I was going to try and write about all the hostels I stayed at in one post, but it would have been way too long, and I know you guys have Buzzfeed or Reddit or something else more interesting to get back to. So keep your eye out for hostels of Peru coming soon to a computer screen near you.
i wish i could say i was one of those super planners that was able to sleep for free in every city due to my unparalleled couch-surf-messaging abilities. I’m not. Pretty much the only thing I can successfully plan is what I am going to eat for breakfast tomorrow. So how did I figure out where to rest my head every night for the last few months?
A few years back, before the world-wide-web was truly worldwide, this process was a little riskier. Without reading 400 reviews of Hostel A on Trip Advisor, how would I ever be able to make an educated decision about whether or not it’s facilities were greater than or equal to Hostel B? How could I know if Hostel A even had an available room for me, or if hey had hot water for showers? Luckily, in 2013/2014, all you need to do is comb through hundreds of hostel reviews, create a pro/con list and cost comparison, as well as poll all your friends and you’re all set!
Seriously though, picking a hostel is serious business. I’m going to make it slightly easier for you.. but only if you decide to do the exact same route through Colombia, Ecuador and Peru as I did. Otherwise have fun reading all these somewhat useless reviews.
Lets start at the beginning:
- I only stayed at one hostel in Colombia this trip- since I had originally thought that the entire trip was only going to be a month long, I was intent on making it to the coast of Ecuador as quickly as possible. From my friend’s house in Bogota (who I met through couch surfing in 2012), I took a bus to Cali in the south of Colombia, with the intention of catching a bus to Ecuador the very next day. Within 15 minutes of arriving at Colombian Hostel in Cali, I decided to relax and explore the city for a few days (ok, a week.) Located in a safe neighborhood with great restaurants and fun bars and just a bus ride away from the colonial center, Colombian Hostel is a converted family home with (I think..) 5 shared dorms. The beds are a little hard, but the owners (a brother and sister) are welcoming and friendly, there are free salsa classes almost every day, free breakfast, I never had to wait for a bathroom and the kitchen is open for use all day! approx. $10/night
- Quito: Based on a recommendation from a lovely Kiwi I met at Colombian Hostel, I booked a room for myself and an American couple I met in Cali for a few nights (including New Years Eve) at Community Hostel . Prices were a bit higher than normal due to the season, but still pretty reasonable (I think the most I paid for a night there was $15?). Although the actual facility was super clean, new and nice, there were only 2 single bathrooms for about 50 people, and you pretty much had to sit outside the bathroom door in order to get in to pee (I think they are building new bathrooms that should be open by now- I was there in Dec 2013). Also, like many hostels in South America, Community Hostel has a program that allows volunteers to stay at the hostel for free as a work-trade. Unfortunately, two of the volunteers that were working at the hostel when we stayed there (and the ones that were in charge of check-in/out) were super unfriendly and even rude at times. I am sure they are nice people, but in my opinion, if you are going to work somewhere where your entire job revolves around customer service, don’t be a dick. They do have a killer free walking tour of the old city with a great guide though- I was a little sad he was on vacation for the beginning of our stay in Quito! If I went back to Quito, I probably wouldn’t stay here again- but not so much due to the facilities or staff. The historical part of Quito pretty much completely shuts down around 6 pm, and nightlife is close to non-existent. I would recommend staying in the new town and spending a day or two exploring the historical center. prices $10-15 a night depending on time of year I think..
- Cuyabeno Reserve, Amazon Basin: based off another recommendation, we booked a 4 day, 3 night tour to the Amazon river basin (see post here) and chose the most economical option for lodging. Honestly, I can’t imagine how nice the other ones must have been, because Guacamayo Lodge rocked. As the only single lady on our particular tour, I ended up with a 3 bed cabana-style room to myself with a private bathroom (and hot water!). The lodge provided all food for the trip as well as guides, canoe with driver, wellington boots and rain ponchos (I am SURE I’m forgetting something here.. they took pretty good care of us). I would definitely recommend Guacamayo! $220 for 3 night, 4 day tour from Lago Agrio (transportation to Lago Agrio before the trip and from there afterwards not included)
- Baños: We had received a great recommendation for a hostel in Baños from a French-Canadian couple in the Amazon, but when we arrived there at 6 am from the bus terminal, they were full! The receptionist was nice enough to recommend another place just down the street, so we ended up booking beds at Princesa Maria about 3 blocks down the street. In my opinion, Princesa Maria was a way better location (just 3 blocks from Baños’ main square) and probably a better value! Every room, no matter what size, has a private bathroom- which was a life saver due to the fact that I spent a lot of time in there.. eff you Ecuadorian stomach bug! Baños is FULL of hostels in every price range, but from the people I talked to, I think Princesa Maria was a great value, and the internet was some of the fastest I encountered in Ecuador. Yes, the shared kitchen got a little crowded at dinner time, and the walls were so thin I could hear people in multiple rooms having sex (thank you, couple who got it in and out in less than 2 minutes… fuck you, other couple that decided to argue for 3 hours at 4 am and then have extended make up sex), but all in all you can’t beat the price. $7 a night for a 3 bed dorm, $8 per person a night for a private room
- Puerto Lopez: This may have been the lowest point of my trip. I couldn’t find a hostel online, so I figured I would just walk into one when I arrived. This proved to be a bit more difficult than expected, but finally I found Hostal Acapulco (one of the ONLY places I could find with dorm rooms- most only had doubles or triples). After finding a giant bug in the bathroom and realizing that the huge group of Argentinians in the courtyard right outside my door were neither going to shut up or let me join the party, I was pretty much over the whole place altogether. I was woken up around 6 am the next morning (which was Sunday, mind you) by the radio being played at full blast right outside my door, so I woke up, took a walk through the small town, at some breakfast, and decided to get the hell out of there ASAP. Altogether, the amenities weren’t terrible- I’ve seen more disgusting bathrooms in my day, but I wouldn’t go back for a number of reasons. approx $10 for a 4 bed dorm
- Montañita: I was fully prepared to hate this place. Touted as party central for Ecuadorian backpackers, I had it in my head that I would stay one or two nights then get the hell out. This is another location that makes it pretty difficult for solo travelers to find cheap dorms- most hostels are set up for doubles or triples, and weren’t very accommodating when I asked for a single bed (by accommodating, I mean most receptionists looked at me like I was nuts when I asked for a dorm room, and refused to give me any recommendations on where I could find one). After about 90 minutes of sad-turtleing around Montañita, I ended up at a place a little bit above the main road, across the street from the town. Kiwi Hostel was hands down the main reason I stayed in Montañita for over a week, and I had so much fun cooking, watching movies and hanging out at the beach with the people I met there. Not “technically” set up as a dorm-style hostel, they were awesome about accommodating solo travelers, and had a giant flat screen TV, at least 10 hammocks, 2 amazing hairless Peruvian dogs, and a lovely open kitchen. Although it was slightly more expensive than other places I stayed, I actually saved a ton of money while I was there because we cooked so much! approx $10-15 a night
- Cuenca: After the shitshow I went through to find hostels in both Puerto Lopez and Montañita, I decided that from then on I wasn’t going to risk it with hostels- if I was heading somewhere alone, I would always book a hostel ahead of time, at least for the first night in a new city. In Cuenca, I actually booked 2. The first night there, I booked Hostal Hogar Cuencano– for the price, it was definitely nice! Quick internet, comfy beds, hot showers. But what was lacking was ambiance… the two other girls in my dorm room were really sweet, but other than them, I didn’t really even see anyone else the whole time! The hostel didn’t provide much as far as common space, so there wasn’t a good location for the residents to gather. I would recommend this spot for groups, but for a solo traveller, La Cigale was way more fun (not to mention cheaper)! The layout of the hostel is a little weird, but the showers are hot, the beds are comfortable, and the internet works most of the time. I think the main draw of this spot, though, is the restaurant it is attached to- it was one of the only places on my trip I was able to find legitimate chips and guacamole, and the $2 happy hour mojitos were addicting. Not only would I stay here again, but I was actually offered a work-trade there that made leaving so much harder! $7 for a 6 bed dorm with no breakfast, $10 with breakfast
**** I am realizing now how few photos I have of actual places I slept on this trip.. I am a bad travel blogger and promise to do better next time****
It’s so much fun reliving the time I spent in these places over the last couple months.. especially while I’m sitting in a coffee shop in San Francisco, looking out onto the grey, dreary weather, wondering if its just going to rain a little, or if I need to sprint home ASAP before it starts pouring..