So those who may not be familiar or are weary of the concept, a hostel is:
“an establishment which provides inexpensive food and lodging for a specific group of people, such as students, workers, or travelers.”
Hostels have gotten a bad wrap in the past, but in my experience it’s my accommodation of choice, especially as a solo traveler. It builds a sense of community and comradery amongst of travelers, those in packs and alone that you won’t get in luxury hotels. I’ve met so many cool people from all over the world staying in hostels, which I still keep in contact with. From sharing meals, to taxis, to guided tours, the benefits are endless. You can meet someone at breakfast who may be thinking of visiting the same sites as you and pair up, or go dutch on a guided tour (helps those on a budget!). Once my luggage got delayed in Greece and I was stressed that I didn’t have any clean clothes. My bunkmate who I had only exchanged names with, overheard me telling a friend about my distress via Facetime and the next morning I woke up to a note and a clean dress! She wrote: “Us solo girls have to look out for one another. Hope it fits!” That would’ve never happened at the Sheraton.
Did I also mention the huge cost savings? Hostels can be a cost effective way of funding lengthier travel goals. I’ve met some folks who even worked in hostels for short stints to earn money or bartered for their own stay.
Of course, one must also do their research, but with helpful sites like Hostel World and Hostel Bookers you can easily search and book hostels all over the world from any device in just a few short clicks. These sites have flexible cancellation policies and also only require a small deposit instead of the full rate upfront (which can be a lifesaver for backpackers who tend to be impulsive with their travel plans). I find it helpful to sort by Rating, then Price. It’s better to be in a place that is highly recommended by other like travelers for safety, accessibility, atmosphere, and cleanliness than to save a few bucks here and there.
These days hostels are becoming more trendy and boutique in style offering the look & feel of a trendy hotel, with the service and atmosphere of a backpacker’s hostel.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite hostels that I’ve had the pleasure of staying at (in no particular order):
MEININGER Brussels City Center
4 Bed Mixed Dorm, starts at 27 EUR/night
I booked my stay at Meininger the same day via hostelworld.com (while traveling from Paris on the Megabus) and couldn’t have been happier with my experience. The hostel/hotel easily accessible just a short straight walk from the Metro. The hostel was complete with a full dining area and bar, full kitchen, free wifi, laundry services and an outdoor terrace. There were discounted happy hours and a kickass common area. I was extremely happy with the rooms. I chose a 4 bed mixed dorm, which has a private bathroom. The rooms were super clean with modern decor. If you’re looking into checking out Brussels, I’d highly recommend staying at Meininger Brussels City Center or any of their other amazing properties around Europe.
Quai du Hainut / Henegouwenkaai 33 1080 Brussels, Belgium phone: +322 588 1474 Website
SPIN Designer Hostel – El Nido
4 Bed Mixed Dorm, starts at $14 USD/night
This brand new property is beyond words. It is immaculate. The design and decor truly defies the typical hostel look. The hostel is just a short ride from the El Nido Airport which you can take a cheap tuk-tuk to. Upon arriving, the staff greets you with such excitement, you feel like a VIP guest. Once you check in and make it to your room, you’re surprised by the cleanliness of the whole property. From the bathrooms, to the common areas, to the bedrooms, I had no complaints. Did I mention how soft and sweet smelling the blankets are? I digress.
The breakfast is amazing. Everyone is super helpful and can recommend anything to your heart’s desire. The staff plays a major part in bringing everyone together. From organizing BBQ dinners with meat and fresh seafood, to acoustic karaoke, to beer pong, to game nights, the common areas are never empty or dull. The whole placed is just a fun, care-free place for travelers to come relax and enjoy the most beautiful island in the world. This one holds a special place in my heart as it was my first solo trip to Southeast Asia, Met some amazing souls in this place (shout outs to Nico, Tasha, Chris, Matt and Alberto!) When rush hour hit and there were no tuk-tuks around to take me and Alberto to the bus station, the manager took us himself on his motorbike. Now that’s First Class service!! Did I mention it was only $14 per night??!!?
Balinsasayaw Road cor. Calle Real, El Nido Town Proper, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines 5313 Website
Grapes & Bites – Hostel and Wines
6 Bed Mixed Dorm, 14 EUR/night
I came across this little place via hostelbookers.com. Taking a few days before a work conference in Barcelona, I took a detour to Lisbon, Portugal to check it out and boy was I surprised! I initially just wanted a place that has the bare minimums: clean bed, clean bathroom, safe, and easy to get via metro. I hit the hostel lottery with Grapes & Bites! It was all those things and more! Sitting just above its tapas & wine bar with the same name, the was a chic, cozy place perfect for a quick getaway. Now, if you’re looking for peace & quiet, this isn’t the place for you. Situated in the heart of the Barrio Alto district, this place is just footsteps from all the actions. Bars, lounges, and restaurants line the streets and thus there’s lots of foot traffic into the late nights.I found this perfect as I didn’t have to worry about getting a taxi or missing the last train for the night (lesson learned from Paris). I could just walk out, drink and eat to my heart’s content and stumble home.
I stayed in a 8 bed bunk room, that has a balcony overlooking the Barrio Alto foot traffic in the alleyways. Loud to say the least, but nothing you couldn’t sleep thru. I shared with girls and guys of all ages (from 19 to late 50’s) from Germany, Canada, Spain, and France. The kitchen and the breakfast topped the list (I mean, there’s a restaurant downstairs, the breakfast should be more than just decent). The rooms were clean, beds were comfy, and the bathrooms were decent. I would’ve liked a few more shower stalls, but it all worked itself out in the end. The hostel offers a discount voucher for the restaurant downstairs and I definitely indulged. Delicately plated meat & fine cheese platters paired with local portuguese wines and spirits. Oh and dessert! If you’re visiting Lisbon, I definitely recommend checking this spot out, even if it’s just for the food!
Rua do Norte, Nº 83 - 1º Lisbon, Portugal phone: +351 213 460 912 email: email@example.com Website
Mountain Hostel Grindelwald
So during my Expat Explore 24 day tour, I found myself in the Swiss Alps just outside of Interlaken. Just a short ride, we arrived at Mountain Hostel, a cozy, quaint, hostel just a short train ride from the base of Jungfrau Glacier. Words wouldn’t do this place justice. The fresh, crisp air, the amazing views just outside your window cannot be defined with my keyboard. It must be felt. Only here for 2 short nights, I shared a 3 bed dorm with some of the other girls on the tour. The rooms were clean and comfy. The dorm style bathrooms were downstairs, but not a complete hassle to get to/from. Clean and the water was nice and hot. The hostel was complete with a bar, restaurant, and game rooms but who could stay inside with a view like this? We built a fire and sat outside playing drinking games after a full day up on the mountain snowboarding and taking in the view. If you’re looking for a place that offers peace, quiet, and gorgeous views, this is by far the place for you! Oh yeah, and I’m pretty sure Santa lives near it (I saw him in the restaurant next door!).
Grundstrasse 58, 3818 Grindelwald, Switzerland Phone: +41 33 854 38 38 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website
Paris Namdemun Guesthouse
4 Bed Female Dorm, 29 EUR/night
As some of you who’ve been following my blog know, in 2014 I set off on a EuroTour with just me, my backpack and a dream. My initial plans were to have me start in London, but after being bumped from 2 flights, I set my sights on Paris to start my journey. It was a last minute change and didn’t have time to sort myself out before landing at CDG. When I landed around 1 PM on June 21 at CDG, I bought some wifi (like really airports shouldn’t still be charging for wifi) and booked the first place that seemed safe and clean. I came across Namdemun. And was pleasantly surprised when I arrived on their doorstep. Namdemun is a converted guesthouse ran by a Korean family. The son who spoke English, Korean, and French) managed the business side and his mother (who spoke no English) took care of the household cleaning and cooking. This was clearly a house of love. The owner was super helpful and had lots of things to recommend and when I got lost a few times, he always answered my calls. Since I was traveling solo, I stayed in an all girl’s room, with girls from Brazil, China, and Canada. The hostel itself had travelers from all over: U.S, UK, Brazil, Chile, Australia, Canada, Japan, China, and some others I’m probably forgetting. Plus, I met one of my favorite couples here (hey Tamara and Ed!)
The only thing is that the property is a bit far from the city center (it’s literally the suburbs) but if you don’t mind longer metro rides and a few transfers, I’d definitely would check it out. If not for anything, at least the home cooked Korean dinners every night!
23, Rue Dalou Vitry sur Seine Paris, France phone: +33 (0)6 15095648 or +33 (0)146773869 email: email@example.com Website
PLUS Berlin Hostel
4 Bed Mixed Dorm, $28 USD/ night
I don’t think there’s a more hippie, artsy hostel I could think of other than Plus Berlin! This place was amazing. From the lobby to the art/graffiti that lined the hallways, to the cool sculpture garden there was endless inspiration surrounding you. I especially took notice of the huge dining area and bar… because.. food… and whiskey! The place looks like a huge converted factory but the inside is quite serene.It’s pretty massive, so be sure not to get lost (it happened a few times but I always found myself back to the bar). Close to the metro and just a short walk to the Berlin Gallery and some super cool hipster boutiques and eats, I’d highly recommend checking this place out!
Warschauerplatz 6-8 Berlin, Germany phone: +49 30 311698820 Website
Hostel Haus International – Munich
4 Bed Female Dorm, $86 USD/night (total for room)
So honestly I didn’t care where I stayed in Munich because I just needed a place to rest my head and take a shower in between visiting the beer halls and casinos. Also, a placed booked via Expat Explore I found myself in a super cute part of Munich just a short bus ride from city center. The hostel is owned by IB Haus, which you might be familiar is a major education and curricular organization that sponsors study abroad and honors student ambassador programs. The hostel was equipped with a full kitchen, conference rooms, and even a nightclub and bar! Oh, not to mention the hot pizza vending machine! Super clutch when coming back in from those beer halls. The only weird thing was that there was no mixed dorms, so some of the couples had to split for the 2 days. Otherwise, the breakfast had a full assortment and it was easily by tram or bus.
Elisabethstr. 87, Schwabing West 80797 Munich, Germany phone: +49 - 89 -12 00 60 email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website
Hostel Villa Saint Exupery Beach
Twin bed shared room, 30 EUR/ night
So it goes to say, that everything is nicer in Nice! This backpacker’s hostel was not what I was expecting. Just a short walk to the beach and the main city center, this property is a Godsend. The winding and narrow Nice streets can be somewhat of a headache to navigate, but you always can find your way back to Villa Saint Exupery! The hostel is equipped with a full service kitchen and bar, bookings desk, laundry services, internet bar, and even a piano in the common area! One night when 2 separate tour companies checked in at the same time it resulted in a backup at reception. So we indulged in the bar’s happy hour and made lots of new friends. Ended up barhopping all together which resulted in a pretty epic night (just take my word for it).
6 Rue Sacha Guitry Nice, France phone: +33 493 161 345 email: email@example.com Website