times and it always feels like you’re part of a community. I also LOVE G-Spot Hostel in Lisbon…seriously the staff there go above and beyond to make sure everyone is comfortable and having fun. And queen sized beds!!

  26. Porto just must have some great hostels because there is my favorite one of all time, too – Garden House Hostel!

  27. Michael says:

    This is a great post, more travel bloggers should do hostel lists!

    Some of my favorite…

    EcoHostel in Ghent, Belgium – on a boat in one of the canals.

    Lotte Hostel in Heidelberg, Germany – After some travel fatigue this place was an amazing place to rest and relax it felt just like home. Wonderful staff and great location.

  28. Cait says:

    Rockin Jay’s on the Carribean Coast of Costa Rica! first off it’s huge! secondly, you can stay either in a beroom sweet, one of the tents that are high up on bungalo style risers, camp your own on the ground level, or spemd your night in one of the 50+ hammocks. Always a great crew staying around there, the most amazing young Calafornian chef, you’re outdoors 24/7 no matter where you are and the ocean is ten steps from your “bedroom”

  29. El says:

    The photo of Hanoi Backpackers Hostel makes me shudder! i know everyone has their own taste, but these party hostels usually make me feel like I’m on a school camp. And it’s never a good sign if there’s someone wearing an Australia flag (even if it’s Australia day)….the bigger the flag the bigger the bogan 😛

    I stayed at KEX over new years and loved it for the first day for the novelty factor (great design) but then ti became just another huge, impersonal hostel. i’d much rather stay at a homey place where the staff know you by name and have time to help you.

  30. Katherine says:

    You should mention that some of these stays were free. It’s dishonest otherwise.

  31. Ali says:

    Kate, did you hear that Monkey Republic burned down about a month ago? I headed there tonight (after reading your rave reviews) and it is no more. Thankfully no one was hurt, but what a huge hit to the scene here in Sihanoukville (and for all of the folks who lost everything).

  32. BusyFroggy says:

    FlipFlop Hsotel, Taipei, Taiwan ROC was the best. =D

  33. Brad Gerry says:

    Great list, Kate. I have stayed at Oasis in Granada myself. You are right, they organize tons of activities. You’ve inspired me to stay at Gallery when I visit Porto in May. Cheers.

Trackbacks

Check out what others are saying about this post...


Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!


three − two =