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My Top 10 Hostels Around The World

11 Jun buccaneers

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

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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

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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

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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

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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. :)

How To Book Cheap Flights – A Guide to Skyscanner

10 Jun bttb

A lot of people regularly ask me how I always seem to find the cheapest flights to the places I plan on traveling to, so I thought I would write a quick post about one of my favourite booking websites – SkyScanner.

Tip 1 – Search regularly

I browse SkyScanner as often as most internet addicts browse Reddit or 9Gag…let’s just say I spend an obscene amount of time on the site and am always ready to grab any cheap deals which interest me. In fact, my addiction to skyscanner and browsing flights to exotic destinations at bizarre times throughout the night recently led me to booking a flight in my sleep! When I woke up in the morning I had an email confirmation from SkyScanner with a booking reference number for a 1 way flight to Thailand! Turns out I must have half woken in the middle of the night and found a flight from Seoul, Korea to Bangkok for less than 100 euro – a bargain, in my sleepy trance, that I simply could not refuse!

Searching for flights on a regular basis would probably be my first tip to those looking for flights – always be on the look-out. Many budget airlines like Air Asia and Ryanair hold last-minute sales that are only available for 48 hours so if you don’t always have one eye on the prize, you will risk missing out.

Tip 2 – Delete those cookies!

Did you know many popular booking websites, including skyscanner, will increase the price of the flights if they know the specific flights you are looking for. Every time you refresh, you may notice the flight price sky-rocketing. You may think, “Oh Crap – If I had booked 10 minutes ago I would have got that deal.” or “Damn, someone booked the flight I wanted and now only the expensive seats are left!”. Wong, wrong, wrong. The airline knows what you want, knows the days you want to fly and each search you type in is being saved and used against you. Each time you log on to SkyScanner, make sure to delete the cookies on your computer. This way, only the cheapest flights will appear and you won’t get tricked into thinking the best deals have already been taken. This simple trick could save you hundreds of dollars!

cookies delete skyscanner

Tip 3 – Never book flights at the weekend

I’m not talking about the day you FLY, I’m talking about the day you actually sit in front of the computer and SEARCH for your flight. Did you know that the cheapest days to book flights are Tuesdays and Thursdays? The airlines release new seats on these days and often there are lots of great bargains to be found. The most expensive time to look for flights is at the weekends because that is when most people have free time and start to plan vacations. Airlines know this and thus hike the price of flights at the weekends. Goodness, they’re a sneaky lot. (Note: this doesn’t ALWAYS apply, see example below, so make sure to play around with your days and dates to find the best option for you).

skyscanner prices

Tip 4 – Be Flexible

Similar to Tip number 3, there are also cheaper days and cheaper dates to fly. Some of these are obvious such as flying on September 11th, Christmas Day or New Years Eve. 3 days that most people in the Western world really, really, REALLY don’t want to travel on. Other days include Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I mean, nobody really wants to leave for a vacation on a Tuesday, do they? If you are willing to fly on these unpopular days, you are guaranteed to find much cheaper flights. On SkyScanner, there is an option to click WHOLE MONTH when choosing the dates you wish to fly. When you pick this option, the website will tell you the cheapest dates to fly.

Skyscanner-flights-search1

Tip 5: Go EVERYWHERE

Not fussed where you go, as long as you get out of  your home country for a few days? Skyscanner will be your new best friend. Whenever I want to go away for a long weekend in Korea, I click the option from Seoul to EVERYWHERE. This means that SkyScanner will tell you the cheapest cities and countries to fly to on the specific dates you are free. Using this great feature has landed me in the Philippines earlier this year and on a solo trip to Japan in October last year. Use this feature, and use it often, and soon you will be traveling to more countries than you ever dreamed possible!

skyscanner-cheap-flights-results

 

Tip 6 – Switch Browsers

I was told recently that flight prices can increase or decrease depending on the browser you are using. Apparently the browser you use can be linked to the computer you own and this can be linked to what kind of income you earn/your social class. For example, if you search for flights using Safari, then you must be a Mac user and are deemed to have more money than someone using Firefox or Chrome. I just did a search using both Safari and Chome, at the exact same time, to test out this method and sadly it did not seem to make a difference. That said, you never know, so no harm in trying, eh?

If anyone has any more tips about booking cheap flights, please leave a comment!

 

 

Mastering the Travel Selfie in Japan

7 Mar

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Ankgor Wat Sunrise ~ Cambodia

14 Jan

Watching the sunrise over the ancient temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia is something that sits firmly at the top of many seasoned travelers bucket lists.

I am lucky enough to be able to say that the first sunrise I saw in 2014, that big glowing ball of fire, slowly rising into the sky, was at Angkor Wat and it was one of the most incredible moments.

Sure I had to fight off a few 100 other people to get that ‘perfect picture’ and within moments of arriving at the temple grounds was pestered by coffee shop owners who go by the name of Harry Potter and Rambo(!!) to come to their cafe for breakfast “whenever Im ready” but nothing could take away the beauty and serenity of that perfect sunrise.

I will write later, in detail, about the best sights, smells and sticky situations we got ourselves into while traveling around Cambodia, but for now I leave you with these photos of a very special morning in Siem Reap.

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Japan in Black and White

8 Oct

I just got back from 4 days in beautiful Japan and have loads to write about…when I find the time. First of all, however, I just thought I would share a few of my photos with you. All photos were all taken on my smartphone.

japan geisa kyoto

temple pagoda kyoto

japanese writing

geisha kyoto black and white

black and white japan

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Korea unveils new cruise missile on Armed Forces Day

1 Oct

There has been quite a lot of military activity over the past few days, especially in the air space between Seoul and the DMZ where I live, with many military helicopters flying the route daily.

I wasn’t sure what was happening until I was informed that today was the 65th anniversary of South Korea’s Army and a huge military parade took place in Seoul to mark the occasion.

Two Black Hawk helicopters fly over my school in Munsan, South Korea.

Two Black Hawk helicopters fly over my school in Munsan, South Korea.

Armed Forces Day is an annual celebration in South Korea, held on October 1st each year, the day that South-Korean forces broke through the 38th parallel in 1950 during the Korean War, and is held in honour of South Korea’s military forces. 

Over 11,000 soldiers and 120 aircraft were involved in today’s Armed Forces Day Parade , which is said to have been South Korea’s largest military parade in over a decade. The parade also displayed many of South Korea’s top military weapons including a never before seen GPS-guided cruise missile capable of traveling over 1,000 km.

Let’s just hope that none of those extremely high tech weapons will ever need to be used, as they were when I was here back in  2010, when North Korea bombed Yeonpyeong Island and killed two South Korean Soldiers. 

 

The Batu Caves – more than just bats!

5 Aug

The Batu Caves are a firm favorite on many peoples list of things to do in Kuala Lumpur. As they are situated just 20 minutes outside of the city and are accessible via Metro for the bargain price of ONE Ringgit, it isn’t surprising that every traveler I  met in Malaysia had also seen the caves, with all of them complaining about the never ending steps, warning me not to feed the monkeys and advising sensible footwear.

Personally I wore flip flops, gave the monkeys handfuls of peanuts and didn’t think the steps were THAT bad. No pain no gain, as they say, and the view from the top was pretty amazing!

If you have 2 hours to spare while in KL, this place is well worth a visit, as it is super cheap to get there and free to enter, very accessible from the city and is overflowing with wildlife ranging from bats and birds to monkeys, cockerels, and lizards. Plus, have you seen the SIZE of that Golden Buddha?! INCREDIBLE!

 

Getting there - Coach for "Ladies Only!!"

Getting there – Coach for “Ladies Only!!” These can be found all over Kuala Lumpur.

Monkeys, Monkeys everywhere!

Monkeys, Monkeys everywhere!

Look up! Despite the rain it was pretty magical.

Look up! Despite the rain it was pretty magical.

One full color, for the begrudgers

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