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My Top 10 Hostels Around The World

11 Jun

Having stayed in 100’s of hostels in over 40 countries and on 5 continents, I think it’s be about time I shared my top 10 favorite hostels. These gems are the type of places that were so good, so welcoming and so jam-packed with facilities (despite their rock bottom prices) that I would return to a country JUST to stay there again.

In no particular order, here are my TOP TEN hostels worldwide.

10. Away With The Fairies Backpackers, Hogsback Mountains, South Africa

snow south africa

This was one of my favorite places in South Africa. The name itself was enough to persuade me to leave the stunning South African coastline and make the trek inland and up into the Hogsback mountains. Perched high on a cliff-top overlooking three beautiful mountains, Away With The Fairies is the perfect place to escape for a few days, and ‘return to nature’. The greater area also happens to be the birthplace of famed writer J.R.R Tolkein and trekking through the many trails, waterfalls and scenic villages, it’s not difficult to see where he may have got his inspiration from. The rooms have names such as ‘Bilbo’ and ‘Frodo’ and the common room and dormitories are the most cosy and homely rooms I have ever stayed in.

outdoor bath hogsbackWhether you come in Winter or Summer, you will feel right at home in this backpackers. If you’re lucky enough to arrive in Winter, you might even get to see the area covered in a beautiful blanket of snow. If you’re lucky enough to visit during the hot summer months, there is an outdoor bath with the most incredible view of the surrounding countryside where you can cool off. A visit to this magical hostel is a MUST if you are ever visiting South Africa!

 

 

9. Reggae Mansion Hostel, Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia

REGGAEMANSION

While many hostel names can be a little deceiving, Reggae Mansion in Kuala Lumpar is exactly what is says it is. It is an absolutely HUGE boutique backpackers hostel and besides the price and the fact that there are backpackers everywhere, it’s as far from a regular hostel as you can imagine.

reggae barEven looking at the hostel on arrival makes many people think, “Wow, what is this place?!” Then comes the vast range of facilities which include but are not limited to; A rooftop bar and tanning area, a cocktail bar, a restaurant serving delicious Malaysian and Western meals, dormitories where everyone has a double bed and their own private curtain and plug sockets, multiple areas to chill out and read and…a cinema. Yes, that’s right, this hostel has its own cinema on the property! They can also organize tours to just about anywhere, have nightly parties on the roof and take the guests out to many of the amazing restaurants and clubs KL has to offer. If you are looking for a place to stay in KL, look no further!!

 

8. Gili Hostel, Lombok, Indonesia

gili hostel

 

If you are traveling around Indonesia by yourself, The Gili Islands are THE place to go. If you are traveling to the Gili Islands by yourself, Gili Hostel is most definitely the place to go. It’s the only backpackers on the island and it is an absolute melting-pot of people each night.

gili-hostelSo famed are parties in Gili Hostel, mainly for their cheap as chips Vodka-Joss shots, that people who are staying in the islands other hotels make the effort to come over to the rooftop bar each night to party the night away. However, in true backpacking spirit (and to give many weary-eyed travelers a chance to sleep!) the bar closes at a respectable hour and all the patrons are brought as a group to one of the islands nightly parties! Besides being a great place to meet people, the hostel is mere meters from the crystal clear waters and the staff are happy to help you organize an array of trips such as scuba diving, snorkeling, sunset walks and more. The spacious dorms are kept spotless and always refreshingly cool, and the price is cheap enough that you may never want to leave!

 

7. South Coast Backpackers, Diani Beach, Kenya

south coast backpackers kenya

Their tagline is, “It’s not a business. It’s a house with a bar and a pool’ and honestly that is EXACTLY what it is. The property was once a luxurious villa, where only people who had more money than they knew what to do with could stay. After the violence and political unrest in Kenya, tourism was severely affected and many of the luxurious hotels near Mombassa were forced to close down. Their loss was our benefit, and by ‘our’ I mean backpackers the world over! This beautiful villa has been turned into a pseudo backpackers hostel but like the two owners say, really it’s just a beautiful house with a bar and pool. There’s even a personal chef who will cook you up whatever you like for breakfast!

Beach-Kenya-1125x784During low season, or if you stay mid-week, it’s possible to have the whole house and pool to yourself! During the weekend, however, backpackers, peace-corps workers and expats flock to this little piece of paradise to let off steam, enjoy the great ‘Happy Hour’ deals at the poolside bar and soak up the sun. The guys who work there are super laid back and full of incredible travel tales. They can also organize a variety of trips for you and will be sure to remind you that despite the fact that you may not want to leave their property, one of the most beautiful beaches in Kenya is only a 400 meter walk away! Kenya is very lacking on decent hostels so if you are traveling in this region and are craving a ‘true backpackers experience’, this is the place to go.

6. Frendz Hostel, Boracay, Philippines

the-view-from-the-frendz

Talk to anyone who has been to Boracay and there are two common themes that they all talk about. The fact that you simply must stay at Frendz Resort and that you must, must, must do the Boracay Pub Crawl! I’m not sure if they are connected but they both have the same mission, ‘Turn strangers into friends!’.

frendz-guesthouse-lounge-boracay-philippinesFrendz Hostel is literally meters away from one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Do a quick google search of ‘Boracay’ and you will know what I’m talking about! While there is nothing too special about the dorms or the common area (there’s a bar, a large table to eat or chat at, a pool table and they have private deck chairs on the beach for guests to use) it’s really the people who make this place so special. Everyone who stays here is dying to make new friends, party all night long and find a fun group of people to go exploring the island with. I would especially recommend this hostel is you are traveling solo to the Philipines and while you’re at it, sign yourself up to the Boracay Pub Crawl. Fun guaranteed!

 

5. Kimchi Guesthouse, Hongdae, Korea

hongdae lights

After almost 2 years in Korea and countless weekends staying in various hostels around Seoul, Kimchi Guesthouse in Hongdae remains one of my favourites. The rooms are spacious but cosy (an essential during the cold, Korean Winter!), the staff are friendly and welcoming and best of all, the hostel is only a hop, skip and a jump from the most-happening party district in Korea.

kimchi guesthouseWhen it comes to a place to stay, it often comes down to ‘location, location, location’, and Kimchi Guesthouse seems to have got this spot on. It’s in a quiet enough street that you can go to bed early if needed but also close enough to Seoul’s vibrant nightlife district that you could walk home alone and not feel concerned for your safety. My friends and I have probably stayed in over 10 hostels in and around this district of Seoul but this one is a firm favorite.

 

4. Fawlty Towers Backpackers, Livingstone, Zambia

victoria_falls

If you want to visit  Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the worlds, and don’t want to fork out hundreds of dollars to stay in one the limited hotel accommodation options in the area, Fawlty Towers is the place for you. You can’t really go wrong with a large backpackers just minutes away from the Zambian/Zimbabwean border , located in the small town of Livingstone which is now known as the ‘Adrenaline Junkie Capital of Africa!’ Bungee jumping, rock climbing, abseiling, white water rafting, gorge swings, micro lights flights and walking safari’s are just some of the nail-biting activities on offer.

fawlty towers backpackersIn the hostel itself there’s a bar, a large swimming pool with deck/lounge chairs and the dorms are fully equipped with much-needed mosquito nets and fans! This spot is also a great meeting spot to connect with other travelers as it is very close to the point where the Tazara Train (that runs from Tanzania to Zambia) ends and thus is a melting pot of backpackers, some having traveled all the way down through Northern and Eastern Africa while others are just beginning their adventure North.

 

3. Friendly Fun Franks, Riga, Latvia

Riga-Latvia

Any hostel that gives it’s guests a free beer before they have even fully checked in will always be held in high esteem by me. Voted Best Hostel in the World by users of Hostelworld.com a few years ago, staying here was one of the best experiences I have had in Europe. Not many people think of going on holidays to Latvia, but when a group of friends and I found cheap flights to Riga a few years back, booking this hostel for the duration of our stay was one of the best decisions we ever made.

friendly-fun-franks-backpackerLocated in central Riga and overlooking the Daugava river, on which many locals (and some brave tourists!) can be seen skating across during the winter months, the hostel is in a great location. The common room is both large and comfortable (and adorned with many certificates of praise received by the hostel!) and the bar, which they open at all sorts of crazy hours to meet demand, is the perfect spot to unwind with other travelers. The staff, however, are what made this place truly special. I’m not sure who Frank is, and he may not even be all that friendly, but he sure knows how to hire some of the most helpful, beautiful and friendly staff on the planet! Throughout our stay, they showed us all around the city, brought us to new bars and clubs each night, and booked us on all sorts of wacky adventures such as shooting AK47’S in old Russian Bunkers and sending us to some quaint town where we could go sledding! By the end of our one-week vacation, we had made many lifelong friends and I had a new hostel to add to my list of favorites.

2. Nomads Hostel, Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown_in_Winter

 

This hostel was one the most amazing places I have ever stayed. It was one of those times when even your super high expectations for a destination are exceeded and you just know that you have picked THE best place in stay. The hostel itself is huge but what makes it great is that they have an ample amount of facilities for everyone. There are lounge chairs everywhere, the dorms have balconies and there are tons of computers for guests to use. The dorms are spacious, and if you have the cash to splash out on a private room you might even think you are in a top hotel rather than a cheap hostel.

960_960_sauna-queenstownThe people working and staying here are super social, and as you are allowed to drink in the hostel, it is a great place to meet and chat with other backpackers without having to go out on the town and spend lots of money. They organize lots of nights out including a 10 dollar pub crawl and can also organize a variety of tours, adventures, flights and adrenaline pumping activities to fill your days and empty your wallet! Also, did I mention there’s a sauna?! Madness. If I ever go back to New Zealand, this will be the first place on my list! 

 

 

1. Buccaneers Backpackers, Cintsa, South Africa

buccaneers-lodge-backpackers

Honestly, I could probably write a full bog post on hostels in South Africa as there are so many great spots! I was going back and forth for the last hour deciding whether to include one of the hostels I stayed in while traveling in Australia or to include a second South African hostel. In the end, I had to stay true to myself, and this gem of a Backpackers on the wild coast of South Africa wins the last spot! The hostel is really rustic and the views of the beach below are spectacular!

buccaneersThey can organize horse back riding along the beach, daily surfing lessons or weekly surf camps and their poolside parties are out of this world. It’s a strange place as it feels like you are escaping the hustle and bustle and getting back to nature but at the same time it’s such a popular spot that you are bound to meet rakes of other backpackers while staying here. Sometimes it is hard to pinpoint the precise reasons why a hostel is great, you just get a feeling while staying there that you never really want to leave and be it 1 year or 10 years since your last stay, it is a place that will always stay in your memory. For me, Buccaneers is one of those places. :)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Renewal

11 Nov

The only thing that can bring things back to life, and restore energy levels in this community, is clean water.

As long as there is water, these young kids can continue to grow, continue to learn, continue to live.

Sand, Smiles and Sore Feet

10 Nov

Sorry I have been missing in action from my blog for a few months now, but I have been VERY busy and still am. I am working full-time for an amazing organization called ‘The Hope Foundation” and have also been working hard to get my Masters thesis finished. I also managed to fit in a weekend away in London and just under a month in Northern Kenya, doing field research.

Here are some photos I took while staying in the town of Lodwar, in Central Turkana, where temperatures reach up to 39’c on a daily basis, the climate is harsh and the landscape is desert like. Water is scarce, sanitation facilities are non existent and Life is all  about survival. When I have more time I will share with you my stories are heart ache, horror, compassion and hope, but for now here are some photos of the amazingly beautiful children I befriended on my journey.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Two Subjects

15 Apr

The first image is a photo I took of two child shepherds in the Bale Mountains in Ethiopia. The second and third images are just edits of the first one, which I cropped and decided to change to black and white.

Brother and Sister, side by side. Two beautiful subjects. :)

Who is Joseph Kony?

7 Mar

Who is Joseph Kony? Kony is a Ugandan guerrilla group leader, and head of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA). The LRA is known to have abducted and forced more than 30,000 children to fight for them, turning young boys into child soldiers and forcing them to kill their own parents or face death themselves, as well as turning young girls into sex slaves. This is not new, this has been going on for over a decade!!

What is Kony 2012? KONY 2012 is a film and campaign by Invisible Children that aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice. The time has come for us to unite and make it known that this war and this brutal mistreatment of children must end now!

Watching this video sent shivers down my spine and seriously gave me the chills. It is disturbing to see what the children have been through (and are still going through!) but also uplifting that we as ‘the people of the internet’ have the power to make a change and stop this war. We can make all the difference. Don’t ask “Who am I to stop a war?” Instead ask yourself, “Who am I not to?!”.

So as to give a balanced blog post that does not simply regurgitate a video shared on my facebook wall, I would like to direct you to the blog ‘Visible Children’, which gives a critical review of the Kony 2012 campaign. The post talks about Invisible Children as an organisation, the break down of their finances, whether military intervention is such a good idea and how ‘reliable’ their statistics are. The last paragraph of their review really stood out to me and I think it’s something we should keep in mind.

“If you want to write to your Member of Parliament or your Senator or the President or the Prime Minister, by all means, go ahead. If you want to post about Joseph Kony’s crimes on Facebook, go ahead. But let’s keep it about Joseph Kony, not KONY 2012.”

Dear Diary – Merkato Mayhem

13 Jan

Phil emailed me today. Bad news. He made in from Uganda to Kenya but missed the only bus to Ethiopia. He is now planning on hitching a ride with some Somali truckers he met at a camp in Nairobi…sounds seriously dodgy! So I guess I will have to wait here in Addis Ababa until he at least makes it over the border, then I can make my way South.

I got all my money changed in one of the big banks and was a little nervous by the 4 AK7 clad guards who demanded I give them my big backpack to “mind” as I went into the bank. Guess guys with guns is a sight you get used to in Africa, but it still makes me feel quite nervous at times.I got a taxi to Hotel Wutma which seems like a nice little place run by 2 cool rastas, dropped off my bags and decided to check out the Addis Ababa Merkato- The biggest market in AFRICA!!

Attempting to get to the Merkato  is nearly as impossible as maneuvering your way around it. I sat inside the cramped mini bus taxi, with an old grandmother sitting next to me and a child sitting on top of me praying they would soon stop letting more people into the cramped taxi, and that we would soon be on your way. Beggars would come to the door of the taxi in a constant stream banging on the window, staring, pleading. It was a pretty devastating feeling not been able to help them all, but if you start handing out money or food hundreds more people will arrive on the scene.

In Ethiopia beggars can be everyone and anyone; the women, tribal men, the homeless, the shoeless, infants selling packets of tissues or sticks of chewing gum. There is no escaping their pleas -just being there is emotionally shattering as you feel their pain, and wish you could do more to smiles on their faces.

I eventually made it to what I could only guess was the infamous Merkato, with its boundaries as shady as some of its people. The place was hectic. Lorries unloading hundreds of oversized bags of maize as young boys carried it away on their backs resembling struggling ants. A man walks past me with his head bowed due to the weight of the 50 perfectly balanced pillows on his back.

You can walk around for hours weaving your way in and out of all the temporary stalls made of polythene sheets and with aluminium roofs. You need to be careful to avoid the big potholes full of goat shit and dirty water that runs from the mini streams that divide the stalls.

I moved on to the various spice stalls, tasting vanilla and cinnamon before I was pestered by all the flies hanging around. The place was repugnant; piles of flour, peppers, maize, apples, coffee pots and fake flowers lay side by side. Moving on I came across stall after stall of bad quality imported clothes from Indian scarves to Man United jerseys. You can come across stalls with lines of knives, machetes and guns as goats and mules wander by eating whatever waste food they can find amongst the rubbish.

When the sellers spot you they smile, they shout “You, you, you!” as others begin to turn and stare, pointing and laughing. You can block it out and feel rude or you can greet them back and be drawn into a conversation which inevitably ends in them trying to persuade you to by a Sofa or 20 metres of woven carpet! There is no escaping!

Mini Buses fly. Men sit around chewing chat that gets them high as their wives sit around cooking Injera (a flat tangy pancake part of their staple diet). It starts raining and you realise you hungry and lost. Your jeans are wet and brown from the mud and you’re sweating from the humidity. You are now broke from buying useless memorabilia or a quick handed kid has slipped his hand in and out of your pocket faster than you can say “Theif!”

It’s a once in a life time experience, let that be said. But once in a lifetime is enough for me!

Dear Diary- Ethiopian Time Travel

12 Jan

So I have been in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, two days now and I’m happy to say I’m alive and well! It is the 12th August 2007 Western Time, but the 1st of December 1999 Ethiopian time. Confused? Yea, me too! Ethiopia uses the older Coptic Calendar which is 7-8 years behind the Gregorian calendar used by most of the Western World. They also have 13 months, 12 months of 30 days each and a 13th month with 5/6 days depending on whether it’s a leap year or not.

To make thing even MORE confusing they also use a different time. Not just a different time zone, but a different way of telling the time! Unlike the convention in most countries, the start of the day is dawn, rather than midnight. Thus, 7:00 AM in East Africa Time corresponds to 1:00 in daylight hours in local Ethiopian time. This makes thing SERIOUSLY complicated when trying to figure out opening/closing times and trying to book a bus!

Moving on…on arrival all the hotels seemed to be booked out. Dragging my huge, over sized backpack through the narrow, busy streets wasn’t helped by the occasional thunder storms and torrential rains. So much for a warm, hot climate! I flicked through my guidebook trying to locate the address of the various hostels and cheap motels listed but was shit out of luck. There were no street names to be found anywhere so I kept getting lost and walking in circles.

Sick and tired of walking I hailed a taxi. All the taxis are old Ladas and they totally live up to their name. I remember my Dad telling me a joke when I was younger, “What do you call a Lada with 2 exhaust pipes? A SKIP!” Well Dad wasn’t too far off. It took the taximan 15 minutes of revving and jerking the gear stick just to get the car started and when I put my bag in the boot I noticed there was a HUGE hole and also no wind mirrors! Madness!

When I eventually found a place that had a spare room…I discovered it was far from a ‘Hotel’ room I would be getting. I really didn’t care though as long as I could take off my backpack, lie down on my bed and think why on earth I left my awesome summer job teaching English in Ireland for THIS?!

After a well deserved nap, I felt calmer and a little more optimistic so ventured out of my ‘hotel room’ in search of food. I asked the guys sitting outside reception (they were all sitting around on plastic chairs sipping beers and smoking who knows what) if I could get food anywhere near and the conversation went like this;

Me- “Can I get food anywhere near here?”

Guy- “Fish…no food…FISH!”

Me -“You have food, yes?”

Guy – Fish fish, no food..fish!”

Me, “Umm okay fish. Great, do you know where I can get some?”

Guy- “No.”

And he sits down and starts chatting to his friends. Well, that was weird! I went in search again and ended up buying a bag of peanuts off some cute kids on the street corner, went back to my room to hibernate! I ended up watching TV as the countdown to the millenium is on…only 30 days to go! Can’t believe I will get to celebrate the millennium AGAIN! So totally cool. Tomorrow I will be brave and venture a little further in this crazy city, as I need to change all my  money, sort out Malaria tablets (I decided to take a risk and buy them here instead of at home- way cheaper!) and book my bus to Shashemene. Oh and ring my parents…better let them know I made it here!

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