In case you haven’t noticed from my previous posts, I am a big fan of hostels. I love them. I rely on them for pretty much everything. Often, I don’t do any research before heading to a new destination, I just book a hostel that looks cool. When I get there, the guy behind the desk unfolds a map, marks out the most popular things to do, nice places to eat then I go and sit in the common room or bar and find some people to go with to check those things out. When I was ready to leave I would just ask for the bus details for the next step and the hostel would usually be able to help me out. It makes backpacking a breeze and everything a surprise! My kind of travel.
I was pretty apprehensive when I was researching India online. I mean there just didn’t seem to be any hostels like I was used to! What was I going to do? All of my travels through South America and Europe had relied heavily on hostel input to meet people and provide information, how could I get by without that?
My first step was to go out and buy a guide book! My first guide book ever. I am a firm believer that word of mouth is the best information you will ever get, but this was India, it was a big deal. I didn’t want to get stuck somewhere with no idea where to go. To be honest I was extremely glad I bought it. I recommend everyone picks up a Rough Guide or Lonely Planet for India.
Anyway, even with the guide book giving me the information that the hostel receptionist usually would, I still had the problem of not knowing how to meet other backpackers to travel with.
Well, after travelling for 3.5 months in India, I managed to stumble across a bunch of places where I met other people, and where you should easily be able to meet other people too. I decided to make a post about it to help out anyone else in the same boat as me! So here goes.
New Delhi – Moustache Hostel
This is the PERFECT starting point for those of you coming to India for the first time and flying in to Delhi. There are always lots of other people here who are just starting, along with a mix of people ending their trip. This is a winning combination because you can easily find other to travel with whilst getting advice from people who have already been here a couple of months. Everyone I know who starts their trip in Delhi at Moustache Hostel doesn’t seem to mind the capital so much. People who stay elsewhere, for example Paharganj, are hassled by touts the moment they arrive and often have a negative experience and end up simply hating Delhi. This hostel is located in a middle class area in the South and is a good place to find your feet when just starting your Indian adventure.
Mumbai – Travellers Inn
There are not very many good budget accommodation options available in Mumbai. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find this place on my first trip here but I have heard it’s better than most. There are also not many places in Bombay with dorm rooms, this is one of the few!
Agra – Travellers Rest Home
Agra is even worse. A must visit to see the magnificent Taj Mahal, but the city itself and it’s accommodation options leave much to be desired. I stayed in a private room at Travellers Rest Home because there were seemingly no dorms available anywhere in Agra. This place is recommended by the guide books and I see it as the best of a bad bunch. I have never heard of any budget travellers staying somewhere nice in Agra. There is a restaurant in the middle of the courtyard with the rooms surrounding that make a good place to strike up conversation with diners and other travellers staying there. The food is pretty good too.
Jaipur – Zostel Hostel
One of my favourites. I met many awesome people here! Like Moustache, this is exactly what a hostel should be. Dorm beds, a kitchen, free filtered water, air con (pretty handy for the high temperatures of Rajasthan) and friendly helpful staff. Although Jaipur itself isn’t the most exciting place in India, I spend 6 days here just hanging out at Zostel with all the cool people I met there.
Pushkar – Milkman Guesthouse
The cheapest place I stayed in India. I payed only 80 Rupees for a dorm bed here. The dorm is pretty unimpressive actually, but it’s still a dorm which means you will meet and befriend everyone else in the dorm! There is also a restaurant with wifi where everyone hangs out, including those clever enough to take the still cheap private rooms. If you are heading to Pushkar, this will certainly be a good place to stay to meet people.
Udaipur – Lalghat Guest House
I love this place! Best dorm setup ever. It’s a 12 bed dorm but it’s in a huge room and there are concrete walls dividing each bed into groups of two and then each bed has it’s own curtain to go around with lockers underneath the bed. Excellent privacy for a dorm and great security too. There is also wifi! I met people here in the height of low season who I travelled on to Jaisalmer with and went with them on a camel safari.
Jaisalmer – Dylan’s cafe and Guesthouse
Dylan’s cafe has a dorm or cheap private rooms, some with A/C if you want it! It’s recommended by the guide books which means there is usually many other travellers there. I met people here who I bumped into again and again later on in my trip.
Jodhpur – Zostel Hostel
Just like the Zostel in Jaipur, Jodhpur boasts all of the same facilities. This is the second of a chain and they are looking to expand. I hear Udaipur is next. I stayed here in May 2014.
Amritsar – Golden Temple – HIGHLIGHT****
The golden temple in Amritsar is a must visit for any trip to India. It is unlike anywhere else in the world. The Sikh temple and the Sikhs who run it are very inviting and welcome to everyone. So much so that you can stay and eat FOR FREE. Thats right, completely free. Amongst the thousands of Indian pilgrims who flock to the temple year round, there is a dorm set up specifically for foreign tourists. I had an excellent time staying here and met many people who I travelled further onwards with. You can easily go further into the complex from your accommodation and the free kitchen which operates every day is just a 2 minute walk. This is one of the most impressive set ups I have ever seen, hundreds of volunteers working in Unison to feed over 10,000 people per day, for free. You have to experience it to believe it.
Varanasi – Stops Hostel
I stayed in a guest house in Varanasi and had to resort to talking to strangers on the street in order to find some people to hang out with. A friend I travelled with alter on told me about a new place which had just opened up called Stops, which has all the makings of a proper hostel. I wish I knew about it when I was there!
Kerala. Fort Kochi (Cochin), Kovalam, Varkala, Alleppey – Vedanta – Wake Up!
These 4 hostels are scattered in the most popular parts of Kerala. Unfortunately these were hostels I didn’t know about when I was there but that I found out about later.
I love this place! Surrounded by rice paddies and mountains of boulders. Hampi is my favourite place in India and I think staying at Goan Corner had a lot to do with that. There are dorms, privates or you can sleep in hammocks or on the roof! There is a huge inside/outside restaurant andchill out area which is always bustling and full of friendly travellers. You will meet loads of other people here whether you like it or not!
Goa – Jungle Hostel and Prison Hostel
I stayed for a week in Jungle hostel and met people there I travelled with for 3 weeks and others I have kept in touch with on facebook and seen elsewhere in India. This is the best place to stay in Goa as far as I am concerned. It’s not far from the beach and has many dorms, 50 rupee beers for sale, a kitchen with a water filter and a tip top atmosphere. I didn’t stay at Prison Hostel but it’s owned by the same people and from what I have heard from other travellers who have stayed there, fits into the same mould.
So there you have it.
Armed with this information and your guide book, you have no excuse for worrying about travelling alone or being by yourself at any time in India. This list covers many starting points and popular destinations and should have you fighting potential travel buddies off with a stick once you arrive here. I wish I knew about all of this before coming to India. Good luck with your trip and happy travels.
You can find information about all of these places on tripadvisor, hostelworld or by doing a google search. Alternatively just go to that city and tell the Tuk Tuk driver to take you there – make sure you tell them you already have a reservation, even if you don’t, or they will try to take you somewhere else in order to get commission.