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Travoholic’s Top Hostels (So Far!)
If you’re thinking of going on a backpacking trip I’m sure you’ve come across lists of ‘Top Ten Best Hostels’, ‘Europe’s Famous Five Hostels’ and so forth. Well I want to add my 2 cents!

I’ve stayed in maybe around 100 hostels all around Europe, Australia and New Zealand and a couple in Asia and I know what I don’t like – big, brash, characterless ‘backpacker factories’ intent on separating you from your money any way they can The ones that use the word ‘funky’ about 40 times in their advertising pamphlets and are packed to the rafters with tour groups or hop-on hop-off backpacker bus crowds.

What I do like is a place with a welcoming, laid back atmosphere, genuinely friendly staff, a fantastic, creative vibe and somewhere that doesn’t shy away from a massive party now and again.

So in no particular order, here are my choices for the best hostels in the world (so far!):

Gagaju – Noosa National Park, Queensland, Australia

The hostel is located on the edge of Noosa National Park, steps from a stunning river set in lush forest but the best bit about its location is that it’s more or less halfway between Cairns and Sydney along Australia’s popular east coast. It acts as a break from the tourist trail and is a place to come to escape the masses as well as the ‘backpacker factory’ type feel of most large hostels along the Queensland coast.

I worked in this place for 2 months and could have stayed a lot longer than that, swimming in the river, hiking through the forest, exploring by canoe and kicking back each night with a glass of dodgy wine around the camp fire. It's not the cleanest in the world but that's to be expected from a bushcamp with most of its facilities outdoors. Clean freaks stay away, nature lovers stop by! Time flies by here with the relaxed atmosphere and people often end up staying longer than expected.

You can hire out canoes if you’re feeling energetic but chilling out is the main activity, really. Although the place is located in the boonies, it still manages to have an internet connection and a couple of computers as well as a semi-outdoor TV room and a huge video collection. I’m told that they’ve recently added a bar as well which is pretty sweet! Although if they’ve stopped allowing you to drink your own alcohol then maybe it’s not such a good idea!

Gagaju really is a special place that you won't come across too often during your travels, especially not in Australia. If you're hitting the Queensland coast, pop in and you'll see what I mean.

More Info/Photos/Book Online

Backpack Guesthouse – Budapest, Hungary

This small hostel isn’t the best located in the city and it definitely doesn’t have the most inspiring name but it is a special place for other reasons. I’ve never been to a hostel where I’ve felt at home the instant I walked in the door until I arrived at Backpack Guesthouse.

Located down a quiet residential street in a converted house, the hostel isn’t the easiest to get to or best located in Budapest but it is definitely worth the journey. The attention to detail is great and everything in the place has been done up to perfection from the murals on the wall to the sitting area in the back. There are even photo albums scattered around the common room featuring trips taken by staff members (owners?) to Africa and various other places.

It’s really hard to describe a ‘vibe’ or to determine how a hostel has managed to achieve it, but Backpack Guesthouse has managed to create the perfect backpacker vibe and the people staying at the hostel all seem relaxed, open, and up for a chat and a good time. It’s a great place to come if you’re travelling alone because you’re bound to meet loads of people. I think it’s impossible not to!

More Info/Photos/Book Online

Kadir’s Treehouses – Olympos, Turkey

This place is like something out of Peter Pan! Set 10 minutes up the road from the beach, this hostel has been copied but never bettered and even though it is a prime stop on the Fez Bus route, it is still one of the best.

If you ever dreamed of having a treehouse as a kid then you have to check this place out. It’s a maze of cabins built up in the trees with connecting staircases and pathways that looks like it was well planned and thoughtfully built. There’s a central fir pit area where people congregate at each night as well as surrounding picnic tables, sitting areas surrounded by pillows, a volleyball court, and loads of hammocks. It’s like summer camp for adults! You can go ghetto and get a budget treehouse (still with electricity but basically a hut in a tree) with communal toilets or upgrade to a room that is more conventional with its own bathroom.

The restaurant serves pizzas and chips for lunch but breakfast and dinner each night are included in the price. I have to say that the dinners didn’t really win me over but the brekkies and pizzas were pretty good. Eating is cheating though and Kadir’s is all about having a good time and sucking back happy hour beers and girly drinks. Plus the Bull Bar next door is open late and seems to be the place everyone staying in Olympos flocks for a night of debauchery.

When I was there the place was run by two Aussies named Mike and Ben. Well, the entire place wasn’t run by them, they looked after the bar and made sure that guests were having a great time. The greeting and offer of a beer on arrival was great and they’re really good at making everyone feel welcome and getting them to stick around buying beer in their bar rather than wandering off to some other place for a drink.

I was there just before the season kicked off so the place wasn’t even close to being full. I can’t even imagine what it’d be like at full capacity… I reckon it’d go off! It’s definitely a party place at night but also great during the day for kicking back in a hammock and chilling out. I had a blast at Kadir’s and if you’re up for some good nights then this is the place to be.

More Info/Photos/Book Online

Barmy Badger Backpackers – London, England

This small hostel is run by a brother and sister team and is home to mostly long term travellers. I wouldn’t recommend this place if you’re a backpacker passing through, but if you’re heading to London with the intention of finding work and sticking around for awhile then there’s no better place to be.

The hostel has just over 50 beds with the largest dorms having 6 beds – and triple decker bunks! But this leaves the rooms very spacious with wooden lockers big enough for backpacks and more. Most long termers fill up the 6 bed dorms so you’ll rarely have strangers coming through and it’ll feel like a little family in your room if you’re lucky enough to have good people around. The hostel seems to attract fun-loving working holiday types, mainly from Australia and New Zealand, who have just arrived and will always be up for a party.

The kitchen is a great area for socialising and meeting people in the hostel is easy due to its small size. The lounge is packed with beanbag chairs and everyone cosies up to watch sports and movies at night. On the more lively nights the kitchen turns into a party room.

I lived at the hostel for 5 months when I first arrived in London in 2003. I had a great time there and only moved out because I couldn’t afford the £85/week in rent – especially when I had found a sharehouse for £167/month! But I left reluctantly and often went back for visits and parties. I recommended it to a friend and she stayed about 4 months too so don’t just take my word for it. Rumour has it that there was a guy who lived there for FOUR YEARS and that wouldn’t surprise me at all.

So if you’re heading to London to live for awhile and don’t know anyone, the Barmy Badger is a fantastic choice for meeting people and having a load of fun.

More Info/Reviews

By: Kirsty
November 2006

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