| Kaye Holland

Can Hostels Ever Be Luxury?

Thought hostels were just grotty pit-stops for backpackers? Think again! The Sybarite reports on the rise of the designer hostel.

In the past, hostels have always been synonymous with uncomfortable, germ-ridden bunk beds, shared bathrooms and sleepless nights (caused by the fear that someone might steal your suitcase).

They may have been right circa 2000 but they’re wrong in 2016. In the present day, hostels have gone decidedly upmarket, proving that it is possible to sleep in style on a budget.

These new breed of boutique hostels are a world away from their predecessors, turning to focus on quality rather than quantity. Expect stylish extras – think fully equipped, clean kitchens, complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the property, exhibition spaces, funky art work, rooftop terraces and reading rooms – all for an amazingly economic price.

What’s more, owing to their communal spaces, these boutique hostels represent a great way to meet like-minded travellers while simultaneously ensuring a guilt free trip: staying in a boutique hostel (most of which are family owned and run) as opposed to a big chain hotel, means that the money you’re spending will go back into the community.

The company that has arguably led this image change for hostels – and dispel their old image as dirty, shabby, crash pads for skint students – is Generator – aka the pioneer of the posh hostels.

Generator Paris
Generator Paris.

Chic, full of character and invariably located in an enviable postcode, Generator is bridging the gap between backpacker basic and four/five-star luxury chic. Generator Paris – which opened to rave reviews in March 2015 – is situated in the French capital’s up-and-coming 10th arrondissement district and comes complete with a rooftop bar boasting breathtaking views of Montmartre and Sacré Coeur for under US$80 (US$36 if you don’t mind sharing with a stranger). In short, Generator mixes the comfort of a hotel with the sociable DIY aspects of a hostel, providing everything you need while doing away with all the things you don’t.

Freehand Hotels is another hot hostel group that’s changing the game by offering first class facilities (guests can enjoy cocktail bars and private pools) for affordable prices. Freehand made its debut in Miami back in 2012 and has since expanded to Chicago, with plans to open in both the Big Apple and New York imminently.

Freehand Hostel Miami
Freehand Hostel Miami.

Out of the independent options, The Sybarite has soft spot for Santiago’s CasAltura which shows that style is possible on a shoestring. Situated in a beautiful 100-year-old building, CasAltura is more flash cash than backpack thanks to its stunning rooftop terrace, well-designed kitchen, comfortable lounge and dining room, satellite tv and friendly staff. The location is incomparable as well: CasAltura is close to Mercado Central and Parque Forestal (two top Santiago sights) and within easy walking distance of most of the Chilean capital’s must sees and dos. Little wonder then, that this boutique hostel has fast become a hit with savvy Sybarites.

Bottom line? Leave your preconceptions at the door: hostel-hopping around the world no longer requires roughing it. These companies show that you can travel in style without breaking the bank.

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