Five Hostels I Have Loved

Travel Blog  •  Eva Holland  •  04.20.09 | 4:22 PM ET

Photo of Lizard Point by Eva Holland

These days, there are more accommodation options than ever for the budget traveler: everything from house swaps to pod hotels to rock-bottom recession-era deals at more traditional travel digs.

But even with that abundance of choices—most of which I’ve sampled, and enjoyed—I think my shoestringer’s heart will always belong to the youth hostel. I love the hosteling community, I (sometimes) love the fiesta atmosphere, and—of course—I love the price. From grungy party pads to serene dorm-room retreats, here are five hostels I have loved:

1) Pipi Patch Lodge, Paihia, New Zealand

The Pipi Patch, just off the beach in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands, was the setting for some of my earliest, and best, hosteling memories. What sticks out? Comfy, sturdy bunks, overwhelmingly friendly staff and fellow guests, forming an instant, close-knit family, and the best veggie burger of my life at the burger shack next door. (Not to mention the glory of winning the nightly drinking contest two nights running at the hostel bar.) It’s been six years since I stayed at the Pipi Patch, and I’m still in touch with some of the girls I bunked with there.

2) Lizard YHA, Cornwall, U.K.

Ordinarily, I aim to avoid YHA and HI properties; too often, I’ve found them to be sterile, on the quiet side, and laden with rules for the guests. But one advantage the big umbrella organizations have over the little guy is their ability to acquire truly spectacular properties and make them available to budget travelers. Exhibit A: Lizard YHA, a one-time Victorian hotel perched on a cliff above Britain’s most southerly point, on the wild Cornish coast. The Lizard—the name for both the nearby village and the point itself—is a long way off the British backpacker trail, so when I visited the hostel was mainly stocked with hikers tackling the 630-mile South West Coast Path. It wasn’t your usual hostel scene, but the view was unforgettable.

3) Colors Hotel, Rome, Italy

Long before the upscale hosteling trend really got underway, I spent a week at the Colors Hotel, a boutiquey spot whose top floor was reserved for dorms. A small, cheery team of hotel industry professionals treated us bunk-bed-dwellers just as well as the higher-paying guests, and the location—just outside the walls of Vatican City—was ideal for beating the morning crowds at St. Peter’s.

4) Canberra YHA, Canberra, Australia

The suburban YHA hostel I stayed at back in 2002 seems to have vanished, replaced by a more central location. This is good news for shoestringers aiming to see the city sights—but when I visited, the quiet, isolated location on the edge of a wilderness reserve was just what I needed. Worn out from several overnight bus rides, I collapsed into my bunk and enjoyed perhaps the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had in a hostel. When I woke up, the sun was pouring in and a parrot was perched on the windowsill. Who knew hostel-dwelling could be so idyllic?

5) India House Hostel, New Orleans, Louisiana

The legendary Mid-City crash pad was my home for nearly a month this past summer. Sure, it was noisy and sticky and chaotic (though, hey, doesn’t that sum up the New Orleans tourist experience in July?), but the homemade crawfish curry a staffer cooked up on special occasions remains one of my favorite meals of all time, and the pool out back was the perfect antidote after a humid walk around the French Quarter. Forget about those hotel room bargains—whenever I next make it back to New Orleans, I can’t see myself staying anywhere else.

What’s your favorite hostel? Got a favorite dorm room memory to share?

Eva Holland is co-editor of World Hum. She is a former associate editor at Up Here and Up Here Business magazines, and a contributor to Vela. She's based in Canada's Yukon territory.

4 Comments for Five Hostels I Have Loved

Kev Lippy 04.20.09 | 11:53 PM ET

Hi My name is Kev and I work For YHA in Australia,

Thanks for the feedback! Its good to see that two out of your five favourite are YHA’s. We appreciate it!The new Canberra hostel is great. i stayed there a couple of weeks back and loved it too.

I can certainly appreciate that often YHA’s have a lot of rules… Unfortunately this is often non-nagotiable as we are such a large Hostel Chain and have a duty of care to our customers.

Bianca 04.21.09 | 3:12 AM ET

I totally agree with you on Colors in Rome. I went 10 years ago when it first opened and every two years since. It still looks and feel as new as it did back then and the service is great. The small balcony to take breakfast on makes starting your Roman holiday like you should while staying in your budget. I work for HostelsClub where we have tons of other great hostels and hotels in Europe, especially Italy, but Colors always stood out since I’ve also been there. There is another great one near Termini Station called Malu Hotel which has excellent service, large private rooms and breakfast too!

Zach 04.21.09 | 4:24 PM ET

It’s a bit of a dive, but I had a blast at the Clown & Bard in Prague.

Tim Patterson 04.30.09 | 12:17 PM ET

El Diablo Tranquilo in Uruguay!

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