The Ultimate Hostel

Jolly Boys Backpacker in Zambia

I have stayed in so many hostels the last three years that it comes naturally that I instantly judge a place when I stay. I seem to always be comparing hostels to one another. It’s always been in the back of my mind that I would settle one day and open my own place, and I would know how to make the ultimate hostel if I did! Here is the list I came up with to make the ultimate hostel.
Location: I guess this goes first, as you can have the greatest hostel ever, but it has to be somewhere that people want to visit, or it will be always empty. For me I would have it on a beach or island somewhere. Give me an Indonesian island with an awesome beach and diving near by, and I’m a happy dude. Oh and throw in some bikinis.

Cheap prices: For me, forever on a strict budget, I will constantly forego many a luxury to save a dime. I will stay in a shoe box on Khao San rd for $4, and spend the money I saved on making memories of some sort. If there’s a cheap AND decent place that I come across, there’s no question I’ll stay.

A large Communal Area: Some of the best perks of traveling alone are meeting new people from different parts of the world. Some of the best travel stories I’ve heard came from strangers in a hostel common room.  Some of my best memories are of sitting around a big camp fire listening to someone on a guitar and singing with total strangers. Or maybe on couches playing cards, or the hostel bar cheering to random non-sense. People mingle, meet, make friends. It’s great

A community kitchen: I know lots of backpackers, myself included, who specifically look for places where they can cook their own food. It’s loads cheaper than eating out every day, and backpackers like to save when they can.The Ultimate Hostel

I once met this couple that cooked a gigantic pot of rice. They cooked a whole chicken they got at the market, cut it up into tiny chunks and mixed it with the rice and some other spices. Then they divide the whole thing into probably 30 little ziplock baggies, of which they put all into one great big sack. They had some sporks they stole from a Taco-bell somewhere, and were set. They could be seen daily eating out of one of these little portable bags. They spent maybe $7 on all the ingredients, and spread it out to around 30 meals. Can’t beat that. I might also add that a kitchen area is also a good place to meet new people, and maybe learn a new cooking method used by various travelers.

Free wifi: In all rooms. And that works. Most backpackers won’t forego the Internet for long, so if you save them from having to spend the money at an Internet cafe, they will be happy.

Organized events: I love places that actually have stuff going on. it brings people together, it keeps boredom away. board game night, poker night, beer pong, karaoke, whatever.

Airport shuttle: This doesn’t apply to all places, but if a hostel is advertising free pickup from an airport that I’m flying into, I’ll usually book it sight un-seen. The price of a taxi can cost as much a nights accommodation a lot of times, and saving backpackers this expense will keep them coming.

Warm showers: Backpackers sometimes go a long time without it, so it will be an appreciated luxury.

Lockers and safes: I usually stay in dorm rooms to save money, and lockers in these rooms are an absolute necessity. Smaller ones in reception is sometimes nice too, for money or passports.

Bi-lingual and helpful staff: well I guess it kinda self explanatory, but a lot of hostels ”hire” volunteers to work for accommodation, and not all of them really care about guests. Sometimes they are cool because they are usually travelers as well, but only if they do a good job.

Business cards with maps: It’s easy to grab a card from the hostel before going out, and then have something with an address on it. It always works well, especially when in a country where I don’t speak the language. I also save all cards of places I really liked, and give them to travelers going in that direction later.

Book exchange: It’s just another convenience to travelers. All backpackers need something to read on long buses or trains, and finding a place to trade in your old book for a new is always a relief. It’s always fun as well, to see the old Lonely Planets that start to collect and compare them to the new.

Excursions: My dream hostel would be by the ocean somewhere beautiful and warm, I would have my own boat, and would offer diving and fishing excursions, and more.

A bar: One that doesn’t just sell alcohol, but drinks and snacks as well.

A restaurant: Some backpackers don’t want to cook for them selves, and don’t want to wander around town looking for food. I’ve stayed at hostels that have their own restaurants attached, and they give you a breakfast voucher when you check in..Seems like a good idea.

Other perks and nececities  that are worth mentioning but don’t need an explanation would be:
-A pool
-NO “squaty potties”
-Mosquito nets (where needed)
-Fans or AC, (or heaters)
-No street noise
-Taxis’ numbers on hand
-Gate security 
-Clean bathrooms (no missing toilet seats)
-Soft beds
-Luggage check room for when on excursions
-Cool and hip themes. No ugly Soviet Block housing without signs out front 
-Big Communal clothes washing sinks and clothes lines
-Late check-outs


Am I missing anything?

Justin Carmack

Justin Carmack

Wanderer and diver at Art of SCUBA Diving
I've been on the road for 5.5 years now, visiting 80 countries, 6 continents and endless adventures. Divemaster and SCUBA addict. Travel junkie. World roamer.
Justin Carmack

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