Perhaps surprisingly, hostels are still somewhat of an exotic concept to me — prior to this trip, I’d probably stayed in less than fifteen. My travels have predominantly been in Southeast Asia, where hostels are still a rare choice compared to cheap guesthouses and bungalows — though they are gaining popularity. In Europe, where the hostel reigns supreme, I’ve crashed with friends or stayed in hotels with family. I have stayed in a few dorms across North America, which is still a surprising enough decision to be met with raised eyebrows.
But here in South America, hostels are an integral part of my experience. Travelers discuss them as if they themselves were the destination, and often display fierce loyalty to the brands that pop up in several cities per country. Hostels are grouped into “party” and “quiet” categories, and your choice can make or break your experience in a new destination. I’ve quickly adapted, and found myself joining the crowds bemoaning the lack of charging outlets and rating the merit’s of various free breakfast offerings. Onto the first round of my Peruvian hostel experiences…
The Flying Dog was my home base in Iquitos, where I stayed before, after, and in between my trips into the jungle. Situated directly on the Amazon River (I had waterfront views from my first room!) and in the heart of the city, I can’t imagine a finer location.
As there are limited hostel options in Iquitos — compared to cities like Lima and Cusco — Flying Dog attracts travelers of all types, from middle aged adventurers heading out on extended jungle treks to gap year backpackers looking to enjoy the city’s tropical nightlife. There is a large common area, a full communal kitchen, charming private rooms, and a breakfast that has yet to be beat among my hostel-hopping. Slow wifi and tepid water is understandable — after all, this is a city deep in the heart of the Amazon, completely unreachable by road.
The staff was engaging and always asked where I was going in order to direct me to the best and safest way to walk there, which I greatly appreciated as a solo traveler. However, I did become frustrated at one point when I couldn’t get a straight answer on how much it would cost to hire a guide to go to the Belen Marketplace — they told me to “work it out with the guide,” but I desperately wanted some kind of guideline on what to expect to pay. That was the only blemish on an otherwise excellent stay at Flying Dog, which truly felt like my home away from home in the jungle.
Contact: Malecon Tarapaca 592, Iquitos / (51) 65 223755
Amenities: Full kitchen, daily breakfast, wifi and computer use
Pros: Amazing breakfast (eggs, toast, tea, and fresh fruit smoothies!), concerned staff, excellent location, good security
Cons: Bad wifi, temperamental water pressure and temperature
Room tip: Room 1 is the best private room by a mile (and has air conditioning!), Room 2 and Room 4 follow in its footsteps. Avoid room 3, where the only window opens to the stairwell.
Price: Four and six bed dorms are $10, privates with ensuite bathrooms are $35. A three bed private with a shared bath is $38.
Book Here: Flying Dog Iquitos
Ekeko Hostel in Lima
This hostel is no longer open, but here are other hostels in Lima. In the hustle and bustle of Lima, Ekeko Hostel is a quiet choice in what appears to be a renovated private home. Most Miraflores hostels are located in the heart the district around Kennedy Park, though Ekeko is about a ten minute walk beyond. One plus — the hostel is seconds away from the Huaca Pucllana ruins.
Ekeko has bright and colorful common areas as well as a full kitchen — a rarity among Lima hostels — and the most eager-to-help hostel staff I have found in Peru to date. The two front desk guys David and Guiseppe were warm, friendly, and proud of their city and happy to show it off. They really went above and beyond — when we had a question about bus service and David couldn’t get through at work, he called from home that night to get an answer.
That said, the rooms vary wildly in quality and shared bathrooms are in desperate need of renovation. The room I stayed in was, frankly, unpleasant — extremely small (probably about 7 x 8) with uncomfortable beds (the mattress slats fell out every night) and just a teeny window for light. Yet I toured a spacious and chic room with a private bathroom and balcony — for a mere $2 more per night!
If Ekeko rethinks their pricing structure and upgrades their bathroom, this could be an excellent choice for those seeking a quiet, off-the-grid hostel in which to make themselves a nice dinner and have a chat with a sweetly dedicated staff.
Contact: Garcia Calderon 274, Miraflores District, Lima / (01) 22 21498
Amenities: Full kitchen, basic daily breakfast, wifi and computer use
Pros: Extremely helpful staff, ability to cook own food, good wifi, nice common areas, good security
Cons: Slightly out-of-the-way location, wild variations in private room quality, bathrooms need remodeling
Room tip: Room quality varies wildly. Avoid the single bed and twin privates — both represent poor value.
Price: An eight bed dorms is $8, a four bed female dorm with an ensuite bathroom is $9, a single bed private is $14, a twin private is $28, and a double bed private with an ensuite bathroom is $30.
Book Here: This hostel is no longer open. Here are other hostels in Lima.
Banana’s Adventures lacks many of the basic amenities you might expect from a hostel — there’s no kitchen, no free breakfast, no computers for guest use, and some dorms even lack lockers. Yet all those complaints are quickly forgotten once sidled up to the pool, enjoying a cerveza and a snack from the full service bar and kitchen, and prepping for the hostel’s nightly sandboarding tours. The staff also organizes trips to the nearby wineries of Ica, as well as to the more far-flung Ballestas Islands of Paracas and flights over the Nazca Lines.
The twin private rooms that Zoe and I took up shared a clean bathroom and overlooked the lagoon and the sanddunes, respectively. Though things were a tad noisy on the night we decided to stay in, we had a great time on the night we partook in the hostel’s evening barbecue and mingled late into the night.
It’s true that Banana’s Adventures is pricey, and that the cost of eating and drinking here makes it even more so. Yet most backpackers only stay here for a night or two, making it a wildly worthwhile splurge. In fact, I didn’t get enough the first time — I’ve already made plans to return on my way back to Lima.
Contact: Calle Angela de Perotti, Huacachina / (51) 56 237129
Amenities: Swimming pool, wifi, in-house tours, restaurant
Pros: Great poolside atmosphere, plenty of hammocks and lounging areas, daily sandboarding tours, nightly BBQs
Cons: No kitchen, breakfast not included, expensive food, some rooms lack lockers
Room tip: Request the upstairs dorm rooms, which have an ensuite bathroom and lockers.
Price: Four and five bed dorms are around $12. Recommended six bed dorms with an ensuite bathroom are around $15. Private rooms with a shared bathroom are around $27.
Book Here: Banana’s Adventures
Stay tuned for reviews of hostels in Cusco, Puno, and Arequipa!
This post was made possible by Hostelworld and the generous hospitality of Flying Dog, Ekeko, and Banana’s Adventures. The content of my reviews was not influenced in any way by these partnerships — as always, you have my honesty above all else.