During our round-the-world backpacking trip, we stayed mostly in hostels. However, we also made sure to treat ourselves every once in a while with a hotel – about once a month. You can only stand to not have a private room for so long! Our other common lodging option was of course CouchSurfing which we also did about once a month. Before we began backpacking I had never stayed in a hostel so my first one was the day we arrived in Mexico City. Hostel living grew on me fast and I couldn't imagine traveling any other way at the moment (aside from CouchSurfing). As we've stayed at many a hostel, we thought we'd share our favorite five from our 10 months of backpacking across 5 continents.
Note: Unfortunately, some of these hostels have closed since we visited. But you can still visit several and you can even book them through our site. It doesn't cost you any extra but we receive a small commission when you book through our link. Thanks for supporting this site!
First things first, what do we look for in a hostel? Here's a list of things an ideal hostel will provide.
- Free wifi
- Community area
- Great location
- Plenty of outlets for electronics
- Free towels and linens
- Drinking water
- Knowledgeable, helpful, courteous staff
*It's also a bonus if they sell beer and even more so if they sell wine – thank you Mendoza!
So which hostels met or were really close to these standards? Well here's our top picks from our travels through Central America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America in no particular order.
Best Feature: Free Wine
This was one of our favorites because, believe it or not, they actually served free wine from 7pm-8pm every night. So of course we made it a priority to be at the hostel in time every day after sight-seeing. In addition, the location was perfect as it was right off the main square allowing us to be walking distance to great shops, restaurants, and local events. It was well kept, the beds were blissfully comfortable, and the kitchen was large enough to accommodate a few people cooking at the same time. The back patio may have been the best part offering cool shade from the grape vines that grew overhead. The only downside was that it was a little pricier than other hostels in the area. But we felt it was worth every extra penny – or centavo as in Argentina's case.
Best Feature: Atmosphere
The down part of this hostel was easily it's location. It was farther from the main areas of Tokyo that we wanted to visit and we almost passed it up because of that. But with Tokyo's amazing public transportation, it really wasn't an issue and this hostel was still one of our favorites. It had one of the best community atmospheres we'd experienced abroad. The kitchen was small, but functional and was attached to the large common area where there were also public computers for everyone's use. The rooms were spacious, well-ventilated, and the wifi could be connected to while resting in bed (this is where I spent many hours catching up on The Walking Dead on Netflix). It was one of the few hostels where you really felt like you were just at home while hanging around chatting with friendly travelers.
3. Camping Venezia in Venice, Italy
Best Feature: Privacy
This one isn't exactly a hostel, but it isn't exactly camping either. They have these little mobile homes for rent on campgrounds where you could also pitch a tent if that's your thing. These little homes are the perfect size for two people and include a bedroom, bathroom, small kitchen and a patio. To get to the main sightseeing parts of Venice, you do have to take a bus, but it's an easy direct shot. The reason we went with this option was because it was so much more affordable than staying in the heart of Venice. Plus it was nice to be away from the crowds to enjoy some privacy in our little humble abode.
4. The Living Roof Hostel Madrid in Madrid, Spain (Closed)
Best feature: Activities
Talk about a social place. You don't have to plan a damn thing at this hostel. Just show up and you'll be busy every night of the week. The hostel always had an activity to do every night of the week with plenty of people participating. Spanish cooking lessons, sangria nights, bar hopping, walking tours, etc. It was easy to get involved, learn about Madrid, and meet new people. The location was also convenient allowing us to walk everywhere and when necessary we could take the city train which was just a few blocks away. We'll definitely stay here again.
5. Hercus Santa Teresa in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Best Feature: Location
When we showed up at this hostel with our travel buddy Ed from RexyEdventures, we didn't know what we were in for. Being a new hostel, there were no reviews for it. Of course all we could think of was the worst aspects of every hostel we had ever stayed at combined. That had to be what we were about to encounter! No so… This hostel proved to be a gem in the middle of the Carnival chaos that took over Rio de Janeiro in February. We had wifi in our rooms. Hot showers. The place was kept clean. The staff was incredibly friendly. Only complaints here were that the kitchen was small and difficult to work in and the men's bathroom was downstairs but the men's room is upstairs. Really, all that meant for me was that I would be sneaking into the girls bathroom if I had to pee in the middle of the night – which I did with no hesitation. Their breakfasts were also delicious and the location was ideal! We were right in the heart of the Carnival festivities. I'm sure they'll be getting great reviews. Come to think of it, I'm not sure if we reviewed them. Oops!
Do you stay in hostels when traveling or are hotels your preference? What do you look for in accommodations abroad? Share with us in the comments section below!