Last Updated: 05/28/2020 | May 28th, 2020
As a budget backpacker, I’ve stayed in a lot of hostels all around the world.
Some good, some bad, and many that were just plain terrible.
While I’ve written about my favorite hostels in cities all around the world, today, I want to highlight my all-time favorites. Hostels that really made my travels memorable and helped me make the most of my time abroad.
These hostels embody the traits I love: friendly staff, a warm atmosphere, competitive prices, comfy beds, clean facilities, and that special je ne se qu that makes a place memorable.
With some 100 countries and ten years of backpacking under my belt, I’ve likely stayed in over a thousand 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 way to stay in.
Here are the hostels that, in my opinion, are the best in the world.
1. Rocking J’s (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.
Rocking J’s at a Glance:
- Awesome social atmosphere
- Laid-back vibe
- Fun parties
2. 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.
Franceso’s at a Glance:
- Great staff
- Pool for chilling out
- Convenient location
3. 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 offers 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.
Kabul at a Glance:
- Rowdy parties
- Easy to meet people
- Lots of nightly activities
4. 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.
Kabul at a Glance:
- Organizes lots of activities and events
- Huge kitchen (so you can cook and save money)
- Fun social atmosphere
5. 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.
The Flying Pig has three locations in the city (uptown, downtown, and the new beach location), and I prefer the uptown location because it’s smaller and easier to meet people.
The Flying Pig at a Glance:
- Lively bar
- Knowledgeable staff can help you plan your trip
- Easy to meet people
6. 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.
Additionally, 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.
Base St. Kilda at a Glance:
- Clean and well maintained
- BBQs (and other events)
- Friendly atmosphere makes it easy to meet people
7. Hostel Mostel (Bulgaria)
This hostel has locations in two cities in Bulgaria (Sofia 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.
Hostel Mostel at a Glance:
- Tons of free perks
- Comfy beds
- Great location
8. Tallinn Backpackers (Tallinn, Estonia)
Tallinn, Estonia 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.
Tallinn Backpackers at a Glance:
- Social vibe
- Nightly pub crawl
- Chill common area
9. Green Tortoise (Seattle, USA)
The Green Tortoise has hostels in San Francisco and Seattle. They offer a robust breakfast (I’m always impressed by how much food they have), run lots of activities and events for people who stay there, have friendly staff, and comfy beds. They are really solid places that combine the best of the hostel spirit. These folks get hospitality. I rarely stay elsewhere.
Green Tortoise at a Glance:
- Awesome free breakfast
- Organizes lots of events and activities
- Comfy beds
10. Naked Tiger (Nicaragua)
Located in the beautiful beach town of San Juan del Sur, the Naked Tiger is an incredible property nestled a bit far out of town but on top of a hill with a beautiful view of the entire area. Here you’ll find a party-like atmosphere as the staff wants everyone to have a great time! This isn’t a place to sleep, especially on Sunday’s when they host a citywide pool crawl!
Naked Tiger at a Glance:
- Beautiful location
- Fun party vibe
- Really easy to meet other travelers
11. Gallery Hostel (Porto, Portugal)
This “luxury” hostel in Porto is not the cheapest in Porto, but this hostel/art gallery features home-cooked Portuguese food, a backyard, free after-dinner drinks, a game room, and friendly staff committed to making sure everyone gets to know each other. The art on the walls is from local artists and is for sale (for those not traveling on a budget). I loved the nightly dinners they organized the best.
Gallery Hostel at a Glance:
- Free drinks
- Boutique design
- Nightly dinners for socializing
12. City Backpackers (Stockholm, Sweden)
I stayed here years ago and recently returned when I was in Stockholm. The place was just as amazing as I remember. They still have a very nice café and an outdoor eating/sitting area. Their beds and pillows are still super cozy and comfortable, plus they have a huge kitchen, common room, free sauna, and laundry facilities.
And you can’t turn a corner without bumping into a public computer. City Backpackers was and still is one of the top hostels in Europe.
City Backpackers at a Glance:
- Free sauna (and other free perks)
- Lots of common space
- Central location
13. Khaosan Hostel (Tokyo, Japan)
This awesome hostel chain in Tokyo features comfy beds and soft pillows, a warm and knowledgeable staff, and very central locations. Like everything else in Japan, the facilities are spotless, there’s free tea and coffee, and lovely outdoor spaces and common areas to just chill out in.
Khaosan Hostel at a Glance:
- Cozy outdoor common area
- Free coffee and tea
- Super clean and well maintained
14. Milhouse (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
This amazing hostel in Buenos Aires offers free coffee and tea, paid breakfast has an awesome bar and rooftop, a kitchen, free lockers, a pool table, and board games. Not only that, they host amazing dinners on said rooftop and at night this place becomes a wild party. Thankfully, you can’t hear the noise from the rooms that wrap around a beautiful inner courtyard (so even if you don’t want to party, this is a good place to stay). The staff here is super knowledgeable and can help organize a plethora of activities in the city and around the country.
Milhouse at a Glance:
- Chill rooftop area
- Awesome communal meals
- Lively bar on-site
15. Fabrika (Tbilisi, Georgia)
One of my more recent stays, this old Soviet area factory has been turned into a multi-use building featuring a restaurant, bar, hostel, mini-apartments, co-working space. Outside the courtyard, you’ll find an array of bars and restaurants. The dorms are very spacious with soft beds and your own light and electric outlet. This multi-use space is also extremely popular with locals and is one of the hip places to be in the city.
Fabrika at a Glance:
- Tons of ammenities (restaurant, bar, co-working space)
- Spacious dorms
- Popular with locals
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.
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Photo credits: 1 – Naked Tiger Hostel, 2 – Rocking J’s Hostel, 3 – Francesco’s, 4 – Kabul Hostel, 5 – Nomads Queenstown, 6 – Flying Pig, 7 – Base Backpackers, 8 – Hostel Mostel, 9 – Tallinn Backpackers, 10 – Green Tortoise, 11 – Naked Tiger Hostel, 12 – Gallery Hostel, 13 – City Backpackers, 14 – Khaosan Hostel, 15 – Milhouse, 16 – Fabrika