1. Dal Bo Hostal — Caracas, Venezuela
Every single hostel, hotel, motel, lodge, and guest house in Caracas was prohibitively expensive. So, you had no idea what to expect when you showed up at… Dal Bo. How could it be so cheap here? What ulterior motives must these people have? Is this a trap set by revolutionary Bolivarian socialists to demand ransom from international tourists to fund their campaign to oust Hugo Chavez, who they don’t find to be radical enough?
Were they a cannibalistic cult preying on the fresh meat of supple young backpackers? Would this become the site of your grisly murder? Should you write your epitaph before you enter, so that your mom doesn’t come up with some corny elegy that your soul will have to deal with from beyond the grave for eternity? Nope, as it turns out, Gustavo and Brenda eagerly welcomed you in and handed you a fresh arepa upon your arrival. (P.S. you’re crazy.)
2. Tucano House — Florianópolis, Brazil
It seems like every asshole in the world is staying on Florianópolis. It probably has nothing to do with Brazil, this island, or anything other than the week you arrived (just post-Carnaval), but for some reason you’re getting perpetually clowned on like this was 7th grade gym class. It feels like the international convention of Anglo-Saxon Dickheads: wankers from Manchester, douchebags from Boston, and wackers from Perth.
But then again, you’ve spent all your time near the resorts on the north end of the island. You’re just about to head somewhere else in search of better people when a local bartender recommends you visit the Lagoa da Conceição. He tells you to go to the nearby Tucano House for “good vibe people.” After optimistically checking in, you survey the outdoor pool bar. All of those dudes you hated from the north side of the island are sitting at the bar laughing over caiprinhas.
3. Samba Villa — Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
You were staying down in Copacabana when Marjolijn, your new Dutch love-interest, suggested you head to Lapa’s street parties. You said that you’re a sucker for street parties, but you really meant that you’re a sucker for beautiful girls asking you to do things with them. Together you took a metro, a bus, and a cab up to Lapa.
The neighborhood was completely inundated with weekend party people. It felt like there were 20,000 people here just drinking in the street, having a blast. Everybody was so jovial; strangers offered you and Marjolijn swigs off their cachaça bottles. The crowd started to swell and you couldn’t move.
Suddenly a human wave thrusted you through the street. She looked scared. Not knowing where this train was headed you pulled Marjolijn through the nearest doorway. That’s how you found Samba Villa. Inside the party was still lively, but there was much more breathing space. Marjolijn half-jokingly told everybody that you’d saved her life. In the next six hours you made one hundred new friends in the hostel. People started dissipating, when you snuck over to the lounge and found a couch to crash on. Marjolijn fell asleep in your arms.
4. Hostel Black Cat — Asunción, Paraguay
Four strangers sitting on a big leather maroon couch in the Black Cat’s lounge are arguing about the best view of Iguazu Falls. The German and the Korean both insist that it’s from the Brazilian side, the Brit and the Swede are positive that it’s from the Argentinian side. This absurd geopolitical squabble has been going on for at least 45 minutes. Cameras are being pulled out to show “definitive proof” of the “unparalleled beauty” of the Brazilian side.
Proponents of the Argentinian side ask the front desk to borrow printer paper so they can draw diagrams of the “perfect angle to see the falls.” As the dispute gets more heated, more guests pour into the lounge to watch. An hour later the combatants finally “agree to disagree.” They hug, and decide to celebrate this armistice by watching a movie. Now the Korean and the Brit want to watch The Big Lebowski and the German and the Swede want to watch Bridesmaids. Just another rainy day in Asunción.
5. Lime House – Buenos Aires, Argentina
You promised yourself that when you got back to Buenos Aires you would stay somewhere less intense than the nonstop party hostel you stayed at last time. You wanted the kind of place where the evening’s highlight is trading travel stories, not dancing on tabletops.
After checking into your room at The Lime House, you met an Israeli guy who was on a mission. After finishing his compulsory two years in the Israeli army he made a promise to his commanding officer that he’d travel to South America with three objectives:
- Climb Macchu Picchu
- Kayak in Bariloche
- Eat at Marini Buffet, at 3666 Santa Fe in the Recoleta.
He was minutes away from completing the third task and invited you along. You hadn’t eaten since lunch and were more than prepared to take down this buffet. Within an hour you were eating the best steak, sausages, sushi, cakes, and ice cream you’ve ever had in your whole life. People at the Lime House are a different kind of hedonist.
6. The Bellavista Hostel — Santiago, Chile
A dozen teenaged backpackers walked out the front door of The Bellavista Hostel towards The Santiago Pub Crawl’s first stop. Earlier in the day you made a verbal agreement with Marta that 10.000 pesos was far too much money to spend on an evening of getting wasted with gap-year revelers. Marta, however, thought it’d be funny to spy on them as they teetered around Bellavista. Marta was a witty grad student from Antofagasta, who’d never really spent time in Santiago. You became quick friends once you realized that you were the only two guests over the age of 22.
The two of you followed the horde into the first bar and sat at a table near the entrance. While the pub crawlers pounded free shots of Sambuca, Marta insisted that you camouflage yourselves behind copies of El Mercurio “like the double agents of Film Noir.” From behind the newspapers you stared at the pub crawlers who were now singing a cacophonic rendition of “Poker Face.” After 20 minutes, the partiers cleared out without noticing you. The disguises worked. You asked Marta if you should follow them to the next venue. She said “no, this is not funny anymore.” She texted her cousin, and found a nearby house party with people closer to your own age.
7. Loki — Cusco, Peru
Up a windy street in Old Cuzco you find a building that was constructed in the 1500s. This isn’t a museum to the past, but a celebration of the immediate present, which was made abundantly clear when, within seconds of entering Loki, you hear someone yell “Blood Bombs!!”
You duck, thinking that an incendiary device is heading your direction, but get up when you realize they are talking about alcohol. Downstairs, flaming shots are being prepared for 50 people. By the time you finally put down your backpack you’re completely wasted.
Like a scientist, you’ve proven that the Andean altitude gets you drunk faster. You wonder if two shots will get you twice as drunk. Then someone else yells “Blood Bombs!”
8. The Adventure Brew Hostel — La Paz, Bolivia
You’ve been waiting for almost an hour at the rooftop bar. You keep looking at your watch wondering where Gautam and Sandra are. You’d had some wild nights with them in Cuzco. Last night they posted on your Facebook wall that they’d be in La Paz by 5pm and would meet you “at the bar inside the The Adventure Brew Hostel.” You keep rereading the post. Are you missing something? Did they mean this Adventure Brew Hostel? Or maybe something worse… did their bus sink on that ferry? Or crash off the side of the mountain? Were they refused entry by the Bolivian border control?
You decide that another beer will quell your unnecessary anxiety. After a few sips you thank the bartender and ask where the beer is from. He says, “it’s made in the brewpub downstairs.” “There’s another bar here?!” you exclaim. You jump up from your seat and dart down the steps. You’ve been sitting at the wrong bar for the last hour! As you quickly swivel around to the second flight of stairs, the force of your body knocks someone down. Gautam falls five steps to the ground. He jumps up, unfazed, and gives you a hug.
9. The Point — Mancora, Peru
Leo, your recent travel partner, wouldn’t stop telling everyone he met about the Full Moon Party that he went to last year on Koh Samui. “Dude, it has got to be, like, hands down the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.”
It was no surprise that he made you high-tail it 34 hours from Arequipa to Mancora after learning from a southbound traveler that The Point was having a Full Moon Party in a few nights. By the time you’d checked into your room (aka put your things down on hammocks) Leo had, without your permission, told you everything to expect at a Full Moon Party: fire twirling, ecstasy, booze, babes, costumes, mushrooms, nudity.
You didn’t even care that you were about to go to the best party of your trip, you were just happy that you could stop talking to Leo.
10. The Secret Garden – Quito, Ecuador
The taxi driver is absolutely confident that he can find the hostel. You’ve already driven down every alleyway in Centro Histórico. You’re not sure if he’s trying to fleece you, or if this place is actually hidden; it is called The Secret Garden after all. After giving him your last $5 bill, you aren’t certain that he’s dropped you off at the right place.
You knock on six different doors before finding the right one. The door buzzes open and you pass through a janky security checkpoint operated by an Ecuadorian teenager who makes the snap decision that you are not here to kidnap guests based solely on your stature and complexion. After checking in you’re led to your dorm through a maze of rooms and hallways ornamented with funky mosaics and murals. Other guests seem to be racing their way up the stairs.
“Where are you headed?” It seems like everyone in the entire building responds in unison: “Dinner!” You put down your bags and follow the horde up to the rooftop terrace, where a family-style dinner is just getting started for 25+ people. The food is good and this whole arrangement kind of reminds you of Thanksgiving dinner, but this happens every night and with an epic view of Colonial Quito.
11. Pit Stop – Medellin, Colombia
You can’t help but wonder who previously lived at the Pit Stop. It’s a mansion in Medellin’s wealthiest neighborhood. This was the only hostel that you’d ever been to with multiple hot tubs that clearly came with the house. Considering Medellin’s Escobarian past, you have to wonder if the previous owner met an early retirement through a blanket of gunfire.
Either way, the neighborhood has changed, and instead of worrying about being capped by a drug cartel, you’re worrying that this Irish dude doesn’t have anything higher than a pair of queens. Between the drinking, card playing, and watching people fall into the swimming pool, the Pit Stop reminds you of an endless high school house party at a rich friend’s parents’ house. Luckily, nobody’s parents are home.
12. La Tortuga – Taganga, Colombia
Why’d you wake up in a hammock for the second night in a row, when you clearly have a room at the other side of the hall? You have a rum problem. Namely, you don’t have any problem drinking a liter of it, running down the beach, and grinding on every chick that comes into El Garaje.
At least that what Monica, La Tortuga’s owner, remembers. She is jovially telling new arrivals about your antics the previous two nights. She’s making fun of you in an affectionate way, like you’re old friends even though you only met two days ago.
She gets your urge to party, you just spent a strenuous week hiking to Ciudad Perdida. Now you’re using the next few days to relax in Taganga’s tranquil bay while slurping on batidos de Oreo and scarfing down Salchipapas.
Tonight you think you’ll follow tradition, by pre-pre-partying at La Tortuga’s bar, followed by pre-partying on the far side of the beach, before making a fool of yourself on the dancefloor of El Garaje, Taganga’s only club. Maybe tonight you’ll actually fall asleep in your own bed (or someone else’s).
13. Hostal Sue – Bogota, Colombia
Bogota was a lot colder than you expected. I mean, you realized that this was the middle of December but, c’mon, this is South America! Sue’s walls weren’t very thick so they gave you heavy blankets to make up for it. You walked to the grocery store to stock your corner of the cabinet in the communal kitchen. You don’t typically cook when you’re on the road, but you wanted to impress her with something. You felt antsy, and didn’t really want to go to the club with the rest of the hostel, so you stayed in and watched a DivX rip of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” with some French dudes.
“Why aren’t you going out?”
“This girl I met on the beach in Mancora is flying into Bogota tomorrow, I’m going to pick her up at 7am. Why aren’t you guys going out?”
“We have malaria.”
In the morning you woke up before the sun did; the bed was cold, but you knew that when the sun rose the next day, another person would make it feel a whole lot warmer.