When we first set off on the road we were nervous about staying in hostels. The first thing people would say to us when they heard that we would be staying in hostels was "Really? Be safe!". Not too many Americans have stayed in hostels and the first thing that comes to mind is the movie "Hostel" where Jay Hernandez' character gets drugged and dragged to a place where members of a underground society get to kill people. I can put that to rest right now; no one tried to drug us and our kidneys are still intact.
After our first couple of stays and meeting some colorful people, Laurie and I actually came to really enjoy staying in hostels. Read 6 Months Backpacking: Light Wallet, Rich Heart where I discuss the pros of staying in hostels. We met some great people and had great conversations with other travelers. The sense of community is the reason we will continue to stay in hostels on future trips.
Of course, there are some hostels that are better than others (just like hotels). Whether it's the staff, cleanliness, amenities, etc. there are things that will make your stay better or worse. I crafted a list of our favorite hostels that we stayed in on our 6 month backpacking trip. We hope on your next trip you'll give them a try.
We arrived in Lisbon, after the whole “Passport Debacle”, a little tired and just wanting to relax for the night. We were greeted by Rueben, the hostel manager, and he immediately told us there was a problem with our reservation. What now? He said, “You’re only staying one night”. Yes, we had booked another hostel, a competitor, for the rest of the week. Rueben was not having any of this. He continued to try and convince us to cancel with the other hostel and stay with them. Once he mentioned FREE sangria every night and an upcoming Halloween party that was going to be a blast, we decided to stay. We still had to stay with the other hostel for one night so we didn’t lose out on money but we returned for the Halloween party.
What makes this hostel so great? The people. Rueben, Carolina, Genesia and the rest of the staff really make this place fun to stay. Yes, they have clean bathrooms. Yes, the rooms and beds are clean. Yes, they have free WiFi and a kick-ass breakfast. However, the people working here made us feel welcomed and comfortable. They encouraged everyone to intermingle and converse in their common room. We met so many great people in our week there. We looked forward to the sangria happy hour, not only for the FREE (and delicious) sangria and snacks, but also because the staff made it so much fun. That Halloween party by the way, huge success. We felt as if we were partying with old friends. Our last night we had a family style dinner and we were actually sad to leave the next day. We had become great friends with these people and they made our stay in Lisbon that much better.
So my suggestion for you? Next time you're in Lisbon, stay at Lost Inn Lisbon! Tell Rueben and the crew that we sent you!
Tip: Take advantage of the free tours that they offer. They are a great way to get to know the city.
Have we told you that we loved Barcelona? In part because of where we stayed. You’ll see a recurring theme here when we talk about the hostels we loved, Community. Now while the staff of Sant Jordi can’t compare to Lost Inn Lisbon, they were friendly enough and they coordinated family dinners every night. Each night was a different meal, usually something filling like paella, pizza, pasta or fideuà. These meals were backpacker friendly in price and included free beer or sangria! How can you beat that deal? Mixing backpackers and booze is always a recipe for a fun night and we had plenty there.
While not including breakfast, Sant Jordi did have other great amenities including a roof top pool and patio. Unfortunately, we weren’t there when it was open. That just means we will have to go back soon!
Tip: If you're on a budget take advantage of their dinners. Inexpensive, tasty and usually accompanied with beer/sangria.
Paradise. Location, location, location. Overlooking the water, Bambuda Lodge is built on Isla Solarte, a 10 minute boat ride from Bocas del Toro Province, Panama. You're treated to beautiful views of the water and the sun setting while you enjoy a delicious meal cooked by the friendly staff or just lounging by the pool.
We arrived to Bambuda, after an overnight bus to Bocas del Toro from Panama City followed by a 20 minute boat ride. Not being able to check in until 2pm, Laurie and I chatted it up with the people who worked there while we ate breakfast. Funny thing is everyone that worked there was a backpacker who was passing by and never left. And why would you when you get to wake up to a picturesque landscape every morning.
Our time here was spent hiking through the jungle, visiting caves, swimming in the ocean, relaxing by the pool and getting to know our fellow travelers over cold drinks and great food. Time well spent.
Tip: Heed the warnings of staff members when they say wear the galoshes while walking the Jungle Trail. It's very muddy.
Nestled atop of a hill (I think everything is on a hill in Cusco) Supertramp Hostel is a great hostel if you're looking for a base camp when visiting Machu Picchu. With a great crew, offering healthy, all-natural meals we were able to relax before and recharge after our Inca Trail hike. The beds were comfortable and are fitted with curtains to give you privacy. My favorite part was the view of Cusco while I ate breakfast on the patio. Great way to start your day.
Tip: If you're going to visit Machu Picchu, arrive in Cusco at least 2 days earlier to get acclimated to the altitude. Trust me, you don't want to be sick in the mountains.
This hotel turned hostel is one of the nicest places we've ever stayed. We rented a 4 bed dorm but the room could easily have fit more beds. The room also came with a flat screen TV and an ensuite bathroom. The best part was the downstairs bar equipped with a pool table, pinball machines and a full stock of Belgian beer.
Tip: Don't drink the Belgian Tripel on an empty stomach. You'll lose the day.
Close to Wat Pho and the Grand Palace, Niras Cultural Hostel is a great location for those looking to do some site seeing. Spacious rooms and comfortable beds, surrounded by dark wood floors, it's a great place to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. I started everyday with their delicious breakfast and cappuccinos. The staff is among the friendliest we've come across and will help you with anything you need.
Tip: If you're looking to workout there is an outdoor gym at the nearby park. 50 baht (Roughly $1.30) for access.
So there you have it; our favorite hostels from 6 months backpacking around the world. Sure there were others that we enjoyed and had a great staff but the ones we listed, there was something that stuck out. Whether it was the staff, food, scenery, etc., these places made our journey that much better. We have completely changed our mindset on hostels and we hope this post does the same for you. So next time you are overseas, go to Hostelworld and check out which hostels are in your area. You never know, you might meet the greatest people and have the best time! Follow us on Pinterest or sign up for our FREE newsletter for tips on how to make you hostel stay more comfortable!
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