Over the last few years, a number of quirky hostel chains have mushroomed across India. A far cry from the dingy dorm rooms of yesteryear, these stays have facilities on par with hostels in Europe: colourful common rooms, cosy beds, funky wall art, and free Wi-Fi. Most have dormitories and private rooms (some even have girls-only dorms) and they’re all clean, friendly, and affordable. Here’s our list of the best hostels in India, from Varkala in Kerala to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
Flit in and out of sleep on a hammock in the shade of coconut trees at Vedanta Wake Up!’s property in seaside Varkala. The hostel, set amidst a modest landscaped garden, sits on North Cliff, a stone’s throw away from breathtaking beach views and the main street, lined with cafes. Accommodation includes basic dorm rooms, double rooms, and bamboo huts for two.
Where Else: Vedanta Wake Up! is spread across south India, and has 10 branches in Kerala, 5 in Tamil Nadu, and 2 in Karnataka.
Price: Dorm single beds from ₹699; double rooms from ₹2,099.
Zostel’s newest property is in the remote Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh, and prides itself on being the highest hostel in Asia. Surrounded by soaring mountains, the veranda offers views of the Himalayas and green fields. There are dorms and double rooms, as well as outdoor tents for those who want to stare up at the starry, starry night skies. If you don’t want to rough it out in a sleeping bag, Zostel also has a more comfortable tent option with beds and a bathroom.
Where Else: Zostel has 16 branches across the country, including ones at Jodhpur in Rajasthan, Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, and Gokarna in Karnataka.
Price: Dorm single beds from ₹599; double rooms from ₹1,499.
To explore more than Goa’s beaches, check into Old Quarter in Panjim, part of the Hostel Crowd’s chain of budget stays. Old Quarter is smack in the middle of Fontainhas, Panjim’s Latin Quarter, characterised by Portuguese-style homes and signboards. In addition to cosy rooms, the backpacker haunt has a cosy cafe with a great collection of books, ideal for working or catching up over cake and coffee. Pop by Trindade Gallery at Fundacao Oriente, opposite the hostel, for their collection of artworks.
Where Else: The Hostel Crowd has three properties in Goa and one in Kochi, Kerala.
Price: Dorm single beds from ₹300; double rooms from ₹1,000.
Jugaad is in R.K. Puram, close to two of Delhi’s biggest tourist draws: Sarojini Nagar’s bustling markets and Hauz Khas Village’s cafe and bar scene. The hostel’s rooms blend elements of both worlds. The common area has whitewashed brick walls, quirky light fixtures, and wooden furniture with lots of colourful cushions. Jugaad’s rooms are named Siri, Mehrauli, Qila, and Lodhi, after historic monuments and areas in the city, but the hostel’s biggest draw is its open terrace, furnished with cane armchairs and often filled with travellers swapping stories. There are girls-only dorms too.
Price: Jugaad has only one property in Delhi. Dorm single beds from ₹699; double rooms from ₹2,400.
The Moustache Hostel takes its design cues from traditional Rajasthani crafts. The walls bear mirror-work, the reception desk resembles a roadside fruit cart, and sofas are upholstered with bright, block-printed textiles sold by the metre on Jaipur’s streets. After a long day in the city, unwind with a cup of chai on the hostel’s rooftop, which looks out at the stoic Nahargarh Fort. Rooms are basic and clean.
Where else: Moustache Hostel will have two properties in Udaipur and Jaisalmer in Rajasthan and Agra, Uttar Pradesh later this year.
Price: Dorm single beds from ₹450; double rooms from ₹1,700.
Once the summer house for the Queen of Nepal, the International Travellers’ Hostel is now a family-run stay that combines the warmth of a home with the casual atmosphere of a hostel. Choose from dorm beds (girls-only dorms available), double rooms, and tents in the garden. Dhyān, the bistro at the hostel, offers food ranging from puri bhaji to pasta, but tempers down spice levels for international taste buds.
Price: International Travellers’ Hostel has only one property in Varanasi. Dorm single beds from ₹290; double rooms from ₹790.
Jugaadus Eco Hostel is a great base for exploring Amritsar’s rich cultural heritage. Recuperate from trips to the Golden Temple and butter-soaked dhaba meals in Jugaadus’ common room, furnished with tables made from recycled rubber tyres and mattresses stuffed with organic cotton from local farmers. Future plans involve switching to solar energy and developing an organic vegetable garden on the terrace. They also offer guided heritage and food walks, and a night tour of the Golden Temple.
Price: Jugaadus Eco Hostel has only one property in Amritsar. Dorm single beds from ₹350.
Occupying a spacious apartment in Bhelupur, a 10-minute walk from Kedar Ghat, Stops Hostel has basic rooms, Bollywood movie nights, and takes visitors on heritage walks in Varanasi. Score a wooden bench on the terrace to soak in the sounds of Benaras and hang out with other travellers. The common room is perked up by wall paintings, one of which says “So long and thanks for all the fish”, from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Where else: Stops Hostel has one hostel in Varanasi and another in Delhi. They plan to open in Kolkata, West Bengal and Jaipur, Rajasthan as well.
Price: Dorm single beds from ₹499; double rooms from ₹1,499.
The Bunkyard allots rooms to guests based on their music preferences. Pick from flamenco, jazz, reggae, and RnB, which plays in the dormitories through the day. At 5pm every evening, grab a cup of chai (for free) and make your way to the rooftop to watch the sunset. The hostel in Udaipur is big on wall art, and walls are livened up by larger-than-life murals, including one of the famous #FollowMe Instagram series.
Price: Bunkyard has only one property in Udaipur. Dorm single beds from ₹300; double rooms from ₹2,000.
Located in Indiranagar—a short walk from Toit, a popular microbewery—Social Rehab offers a cosy space for backpackers. There are male and female dormitories as well as private rooms, and a shared space with board games. Unwind with a movie from the hostel’s DVD collection. The hostel also arranges for trips to Hampi, Mysore, and Goa.
Price: Social Rehab has only one property in Bengaluru. Dorm single beds from ₹900; double rooms from ₹2,200.
Updated in November 2017.
Fabiola Monteiro was formerly a member of National Geographic Traveller India's digital team. Since then, her words have featured in The Hindu, Mint Lounge, Roads & Kingdoms, The Goya Journal, and Condé Nast Traveller India. She tweets as @thefabmonteiro and is on Instagram @fabiolamonteiro.