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In late 2012, a formidable mission arrived from Travelfish headquarters: Find the best hostels in Bangkok. Over a span of months, I reviewed 50 hostels first-hand, considering issues like comfort, value, staff, common facilities, cleanliness, originality, design, location and atmosphere. In the end, I boiled them all down to 20 that I would most highly recommend.
Several key players needed no introductions, but I quickly found that the city's hostel ranks had grown exponentially over just a couple of years. At times the search felt like a futile attempt to survey the mole population in that old arcade game, Whac-A-Mole. Just when I thought I'd hit them all, a new one popped up. Finally, the project reached fruition: Travelfish's latest iBook/PDF guide: Bangkok's Best Hostels.
Like any "best of" list, choosing the top hostels in Bangkok is highly subjective. One traveller's stylish is another's tacky. I say tomato, you say ... vintage chic?
Many hostels fall under the general category of retro, modern, sleek, industrial and/or minimalist. Others aim for cosy, homely, elegant or casual. Some have impressive common facilities that include mini-theatres, billiards tables, rooftop gardens, swanky lounges, and in one case, a miniature swimming pool. What homely hostels often lack in facilities is made up for -- at least in the eyes of some -- by a more intimate experience.
The budget travellers who come to Bangkok are a diverse lot. All 20 of these hostels won't be right for you, but we hope to steer you towards the one that is. Happy bunking.
1. Saphai Pae Hostel
Occupying nine sizable floors between Silom and Sathorn roads, this black-and-yellow backpacker hive happened to be the first hostel we checked out. When we returned a year later, it remained unmatched. Friendly staff, comfortable bunks, loads of spotless space, funky atmosphere, good value and common facilities that are second-to-none make Saphai Pae the pick of the litter -- if you're after a large, modern hostel, that is. Read the full profile of Saphai Pae Hostel.
2. Cozy Bangkok Place
Contemporary touches compliment original hardwood floors and vintage furnishings in this renovated shophouse set on a leafy side street near Hualamphong train station. We appreciated positive attitudes from the manager and her yellow lab, Dumbo, but the phenomenal value was what made Cozy Place our top pick of the more homely hostels. Read the full profile of Cozy Bangkok Place.
3. Khaosan Immjai Hostel
With its bright orange facade on quiet Samsen Soi 1 near Khao San Road and the Chao Phraya River, Khaosan Immjai ensures a restful night's sleep thanks to cushy mattresses with high quality linens, good security, a warm and welcoming staff, and rates that will make backpackers smile. While it's not a party spot, this all-round excellent hostel is also a fine place to make some friends. Read the full profile of Khaosan Immjai Hostel.
4. Rang Kha Mhin Homestay
Most backpackers seeking a hostel near Khao San seem to go for NapPark, but directly across the street, the cheerful Rang Kha Mhin offers better value, cushier beds and far more personable service. After resting up in one of the bright, airy and immaculate dorms, head down to the adorable ground-floor cafe for fair trade coffee, hearty breakfast and a slice of homemade carrot cake. Read the full profile of Rang Kha Mhin Homestay.
5. Lub d Silom
A pioneer of Bangkok's hostel craze, Lub d is the hostel that so many others have copied. With a funky industrial design, both Lub d Silom and the smaller Lub d Siam have developed top-notch reputations for generous common facilities, well-equipped dorms and privates, reliable security, great locations and a fun, social atmosphere. Both spots are extremely popular -- meeting travel buddies is a breeze. Read the full profile of Lub d Silom.
6. Refill Now!
Nailing the modern-minimalist theme like no other, Refill Now! is no ordinary hostel. The loads of natural light that shines through wall-size windows make it easy to see just how immaculate the plush white dorms truly are. A miniature swimming pool lies just beyond the swankiest common lounge of any Bangkok hostel. The only disadvantage is a relatively distant location well off Sukhumvit. Read the full profile of Refill Now!.
7. Suneta Hostel Khaosan
With a sister property up in the northern mountains of Chiang Rai, Suneta has carried its classic dark wood and forest green theme all the way to Bangkok's backpacker bastion. The pricey private pod dorms with personal TVs behind heavy wood sliding doors are interesting, but the comfy regular dorms should fit the bill for most. Read the full profile of Suneta Hostel Khaosan.
8. Mile Map Hostel
In an eclectic Silom location behind Sri Maha Mariamman Hindu Temple and within easy reach of practically any international cuisine you can imagine, Mile Map won points for its understated style, airy common spaces and polite staff. With adequate dorms for around 300 baht in an otherwise pricey area, the value launched it from good to great. Read the full profile of Mile Map Hostel.
9. Pridi Hostel
Not far from Refill Now!, Pridi's somewhat remote east Bangkok location will be a turn-off for some, but if you seek an "authentically Thai" experience and are eager to try out the canal boats, it's a fabulous choice. An intimate atmosphere draws on elegant Chinese artistic flourishes, sumptuous Egyptian cotton linens on thick mattresses and one of the most relaxing common rooms we came across. Read the full profile of Pridi Hostel.
10. Niras Bankoc Cultural Hostel
Occupying an attractive 140-year-old Sino-European house in Bangkok's historic district, this classy hostel is perfect for those who prefer creaky teak wood over polished concrete. French vanilla paint on original plaster walls, tasteful old lanterns and narrow dark wood passageways lend Niras Bankoc an antiquarian vibe. Be sure to ask about the compelling history behind the mouthful of a name. Read the full profile of Niras Bankoc Cultural Hostel.
11. Chern Boutique Hostel
Just around the corner from Niras Bankoc, the contemporary-styled Chern Boutique starkly contrasts its crumbling yet venerable surrounds. Plush dorms, good-value privates and professional staff make it a very comfortable choice near the historical sites. Well-done wall murals depicting animal characters from Thai folk tales add a hint of quirkiness to this otherwise slick and spacious hostel. Read the full profile of Chern Boutique Hostel.
12. Udee Hostel
Set in a newly-built polished concrete building in a quiet corner of northern Bangkok, Udee is arguably the city's most sophisticated hostel. Deep-red imperial Chinese-style doors, soothing open-air lounges, fountains and loads of greenery contribute to a mature and romantic atmosphere. Dorms are very cushy -- and very reasonably priced. Just don't come looking for a party. Read the full profile of Udee Hostel.
13. Siam Journey Guesthouse
Some might question our high ranking of this rag-tag little hostel near Siam Square, but we feel it's exactly what certain creative, contemplative, community-minded sorts of travellers are looking for. Though facilities are on the simple side, Siam Journey is perhaps your best bet if seeking to make some new bohemian friends. Read the full profile of Siam Journey Guesthouse.
14. HI Mid Bangkok
Part of the Hostelling International group, HI Mid features a minimalist Thai-Japanese design in the vibrant Victory Monument vicinity. Meticulous dorms and privates are rather pricey, but enthusiastic staff and inviting common spaces adds to the value. For something cheaper, you could always opt for HI Mid's simpler sister property, Hi Sukhumvit. Read the full profile of HI Mid Bangkok.
15. Silom Art Hostel
The award for most imaginative design goes to this over-the-top funky hostel in a great location off Silom Road. Furniture that wears human footwear, steel-chain hammocks, an upright piano and numerous "chandeliers" made of empty beer bottles are just a taste of what makes the Art Hostel, well, the Art Hostel. You'll also find excellent security, spotless facilities and a helpful staff. Read the full profile of Silom Art Hostel.
16. S1 Hostel
Rising from the crusty hallows of Soi Ngam Duphli in a swirl of muted grey and fluorescent yellow, S1 took an old flophouse and turned it into a sleek industrial-style hostel. Though lacking any hint of warmth, the clean, functional dorms and privates offer great value. The only problem is that they usually seem to be empty -- head to nearby Wong's Place to meet people. Read the full profile of S1 Hostel.
17. NapPark Hostel
If it's a lively social scene that makes or breaks your hostel experience, look no further than NapPark. A stone's throw from Khao San, this ever-popular hostel draws a colourful mix of characters to its colourful confines. We were turned off by scratchy beds, minimal bathroom facilities and a disorganised staff, but hundreds of online reviews rave about the place. Read the full profile of NapPark Hostel.
18. @Hua Lamphong Hostel
Unless staying as close to Hualamphong train station as possible is your primary concern, there's nothing absolutely thrilling about the modern-style @Hua Lamphong, but it delivers a complete hostel package with unpretentious efficiency. Expect clean bathrooms, functional dorms, reasonably helpful staff, good common facilities and solid value. Read the full profile of @Hua Lamphong Hostel.
19. HQ Hostel
Joining Lub d, NapPark and Refill Now! among the city's trendy trail-blazers, HQ has kept up with the pack. With a phenomenal Silom location amid some seriously pricey real estate, it's no surprise that this sleek hostel makes do with tight quarters. If you can deal with that, each cool and immaculate bunk comes with its own private safe -- an anomaly among Bangkok's hostels. Read the full profile of HQ Hostel.
20. Samsen Skyline Hostel
With a refreshingly simple policy of charging all guests 250 baht per head, Samsen Skyline still believes in the apparently old-school idea that hostels should be cheap and simple. Dorms and bathrooms are basic, but we appreciated the laid back vibes, super friendly staff, authentic Thai curry-and-rice shop on the ground floor and rooftop terrace with panoramic views. Read the full profile of Samsen Skyline Hostel.
You can download the full free guide to the best hostels in Bangkok here. It is available in PDF format and (in a slightly fancier flavour, for the iPad).
By David Luekens
Last updated on 19th May, 2015.