El apartamento de Juan Carlos Olave Blackburn, Bogota, Colombia
La casa de Claudia Olave Rivera, Neiva, Colombia
Guasimilla, la finca de Gustavo Bermeo Blackburn, Alta Mira, Colombia
The Pelican Larry, Cali, Colombia
Very nice place to stay! Guntar, the owner, really cares about your experience while in Cali and is extremely helpful about where to go and when. He's also really into cultivating friendships among the backpackers, and always lets you know if a group is going one place or another. Shared bathrooms are cleaned twice a day, which is a huge plus, and the weekend BBQ is a great value.
El apartamento de Irney Blackburn, Ibague, Colombia
Hostal Sue, Bogota, Colombia
Great location. We stayed in a 2-bedroom apartment they own down the block from the main hostel. Both have all of the amenities - wifi, kitchen, cable TV. Hot water was iffy, but bathrooms were clean. The staff goes out of its way to make you feel comfortable. The lobby bar and garden are nice for rainy Bogota days. They had a break-in while we were there (Candelaria is still really dangerous) but they handled everything very professionally and we felt completely safe. Definitely recommended.
Hotel Lee, Cartagena, Colombia
We loved the Hotel Lee. It's designed mainly for long-term travelers with little studio apartments. It was a huge indulgence. For $60 USD a night we had a mini duplex with AC, TWO bathrooms, internet, cable TV and kitchenette, and even a pool and roof deck! In browsing the other popular backpacker places, doubles with bathrooms were $40-$50 USD with far fewer amenities. We would have never been able to afford it if we hadn't saved by staying with family earlier in our travel, but it was a great, great home to have in Cartagena.
Aluna Casa y Cafe, Santa Marta, Colombia
Such a negative vibe from this place. The room was clean, but crazy mosquito problem. The cafe was nice, but expensive. They only very reluctantly let us use the refrigerator to store some fruit and yogurt, and said guests weren't allowed back there. But our food managed to get stolen? One afternoon we were trying to skype in the cafe, the only place with a good signal, but the manager was rude and pushy and shooed us away. The upstairs has nice areas, but it is not really suited to backpackers.
Hostal Casa del Sol, Medellin, Colombia
The hostel was well-located for sightseeing and going out downtown, in a safe middle-class neighborhood. There's cheap restaurants nearby and the staff is friendly - everyday they brought bags of different tropical fruit for guests to try. It's def a stoner vibe. Hot water and clean bathrooms, but our major complaint was that the bed literally smelled like pee - like a nasty, dirty dog bed. Which is weird because the hostel itself and the kitchen were all very clean. We moved after 2 nights.
Casa Kiwi, Medellin, Colombia
A backpacker's playground. Def a party hostel. Clean, modern rooms with hot showers, mini-balconies and sunshine. The kitchens are crowded but clean, bar on premise. The staff is hip and helpful. Good area for dinner and going out in the parque de lleras, but you could hang out on the deck all night. The hammocks on the upper decks are nice. Wifi was crappy, and food can get stolen from the common fridge when people come home drunk, but the staff was honest about it, which somehow made it okay.
Hotel Salammbo, Tunis, Tunisia
We were so cracked out after 3 red eyes in a row that it didn't really matter where we stayed. The Turkish coffee and baguettes were good in the morning, and the shower was reasonably clean. We had a TV in our room. We didn't see the shared bathrooms, but we saw a Japanese backpacker coming out of one of them after showering at 4 a.m., so that must have been the primo time to bathe. We were gone after a night.
Hotel Emira, Sousse, Tunisia
A cheap medina hostel. It was pretty grungy and gross, and walking through the souk every day to get home was nasty. Bathroom was moldy and nasty. Plumbing questionable. We actually stayed for several days because we used Sousse as our base, but suffice to say we spent little time in the hotel.
Hotel Residence Hamza, Tatuoine, Tunisia
Totally bland. Clean room and shared bathroom with air conditioning, which was nice but unnecessary. Family that owns the place is welcoming enough, though speaks almost no English. There's a convenience store on the ground floor where you can pick up water and snacks.
Hotel Marhala, Matmata, Tunisia
The hovels are overpriced and exist solely so tourists can enjoy the novelty of sleeping in Luke Skywalker's home. You can't sit up in bed too fast otherwise you might bang your head on the ceiling, and paint chips off the walls onto your face while you sleep. Shared bathrooms are relatively clean, but as they are overwhelmed by huge tour groups when they start pouring in in the evening, use the showers in the quiet afternoon if you can. Gabe had to wait in line with a bunch of 14-year-old boys for a shower that night.
Hotel 20 Mars, Douz, Tunisia
A nice, clean place with a pleasant courtyard and a friendly staff. The usual bread and butter breakfast, but they also give you yogurt! Wifi is free, but you have to ask for it. We also booked our Sahara tour through the hotel, and the prices are competitive. The plumbing can reeeeeeally start to stink after a day or two. Poop elsewhere.
Campsite, Ksar Ghilane, Tunisia
All of the camps are pretty much the same - carpet-lined tents, shower blocks, big cafeteria-style food. Some are closer to the "source" (the small muddy spring in the middle of the oasis) than others, but it's really not a draw. Some have music and dancing at night, where the Berber boys pick up all the single Western girls.
Grand Hotel du France, Tunis, Tunisia
Nice enough, and clean, but a serious mosquito problem. Get the staff to give you a mosquito repellent plug-in, which was really effective. We also changed rooms in the middle of our stay to get one that overlooked the breezy, nice courtyard. The cafe makes great cafe au lait, and the staff is very nice. Good location near the medina and cheap, good restaurants. No wifi.
African House Hostel, Cairo, Egypt
A wee bit of calm in downtown Cairo! The staff at African hostel was very accommodating, always offering tea and never being pushy about buying their tours or tipping -- which is a HUGE relief in Egypt! They helped arrange sightseeing for the pyramids at a reasonable price and also have tours in Islamic and Coptic Cairo. The rooms were spacious and pretty clean, the bathrooms were ancient but also relatively clean. The common bathrooms were nice. Always felt safe there.
Oasis Hotel, Luxor, Egypt
Hassan really cares about his hotel. We never felt hassled, which is possibly the only place in all of Luxor where we weren't bugged every two minutes. Room and private bathroom were clean. The tours he offers are at a reasonable fixed price. We took both his East and West Bank tours and the felucca ride, and all were great. The rooftop deck is very relaxing. Shared bathrooms were not particularly clean or well-stocked, didn't always have toilet paper or soap.
Penguin Village, Dahab, Egypt
Penguin Village is a resort, if resorts were hippie enclaves with guitars and sheesha all day long. Vibe is very relaxed. Our room was clean, with strong air con and hot showers. The common bathrooms could be cleaner, but were never disastrous. The front desk and restaurant staff were helpful. The tours were pretty affordable but were never great, but we heard their dive center was good. Shopping elsewhere for tours and coming home to Penguin would be a great way to spend your time in Dahab.
Al Amira Hotel, Aqaba, Jordan
A good budget hotel in an alley off of one of the main strips in Aqaba. Clean, air-conditioned room with hot water showers. We paid 16 JD a night, not including any meals. The staff is nice enough, though few speak English. The hotel is situated right next to a tiny internet cafe, and near the Ali Baba restaurant, which is a bit overpriced but has free wifi! Cheap, delicious restaurants and pastry shops are nearby for all three meals.
Bait Ali, Wadi Rum, Jordan
Luxury camping and WAY outside of our price range - we went in thinking it was 30 JD a night, but it turns out the cost was 30 JD a person! We haggled it down to 25 JD with the caveat that we could not use the sparkling blue pool. The tent was nice and the barbecue for dinner was great. Common showers and bathrooms were sparkling clean. The mountains just behind the campsite were perfect for climbing at sunset. All in all it was nice, but it is NOT a budget accommodation by any means. We paid the equivalent of $75 USD for one night!
Valentine Inn, Wadi Musa, Jordan
It's a little shabby, but perfect for backpackers. Signs are in numerous languages, including Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, and they offer breakfast, a box lunch to carry to Petra, and a huge dinner for good prices. The hostel has a free shuttle to and from Petra, plus buses to Aqaba, Amman and Wadi Rum at the same cost as what you'd get haggling on the street. The view from the terrace, where people hang out and take breakfast and dinner, is fantastic!
Dana Tower Hotel, Dana Village, Jordan
The hodgepodge collection of stone rooms has a lot of charm. The staff is sweet and really cares about its guests. Bathrooms are clean, and the hot water pressure was divine. Dinner, for 5 JD a person, was a delicious buffet of roast veggies and chicken, plus a pot of sweet tea. There are interesting hikes into the valley from the back that don't require the entrance fee into the reserve, if you just want a taste of Dana. We only stayed a night because of time constraints with our rental car, but happily could have stayed a few days.
Madaba Hotel, Madaba, Jordan
A nice place to stay. Clean bathrooms and rooms, and even some free toiletries - though they were suspiciously mini-bottles with other hotel logos on them. The hot water and water pressure were amazing. Next door to a friendly cafe, walking distance to the sights and few restaurants in Madaba. A good base for exploring Mt. Nebo, Bethany, etc.
Farah Hotel, Amman, Jordan
Very backpacker-friendly place. Shared bathrooms don't sparkle, but they are clean enough. Tepid showers. AC in most rooms, some have fridges, but you can use the tiny shared kitchen. Tea and coffee available all day, and a really friendly, knowledgeable staff attuned to concerns about visas, border crossings, public transportation, etc. Close to the best hummus in town. Laundry available for a few JDs.
Some place whose name was only written in Arabic, Tripoli, Lebanon
We tried places on Tell Square that were listed in Lonely Planet, but they were more expensive and less impressive than we expected. We ended up in a kind of dumpy pension off one of the main shopping drags downtown near the Al Daraj cafe. Nothing to write home about, and no AC made for some hot nights, but it was passable.
Pension Al-Nazih, Beirut, Lebanon
Way expensive for us, but also waaaay better quality than the other "budget" options in town. Beirut is not for the backpacker wallet. We had a nice clean room with two windows, air conditioning, cable TV, and private bath for $45 USD. However, a bed in a non-AC DORM was $17 a night - for the two of us it would only save $11 a night. Other, much nastier hotels in the area near Charles Helou bus station were at least $10 per bed per 4-bed dorm (but we'd have to take the whole dorm and share bath, so still $40) or $40 for a double with no AC and shared bath. Still, we have great location near Gemmayze and walkable to downtown, so we were happy here.
Hotel Sheela, Agra, India
A lovely place near the Eastern Gate of the Taj Mahal. Clean room and bathroom, strong air conditioning, and Western toilet. Everything you might want. There is a nice garden with big fat monkeys wandering around, and a restaurant on premise, though we never ate there. Continual power outages, although that is par for the course in India. Walking distance to all of the restaurants.
Hotel Harmony, Khajuraho, India
The best hotel in Khajuraho, walking distance to both the Western and Eastern temples. We had TV with the BBC, air conditioning, and a clean bathroom for 700 rupees, or about $15. Power outages every day. The staff is nice, and speaks good English. There is a nice courtyard, though it was too hot for it to be relaxing out there.
Cottage Crown Plaza, New Delhi, India
If you are going to tough it out in the nasty Paharganj backpacker neighborhood, this place is a safe haven in the insanity. The room and bathroom were clean, with good air conditioning, a fridge and cable TV for 850 rupees. We got FAST wifi for 50 rupees a day. Couldn't hear any street noise from our third floor room. We used their laundry service (pay per piece) and our clothes came back cleaner than they had been in months. Which is weird, because my only complaint is that the pillow cases and blankets were not the cleanest we'd seen - we used our own sheets and pillows. Still, highly recommended.