The World’s Greatest Hostel Ever

If you have traveled anywhere on a budget, you have likely experienced the joys of hostel living. I’ve been traveling for the last nine months, and in that time I’ve grown to love hostels. The friends that are made, the stories that are shared, the beers that are consumed, and the connections that are solidified.

But we all know there are two sides to a story, and hostels are not entirely sugar and spice. In fact, I have been stuck in situations that left me baffled, declaring that I will someday open the hostel to end all hostels. The big kahuna. I met many travelers who professed they have the same desire, and maybe at some point you said the same thing.

Hostel by Christine Benson

Hostel by Christine Benson

Perhaps it came while you were standing in the hostel’s common kitchen wondering what you can possibly do with access to one knife, two chipped plates, a cheese grater, and fourteen spoons. Or maybe while juggling your shampoo, soap, towel, and clothing in a shower stall with no hooks.

All these situations have led me to say. . . What the hell were they thinking??

So, as a result of my endless nights of research in sub-par accommodation, I have come up with a list of things I would make sure my “big kahuna” hostel has. We all know that in an ideal world the walls wouldn’t be thin, the showers would be spacious, and breakfast (a delicious one) would always be included, but the following is a list of must-haves for any hostel worth its salt.

Hooks. There MUST be hooks. They are cheap, easy to install, and infinitely useful. The most important is to have hooks in the shower (many hooks), but they aren’t useful if they are constantly falling off the wall. Bonus Points: Hooks near beds and in bathrooms.

Space to sit up. Bunk beds are fine, but if a hostel chooses to use bunk beds, they must consider that guests will not likely be midgets. One of my biggest pet peeves is when you cannot sit up on a bunk bed without hitting your head, despite slouching. If you are going to go through the trouble to acquire bunk beds, making sure that there is adequate space above (both!) beds is not too much to ask. Bonus Points: Sturdy bunk beds. Squeaky, wobbly beds = horrible.

Hostel by Christine Benson

Hostel by Christine Benson

Storage lockers. These are unfortunately a necessity these days. Travelers will not want to return or spread the good word if their stuff gets stolen. It is their responsibility to take precautions, but good hostels do their part to ensure security by providing lockers. The best hostels have roomy lockers, not the teeny ones that would only fit a credit card. Bonus Points: Lockers with electric sockets actually in them. More and more travelers are bringing along mp3 players, cameras, and computers that need to be charged as well as locked away. Why not kill two birds with one stone?

Personal lights by beds. People staying in dorms subscribe to the fact they may be woken in the middle of the night by their inconsiderate roommates coming home, but providing smaller lights for those who have forgotten (or are too drunk to find) their flashlights is a small step towards keeping the peace. Personal lights are also useful for minimizing disturbance when someone wants to stay up reading or working on things past everyone else’s bedtime. Bonus Points: A small ledge or shelf to keep essentials like phone, change, alarm, or wallet nearby.

Kitchen, but a fully stocked kitchen. Like I said before, there’s not much you can with a handful of broken odds and ends. Plates, bowls, cups, mugs, and a full set of silverware are necessities, as well as a sufficient amount of pots and pans for several meals to be cooking at once. Bonus Points: An oven. Most everyone has a microwave, but not many hostels have an oven. This is a key piece of equipment for any backpacker on a budget that wants to supplement his Cup O’ Noodles with frozen pizza.

Hostel by Christine Benson

Hostel by Christine Benson

Computers, but don’t advertise access to computers if they are always broken. Our society is clearly moving towards dependance on technology. The generation currently moving into hostels has been using computers since they could talk. Skype, email, and Facebook are a part of many people’s daily life. Whether or not travelers should be spending time on the computer as opposed to exploring the place they are visiting is a topic for another day. But considering the fact that most guests probably find their accommodation online, its the least a hostel can do. Bonus Points: Free WiFi.

Comfortable common areas. One might argue that a hostel should just be a place to lay your head at night. I beg to differ. Nowadays, the best hostels act as a place to meet other travelers, share ideas, and create long-lasting friendships. Providing a place to relax other than your bed is not a guarantee to this, but it’s a good start. Couches, bean bags, comfy chairs, pool tables, a deck of cards, book exchange, TV, vending machines. Take your pick. Bonus Points: Organized activities or outings to help get the communication going.

In the interest of full disclosure, I can tell you I’m not really going to open a hostel, at least not in this lifetime. So if anyone out there is reading this and is inspired, by all means, please take these guidelines and take the bull by the horns to get this place started! I can assure you that you will have a community of hostelers elated to know that someone has heard our pleas of mercy and responded with an answer: the world’s greatest hostel ever. Oh, and let me know about it so I can come stay at the Big Kahuna!

47 Comments

  1. Jill on November 11, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Omg, lockers with electric sockets! Never seeen them before but that’d be soooo useful!

    • CMB on November 14, 2010 at 8:58 am

      I haven’t seen them many places, but we found them at the Point hostel in Lima, Peru. It was like a match made in heaven for my technologically inclined husband. 🙂

      • Michael on November 15, 2010 at 9:10 am

        At Point? Really? The one in Cusco was nowhere near having the advancement of having that type of thing. Didn’t enjoy Point at Cusco at all.

        • CMB on November 15, 2010 at 7:27 pm

          Hah, we stayed at that one as well. We were sad when we showed up and it didn’t have the sockets in the lockers, nevermind that the vibe was pretty different. I would recommend the one in Lima, not the one in Cusco. Let’s just put it that way.

          • Mark Mayo on April 6, 2011 at 12:34 am

            What? I was in both back in October, and while the Point Lima had more, the Point in Cusco definitely hada power lockers – it was the first place I’d seem them. For future travellers, just by the front desk to the right of reception – some of those lockers have power points in them.



  2. Jill on November 11, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Omg, lockers with electric sockets! Never seeen them before but that’d be soooo useful!

    • CMB on November 14, 2010 at 9:58 am

      I haven’t seen them many places, but we found them at the Point hostel in Lima, Peru. It was like a match made in heaven for my technologically inclined husband. 🙂

      • Michael on November 15, 2010 at 10:10 am

        At Point? Really? The one in Cusco was nowhere near having the advancement of having that type of thing. Didn’t enjoy Point at Cusco at all.

        • CMB on November 15, 2010 at 8:27 pm

          Hah, we stayed at that one as well. We were sad when we showed up and it didn’t have the sockets in the lockers, nevermind that the vibe was pretty different. I would recommend the one in Lima, not the one in Cusco. Let’s just put it that way.

          • Mark Mayo on April 6, 2011 at 1:34 am

            What? I was in both back in October, and while the Point Lima had more, the Point in Cusco definitely hada power lockers – it was the first place I’d seem them. For future travellers, just by the front desk to the right of reception – some of those lockers have power points in them.



  3. Jasmine Stephenson on November 12, 2010 at 11:32 am

    I have seen the lockers with electric sockets in Bogota, they are incredibly awesome!

    Having a well equipped kitchen is so important! I especially hate gross pots and pans that are really scratched at the bottom… I can almost taste the pot in my meal ewwww. I wrote a similar post called 5 Things I Wish I Could Tell Hostel Owners: http://jasminewanders.com/2010/09/5-things-i-wish-i-could-tell-hostel-owners/

    If anyone does open up this hostel, I’ll be staying there too!

  4. Jasmine Stephenson on November 12, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    I have seen the lockers with electric sockets in Bogota, they are incredibly awesome!

    Having a well equipped kitchen is so important! I especially hate gross pots and pans that are really scratched at the bottom… I can almost taste the pot in my meal ewwww. I wrote a similar post called 5 Things I Wish I Could Tell Hostel Owners: http://jasminewanders.com/2010/09/5-things-i-wish-i-could-tell-hostel-owners/

    If anyone does open up this hostel, I’ll be staying there too!

  5. JB on November 12, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Great post. I had a similar post a while ago, “What Makes for the “Perfect” Hostel?” (http://www.lengthytravel.com/what-makes-for-the-perfect-hostel/) but you caught a couple of things I missed, especially room to sit up and non-squeaky beds! I do think we’ve been staying in different places though, because I RARELY come across a hostel with a microwave (or toaster for that matter). Finally, your Big Kahuna exists, if in name only. I believe a hostel by that name can be found in Bocas del Toro in Panamá, but I don’t know how it would stack up to your list since I didn’t stay there.

  6. JB on November 12, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Great post. I had a similar post a while ago, “What Makes for the “Perfect” Hostel?” (http://www.lengthytravel.com/what-makes-for-the-perfect-hostel/) but you caught a couple of things I missed, especially room to sit up and non-squeaky beds! I do think we’ve been staying in different places though, because I RARELY come across a hostel with a microwave (or toaster for that matter). Finally, your Big Kahuna exists, if in name only. I believe a hostel by that name can be found in Bocas del Toro in Panamá, but I don’t know how it would stack up to your list since I didn’t stay there.

  7. enrolled agent course on November 14, 2010 at 1:17 am

    I love the idea of hooks! I have to agree, there are ties when I wonder how come a hostel didn’t have one or don’t have enough. Placing a few around the room is also a good way to save space.

    • Michael on November 15, 2010 at 9:09 am

      Yeah, seriously. The lack of hooks at hostels seems common sense to me but I guess not to them. It’s not like it’s an expensive thing either.

  8. enrolled agent course on November 14, 2010 at 2:17 am

    I love the idea of hooks! I have to agree, there are ties when I wonder how come a hostel didn’t have one or don’t have enough. Placing a few around the room is also a good way to save space.

    • Michael on November 15, 2010 at 10:09 am

      Yeah, seriously. The lack of hooks at hostels seems common sense to me but I guess not to them. It’s not like it’s an expensive thing either.

  9. Euorpe_04 on November 15, 2010 at 7:50 am

    good points. I would also say a power plug next to a mirror so one can do there hair, dry, straighten etc..its important to women! I have stayed in many hostels and it sucks when there isn o power plug near a mirror, not necessarliy in a bathroom could be elsewhere, but none the less u need a power plug near a mirror!!

  10. Euorpe_04 on November 15, 2010 at 8:50 am

    good points. I would also say a power plug next to a mirror so one can do there hair, dry, straighten etc..its important to women! I have stayed in many hostels and it sucks when there isn o power plug near a mirror, not necessarliy in a bathroom could be elsewhere, but none the less u need a power plug near a mirror!!

  11. Michael on November 15, 2010 at 9:06 am

    I’ve been in a few hostels where the plug is inside the locker and that has always really stood out to me. Amazing feature.

  12. Michael on November 15, 2010 at 10:06 am

    I’ve been in a few hostels where the plug is inside the locker and that has always really stood out to me. Amazing feature.

  13. Caroline Eubanks on November 15, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    This is why Palmer’s Lodge Hostel in London is one of my favorites. Nice bunk beds (although I heard rumors of bed bugs, but apparently they’re everywhere these days), hooks, reading lights, bar, restaurant, FREE computers and wifi (hard to come by!), storage lockers and more. There’s no kitchen (you can get dinner at the restaurant), but they do have a fridge, microwave and panini press for guest use.

    • CMB on November 20, 2010 at 5:23 pm

      This is how we feel about the Dominica Hostel in Santiago, Chile. Their bed set-up was great. Little individual shelves with personal lights and electrical plugs, plus a large cabinet right behind your bed where you can lock up your big bags. Breakfast included, kitchen available for use, computers.

  14. Caroline Eubanks on November 15, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    This is why Palmer’s Lodge Hostel in London is one of my favorites. Nice bunk beds (although I heard rumors of bed bugs, but apparently they’re everywhere these days), hooks, reading lights, bar, restaurant, FREE computers and wifi (hard to come by!), storage lockers and more. There’s no kitchen (you can get dinner at the restaurant), but they do have a fridge, microwave and panini press for guest use.

    • CMB on November 20, 2010 at 6:23 pm

      This is how we feel about the Dominica Hostel in Santiago, Chile. Their bed set-up was great. Little individual shelves with personal lights and electrical plugs, plus a large cabinet right behind your bed where you can lock up your big bags. Breakfast included, kitchen available for use, computers.

  15. Ridzki Noviansyah on November 16, 2010 at 2:46 am

    I guess I am lucky I’ve stayed in a hostel that fulfill all of the above criteria, it’s in Hanoi, Vietnam and the best thing about the hostel is that it’s colorful, which make living there isn’t dull at all.

  16. trugiaz on November 16, 2010 at 3:46 am

    I guess I am lucky I’ve stayed in a hostel that fulfill all of the above criteria, it’s in Hanoi, Vietnam and the best thing about the hostel is that it’s colorful, which make living there isn’t dull at all.

  17. itravel81 on December 20, 2010 at 10:29 am

    This looks nice. Hostel Tyn in Prague is the best I’ve stayed in.

  18. itravel81 on December 20, 2010 at 11:29 am

    This looks nice. Hostel Tyn in Prague is the best I’ve stayed in.

  19. JB on December 22, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    I wrote a post, “What Makes for the “Perfect” Hostel?” (http://www.lengthytravel.com/what-makes-for-the-perfect-hostel/) on the same theme though a couple on your list eluded me.

  20. JB on December 22, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    I wrote a post, “What Makes for the “Perfect” Hostel?” (http://www.lengthytravel.com/what-makes-for-the-perfect-hostel/) on the same theme though a couple on your list eluded me.

  21. Gina on January 21, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    Hi Christine,
    Thanks for the article. Where was the white brick room with the rope/ceiling art taken? What is the name of the hostel?
    Thanks so much!

    • CMB on March 20, 2012 at 7:07 pm

      That last hostel is where we stayed during our trip through the Salt Flats in Bolivia.  It was pretty cool- everything is made of salt from the walls to the tables and “chairs.” Not sure of the name, or if it even has a name. 🙂  It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere although I think most tours through the Salt Flats have you stay in in a salt hostel.

  22. Gina on January 21, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Hi Christine,
    Thanks for the article. Where was the white brick room with the rope/ceiling art taken? What is the name of the hostel?
    Thanks so much!

    • CMB on March 20, 2012 at 8:07 pm

      That last hostel is where we stayed during our trip through the Salt Flats in Bolivia.  It was pretty cool- everything is made of salt from the walls to the tables and “chairs.” Not sure of the name, or if it even has a name. 🙂  It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere although I think most tours through the Salt Flats have you stay in in a salt hostel.

  23. Miin Chan on April 4, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    We’ve been travelling for over two years, and the BEST hostel we’ve ever stayed at (though honestly, since there’s two of us, we don’t often stay in dorms, and often opt for hotels, which surprisingly are usually cheaper than a hostel, especially here in South America) is LaSerrana.com.co, in gorgeous Salento, Colombia. Beautiful old Colombian house, great artifacts, comfy sitting area with DVDs galore, huge kitchen with everything you need, 5 star dorms with great hot water and clean bathrooms, and CHEAP! Not to mention the setting. It’s so great we’re going back to volunteer for a few weeks (it’s also a dairy and eco farm). A definite MUST STAY if you’re in the area!
    LOVE!

    • Michael on April 15, 2011 at 3:50 am

      I’ll have to keep that place in mind when I get to Colombia.
      For South America I found that most places outside of the big cities had single rooms anyway. The big cities always had dorms cheaper though.

  24. Miin Chan on April 5, 2011 at 12:24 am

    We’ve been travelling for over two years, and the BEST hostel we’ve ever stayed at (though honestly, since there’s two of us, we don’t often stay in dorms, and often opt for hotels, which surprisingly are usually cheaper than a hostel, especially here in South America) is LaSerrana.com.co, in gorgeous Salento, Colombia. Beautiful old Colombian house, great artifacts, comfy sitting area with DVDs galore, huge kitchen with everything you need, 5 star dorms with great hot water and clean bathrooms, and CHEAP! Not to mention the setting. It’s so great we’re going back to volunteer for a few weeks (it’s also a dairy and eco farm). A definite MUST STAY if you’re in the area!
    LOVE!

    • Michael on April 15, 2011 at 4:50 am

      I’ll have to keep that place in mind when I get to Colombia.
      For South America I found that most places outside of the big cities had single rooms anyway. The big cities always had dorms cheaper though.

  25. Peach on April 6, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    i would also love to know what hostel that is in the last picture. looks amazing!

    • CMB on March 20, 2012 at 7:09 pm

      You can see my reply to Gina below, but it is a hostel in the middle of the salt flats in Bolivia.  Not the most comfy, but definitely was a novelty!

  26. Peach on April 6, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    i would also love to know what hostel that is in the last picture. looks amazing!

    • CMB on March 20, 2012 at 8:09 pm

      You can see my reply to Gina below, but it is a hostel in the middle of the salt flats in Bolivia.  Not the most comfy, but definitely was a novelty!

  27. Ree on May 14, 2012 at 1:03 am

    Loved the read of this article! My partner and I are planning what you refer to as the ‘big kahuna’.. approximately six years and counting my friend. (lots of finance to accrue)  We have taken on board many travelers pet peeves, including the ones you have posted here! Keep them coming.  I am excited to create such a unique and appropriate solution for all of us.  The best is yet to come.  I will check in in six years time and see if you feel like a visit to the land of Aus 🙂

  28. Ree on May 14, 2012 at 2:03 am

    Loved the read of this article! My partner and I are planning what you refer to as the ‘big kahuna’.. approximately six years and counting my friend. (lots of finance to accrue)  We have taken on board many travelers pet peeves, including the ones you have posted here! Keep them coming.  I am excited to create such a unique and appropriate solution for all of us.  The best is yet to come.  I will check in in six years time and see if you feel like a visit to the land of Aus 🙂

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