The Best Backpacker Hostels in India

India is one of the places that any seasoned traveler has to visit at least once. It’s beautiful, mysterious, and overwhelming at times, but one thing’s for sure—you’ll never get bored here. It’s also a traveler’s paradise, due to the low cost of living, inexpensive places to stay in, and cheap food. India’s changing landscape offers a backpacker a variety of sights and sounds, and the vastness of the country calls for a longer stay here. All of these things contribute to why so many backpackers from the West trek across India for an experience of a lifetime.

Backpacking in India

But India is not a walk in the park. This is not a country wherein you just pack your bags and head here without taking the time to know what to expect. If you’ve decided to come here and you’ve heard the rumors, well, it’s true. This is not the place for the faint of heart. While it has been rated as one of the top destinations of travelers, the country can push you to your limits at times. For women, the country can be stressful as men often stare, and some of them will also try to cop a feel. That’s why it pays to be prepared before visiting the country to truly enjoy your stay.

Part of being prepared is knowing what to pack and what hostels are good to stay in, especially if you’re backpacking. Because your belongings have to fit in just one backpack or suitcase, it pays to be selective about what you’re going to tote to India. Apart from comfy and appropriate clothing, here are other things that you should consider bringing with you:

  • Anti-mosquito repellent – mosquitoes can be relentless in many parts of India. A daily layer of anti-mosquito lotion can be an added protection against malaria, aside from the shot that you got before traveling.
  •  A smartphone – though you can access Wifi in limited parts of the country, a smartphone is a good alternative to a tablet or a laptop so you can still check and answer emails, make quick posts on your social media accounts, and of course make calls or send text messages. It can also be your source of music as you can save your personal playlists if you get tired of hearing nothing but the local music. And even though most Indians can speak English, it’s extremely useful to have an app on your phone that translates your language into Hindi.

A smartphone that has two SIM card slots would be useful so you can still use your original SIM, and you can get another SIM in India so you can make local calls whenever you need to do so. Make sure both SIM cards are topped up , and never leave the hostel without charging your phone.

  •  A heavy duty padlock with key – most hostels will provide you with your own locker to store your belongings. To keep your stuff secure and safe from sticky fingers, make sure to put a lock on your locker before going to sleep and whenever you’ll be away from the hostel.
  •  Travel adaptor – India has a strange power system that you won’t find in other countries. If you want to charge your gadgets, you’re going to need an India travel adaptor. You can buy these at many corner stores in the country, but some are made to last a week, so best be wary of where you spend your rupees.

hand sanitizer
Bring hand sanitizer

  •  Hand sanitizer – in India, everyone eats with their hands and it truly is a fun way to experience the amazing cuisine here. But of course, your hands will be teeming with bacteria from riding on trains, rickshaws, and buses. You’ll need this to clean your hands before and after eating.
  •  Ear plugs – these are essential, as the streets can be incredibly loud, even at night when all you want is to get some sleep. Drivers have a habit of honking their horns really loud, so if you don’t want to be disturbed by the noise, bring ear plugs and some extra pairs for backup.
  •  Sheets and pillow cases – some hostels may have less-than-immaculate bedding, so it might be a comfort to you to know that you’re sleeping on your own beddings. Don’t bring quilted sheets or blankets as these are very bulky and will take up precious room in your backpack.

Staying in a dorm or hostel is the obvious choice for backpackers, as the cost of lodging is very cheap. Unfortunately, one of the many drawbacks of staying at a hostel in India is that many of them have an institutional feel. They’re traditionally managed and have curfews, as well as strict and sometimes inconvenient rules. Among these rules is no smoking or drinking, or no staying in the rooms during the day. The hostels also lack an international feel, as the majority of guests tend to be Indians looking for cheap lodging.

The good news is that during the past few years, some new hostel chains have opened up in India to fill the gap in the market. Here are three great hostels that you should check out during your stay in the country:

1. Zostel
Where: Jodhpur and Jaipur
Cost: $6.00 a night

zostel hostel
Rest at Zostel Hostel

Newly launched in 2013, this is a very cool chain of backpacker hostels in India, with a very modern and international feel. Dorm rooms with six to eight beds are offered. Female only dorms are available, as well as private rooms in some branches.

Upon checking in, you will be assigned your own locker, and enjoy a respite from the heat with 24/7 airconditioning. The facilities are well kept and cleaned on a daily basis, and there’s also a daily laundry facility. The kitchen is open to everyone and equipped with everything you need to make a quick meal.

For fun, you can check out the common room where you can play games, watch TV, or read books. They also have free Wifi, so you can surf the web to your heart’s content.

2. Vedanta Wake Up!
Where: Fort Kochi, Alleppey, Kovalam, and Varkala
Cost: Starts at $539 per couple for 5 days and 6 nights

vedanta wake up
Relax at Vedanta Wake Up!

This hostel chain was established in 2011, and it’s definitely more luxurious than other hostel chains in the country. It offers dorm accommodations with four to eight bunk beds per dorm, as well as private double rooms. Each Vedanta site organizes plenty of activities so that travelers can meet and spend time with one another. Examples of activities are bar crawls, sightseeing trips, dinners, and karaoke nights. So you’re not just paying for a place to rest your weary head, but you’re also paying for some fun experiences.

Each property has a fully-equipped lounge with Wifi access, computers, TVs, DVD players, guitars, books, board games and maps. You’ll never get bored even if you intend to stay in for the night, that’s for sure.

3. Moustache Hostel
Where: South Delhi
Cost: $11 a night for a non-airconditioned room; $12.64 for an airconditioned room

moustache hostel
Stay at Moustache Hostel

This hostel was created by a group of backpackers for backpackers, and it has a very modern and artsy vibe that many young people will appreciate. The location makes it easily accessible and there are many restaurants, food stalls, and shopping centers nearby. The hostel has 64 beds, spread over eight rooms and two floors. Each room has eight bunk beds.

At Moustache Hostel, there’s a terrace to chill out, aside from the common room where one can play games or watch TV. There’s free Wifi access and a kitchen. There’s even a meditation room where you can chill out.

Backpacking in India is fun and exciting. It’s even better as long as you remember what to do, what to bring, and where to stay. Be prepared, expect the unexpected, and have a great time backpacking!

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