When I travel these days, I’m often looking for a rare combination of comfort, interaction with locals and a good location. As I get older, I lean less towards the cheapest possible place to lay my head and will put a premium on staying in the non-party hostels to get a decent night’s sleep before heading out for the day. In certain parts of the world, I’ll even splurge on a hotel or two. When I’ve particularly enjoyed a hostel or hotel, I’ll add them to the list here.
>> As an alternative, you might consider checking out my favorite AirBnB recommendations from all over the world.
South America Hostels & Hotels
Quito (Ecuador) – It’s not posh by any stretch of the imagination, but you absolutely can’t beat the location of Hotel Benalcazar, right on the corner of Plaza San Francisco in Quito’s historic center. Some people advise against staying in “old town” because things close up in the evening so it can be regarded as unsafe, but I never felt that way. I wasn’t often out very late, but I think if you stick to the main streets (which are a block or two away) that have good lighting, it’s fine. The staff are really sweet (not much English) and for $15 for a single or $25 for matrimonial/double with a private bathroom, it’s a bargain.
Santiago (Chile) – I enjoyed my stay at the Hostal Chile Pepper in Santiago. The staff was helpful and the beautifully restored house is in a quiet residential area in the Providencia neighborhood, and a 15 minute walk from downtown or the bars and restaurants of Bella Vista. A couple of blocks away you’ll also find Avenida Italia with trendy boutiques and coffee shops. Santa Isabel metro station is very close, so you can easily get to anywhere else in the city. I stayed in the 4 bed female dorm (around 10,000 pesos/night) and had it to myself a few nights! The wifi was probably the quickest connection I had in South America.
Buenos Aires (Argentina) – Well located in San Telmo, America del Sur Hostel is really more like a trendy boutique hotel than a hostel. The staff is fantastic and will go out of their way with any request. Private doubles are available and the popular dorm rooms are only 4 beds each. Shower/toilet are separate in each room with sink (and hairdryer!) outside as well, so you don’t need to wait long for them to free up. Common areas are spacious and designed with modern touches like pop art and a huge big screen tv in the basement. Activities are offered daily – free tango lessons, Spanish classes, and walking tours throughout the city’s popular neighborhoods, so you can get to know other travelers. Wifi is free and fast, most of the time. Price varies based on occupancy, but during my stay I paid around $16-19/night. (*Better rates if you can exchange US$ on the blue market and pay in pesos.)
European Hostels & Hotels
Lisbon (Portugal) – Probably one of my favorite hostels anywhere in the world, We Love F*** Tourists will give you reason to fall in love with Lisbon. The common areas are hip and kept spotless, breakfast includes toast, ham, cheese, cereal and even scrambled eggs made to order. The staff willingly offers up detailed info on anything you could possibly need during your visit. (Including restaurant recommendations!) The location is prime, in a flat (huge plus in Lisbon) area in downtown and just a block from the metro for connections to the airport and elsewhere in the city and Rossio train station, which you can catch to Sintra. Strong wifi, chill out lounge areas for downtime and plenty of nightly activities including dinners and pub crawls to encourage you to get to know your hostel-mates. Highly recommended.
Lisbon (Portugal) – If you’re planning on taking a day trip to Sintra, you can’t beat the location of Lisbon Destination Hostel as it is literally IN the Rossio Train Station, steps from the ticket offices and platforms. The space is really unique and the dorms have high ceilings so they don’t feel cramped. (I booked the 7 bed dorm and it was HUGE!) For such a large hostel, its very well organized and facilities are kept clean. Free coffee and good wifi. Discounted day trips and free city tours are offered daily and there was even a live concert held in the common area one night of my stay. They have two other hostels in the city (Alfama & Sunset) which you can access as well. My only gripe is that the bunk beds are REALLY tall, maybe 10 ft from the ground! Everyone who got an upper tried to swap, so I only got the lower bunk one night, but it was much better, with curtains for privacy too.
Istanbul (Turkey) – You absolutely can’t beat the ocean view of the Agora Guest House in Sultanahmet, Istanbul’s old city. You are a five-minute walk to the major sights, including the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, as well as to connect to public transport to get around the city. The staff are always helpful and friendly and they have a lovely rooftop terrace overlooking the Marmara Sea, great for relaxing with some cay or a drink at the end of the day or for planning your day over breakfast. Dorms are 8 or 10 beds, but the rooms are spacious and large lockers are provided to secure your things. Bathrooms on the ground floor are always kept clean and the wifi worked flawlessly during my stay. Private rooms are available as well.
Istanbul (Turkey) – Know Hotel & Hostel is located just steps from the Gulhane tram stop (making an easy trip by metro + tram to the airport), next to Gulhane Park, Topkapi Palace and all the main Sultanahment sights. It’s also an short stroll to the Egyptian Spice Bazaar and the ferries (and balik ekmek!) at Eminonu. Clean, modern dorms are available from 10 euro in the low season (4 or 8 bed configurations) but you should also inquire about the large and luxurious family rooms (one full + two twin beds) if you are traveling in a group, well worth the splurge for a suite in such a prime location. Staff is friendly and helpful with a full travel agency on the ground floor and a delicious and varied breakfast served each morning. Strong wifi on each floor.
Goreme (Cappadocia, Turkey) – I had originally planned only two nights in Cappadocia, but after checking in to the Garden Cave Hotel, I soon realized this was not enough! The location takes advantage of the peaceful atmosphere of the valley with its fairy chimney rock formations, which you can enjoy from terrace over breakfast or with a cup of tea at sunset. The tip top of Uchisar castle is even visible on the horizon. The female dorm is spacious with only 4 beds (not bunks) and a private bathroom and – let’s face it – when else can you say you’ve slept in a real cave? Above all though, I’d recommend a stay here for the staff. Anna goes out of her way to get to know each guest’s interests and budgets in order to offer helpful suggestions for things to do both in Cappadocia and on the rest of your travels through Turkey.
Pamukkale, Turkey – Many people choose to visit Pamukkale as a day trip and it’s completely possible to do so without much hassle by arriving in the morning, storing your luggage with your bus company, and then picking it up in the evening once you’ve spent the day exploring the beautiful travertines and the ruins of Heiropolis. I chose to stay overnight at Hotel Bellamaritimo so that I could visit the travertines both in the morning and at sunset and so I could get a bit of rest after the overnight bus from Cappadocia. Halim and his family are great hosts, the rooms were recently renovated and very comfortable and breakfast features enough plates to fill your entire table – compliments of Halim’s mother’s excellent cooking. He also provided free pickup at the bus station, arranged a day trip for me to Aphrodisias and advised me on my further travels in Turkey as well.
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>> Some of my favorite stays have been with AirBnB.com, you can check out my AirBnB recommendations as well.