Essential Guide to Backpacker Hostels in India

498095151.jpg
••• Backpackers in Jodhpur. Dan Herrick/Getty Images

Staying in a dorm room at hostel is a popular choice for backpackers in many locations throughout the world. However, unfortunately, the number of backpacker hostels in India is limited as the concept has been slow to catch on.

Up until recently, Hostelling International in conjunction with the Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI) was the only real backpacker hostel chain in India. This is starting to change though.

Let's take a look the current hostel options for backpackers in India.

Youth Hostels Association of India and Hostelling International

The youth hostel movement, which originated in Germany, was established at a national level in India in 1956 and the first youth hostel was opened in Delhi in 1970. The YHAI now provides a chain of affordable accommodations across India, as well as organizes adventure and educational events.

Members of the YHAI or a Hostelling International affiliated association can stay at the hostels at a discounted rate, while non-members must pay a supplement. It's possible to buy membership on arrival at the hostels.

Hostelling International has a handy hostel finder on its website. YHAI also has a list of its hostels on its website.

The main drawback of staying at a youth hostel in India is that many of them have an institutional feel. They're traditionally managed and have curfews as well as stringent, and sometimes inconvenient, rules.

(For example, no smoking and no drinking, and the hostel in Delhi doesn't allow rooms to be occupied during the day). The hostels also commonly lack a vibrant international atmosphere, which foreign backpackers seek, as the majority of guests tend to be Indians looking for cheap lodging.

Hence, foreign backpackers have preferred to stay at budget hotels in India.

There is some good news though! Many groovy new backpacker hostels have opened up in India in the last few years to fill the gap in the market. Not surprisingly, they're very popular and are expanding.

Vedanta Wake Up!

Vedanta Wake Up!, established in 2011, calls itself a chain of luxury backpacking hotels. However, it also fits into the hostel category as each property offers dorm accommodations with four to eight bunk beds per room, as well as private double rooms.

The environment is also very much like a backpacker hostel. Each property has a fully equipped lounge with wireless Internet, computers, TVs, DVD players, books, guitars, board games, and maps. Plenty of activities are organized so that travelers can get to meet one another. These include local bar crawls, sightseeing trips, dinners, and karaoke nights.

If you think Vedanta Wake Up! sounds fun, you're right! Creating an energetic atmosphere was one of the main goals of the chain's two owners. They were inspired by the ambiance (as well as the comfort, cleanliness and amenities) experienced at hostels in Australia on a backpacking trip in 2009.

Currently, Vedanta Wake Up! has locations in five places in Kerala -- Fort Kochi, Alleppey, Kovalam, Varkala, Thekkady --- and Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu.

Another branch will be opening soon in Munnar. More information is available from their website.

Read reviews and compare prices on TripAdvisor: Vedanta Wake Up! at Fort Kochi, Alleppey,  Kovalam, Varkala, Thekkady, Kanyakumari.

Zostel

Zostel, launched in 2013, is a very cool chain of backpacker hostels in India, with a funky modern international feel. Dorm rooms (with six and eight beds) are offered. Female-only dorms are available, as too are private rooms at some properties.

All rooms are air conditioned and have access to free wireless Internet. The properties also have communal kitchens, and lounges with books, games and TVs. Private lockers and laundry service are provided as well. In addition, Zostel runs trips to various destinations in India.

Zostel has expanded to have properties in Jodhpur, Jaipur, and Udaipur in Rajasthan, as well as Delhi, Agra, Varanasi, Baroda (Vadodara), and Goa.

They plan to be in 30 Indian cities before the end of 2015! More information is available on their website.

Read reviews and compare prices on TripAdvisor: Zostel at Jodhpur, Jaipur, Udaipur, Agra, Delhi, Goa, Vadodara, and Varanasi.

Moustache Hostel: Delhi and Jaipur

Moustache Hostel (so named because nothing is more Indian than a Rajasthani mustache) has been created by backpackers for backpackers. It has the facilities and vibe that you'd expect at a decent backpacker hostel. This includes common room with games, terrace to chill out on, garden, kitchen, wireless Internet, and lockers. The artwork on the walls is particularly groovy. There's also a mediation room! The hostel has 64 beds in total, spread over eight rooms and two floors. Each room has eight bunk beds.

The Moustache Hostel isn't located in Delhi's Paharganj backpacker district but rather a quieter (and safer) south Delhi residential neighborhood of Greater Kailash I colony. The closest Metro train station is 900 meters away and it takes around 50 minutes to reach the Old City. Other tourist attractions such as Qutab Minar are 20 minutes away.

In early 2015, Moustache opened up another branch in Jaipur. It's a designer hostel, created from scratch, which looks very attractive and plush indeed!

More information is available from the Moustache Hostel website.

Read reviews and compare prices on TripAdvisor: Moustache Hostel Delhi and Moustache Hostel Jaipur.

The Madpackers Hostel, Delhi

A place for "community, friendships and stories", The Madpackers Hostel opened in late 2014, and has a trendy south Delhi location just a few minutes from Hauz Khas Metro station and Hauz Khas village. Its rooftop terrace even has real grass. How fabulous! Expect to pay 650 rupees for a bed in a dorm (both mixed and female-only are available) or 2,500 rupees for a private room, with breakfast included.

More information is available from The Madpackers Hostel Facebook Page.

Read reviews and compare prices on TripAdvisor: The Madpackers Hostel Delhi.

Jugaad Hostel, Delhi

One to keep an eye out for, this hostel launched in February 2015 and gets its name from the Hindi term "jugaad" --  loosely meaning to improvise, using limited resources to overcome restraints. It was started by the owners of TravelSense India, a company that provides bespoke holidays in India, based on inspiration from their backpacking days in Europe. The hostel is located in R K Puram, in south Delhi. It's divided into four dorms, one private room, and also has a rooftop cafe. Prices begin from 700 rupees for a dorm and 2,500 rupees for a private room.

More information is available from the Jugaad Hostel Facebook Page.

Read reviews and compare prices on TripAdvisor: Jugaad Hostel Delhi.

Crashpad Hostotel: Jaipur and Jodhpur

A cross between a hostel and a hotel, Crashpad is a step up from the rest. It provides stylish and modern backpacker accommodations, with both dorms and private rooms.  All rooms have been tastefully designed and decorated with individual themes that depict colorful cities in Rajasthan. Beds in a dorm room at the Jodhpur Crashpad cost 349 rupees each, while private rooms are 1,199 rupees. Beds in a dorm room at the Jaipur Crashpad cost 499 rupees each, while private rooms are 1,899 rupees. The Jaipur Crashpad has a private terrace.

More information is available from the Crashpad website.

Read reviews and compare prices on TripAdvisor: Crashpad Hostotel Jaipur and .

Le Pension, Jaipur

French for "bed and breakfast", Le Pension offers homely accommodations plus a free breakfast to start your day.  The hostel's first property is located in the upscale residential neighborhood of Shyam Nagar in Jaipur. It has both mixed and female-only dorms. You'll also find all the facilities that you'd expect in a modern backpacker hostel, including cozy common room, free wireless Internet, and friendly upbeat atmosphere. There's a rooftop terrace too. Rooms are cleaned daily, and towels and bedding are provided.

More information is available from the Le Pension website.

Read reviews and compare prices on TripAdvisor: Le Pension.

Bunkstop, Jaipur

The newest entrant on the hostel scene in Jaipur, Bunkstop is situated in C Scheme, near MGF Mall. There are eight air-conditioned rooms, including 12 bed mixed dorms, six bed mixed and female dorms, four bed mixed dorms, two bed mixed rooms, and a private double room. Dorm beds start from 500 rupees and private rooms 999 rupees. Breakfast is additional.

More information is available from the Bunkstop Facebook page.

The Hosteller, Jaipur and Delhi

The Hosteller is a substantially-sized, hip, new backpacker hostel in a spacious building with 28 rooms and multiple balconies, in Jaipur's Shayam Nagar. The views are splendid, the guests are cool, and the manager is extremely helpful.  Facilities include library, movies, Play Station 3, washing machine, fully-equipped kitchen, barbecue, grocery deliveries, and shared lounge.

The Hosteller recently opened another branch in south Delhi's hip Hauz Khas neighborhood.

More information is available from the Hosteller website.

Read reviews and compare prices on TripAdvisor: The Hosteller Jaipur and The Hosteller Delhi.

Stops Hostels: Varanasi, Jaipur and Delhi

Stops Hostels is another chain of boutique hostels with plans to expand across India. The focus is on exploration and numerous activities are arranged including Bollywood nights, Indian cook-outs, local music events, and vibrant festival celebrations.

Stops Hostels launched its first property in Varanasi in early 2014 and it immediately became a hit with travelers.  The hostel is a groovy social space with library, balconies and verandahs, a fully equipped kitchen, and Indian street food bar. The chain opened properties in Jaipur and Delhi in 2015.

More information is available from the Stops Hostel website.

Read reviews and compare prices on TripAdvisor: Stops Hostel Varanasi and Stops Hostel Delhi.

International Travelers' Hostel, Varanasi

The International Travelers' Hostel is a hostel with a difference. Almost like a homestay, it's located in the owner's ancestral home that's been in the family for more than five generations. The hostel offers something for everyone -- beds in clean dorm rooms (400-600 rupees per night), private air conditioned double rooms (2,800 rupees per night), and you can even pitch a tent in the garden for only 200 rupees a night! Of course, there's the wonderful community environment that you'd expect from a backpacker's hostel too. A bonus is that healthy and fresh food is prepared and served there. However, do note that it's vegetarian only.

More information is available from the International Travelers' Hostel website.

Read reviews and compare prices on TripAdvisor: International Travelers' Hostel.

Red Door Hostel, Goa

Also opened in early 2014, Red Door Hostel is located less than five minutes from Anjuna beach in north Goa. Newly built in traditional Goan style, it offers dorms as well as private rooms with all necessary, albeit shared, amenities. The hostel aims to foster an intimate, fun, friendly and warm atmosphere. It has large communal lounge area, terrace, huge garden with hammocks, fully equipped communal kitchen, fully functional bar offering reasonably priced drinks.

More information is available from the Red Door Hostel Facebook Page.

Read reviews and compare prices on TripAdvisor: Red Door Hostel.

Jungle Hostel, Goa

Jungle Hostel occupies a restored Portuguese style house amidst a lush jungle (as you'd guess from its name) on the road to Vagator beach. It has a chilled out party vibe with an awesome communal area, and its friendly Goan owner has traveled all over the world and makes sure the hostel lives up to international standards. There are dorm rooms and air conditioned private rooms (in a separate less atmospheric annexe) to choose from. Guests who are into music will appreciate the guitars and drums that are available for use. Breakfast is free.

More information is available from the Jungle Hostel Facebook Page.

Read reviews and compare prices on TripAdvisor: Jungle Hostel.

Prison Hostel, Goa

A novel concept in hostels, the Prison Hostel takes fun mug shots of it's inmates...err, guests! However, the prison concept stops there. This hostel is an extremely laid back and social place, perfect for party people (don't expect to go to bed early there). It's located 10 minutes from Anjuna beach. The beer is cheap and the fridge is stacked full, and an awesome breakfast is included in the tariff.

More information is available from the Prison Hostel Facebook Page.

Read reviews and compare prices on TripAdvisor: Prison Hostel.

Wanderers Hostel, Goa

Situated close to Morjim beach in north Goa, Wanderers is a new hostel in a revamped Goan bungalow. Along with dorm rooms, the hostel offers fabulous private tents with attached western bathrooms in the back garden. They're excellent value! There's also a common room, room with a pool table, library, free breakfast, wireless Internet, and communal kitchen.

More information is available from the Wanderers Hostel website.

Read reviews and compare prices on TripAdvisor: Wanders Hostel

InnDia Hostel, Amritsar

Opened in August 2014, this newly constructed boutique hostel incorporates elements of Punjabi culture and hospitality. It has five rooms (providing dorm and private accommodations) with space for 26 guests. Each room has an attached bathroom.  A massive breakfast is served to guests. There's also all the expected free amenities, including Internet, kitchen, laundry, DVDs, TV, books and games. Dorm beds cost from 500 rupees and private doubles 1,600 rupees per night.

More information is available from the InnDia Hostel website.

Read reviews and compare prices on TripAdvisor: InnDia Hostel

Jugaadus Eco Hostel, Amritsar

Located a little away from the chaos of the city but around 10 minutes walk from the Golden Temple, this hostel also gets its name from the Hindi term "jugaad". A jugaadu is a person who is good at improvising, and the well-traveled owner has attempted to do this in various ways to keep the budget low, make the place eco-friendly, and help people know about Punjabi culture. The hostel occupies an air conditioned two story building, with four dorm rooms and outdoor terraces. Beds are priced from 400 rupees per night. A bonus of staying here is that the hostel arranges their own tours in and around Amritsar.

More information is available from the Jugaadus Eco Hostel website.

Read reviews and compare prices on TripAdvisor: Jugaadus Eco Hostel

Do look out for more hostels coming soon! (And in case you're wondering, Indian guests are most welcome. The hostels cultivate an international environment where people from all countries can mix together).