Here is what I think of when I hear the word hostel: a windowless dorm in Central Europe, circa 1990; 16 squeaky bunks; a Yugoslavian basketball team that snores like wood chippers—and me, pleading in vain for a single room. Back then, $12 would get you a threadbare mattress, a lukewarm shower, and a broken-in social scene.
How I envy the nomads of 2013, with their options for bunking down in style. The no-frills hostel has apparently gone the way of Yugoslavia; today’s model is about sleek design and plenty of perks, from gourmet restaurants to complimentary bike rentals. And many offer private as well as dorm-style rooms.
Freehand Miami has a craft cocktail bar and interiors by design gods Roman & Williams, complete with handmade rugs from Peru, and colorful Mexican serape blankets. In Mexico City, a stay at Downtown Beds, from Grupo Habita, comes complete with a pool and a beer patio, while at Hlemmur Square, in Reykjavík, Iceland, a concierge team is on call to book excursions and there’s live music in the lobby.
At New York’s Bowery House, bathrooms have heated floors and rain showerheads and the restaurant is one of the city’s trendiest, Pearl & Ash. The vibrant Matchbox, a “concept hostel” in Singapore’s Chinatown, even offers a pillow menu.
These modern-day hostels are an unexpected choice for any travelers who assumed they’d outgrown them. I’m now considering Independente Hostel & Suites for an upcoming trip to Lisbon. Back in the day, I’d have traded my Sony Discman for a place as opulent as this onetime ambassador’s mansion where bunks cost as little as $17 a night. But now I’m packing earplugs for my roommates—because I’m the one who snores.
Read on for more hostels that will save you money without sacrificing your sense of style and comfort.
—Peter Jon Lindberg