Who says hostels have to be miserable, flea-bitten dives? The savviest travelers know that modern hostels can be so much more than a collection of stereotypes. Worried about sharing a massive, dorm-style room with 10 other strangers of questionable hygiene? Don’t be. Most hostels allow you to rent private rooms, if that’s what you’re more comfortable with. And if you’re hoping to meet people, hostels are still the eclectic melting pot they were in the ’90s — where people in harem pants swap travel stories over fruit smoothies (except when they’re on their phones).
Yes, there are the terrifying places (ask me about the time I almost got shanked staying at a hostel by Rome’s Termini station on my honeymoon!), but for every bad hostel experience, there are at least 10 excellent ones to balance it out. And by excellent, we mean excellent. The quality of hostels seems to be going up and up. We searched Hostelworld and found 10 of the greatest hostels. There’s something here on just about every continent you’d want to visit:
Freehand Miami — Miami, Florida
What We Love: The art, which is everywhere — from the handcrafted interiors by designers Roman and Williams to the custom decor and accents from local artists in the guest rooms and public spaces. Beds in the shared “Super 8” coed dorm from $22/night.
What To Check Out In The Area: PAMM (Perez Art Museum Miami), Miami’s contemporary art museum that features works from artists such as Diego Rivera and John Baldessari.
Sunset Destination — Lisbon, Portugal
What We Love: The traditional Portuguese terraced house, combined with the excellent location smack-dab in the center of everything. And did we mention that the terrace is filled with sunflowers? Beds in the 10-person mixed ensuite from $19.36/night.
What To Check Out In The Area: Go clubbing with the locals in nearby Cais do Sodre. Once one of the seediest neighborhoods in Lisbon, it reinvented itself as a modern-chic-Bohemia in 2011.
Zostel Jaisalmer — Rajasthan, India
What We Love: Any hostel described as “unbelievably amazing” by former guests is one we’re willing to travel to. Every area of Zostel Jaisalmer oozes luxury, from the intricately-carved facade to the gorgeous private rooms. Beds in the Desert Safari 8 Bed Mixed Dormitory from $16/night.
What To Check Out In The Area: Jaisalmer Fort, obvi. It’s a World Heritage Site, if that stuff matters to you, and one of the largest fortifications in the world. And people still live in it! Be sure to check it out from a distance at sunset. It nearly disappears into the desert landscape, fading to a honey-gold — earning it the nickname, “The Golden Fort.”
Far Out Beach Club — Ios, Greece
What We Love: The four-star resort feel at hostel prices. The beach view, the volleyball and tennis courts, the sushi restaurants, the outdoor cinema — who says you have to pay top dollar for a retreat vacation? Tent-camping area available from $5.65/night.
What To Check Out In The Area: If you’re not on the beaches, be sure to explore the island’s nooks and crannies via the many winding footpaths. This is truly a place to spend your days relaxing.
Cascada Verde, Hostel at the Waterfall — Uvita, Costa Rica
What We Love: It’s a treehouse hostel at the foot of a waterfall. What more could you ask for? Oh, connectivity and modern facilities? Yeah, there’s that, too. Beds in the 4-person Dorm Room from $15/night.
What To Check Out In The Area: Be sure that your trip coincides with February’s Envision Festival, which brings an onslaught of music, performing artists, yoga, and visual arts to Uvita every year.
Generator Amsterdam — Amsterdam, Netherlands
What We Love: No need to worry about your bags walking off while you bike around town (on a rental from the hostel, no less!). The stylish space — it was once a zoological university building — includes a secure luggage storage room so you can rest easy. Beds in Quad Shared Room from $17/night.
What To Check Out In The Area: If you’re a fan of history (or of The Fault in Our Stars) then the first place you’ll want to go to is the Anne Frank house, on the Prinsengracht canal. Other than that, just bike everywhere. Eat gelato. Visit the planet’s best library. Shop. Do it all on your bike — sun-kissed, bumping over the cobblestones.
F&F Hostel — Punta del Este, Uruguay
What We Love: The surfer’s paradise that also offers a calm pool away from pounding waves. There’s also a garden bar and a pool table for max chillaxing. Beds in the 10 Bed Mixed Dorm from $13/night.
What To Check Out In The Area: The famous surfing spot, Playa Brava. Check it out both for the waves, and for the famous sculpture, La Mano, by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázaba.
Soul Kitchen — St. Petersburg, Russia
What We Love: There’s a reason Soul Kitchen was voted #1 Best Small Hostel in the World at Hostelworld’s 2014 Hoscars (yeah, that’s a thing). From its decked-out kitchen to the cozy lounge areas, you’ll have no trouble relaxing after a day of exploring the streets of St. Petersburg. Also make sure to wake up early and nab some of the house cleaner’s famous piroshkis. Beds in the 8 Bed Mixed Dorm from $21.43/night.
What To Check Out In The Area: If you’re in St. Petersburg, you probably already know what you want to do. The city is bursting with must-see sites: the Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace, the Russian Museum, the bright onion domes of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood…the list goes on. Good thing you’re saving money by staying at a hostel.
Oxotel Hostel — Chiang Mai, Thailand
What We Love: The little haven of luxury in the middle of a bustling city. (Just check out those gorgeous rooms.) And also, the fast wifi connection! Beds in the Basic 6 Bed Mixed Dorm from $14.36/night.
What To Check Out In The Area: The Walking Street Market, held Sundays on the nearby Ratchadamnoen and Pra Singh Roads. Everything from handicrafts and artwork to clothing ($2 Thai silk boxers, anyone?) is available for purchase. It’s a perfect place to stroll and pick up souvenirs for all your needy friends back home. Hungry? Stop in at a food stand or coffeeshop. Tired? Get a foot massage. Bored? Check out the street entertainers who come out to perform at night.
Gilligan’s — Cairns, Australia
What We Love: Airport pickups, free linens, state-of-the-art kitchens on each of Gilligan’s four stories? Those are great too, but what we’re really all about is the hostel’s “job club,” which matches travelers looking to pay their way through Australia with short-term work. Beds in the 10 Bed Dorm from $24/night.
What To Check Out In The Area: Ever heard of the Great Barrier Reef? Cairns is the gateway to what is the world’s largest coral reef system — made up of nearly 3000 individual reefs over an area of 133,000 square miles. Even if you don’t dive, you can take a helicopter tour from above. After all, the reef is visible from outer space. If you have the time and money, head north of Cairns, venturing into a true Aussie jungle experience — where flying foxes swoop overhead in long, black ribbons.