Aspirational travel can be more like reality than you think. Sure, that 19-star safari lodge and the private island in the Maldives might be a little out of your price range right now, but the experiences those luxury accommodations facilitate can be had for a much lower price. We consulted with Hostelworld to find everything from a Swiss adventure chalet to a shack on the beach in Zanzibar that can all be had for under $30 a night.
1. African Bush Backpackers
Marloth Park, South Africa
Price: from $13.42 per night
Right on the border of fabled Kruger National Park, you’ll find 7,500-acre Marloth Park, a smaller yet still spectacular setting and home to the African Bush Backpackers hostel. In stark contrast to the luxe glamping lodges inside Kruger, this modest accommodation provides clean, comfortable rooms set in straw huts with easy access to wild animals. That doesn’t mean you’ll have giraffes walking right up to you in the middle of the night, but it does mean you’ve got an affordable jumping-off point to guided safaris in the park, making your dream of seeing the big five a lot closer.
2. New Teddy’s Place
Paje Beach, Zanzibar
Price: from $22 per night
Sleeping in a palm-leaf hut with a sand floor on a Zanzibar beach sounds like the furthest thing from stressful one could imagine. This complete escape in the beach town of Paje is yours for just over $20 a night, where each room also comes with mosquito netting and fans since A/C and bug spray aren’t included in the package. Teddy’s also has a bar and restaurant, since laying on a beach in Zanzibar is kinda pointless if you can’t post a drink picture. It also has a second location in the even-more-secluded beach town of Jambiani if you want complete privacy.
3. Greg & Tom Hostel
Price: from $16.48 per night
You’re not finding a better location for the price in Krakow than you will at Greg & Tom, a scant 10 minutes by foot from Market Square and St. Florian’s Gate, and a pretty easy walk to the rest of Krakow’s main sights, too. Not satisfied to just open the doors and tell you to go explore, this hostel also offers pub crawls and bike tours through the city, as well as live music and its own bar so the nightlife can come to you. Just be forewarned: While the party here is fantastic, it’s a communal experience. Greg & Tom offers dorm-style accommodation and rents by the bed and not the room.
4. Athens Backpackers
Price: From $19.82 per night
You may get no better pictures of the Acropolis at night than from the rooftop of this hostel, whose elevated sports bar offers soccer and rugby to one side and ancient ruins to the other. The Athens Backpackers hostel sits smack between the Acropolis and the Temple of Olympian Zeus, offering easy access and phenomenal views of both, as well as day trips out to Delphi, Sounio, Nafplio, and other historic sites. You’ll also find ice-cold A/C — never a guarantee in Athens — and a private laundry. All just a short walk from the Acropolis metro stop.
5. Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof
Price: from $29.99 per night
Thirty dollars a night for a hostel might seem a little steep to experienced hostelers, until you remember that this is Switzerland, and lunch at KFC can cost more. Still, this snowbound chalet in the gateway to the Jungfrau would be worth that price anywhere with stunning mountain views off the private balconies and clean wooden furnishings throughout. The Villa also partners with a number of local restaurants to offer prix-fixe menus for guests, which will save you on food if you’re not using the communal kitchen. It can also hook you up with any number of Jungfrau adventures, from paragliding to bungee jumping to jet-boating through Lake Brienz.
6. Urban House Copenhagen by Meininger
Price: from $18.01 per night
Walking past this historic white building in the bustling Verterbro section of Copenhagen, you’d likely think it to be a stately luxury hotel rather than a hostel with beds under $20 a night. But despite being a hostel, it really does have a boutique hotel feel, with a downstairs bar and private cinema that make it tough to pull yourself away and explore the city. The private rooms have classically arched windows and walls painted like urban murals. And you’ll also find a breakfast buffet, bike rental, and daily packed lunches for just a few dollars extra.
7. Emblem Hostel Nishiarai
Price: from $25 per night
Finding anything in Tokyo for $25 should be cause for celebration, but a bed to sleep in might be the most glorious. This sleek hostel in northeastern Tokyo doesn’t look the price either, with modern furnishings and clean, open spaces. Emblem also offers chances for guests to delve deeper into Japanese culture than they might at a traditional hotel, offering weekly meetups with locals, tea making and calligraphy classes, and experiences at cultural sites. It’s also situated in the residential neighborhood of Nishiarai, where you’ll see how the people of the city commute, grocery shop, and generally live in the largest city in the world.
8. The Hat Madrid
Price: from $18.70 per night
Madrid’s first boutique hostel is situated in a grand mansion on the Plaza Mayor, a surprisingly opulent setting for a place with beds under $20 a night. But don’t be fooled by the historic exterior: The Hat is as high-tech as it gets with smart TVs, tablets, and uncomfortably fast dual WiFi connections. The Hat’s central location allows you to walk to other sites like the Puerta del Sol, Gran Via, and La Latina in just a few minutes, which you can explore on your own or take one of the hostel’s free city tours. That is if you’re able to rip yourself away from the tranquil rooftop bar.
9. Yeah! Hostel
Price: from $17.57 per night
This colorful hostel not far from the Paseo de Gracia offers one of the best dinner deals in the city, where you’ll get three full courses plus three drinks for a small upcharge to your room. That alone would be enough to make it your Barcelona home-away-from-home, but the Yeah! also leads free nightly walking tours so you can get the lay of the land, plus pub crawls to introduce you to the city’s notorious nightlife. During hot Spanish summers, you can also cool off at the rooftop pool, or enjoy the air-conditioned hallways and their cartoon and pop culture murals.
10. Selina Cartagena
Price: from $23 per night
The Getsemani neighborhood of Cartagena may be the perfect mixture of history, art, and location, just a few blocks from the walled old city and dotted with murals from local artists. The Selina sits right in the heart of it with two rooftop pools and a bar next to one that serves as the perfect place to begin a big night out. In addition to the regular slew of programming Selina also offers programs where guests can help with a park cleanup or work with local children playing sports or teaching English. It’s the odd party place that also lets you give back, though the private movie room and co-working spaces don’t hurt Selina’s cause either.
11. Lisbon Lounge Hostel
Price: from $22 per night
Going from artist to hostel owner actually doesn’t seem like that big of a leap, especially when you can adorn the rooms with your own work to give the place a distinct character. That’s exactly what the four owners of the Lisbon Lounge did, adding stuff from other local artists to the walls and creating a venerable sleep-over gallery. Beyond admiring their work, you can also take cocktail-making classes, join in on a pub crawl, or take a free walking tour. Or just rent a bike then ride to the maze of bars that is Barrio Alto and figure it all out on your own.
12. St Christopher’s Inn Gare du Nord
Price: from $26.24 per night
The most popular hostel in Paris might not be in such high demand because of its pod beds with curtains and USB ports, but rather for Belushi’s, the downstairs bar where all guests get 25 percent off. Though its location is about 20 minutes from the Champs Elysees by metro, and half an hour from the Eiffel Tower, what it lacks in centrality it makes up for in opportunity for interaction as this ultra-popular spot is never lacking for guests. Many of whom will be happy to join you on one of St. Christopher’s nightly pub crawls.