Not all hostels are the same. According to Matt Kiefer, the founder of hostelgeeks.com, some hostels can be considered “premium hostels”.
Along with his partner and co-founder Anna, Matt lives a location-independent lifestyle, supervising a team of writers, photographers and creatives as part of Hostelgeeks. In other words, they visit the most amazing hostels in the world and put them under one roof, making Hostelgeeks your shortcut to the best hostels in the world: the “5 Star Hostels”.
In an exclusive interview, Matt talks to us about the greatest hostels and living on the road.
You are the founder of Hostelgeeks, an independent travel brand that awards five stars to hostels. How did you get started? Why focus on hostels?
Hostelgeeks started back in 2014 with a broad idea. Back then, there was no standard for hostels. Every type of hostel was listed in the same way, reviewed by travellers of different tastes, ages and places. It was not easy to go to any booking platform to pinpoint the real best hostels in town.
Besides the fact that it was time-consuming, the feeling that comes with a bad decision even after two hours of research is not comfortable. Imagine, you just researched hours and hours and you still picked a hostel you do not enjoy.
We wanted to change the way travellers find their hostel. We established the highest standards for hostels: the “5 Star Hostel” standards. With five criteria we wanted to make sure every single hostel fits a certain level of quality. The criteria includes sustainability, design, uniqueness, social ambiance and last but not least, great staff.
Of course, every hostel has to cover the very basics of a quality hostel such as cleanliness, free WiFi, and the pros like experiences that come with a hostel. The “5 Star Hostels” aren’t the typical backpacker’s hostels and not the ones for travellers on a shoe-string budget. These hostels cater to the travellers looking to combine the best of the hotel and hostel world – a comfortable stay with social spaces to mingle.
I, Matt, studied media and design and I have been working in the hostel industry since 2010. Anna, Co-founder of Hostelgeeks, studied hotel management and tourism before she worked for five years at an international brand.
For every destination we cover the #1 hostel in town. The travellers looking for the real top-notch hostels: you need not do the research anymore! Head on over and check out our reviews in form of text, photos and videos as they go live. We do all the leg work for you in a genuine, authentic and (hopefully) fun way.
We also list the coolest hostels in many cities like Paris, Barcelona and Rome. We do a compilation list and compare the 3 best hostels in Paris, for instance.
Can you name five of the most amazing hostels you have stayed at?
I love every single one of the 5 Star Hostels.
Every place is unique in style, staff, vibes and design. The uniqueness is what makes them stand out. It is really not easy to pick one, in fact it’s impossible!
The hostels reflect their local art scene, local trends or lifestyle. For example, rebuilding a gorgeous beach hostel from Indonesia 1 to 1 in a big European city would not work. You cannot copy ambiance, flair, style.
I am happy to give you 8 examples of the finest hostels.
Portugal is known for its outstanding quality in hostels. Many award-winning hostels are based here. And yet, The Passenger Hostel in Porto took hostelling in Portugal to a next level. With a monumental building, furnished with designer furniture, spacious rooms and a few gadgets, it’s the most outstanding hostel in Porto.
2. Ecomama in Amsterdam
Located in a former traveller agency, and hidden away behind a hipster café; Ecomama is the perfect hostel in Amsterdam for solo-travellers. Their focus is the common area – a big space combining a tepee tent, an open kitchen, two swings, a lounge and a little garden next to it.
This is a modern, hip design Hostel in Budapest. The many luxury amenities, including many social events, are typical of a 5 Star Hostel. Guests of all ages are welcome and love to stay here, making it a friendly and social spot in an easy-going environment.
4. Oxotel in Chiang Mai
One of the most gorgeous design hostels in the world is Oxotel in Chiang Mai, North Thailand. The designer behind it is a good friend of ours. He combined interior design with hospitality and landscape design. This 5 Star Hostel is located in an abandoned shop-house from the 70’s.
Now, let’s just assume we all love beaches, and we all love the ocean. Dragon Dive Komodo in Labuan Bajo is an incredible hostel, located in an unreal landscape. Komodo and Flores is one of the world’s best diving spots, and the hostel combines both worlds. You can stay in one of the coolest hostels in the world, hang out with other world travellers, and explore Flores West Coast both underwater and on the boat. If you are ever interested in learning to dive, head over to Labuan Bajo and stay with the guys from Dragon Dive Komodo Hostel.
6. Hobu Hostel in Bogota
A stunning hostel from South America. Located in a former residential home, the hostel has a strong focus on co-living and co-working. Walking into the reception felt like entering a classic old English house, the kind that charges high prices as a bed and breakfast, found across much of Southern England. The design, style and character make it appear like a real big place. Yet in fact, only up to 27 guests can stay, split between five private rooms and dorms.
7. NEXY Hostels in Hanoi, Vietnam
Located right at the edge of Old Quarter Hanoi, NEXY Hostel is the perfect base for the Hostelgeeks community. It is the #1 place in Hanoi to stay at a cool, hip quality hostel. It is a super safe and fun place to stay. You can enjoy the cinema, play foosball, have a drink at the bar and head out to the old town, directly on your foot step.
The small roof top terrace is another highlight we love!
8. Wallyard Concept Hostel in Berlin
Berlinish-Hipster! The Wallyard Concept Hostel has Berlin written all over it. Their building is super cool – a former factory. The rooms and common areas are perfectly separated, so if you want to mingle and socialize or not, the people in the lounge downstairs won’t bother anyone in the dorms or rooms. The lounge itself and the garden with a terrace is truly a hipster’s haven! Black-Grey-Green design all over the place, with wooden, vintage tables, combined with modern, green interior.
What are some good practices that travellers should keep in mind when staying at hostels?
A hostel is a place where people get together; it’s a social place to mingle. Get ready for this and be open to chat. It is not really a place where you live next to each other, ignoring everyone else. In hostels you mingle!
If you are looking for privacy and quiet time, then maybe a hotel is the better option. However, you can combine the privacy part of a hotel and the social experience of a hostel. Just stay in a private room at the hostel, but make sure you pick a great hostel like the 5 Star Awarded hostels.
You should also always remember to bring, as we call it; the essential hostel-survival kit:
- Ear plugs
- Eye mask
- Padlock for the locker (always use them!)
- The hostel address – write it down!
- A quick-dry travel towel
- A power adapter with USB ports
- Packing cubes
Find our full packing list.
You site is very successful, what advice would you give to young entrepreneurs on how to turn a blog into a business?
Patience, hard work and making as many mistakes as quickly as you can. It takes big effort, a clear vision and hard work to turn a blog into a business. It is perfectly normal to make small and even big mistakes along the way; this is part of the process. Perfectionism should not exist as it can be devastating if you aim for having the perfect business, brand and project.
With our concept, we aimed directly for a high-standard without compromising it. We had many, many opportunities where it would have been easy to get 4-5 digit payments for features, but it would have meant compromising on quality. I think our users, and users in general, can notice the difference between something genuine or something that was just put in front of them because they receive a big pay check for it.
Especially in the online world it is easy to follow the quick money but in the long-term game it will hurt your whole project and brand, if this is what you are going for.
At the end of the day, you have to know what you really want. Quick money, a brand, selling products or maybe you are in it for the long-term?
In your opinion, what is the key for reaching the different audiences on social media platforms? I.e. provide different tips for Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
I think the best advice to give here is to focus on the platforms that you actually enjoy to execute with a certain level of success. It is important to understand who your actual audience is, where they hang out, which medium they use. If your audience is on Instagram, then focus on this channel. A social media platform is only a channel.
In regards to your question above, I would say it is important to treat a social media channel from a professional perspective and not as a hobby. If you would love to take your blog to the next level, then have a close look on the social media channels. Do they actually reflect your brand, your blog, your lifestyle? I would also rather invest my time in one channel and make it exceptional if you can, instead of spread your power, creativity and motivation over four different channels.
With Hostelgeeks we focus on our website. This is what we can control 100% and this is what we feel is the most sustainable channel to execute on.
Hostelgeeks became big thanks to Instagram, but our main focus always was, is and will be the website. We are also really successful with Pinterest. Here we reach +100,000 users every month with content related to all 5 Star Hostels, hostel design, hostel guides and tips. Here it is important to deliver content the users are interested in.