My Favorite Hostels in the World

By Nomadic Matt | Published December 5th, 2011

I often write about my favorite hostels in regions around the world but I’ve never written about my favorite hostels in the world. With more than 55 countries and five years of backpacking under my belt, I’ve stayed in hundreds of hostels. Some were so bad that I’ve blocked them out of my memories. But out of those hundreds, I have some clear favorites. Places I’ll never forget and will go out of my to stay in:

Rocking Js (Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica)
rocking j's hostel in costa rica lounge
Rocking Js is sort of an institution in Central America. It’s been there for ages, there’s a beautiful white sand beach in front of it, they serve decent food and have nightly BBQs, and there’s lots of partying. Moreover, they have a wide variety of cheap accommodation (from hammocks to private rooms). There’s a huge common space area and they offer a lot of travel services. It’s a bit out of town but it’s by far one of the funkiest places I’ve ever stayed and I met a lot of great people here.

Franceso’s (Ios, Greece)
francesco's hostel view in ios
Francesco’s is one of two main places to stay on Ios (the other being Far Out Beach Resort). I personally like Francesco’s better because it is closer to town (no late night walks home) and the staff gets everyone together at night to interact. It’s a much more social place than Far Out. It’s impossible not to meet people here. Plus, there’s a pool. Francesco’s is also next to the most wonderful milkshake making place on the entire planet. The rooms are quite nice and the beds comfy, but what really makes this place so wonderful is its central location and the fact you make tons of new friends every night.

Kabul (Barcelona, Spain)
Kabul Hostel in Barcelona Spain
Arguably one of the best hostels in the world, Kabul is just a all out fun filled place, but only if you are looking to spend your nights partying. You don’t come to Kabul to sleep. It is so well known for its atmosphere and parties that it’s always fully booked and, during the summer, books out months in advance. Everyone socializes in the halls and dorms getting to know other travelers, playing card games, drinking, listening to music, or heads downstairs to the giant common room to enjoy dirt-cheap beer and pool. Kabul also offer a small free dinner each night. I haven’t been there in a long time (I like sleeping more partying these days) but if you are young and like to drink, or just like to drink, or just young at heart (whatever!), stay here.

Nomads (Queenstown, New Zealand)
nomad's queenstown new zealand
This was a new hostel when I was there in 2009 and I got to stay there as a guest of Nomads. I was traveling with a group of people who were already staying there and this place blew my mind. The hoste hass a huge kitchen (restaurant sized), top notch showers and toilets, a large lounge, and most rooms have balconies. The showers have great water pressure, and the pillows are thick — the manager told me they change them every few months to keep them fluffy. How about that for service? Moreover, unlike most hostels in New Zealand, this hostel doesn’t have a bar which means you can drink in the hostel. This meant that a lot of people stay around socializing at night instead of spending money at the bars. Moreover, the hostel host activities every night (including a 10 dollar pub crawl) and have a free dinner and quiz night on Sunday.

The Flying Pig (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
The Flying Pig Uptown in Amsterdam
What I love about this place is the people. The facilities here are standard (except the pillows, which are like sleeping on air) and the prices are on the expensive side but I love the atmosphere here. While this hostel is popular with travelers looking to chill and smoke weed, the bar area gets very busy at night with those who don’t. It’s not all about smoking here. The staff (a mix of locals and travelers) is what sets this place apart from the rest. They hang out with guests, are experts on the city, and will always help you. They want to have fun as much as you do. In Amsterdam, I never stay anywhere else.

Base St. Kilda (Melbourne, Australia)
having a good time in Base St. Kilda Australia
I’ve said in the past that Base is like the McDonald’s of hostels. You leave full but you’re not really satisfied. Yet McDonald’s (Base) outdid themselves with their Melbourne hostel. It is my favorite hostel in Australia. The bar is lively every night and there are BBQs and events during the week. Moreover, the rooms and bathrooms are clean and very well maintained. Most people stay here for the atmosphere and location. Within moments of my arrival in the dorm, I met a group of friends to spend time with. I stayed there during my first trip to Australia and went back this year to see if it was still as good as I remembered. It was.

Hostel Mostel (Bulgaria)

This hostel has locations in three cities in Bulgaria (Sofia, Plovdiv, and Veliko Tarnovo), and they all follow the same principles: comfy beds, free breakfast, free dinner, free beer, fee shots, a pool table, and free fast wi-fi. And, you know, it’s hard not to like a place that gives you a delicious breakfast, free beer and pasta each night. The beds are super comfortable but the best part of staying here is just the friendly, social atmosphere. I especially loved their location in Veliko Tarnovo as it had great views of the old castle and the surrounding mountains. This hostel was my favorite during my recent 6 month trip through Europe.

Suk 11 Guest House (Bangkok, Thailand)
bangkok suk 11 guest house
Right in the center of Bangkok, this guest house is far away from the backpacker scene of Khao San Road and close to the action downtown (and also next to my favorite bar in the world, Cheap Charlies). Suk 11 is decorated in teak wood and there are also plants and flowers throughout the place. It’s like an oasis of calm in a city of craziness. In front is a traditional Thai restaurant that is filled with locals every night. The breakfast kind of sucks, and though some of the staff can be a bit sour sometimes, the location and décor more than make up for it.

Mondu Taitu (Bocas Del Toro, Panama)
rocking j's hostel in costa rica lounge
This funky hostel in a great tropical setting is owned by three American surfers who have the right idea about life – spend it at the beach. This hostel has a themed party every night, serves a pancake breakfast, and is located next to the best sandwich shake shop in the world – Bocas Blended. Most of the dorms are located in the house next to the main “hostel”, which is great because you get a peaceful night’s sleep instead of being woken up by the loud music. This is one of those places you go to relax for a few days and end up spending two weeks.

Tallinn Backpackers (Tallinn, Estonia)

Tallinn had a lot of good hostels. I had to switch a lot and out of the four I stayed at, I enjoyed this place the most. It was the most social of the hostels I stayed at and they host a nightly pub crawl that usually begins with a little sing-along. (Yes, of course, they sing Oasis’s “Wonderwall”.) The beds here are soft and I probably got the best night’s sleep here that I’d had in a while. And it’s not loud at night because everyone is out, and they shut down the common area at midnight so people can sleep. Downside? It’s sometimes filled with large groups of drunk Brits and Aussies and I’d probably avoid this place on the weekend for that reason.

Aboriginal (Budapest, Hungary)
aboriginal Hostel common room
This place had me at breakfast (waffles) as well as the free goulash for dinner. Centrally located in Budapest, Aboriginal offers free wi-fi, free laundry, and T.V., and organizes their own nights out so everyone can meet each other. The place is small so everyone gets to know each other very well. It creates a very homey and comfortable atmosphere. You end up feeling like you are traveling with friends, not strangers. It’s not a party factory meant to churn and burn drunk travelers like other hostels (Carpe Noctum) in Budapest are.

Runners Up: Green Turtle (Seattle, Washington), Calypso (Cairns, Australia), #9 Guesthouse (Phnom Phen, Cambodia)

So there you have it. These are my favorite hostels in the world and the ones I would highly recommend staying at. Of course, there are many, many, many other great hostels in the world but for me, these are the cream of the crop.

comments 49 Comments

Cal

Great post Matt. Nomads in New Zealand looks really nice.

One thing I will never forget while driving around New Zealand are all the incredible camping spots. The facilities were immaculate, and it was not one particular spot. It was all of them.

Thanks Matt for the hostel tips! Some of these are new to us, while we’ve heard of others. We’ll have to check them all out.

Love the view from Franceso’s!

I stayed at Francesco’s in 2005 — absolutely loved it.

NomadicMatt

I stay there whenever I go to Ios.

This is a great list. I will have to check some of these out in the near future.

Woah….that’s a sweet view from Franceso’s in Ios. Also thanks for the suggestion to stay at Suk 11, I never heard of it. I definately prefer to stay far away from Khao San Road.

jasmine

I’ve been to three of these! :)

Thanks for the list, Matt. I’ll have to check them out when I go to those destinations.

Here are some of my picks:

Circus (Berlin, Germany) — If every hostel was as grand as Circus, I’d never worry about staying in a hostel again. I’ve been in hotels that weren’t as cool as Circus. Very trendy, a designer hostel.

Beijing Jade International Youth Hostel — Out of all the hostels I’ve seen in China, this was was the best. Huge, like a hotel, and very clean. Big restaurant and common area on the ground floor.

Yes Inn (Hong Kong) — When you absolutely have to visit Hong Kong for a visa run and don’t want to stay in the Chungking Mansions. Clean, modern, and in Hong Kong Island. I’ve been to this hostel more often than any other because of doing visa runs from Taiwan. I’ve recommended this place to dozens of travelers.

K’s House Tokyo Oasis — Flat-out most awesome hostel in Tokyo. Has the feel of a traditional inn, but all the modern conveniences of an up-to-date building.

Take a Nap (Bangkok, Thailand) Love this hostel. One of the few, along with Circus, that has individual beds, not bunk beds. Each dorm has its own bathroom, saving you the embarrassment of walking down the hall to take a shower. Very colorful and fun too.

Chocolate Box Backpackers (Taipei, Taiwan) — A good hostel with a super-central location across from the Shida night market. Clean and solid. What really cements the place in my memory were the friendly staff and travelers I met there. So many fun times.

Bedz KL (Kuala Lumpur) — When I was backpacking through Southeast Asia, I passed through Kuala Lumpur a lot because it’s the main hub for Air Asia, a low-cost airline. Bedz KL was my favorite out of the ones I’ve been in. Feels like the apartment of a friend who’s got more money than you.

NomadicMatt

Circus is pretty good. I stayed there was once. None of the others though.

Great info Matt, thanks for that. It’s often difficult finding a good hostel in a new city.

Great places and interesting hostel list!

I stayed at Hostel Mostel in Sofia, It was definitely legit and coming off the street you’d be expecting to walk into some soviet block housing, but instead you literally pass through the ugly cement blunder facing the street into a courtyard with a beautiful historic house complete with veranda (the hostel). I stayed in a private room which was actually a converted apt down the street, but I still chilled over at the main common area a good amount.

Thanks for the heads up, Matt, I’m quite amused by the Aboriginal themed hostel in Budapest…

eleanore

great article! On my way to Central Americal in a month….will look up the hostels mentioned.

Karen

My favorite hostel is Peace & Love on Rue Lafayette in Paris. The staff is awesome and you live like a Parisian while you are there.

@Kan. Yes, I was surprised at how nice the hostels in China were. The hostel scene is very well-developed there.

Carlos

Hi Matt great post! So do u have any Hostel in Lisbon to recommend? And how about Europe in general? tnkx

NomadicMatt

Carlos, click the links at the top of the article and they will take you to my favorite hostels in Europe page, though I have never been to Lisbon.

Oh I’ve staying at Flying Pig loads of times. Loved that place!

Thanks for another great post! The best way to find out about hostels is from other travelers…would love to hear about a few of your faves in South America. Thanks.

Yup. J’s in Puerto Viejo would be at the top of my list too. :)

NomadicMatt

It’s a great place!!!

Nice to read about hostels outside Europe! I’ve bookmarked this post for the future!

Never been to any of them :D And been to Barcelona like 30 times but don’t think ever visited Kabul hostel.

Seems like we have been to the same hostels around the world! funny!
Even if I am not crazy for Mondo Taitu and Rocking Js.
Thanks for sharing!

NomadicMatt

You have good taste then!

NomadicMatt

I like Archi Rossi in Florence. They offer a FULL breakfast for free – bacon, eggs, waffles, pancakes, the works!

Amer @TendToTravel

Great article Matt. I might try Suk11 when I travel to Bangkok.

NomadicMatt

Great place to stay. No free wifi but it’s a great location, nice digs, and they have an amazing Thai restaurant outside.

Here are a couple of my favorites.

-The Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald Switzerland. This is a great place to chill out and enjoy the scenery.
- Rossio Hostel & Travelers House in LIsbon. Both owned by the same people. These 2 places have really elevated the hostel experience to a new level.
- Grand Canyon International Hostel/DeBeau Hostel in Flagstaff Arizona. Great places to stay while exploring Northern Arizona and the Grand Canyon.

good list of hotels, your suggestions will be useful for travelers! thanks for sharing!

Great suggestions. I am checking out your recommended guesthouse in Bangkok right now. It might beat the $90 a night I elected to pay for some ‘luxury’ in BKK.
My personal faves are Plus Florence in Florence (great rooms, good mix of travelers, awesome tours) andGiliigan’s in Cairns (the Ritz Carlton of hostels, best party hostel I’ve been to).
You really can’t seem to go wrong if you pick a hostel with a 90% and above rating on Hostel World.

NomadicMatt

Chada House on Khoa San Rd is another great place to stay. Right now, Aloft is a having special – $2,111 baht per night. It’s a W hotel and 4 1/2 stars.

Chris

Rockin’ Js is good for a party and food, and ‘Rockin J’ himself is a character, but I wouldn’t recommend it for sleep. Pretty filthy and my friend got a nasty rash there.
I missed Mondo Taitu when I was in Bocas, I’ll have to check it out when I go back.

Dave B

2 of the best hostels ever-

Ringo’s in Melaka, Malaysia. Friendliest staff in the world go out of there way to bond the customers. I still know 2 guys I met there over 4 years ago. They also have an honesty beer fridge

Pudu hostel, chinatown Kuala Lumpur. As good as any hotel but at hostel prices

The flying pig hostel rocks! Been there twice, hoping for a third visit this summer.. In Bulgaria I was in the Yo-Ho Hostel, in Varna – great place!

My best hostel experience thus far as been Asterix Hostel in Vagator Beach in Goa, India. The concept is simple, but by far the most relaxing hostel experience I’ve ever had. Great people coming through and the guys who run it are phenomenal.

Funnily, I’ve visited two of those-Rockin J’s, and Mondu-but I didn’t sleep at either. They were too loud! But both are awesome places to drink.

NomadicMatt

That they are!

Cheers for the recommendations – will check out the Bangkok ones. :)

Amsterdam – I love Flying Pig hostels, especially the beach one, but Lucky Lake Hostel has them beat. Fab place.

Porto – Excentric Surf Hostel, but it’s only got a few rooms so best if you’re travelling as a group.

Lisbon – Living Lounge Hostel is incredible.

Nice, just added Mondu Taitu to the list for Panama in December.

One of my favs was Plus Florence… really what other hostel has an indoor pool? :)

Jess

The Pak-Up in Krabi Town, Thailand. A-mazing.

Having read this I believed iit was very enlightening. I appreciate yoou spending
some time and energy to put this article together.

I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount
of time both reading and posting comments. But
so what, it was still worthwhile!

coffeecream

anyone has the email address or contacts for aboriginal hostel in budapest? the website seems to be closed.
is there any other hostels in budapest that offer free breakfast and free laundry?

NomadicMatt

They closed down over the summer it looks like. Sad news.

Melinda Reavell

I searched budapest especially hoping you mentiined the aboriginal hostel. Hit the nail on the head, definitely a memorable experience because of the family feel. Stayed there by accident but so glad I did!

Aaron

rockin J’s has to be the most overhyped hostel i’ve ever been to. Its been over comerciailzed and the guy is just grabbing for cash these days.

I guess back in the day it may have been better, but i’d avoid it now.

NomadicMatt

Sad to hear it has changed so much.

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