Hostels make travel life interesting – not always in a good way – but with a stay in one, you never really know what you’ll get. It could be the best adventure of your life, or it could be no sleep and bed bugs that take over your memories of a place. Luckily, I’ve never had to deal with that buggy side of the equation, and for the most part, I’ve had a lot of great experiences at hostels around the world. Here are some of my favorite places that I have stayed at abroad and why.
El Hostal – Antigua, Guatemala
For being my first jaunt into Central America, I couldn’t have picked a better hostel to make the transition in than El Hostal in Antigua. Run by a fun, young Guatemalan couple, the hostel actually doubles as a breakfast joint for the locals, and wow – get your fill! The food was amazing, and the place beautiful. They even let us wreak havoc with them on New Year’s.
Argonauts – Riga, Latvia
This hostel is now named the Naughty Squirrel, but when I stayed it was Argonauts. The setup was awesome for meeting people since they had an amazing lounge room with a TV and air hockey, plus a beer tap right at reception. You could go from being a lonely traveler with no plans to having a million best friends just by stopping by the lounge in the evening. This is also the hostel where I met Patrick!
VB Sleep Inn – Vilnius, Lithuania
You just have to love hostels with a small setting, and even more so when a friend of yours is working there. The VB Sleep Inn was quite small, and the common room was basically the kitchen… but it worked like magic bringing travelers together. This is where I joined the group to shoot badass guns in a bomb shelter, too. I believe the name has since changed to Hostelgate and different people work there, but I would still recommend a stay there if my friend’s new hostel is booked up because it is right in the center and only a 1 minute walk to a great late-night burger joint.
TIU Front Page Hostel – Odessa, Ukraine
After my unsatisfactory stays at hostels in Kiev about a year earlier, I wasn’t expecting much in regards to my place in Odessa. This trip was a girls’ weekend trip, and we were pleasantly surprised on all accounts. Besides being a bit shocked by some initial remarks by the guys running the joint, it turned out to be one of my favorite places to stay ever – and that’s just because the people (Polish and American guys) were so damn cool and accommodating. Check them on FB.
Nomad’s Home – Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
I had made no bookings before my arrival to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, but luckily had someone from my language school pick me up from the airport. I showed her a list of places I found – this one on Wikipedia of all places – and she did all the work of taking me there, waking the family up at 6am and doing all of the talking for me. Nomad’s Home is a guest house run by a Kyrgyz family. They built a building in the backyard for dorm beds, a toilet and shower, and they even put up yurts in the spring that you can sleep in instead. In the morning, you can pay a bit of money to get a breakfast of teas, jams, bread and an egg in the main house with the family. It is a good marshrutka ride from the city behind the old bus station, but what trip to Bishkek would be complete without a ride in one of those?!
So Young’s Happiness Guesthouse – Almaty, Kazakhstan
A fun-loving Korean woman turned her spare bedroom of her apartment into a small guesthouse. It is a great place to stay, and her kindness and love of caring for you will simply overwhelm you. I stayed here for about a week, enjoying kimchi and rice for breakfast, and have no regrets! She might beg you to go along with her to club Soho until you finally say yes (see photo to the right), but other than that, it’s just a nice place to call home for a while. On-site laundry, free use of the kitchen, a key of your own — all near various restaurants, shops and even Turkish baths.
Lantana Lodge – Auckland, New Zealand
This is by far the CLEANEST hostel I have ever stayed in in my life. It was the type of place where workers would wake you up in the morning with their vacuuming, and the smell of cleaning fluids would permeate the halls after attacking the bathrooms every morning. Every person would take their shoes off at the door, most everyone did their dishes immediately, and the toilets even had seat-cleaner dispensers that you could use for extra wipe-downs. Because of this, the hostel felt really homey and comfortable. Plus, they had FREE WI-FI! That is just not common in this area of the world.
What I like in hostels:
- Friendly owners and workers, especially ones that want to spend time with you and introduce you to the area.
- Smaller settings as they are better for meeting people.
- Free wi-fi because it is just a small addition that guests will thank you for!
- Cleanliness. No one likes disgusting toilets, showers and kitchens.
- Unique experiences, like the opportunity to sleep in a yurt, shoot guns or partake in a massive local meal.
These are my own personal preferences when looking for hostels around the world. What do you look for in a good budget accommodation? Better yet, has anybody reading this actually stayed in one of these locations?
Photo credits: 4 – Jessica Powers, 5 – Nomad’s Home, 6 – So Young