My Top 10 Hostels and Budget Hotels in South America

Here are my top 10 places to stay while travelling through South America, all based on my own experience at the time of my stay during 2017.

Colombia

Casa Viejas – Minca – Colombia

£9 a night

Minca is a small village inhabited by 800 people at an elevation of 650m in the Sierra Nevada above Santa Marta.

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Casa Viejas goes into my top 3 favourite places is stayed during my 6 months in South America. The incredible views out across the valley where on a clear night you can see the twinkling lights of Santa Marta, the pure tranquility of just hearing the birds and the buzz of the jungle below. Waking up to this view every morning was such a treat.

Run by a French couple and their volunteers, Casa Viejas has the best breakfast in Colombia, served with fresh coffee straight from the La Victoria Minca that surrounds the hostel. Freshly filtered water is available, and with no wifi and evening meals served together it is great for socialising and getting to know your fellow guests each evening.

I recommend making the most of the tours available and visit the La Victoria finca via the water falls, and take in the unspoilt beauty.

Recommended – Accessible only by motorbike (with your backpack on your back is fun) or 4×4 this is perfect for travellers who who want to relax and enjoy nature and get away from buzz of the world for a few days

My Rating 10/10

 

Dreamer Hostel – Santa Marta, Colombia

£7 a night

Santa Marta is a city in Colombia. It is the capital of Departamento del Magdalena and the fourth-largest urban city of the Caribbean Region of Colombia,

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Dreamers is like being in an all inclusive resort, where you never have to leave.

Comfy dorms and beds, great shared bathroom with enough showers and toilets so you never have to queue (but avoid using the hand towel) there was a spate of pink eye going round when I was there.

There is Swimming pool  to cool off from the days heat or just chill and recover from your latest trek. There is tasty and well priced food available all day.

The location is perfect for visiting Parque Tayrona for either the day or you can leave your bags in the lock up and go off and explore further along the coast. Anyone doing the Lost City trek will find this a good base to start and finish. One of the best places to meet other travellers from all over the world with each evenings activities and organised day tours – really friendly staff that just makes the whole experience wonderful.

Recommended – Best place to start if you are a hostel virgin or just starting your trip and want to meet people and have some fun. Not for those wanting a quiet night.

My Rating 8/10

Ecuador

Lulú lama – Isinlivi, Ecuador

Price on request.

Isinlivi is a small village high up in the Andean mountains of Ecuador, it one of the town you stay in when doing the four day Quilotoa Loop.

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Lulu Lama is one of those hostels you walk into and think – is this really a hostel – it looks more like a ski chalet you would find in the Swiss Alps, with the wooden interior and burning fire keeping the place toasty warm.

The perfect place to spend a cosy night after a long days hiking . Super cosy dorms and private rooms, or splash out for the cottages that over look the valley.

There is a spa area where you will find a jacuzzi to relax those weary feet with a cold beer. Re count the days hiking with your fellow travellers over some home cooked food, laughing with those that got lost, followed by a game of cards by the fire .

Recommended – Single travellers and couples.

My rating 9/10

 

Hostería Izhcayluma – Vilcabamba Ecuador

£7.80 a night

Vilcabamba- Vilcabamba is a village in the southern region of Ecuador, in Loja Province, about 45 km (28 mi) from the city of Loja

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The perfect last stop in Ecuador before heading into Peru, this hostel definitely  makes my top 3. This is a hotel that offer dorms at hostel prices and the facilities are the best you can find at any hostel in South America.

A beautiful restaurant with an extensive menu freshly cooked for breakfast, lunch and dinner, a separate bar with pool table to unwind after a long days trek, and a swimming pool to soak up the days rays. The highlight and added bonus for all you yogis, is the free yoga each morning and afternoon.

The cabin style private rooms each with a private balcony are perfect for couples or families. The dorms each with 6 singles beds (not a bunk bed in sight) –  each with a mezzanine floor and an incredibly large bathroom.

There are self orientating treks of differing difficulty that surround the hotel and well worth trying out while there.

Recommended – Yogis, couples, families and travellers that need some time out from the usual backpacking and hostel life.

My rating 10/10

Peru

Eco lodge – Mancora – Peru

From £53 a night

Máncora is a town and beach resort in the Piura Region, in northwestern Peru. It is located in the Talara Province and is capital of the Máncora District.

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The perfect treat for a traveller who has been on the road a few months and needs some luxury and comfort at a good price.

My final top 3 of my stays in South America, a small and boutique hotel with only 5 rooms, set around a beautiful garden and swimming pool. The bright pink flowers against the natural wood and bright blue sky are so inviting, I could have stayed here for days.

Off the beaten track away from the hustle and bustle of the Main Street in Mancora – you have real peace and quiet to take stock, write your blog or catch up on life.

Freshly baked breakfast and a super french host to look after you, even Tofu the dog is there to give you comfort.

The rooms are simple and chic, with wood slated walls, grey slate floor and white linens. The enormous king size bed and luxury cotton linens make you just want to cosy up with Netflix or someone else and never leave.

The luxury of having, shampoo , conditioner and soap and freshly washed soft towels all makes this worth it for at least one night for any traveller in the need of some me time .

Recommended – Travellers in the need for some me time

My Rating 10/10

 

Loki del mar, Mancora , Peru

£7 a night

Máncora is a town and beach resort in the Piura Region, in northwestern Peru. It is located in the Talara Province and is capital of the Máncora District.

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Loki is more like walking into an apartment complex in the Costa del Sol , than a hostel that only costs £7 a night.

Promoted as a party hostel, the Loki group have hostels in all the major cities in Peru and in La Paz, Bolivia.

After my luxury 2 night stay in Eco Lodge I was in the mood to party for a few days and Loki did not disappoint.

Full of young 20 something travellers, the day I arrived there was water sliding and gladiator drinking games going on. The music starts at 10am and eventually finishes when the bar closes, which can be anytime the staff deem it no longer full enough to stay open.

The rooms are a good size, mixture of single beds and bunks each with on suite shower room and separate toilets. The Pool is a real bonus and ideal for cooling down in the 30 degree heat or jumping in and joining the many games that are played. The evenings come alive with themed nights, with the day guests from the rest of the resort that come and enjoy the fun.

Happy hour is 6pm to 9pm everyday and if you get beer cap in the bucket you get a free shot. This never happened from want I could see!! The menu is pretty good too and not expensive, with a mixture of local and western food.

Recommended – If you want to sleep then Loki is not for you.

My rating 8/10

 

Wild Olive Guesthouse , Huacachina, Peru

£10 a night

Huacachina is a village built around a small oasis and surrounded by sand dunes in southwestern Peru

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This was a little gem of a find, very clean with plenty of space to relax and unwind and catch up on Netflix. The main living area had 2 great big sofas and large tv, it felt like being at home.

The rooms were possibly a little small for 6/8 bunks, but still very comfy and clean, with great showers and hot water –  Which is all you need after a day of sand surfing in the desert.

There is a cute restaurant attached to the back that over looks the oasis and does great breakfast and food.

Recommended – all types of travellers

My rating 8/10

£6 a night

Magicpacker Hostel – Cusco , Peru

Cusco s a city in southeastern Peru, near the Urubamba Valley of the Andes mountain range. It is the capital of the Cusco Region and of the Cusco Province. This is the main base for all travellers wanting to trek to Machu Picchu.

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The magic packer was my base for a few days before and after my Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu. The rooms were all really big, with larger than usual really comfy bunk beds.

The rooms are all situated around large courtyard, that is perfect for chilling in the sun on bean bags, breakfast is included in the price and isn’t bad for Peru. Its situated just out of the main busy part of Cusco, which makes it much quieter without having to walk-up a hill to get away from it all.

The showers were the best I have had in all my travels in Peru, powerful hot water and plenty of them. There is a lock up for you to leave your large backpack when going on a trek for a few days.

Recommended – For all travellers

My rating 8/10

 

Bolivia

Hostel Wara Uta, sla del Sol, Yumani

£22 a night includes breakfast and Wifi

Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) is an island in the southern part of Lake Titicaca

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At the top of the hill nestled amongst a few other hostels and homes, this little hostel of no more than 4/5 rooms is so idyllic set in a beautifully well maintained garden. The rooms are clean and most of the time has hot water. Its a good walk from the boat with a few hundred steps and steep accent to get to, but so worth it for the views and the friendly greeting from the owner.

The hostel is perfectly located for exploring the island and trying the best restaurant for miles. Las Velas is a cute little restaurant snuggled amongst eucalyptus trees at the top of the village, a great place to unwind with a glass of red and watch the sunset.

Las Velas is a one man band owned by Pablo, a gourmet chef who use to work in posh restaurant in Lima.

It runs without electricity, meaning each table is lit by candle light and set inside the front part of Pablo’s house. The kitchen is to the rear where Pablo cooks and prepares delicious dishes like steamed fresh trout in white wine or homemade lasagne, with his head torch as the only form of light.

Recommended – for couples or groups of 3/4

My rating 8/10

Chile

Valle Mistrel – La Serena, Chile

£12 a night

Valle Mistrel is more like a hotel than a hostel, sometimes it make sense to pay a little extra to be in nice surroundings. From the front it looks just like any other small hostel that you stumble across, brightly painted and with sign posts with all the major cities with their distance.

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Behind the glass door, is large long and beautifully cultivated space. The reception area, what looks like use to be the living room to the original house, but now houses the new fleet of bikes for hire. I arrived in the middle of the night and made use of the sofa to kip until the reception was open. The night porter was a bit clueless.

This backs onto a large garden – come patio that follows the length of the building, where you will find most of the double rooms.

Plenty of seats too chill, and listen to the music that is piped from above, the trickle of water from the water feature and the Avery of birds all makes for a pleasant relaxing environment.

Each double room is clean and spacious, comes with complimentary soft white towels. Each with an ensuite and all the essentials you find in a hotel. The breakfast terrace over looks the Garden from the rear.

However, the new addition and the jewel in the crown is the incredible roof terrace, with bespoke furniture made of old furniture and the panoramic views of the whole city.

Just below are the new dorms, with the most comfortable bunk beds I have slept in yet. The only downside is no mirror in the ensuite .

Recommended – For all Travellers that like nice surroundings

My rating 9/10

The Beautiful City of Buenos Aires

The thought of having to travel 19 hours in a bus to get to Buenos Aires,felt like a waste of a few days. It was nice to be sat on the plane knowing it was less than an hours flight.

With my travel companions still in tow we arrive in Buenos Aires, a city that will become my most favourite capital city of my whole 6 month trip.

The hostel was located in Recoleta , only a 20 minute Uber ride from the airport. Voyage Recoleta Hostel is a an old 19th century 6 floor town house. It’s has a big kitchen, (perfect for cooking Christmas dinner) communal area, terrace and massive rooftop which was great for partying and getting to know the other guests.

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This would be our home for 10 days over Christmas and New year, and more importantly my birthday which was today 23rd December.

The only down side was the plug situation, in that the fittings were no compatible for any of our adapters and the hostel had run out. As you can imagine after a long journey this did not put me in the best of moods.

One hour later and £15 worse off I had found an adapter so I could charge my phone and iPad.

That evening by recommendation from Victoriano and Sebastian who had I had met in Ecuador we went to La Clotilde restaurant for steak. What a great choice it was too, great atmosphere full of locals diving into massive plates of steak and bottles or red wine.

Although I had dropped a hint about a birthday cake to the boys , I always knew they wouldn’t succeed, so instead they got me a chocolate brownie with a candle – very sweet of them. Though tonight would be my gift to them by taking them to their first ever gay club.

Let’s just say, Keno needed more dutch courage than Esteban or myself. So we walked around to find a bar that was open close to the restaurant. This was proving more difficult than we expected at 12:30am. You would have expected the city to still be alive, maybe we were in the wrong district.

Stepping out of the taxi at the club, more drinks were required before Keno would enter. Across the road there was a good looking crowd and great music coming from Avant Garten. Great outside space and really good cocktails the perfect place to get in the mood for dancing.

Finally, he was ready and we joined the queue for Crowbar, a large warehouse style club that was way to empty – meaning we were too early. A few rounds later and it starts to fill up, and I’m feeling really old.

The boys on the other hand are loving it. I go out for cigaret at the side of the club, to find another club which is playing much better music and full of guys more my type.

I soon realise that we have walked into the the wrong club, and ended up in what I would call a school disco for under 20’s, not the night I had in mind. I checked with the bouncer and true enough we should have been in Rheo Club. After some convincing and the door being kind to me and the mistake, I manage to get us into the correct club.

We danced all night finally leaving at 7am, but not before a kiss or two all round. I pulled some local hotties and both Keno and Esteban pulled a couple of girls. Leaving the boys told me that it was one of the best nights they have ever had. Result

Christmas came and went and was celebrated with the rest of the hostel and once the misty hangovers had cleared it was time to explore the city properly.

First on the list was the Recoleta Cemetery, an absolute must while in BA. Here you will find the graves of notable people like Eva Peron and other important people to Argentina, all buried in amazingly designed and sculptured tombs.

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Recoleta is a beautiful neighbourhood where the rich and elite have lived for 100’s of years. Puerto Madero is nice to visit for the day with a marina full of yachts and surrounded by bars and restaurants, very much the modern part of the city where the new money has moved to.

The Floralis Generica is a sculpture made of steel and aluminium and located in Plaza des las Naciones Unidas. The flower slowly opens at sunrise and closes again at dusk, it is just as stunning in the days sun as it is lit at night by coloured lights.

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New Years was only a few days away, but I needed to get out of the city and spend some time by the beach. My friend Darren flew in and we caught the bus 5 hours to the coast to relax in Pinamar. Along the coast there are many resorts where the locals go for holidays, they reminded me very much of the British seaside towns, just with warmer weather.

After 3 days, it was back to BA for New Years. The night started at Plaza Serrano, where we met up with Keno and Esteban, and the British boys you may remember I met back in Santa Marta in Colombia. James, Ed, and Max with the new edition Courtenay. Chris was absent due to a motorcycle accident in Medellin.

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Midnight came, with shots in our hands we welcomed in 2018. The square was packed, fireworks went off and a samba band started to play. Everyone was in the party spirit, dancing in the streets, drinking and enjoying life.

Bayside Club was our next destination, big Dj’s with few 1000 people and only 500 peso to get in, which is a bargain for NYE. Another 7am finish after lots of dancing to amazing music, with a really mixed and friendly crowd. I have to say being gay in BA is wonderful, no one cares and everyone just gets on. A wonderful city to be out and proud in.

Last day in BA and my last day with Keno and Esteban, so we saved the best till last. La Boca, an amazingly colourful area of the city by the docks. The birth place of Tango and so much of BA’s rich European history.

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La Boca was the first stop for many migrants coming from Europe. Here they would live together in large dwellings or slum like places. Italians, Spanish, Swedish so many nationalities came to Argentina and why so many today have European surnames.

I would recommend taking the La Boca walking tour for 300 pesos, and then enjoy the best ever steak sandwich at CABJ opposite the La Boca Stadium.

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It was an emotional goodbye to the Keno and Esteban after nine weeks of travelling together they were heading off to Uruguay and Brazil, while I headed further west to fly to Mendoza.

Lots of red wine drinking and some more white water rafting, zip lining and a the fantastic Cacheuta hot springs in Mendoza it was time to  say goodbye to Argentina and make the long bus journey to the border with Chile and travel to Santiago.

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Human Bones, Ceviche and lots of Sand

Lima as the capital of Peru and is home to almost 10 million people, a third of Peru’s total population and is the only capital city in South America to have beaches. The two main areas where all the gringos tend to stay are Miraflores and Barranco.
The former resembling one big shopping centre filled with high rises and shop after shop. The latter much more beautiful and bohemian. I opted for the latter and booked in to The Point Hostel

Arriving at 6am like after so many night time bus journeys, I find the party from the night before still giving strong in the bar. With a handful of people still standing, and celebrating Peru’s win over New Zealand in the World Cup. Meaning Peru will be represented for the first time in 36 years. Definitely a reason to still party and also it would seem for the government to declare a national holiday. 

I on the other hand declined the offer of a drink and headed to bed to get some extra sleep. Which I know is so unlike me – but joining a inhibirated group is never fun for the soba one. 

After a few hours of sleep, I explore the local area of Barranco. Full of beautiful old houses, that were once and some that still are owned by Lima’s rich. The majority now having been turned into a cool cafe, bar, restaurant or hostel, with some but not all having been lovingly restored to their former glory. 

I do have to admit that my exploring stopped once I found the Starbucks. Finally a coffee that is not made from instant and resembles dishwater or tar. Two flat whites please…

The next day it was time to see what else Lima has to offer, and make the thirty minute taxi ride to the centre and old part of Lima. The German’s had also made it to Lima so they joined me in visiting the Basílica de la San Francisco and the catacombs.

Apparently you are not meant to take pictures while visiting… maybe my Spanish is not as good as I thought, or i just didn’t care for the stupid rule. It was interesting and beautiful in places, and the catacombs were less eerie than I expected. Yes there were the bones of 50,000 plus dead people, but all I thought was what a cool venue for an event or club.

Ooh and the delicious treat of Churros filled with vanilla or apple cream is a must afterwards. Simply called Churros San Francisco on Jirón Lampa a few minutes walk from the Basílica.

Back in Barranco and feeling quite peckish, I decided to try Rana Canta restaurant that was recommended as being the best place for Ceviche and Peruvian food. The walls were covered in pictures of what I would guess are famous Peruvians who have visited, a really simple but pleasing aesthic. The food speaks for itself, with many options on the menu mainly including fresh fish, shouting eat me again and again.

Which I would have if I’d had another stomach. Two courses was more than enough at around 45,000sol £10 a dish which was enormous. 

Ten weeks into my travels, my hair was in desperate need for a trim. But where would I find a good barbers in Lima. Well I thought “I would consult my trusty local guide app and ask one of the guys”. Turns out Mike from the US who lives in Lima, knows exactly where to go and with good hair I trusted his judgement. 

Cuppers 65 on the intersection Republica de Panama and 28 de Julio in fact reminded me very much of the typical barbers you find in Shoreditch London. Although they need a better waiting system, as one hour and half was a bit excessive, and the old guy keeping track was clueless. Me getting annoyed and making sure they knew I was, just isn’t the same in Spanish… I dont quite have the diva mannerisms down yet with the lingo.

After two nights of drinking on the trott, the last night should be a quiet one. Well thanks to Miguel from Colombia, it was not. I was invited to join Miguel and his friends at Dada bar which was hosting and independent film festival. Always fun when Donald Trump is being mocked…

Dada bar was once a house for the rich, that has been restored and turned into a fantastic bar and restaurant, with a more formal setting on the rear terrace and informal bar setting with pizza at the front. But it wasn’t cheap, with cocktails at 25sol/£5, but they were like goldfish bowls of Gin and tonic which was perfect. I even had the choice of a cucumber or lime. 

After few gold fish bowls it was off to a pub that has live music most nights. Aptly named La Noche de Barranco, it is made of three floors –  the basement where you find the live music, ground was just like a pub and the roof. Jugs of draft beer were freely flowing well into the early hours at only 70sol/ £1.60. 

By far the best deal on beer on South America

I would have spent all night there is it wasn’t for the call of dance and the short walk to the Dragon Club, where more gold fish bowls were consumed and lots of dancing.  My 6am wake up for the bus to Ica was not looking good. 

6am arrived and I walked into the hostel to pack my things and clean my teeth and wait for the Germans to wake so we can get our bus to Ica, six hours South of Lima. I would just sleep on the bus… The Linea bus company was fantastic, one of the most comfortable yet and only cost 45sol/£10 to Ica.

To be honest I had no idea what was in Huacachina, other than some sand dunes with an oasis in the middle. It was never on my original plan, but the Germans were keen and we were going the same way to Cusco. Arriving into Ica, we hoped into a tuk tuk for the final 5km to Oasis de Huacachina for 10sol. 3 guys and plus luggage in a tuk tuk was an experience to say the least, but we made it safely.

Arriving into Huacachina, I wasn’t expecting my breath to be taken away by size of the dunes, towering over the tiny little oasis. The pure white sand against the bright blue sky, was a sight you had to see for real to appreciate. These were not the same dunes I grew up with on the North Norfolk coast. These were mountains covered in sand.

We checked into the lovely Wild Olive, a surprise favourite hostel of the trip. The breakfast was either omelette, eggs on toast or pancakes with juice and coffee. A real treat when it comes to hostel breakfasts. The main comunal area had the comfiest sofas and Netflix, it was like being in a cosy home.

We booked our Sandboarding through the hostel for that afternoon, as its the best time to go, so you get to see the sunset over the desert. The dune buggy picked us upat 2pm on the dot – it’s what I would call a cross between a monster truck and and off road 4*4 with only a roll cage to keep you in. This was going to be lots of fun.

The expanse of dunes goes on for miles and miles, all the way to the horizon. The buggy takes us up and down the dunes effortlessly, each dune getting steeper every time. You can hear screams from all round the desert as buggys bound around the dunes like a theme park rollercoaster. 

Sandboarding was fun, but don’t expect to be going down the dunes like snowboarding. No this is down on your front, head first over the steep sandy cliff. Again each new dune would be higher and steeper and your would go as faster as what felt like 40 mph.

If you wish to sandboard properly, you can hire boards just like snowboards, but this is extra and you need to be with a proper instructor. 

After making the most of the hostel having a chilled second day, it was time to leave for another night bus and ten hours to Arequipa with Cruz del Sur – bagging my favourite seat number 4 – the boys sadly got a raw deal with the 2 behind that didn’t recline as much – note : never get the seats that back into the stairs. 

Arequipa was a real surprise and I would say the most beautiful city in Peru, also know as the ‘White City’ because of its white stone building and having the most non indigenous population in Peru. It also boasts to be the second largest city at one million, a fraction of Lima’s 11. 

Surrounded by three volcanoes that cover the beautiful horizon, and filled with lots of little gems to visit – this is a city not miss. The Santa Catalina Monastery was fascinating, which still has nuns living and practicing their faith inside today. It is a city within a city, built over 20,000 square meters of land that conceals the beautifully painted frescos and bright coloured courtyards and little homes that the nuns lived in, baked bread and made wafers.

The walking tour was a great way to find out about the city, the history and how it became the second largest city in Peru. I wish I could have spent a few more days to explore more, but sadly Cusco was calling another nine hour bus journey to get there.