Think “hostel” and you picture bohemian backpackers and students on a shoestring budget crammed into dorms, drinking wine out of the bottle and eating cheese sandwiches.
Think again â€” with travel costs rocketing and budgets dwindling, cheap but hip hostels are becoming increasingly popular. Sure, you might still have to share just about everything from your room to the kitchen, but when you have your own iMac, home-cooked meals and free Kiehl’s beauty products it doesn’t seem so bad. Here is a selection of five of the world’s hippest hostels, where luxury doesn’t come at a price.
Mama Shelter, Paris: In Paris’ bohemian 20th arrondissement, Mama Shelter is the ugly-duckling-turned-swan of the block. Owned by Serge Trigano of Club Med, with interiors by Philippe Starck, this former multi-storey car park is as trendy and romantic as it is cheap.
Walls are adorned with gritty poetry and graffiti whilst staff are armed with grease pencils to write down their thoughts across mirrors and floors.
Rooms have iMacs and electronic screens run a continuous newsfeed in the counter at the communal bar so you can simultaneously surf the net and eat. Craving a midnight snack?
Switch on your night-light (an illuminated Halloween mask) and head to the kitchen pantry stacked with Nutella chocolate spread and bread. Kiehl’s beauty products in the bathroom come in handy. Prices per night from about $150 for single rooms and about $170 for double rooms; mamashelter.com.
Royal and retro
Living Lounge Hostel, Lisbon: This hostel feels more like a quirky artist’s studio in Baixa than a backpackers pad. Touches of baroque influence the decoration, with heavy gilt frames, scarlet walls and a chandelier made from crystal shot glasses.
Seventeen artists helped with the decoration; one dorm by graffiti artist Dirty Cop evokes author Edgar Allan Poe with its eerie mural of black trees.
The dining room hosts intimate gatherings lit by flashing fairy lights, the garden room has trimmed artificial grass and the vintage barber’s chair in the lounge is perfect for afternoon snoozes.
Dinner is served every night at 8:30 p.m. sharp and costs about $20 for a hearty four-course meal. Prices per night from about $35 for dorms and $90 for private rooms; livingloungehostel.com.
Imm Eco Chiang Mai, Bangkok: Set in a lush tropical garden close to the buzzing Chiang Mai city, Imm Eco focuses on being green and natural. The interiors burst with colour â€”lime greens and fuchsia against wooden floors and the airy open-plan spaces double as yoga studios. The outdoor swimming pool is perfect for cooling down in. Dorms sleep up to 12 people, great for those on a shoestring budget, but individual rooms are available.
The restaurant, HiHi@Barn, is all thatched wood and dangling light bulbs and serves a simple menu using organic produce from the gardens. Prices per night from about $12 for dorms and $48 for private rooms night; immhotel.com.
Centric Point, Barcelona: Escape the hubbub of Barcelona’s Ramblas high street and go to Passeig de Gracia where you’ll find this funky hostel. This is the ideal starting point from which to explore Barcelona, from the beaches to boulevards.
There’s a traveller’s desk from which you can book all sorts of activities and a common room with satellite TV, bar, Wii, foosball and music. Internet access and breakfast are included in the price so if you are a frugal traveller, fill up on flaky Spanish pastries and syrupy coffee.
Prices per night from about $32 for dorms and $82 for private rooms; centricpointhostel.com.
19th century loft
Miss Sophie’s, Prague: Resembling a swanky New York loft, Miss Sophie’s is more boutique hotel than hostel. Housed in an old 19th century building in the heart of Nove Mesto, the interior design is minimal â€” verging on austere â€” but the red brick walls add an element of shabby chic.
The mellow cellar bar with squashy blood-red leather sofas is an ideal place to socialize with other guests.
Dorms sleep up to five people making it friendlier and less intimidating than typical ram-packed rooms and the monsoon-style showers make you forget the downsides of shared bathrooms. The huge lockers situated beneath the beds mean you can keep your worldly possessions safe and sound. Prices per night from about $29 for dorms and $82 for private rooms; miss-sophies.com.