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 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 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)
Arguably one of the best hostels in the world, Kabul is just an 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, it’s booked months in advance. Everyone socializes in the halls and dorms, getting to know other travelers, playing card games, drinking, and 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 are just young at heart (whatever!), stay here.
Nomads (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 hostel has a huge kitchen (restaurant sized), top-notch showers (with great water pressure) and toilets, and a large lounge, and most rooms have balconies. 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 one 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 hosts activities every night (including a $10 pub crawl) and has a free dinner and quiz night on Sunday.
The Flying Pig (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
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)
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 six-month trip through Europe.
Suk 11 Guest House (Bangkok, Thailand)
Right in the center of Bangkok, this guesthouse 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 Charlie’s). 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)
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)
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 TV, and organizes 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 Penh, 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.