My love of travel is synonymous with my affection for hostels, which is why I’ve hand-picked my top five from across the globe, laying waste to the outdated assumption that all hostels are dingy dives. All of these are perfect if you are on a budget, after somewhere comfortable, looking for a new set of story-telling travel buddies and need advice from friendly staff about which local places to frequent. Just remember, don’t be that roommate who engages in a spot of rucksack-rummaging at 4am – it will not be appreciated…
Byron Bay, Australia
Postponing the inevitable rucksack pack up is a common occurrence at the Arts Factory; indeed, many turn to the campsite to extend their stay in this completely addictive hostel. The “funky abodes” include a tepee, surf shack, nunnery and island retreat. After an incident involving a young gentlemen’s projectile vomit in the ‘Space Room’, the ‘Wagon’ became my new residence for the 2…3…5…7… or so nights I ended up staying. The melange of morning melodies, which include yoga chants, drum circles and reggae beats, creates a laidback hippy vibe, where it just feels right to wander around barefoot, donning a pair of ethnic harem pants and munching on vegetarian delights picked from the sustainable garden.
The Granadian charm permeates this Andalusian house situated in the quaint streets of the El Albayzín district (of course, I got lost finding it). A real sense of community infiltrates the hostel, with staff cooking communal dinners, musicians jamming in the tree house and travellers lazing in the hammocks. ‘Molly’s Walking Tour’ to the Mirador de San Nicolas takes you on a discovery of street art, the scenery of the Sierra Nevada and an exploration of a lived-in cave.
Just around the corner from the Blue Mosque in Sultanahmet (Istanbul’s old town), Bahaus hostel is ideally located for a spot of sightseeing – that’s if you can remove yourself from the comforting grasp of the rooftop terrace, a triumph in itself. With colourful cushions, views of the Bosphorus and the most convivial barman in the city, who bountifully provides you with fruit, beer and shisha, it’s hard to motivate yourself to vamoose. So irresistible was the rooftop that my friends spent their wedding night hanging out there – presumably forgetting about their luxury hotel suite.
Only comparable to sleeping on a cloud, the beds at the Island Hostel are an absolute dream – crisp white sheets, a curtain to cocoon yourself and enough room to actually starfish. If you can drag yourself out of bed, the breakfast on offer is a delight, as is the free one-hour massage – both of which for me were provided by the super smiley Senny, who also become my educator of Balinese culture. With hostels hard to come-by in Bali, the Island is a shining exception, making it an ideal place for the solo traveller who will inevitably find the infinity pool to be a hub of social splendour.
After first stumbling upon Suite Hostel in 2008, I returned in the summer of 2009 as a fully-fledged hostel-worker – making beds, cooking up Goulash, entertaining our globetrotting guests and (occasionally) downing plum Palinka with them at Szimpla – a Budapest institution. Most of the staff are backpackers themselves, so emphasis is on creating a fun and friendly atmosphere. Much akin to crashing at your best mate’s house, Suite Hostel will embrace you when the streets of Budapest maybe won’t. As we warned our guests – attractive females wanting to take you for a drink sometimes equals attractive females taking you for a ride and your credit card getting rinsed!
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