Hostels in Delhi: Cheap Sleep in India’s Capital

After landing a job in Mumbai, it looks like I’ll be back in India for the foreseeable future. As much fun as that city is, I’m actually more excited about stopping over in Delhi for a bit. It’s always a fun time when I make it to the capital, so I figured I write up a little hostel review for those who are thinking about making the trip yourselves.

New Delhi Hostels
New Delhi – Photo: Saad Aktar

A brief little intro to Delhi:

Simply calling Delhi a “large urban area” is an understatement somewhere along the lines of calling LeBron James a “decent” basketball player. With something like 25,000,000 people running the streets, the Delhi metro-area is currently listed as the 3rd largest stretch of urban sprawl on earth (behind Jakarta and Tokyo). As any traveler might expect, where there are 25 million people, there are bound to be some fun spots to visit.

The following three places are not only rated highly on reputable websites like HostelWorld.com and Hostels.com, but I’ve actually stayed in all three of them at one point or another.  They all have their ups and their downs, but depending on what you plan to do while you’re in town, one of these places will definitely fit your needs.

New Delhi Hostels
Paharganj – Photo: Em G

Zostel

Most travelers that I meet in India aren’t too keen on sticking around Delhi for more than a couple of days. While I always suggest they spend a bit more time exploring the city, I understand that a lot of people roll off of an airplane with plans to catch a train to a more tourist-friendly locale. That being said, if a quick pit stop at the beginning or end of your trip is what you’re looking for, Zostel is a pretty solid option.

Zostel is located in Paharganj just north of Connaught Place (referred to as “CP” by most drivers/locals). This area is typically pretty crowded as it’s situated just across the street from the New Delhi Railway station. You’ll find the actual hostel tucked in somewhere between two of a thousand generic sounding rail-side hotels. As far as amenities go, the common room is pretty solid, but it has more of a hotel lobby feel than most hostels you’re probably used to. There’s a nice little shop across the street to fill your basic needs, and a couple of shoddy ATM machines a stone’s throw from the front door. The beds and rooms are about what you’d expect from a cheap rail-side spot.

While Zostel seems to hang their hat more on their location than their facilities, they do have a pretty cool rooftop area that you can hang out on when the weather is nice. I’m not sure if they still allow it (or if they ever officially allowed it, for that matter), but I enjoyed more than a few pre-party drinking sessions on that roof last summer.

There is a booze shop just around the corner, but it closes at a respectable hour. If you’re looking to get a couple of late-night beverages, you can usually find an off-duty hotel worker down the road who can make some calls and procure a couple of litres of Kingfisher for a premium fee.

All in all, Zostel is a good spot if you aren’t looking to stay in Delhi long or have a train to catch. You’re close to a few good restaurants and bars in Connaught Place, and Old Delhi (Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk and Red Fort) is only a short rickshaw ride up the road.

The Hosteller

New Delhi - Qutb Minar
Qutb Minar – Photo: Dennis Jarvis

If you’re interested in spending a bit more time in town and really taking in the sights, give The Hosteller a look. Formally located near Hauz Khas Village (my favorite part of Delhi), The Hosteller apparently moved further south to the upmarket neighborhood of Saket in December of 2015. The move may have pushed them further away from Hauz Khas, but it’s still only a short drive from Indira Gandhi Airport and a few kilometers from Qutb Minar. It was a fairly new hostel when I stayed there last year, but regardless of location, the staff here really seemed to have things figured out.

Probably due to its size and location, I remember that The Hosteller had more of a relaxed vibe than Zostel. Like many smaller hostels that I’ve stayed at in Europe, the lobby/check-in area was super low-key and most of the hostel space was reserved for actually hanging out. It seemed like a very free-flowing operation with laid-back staff who were happy to help but not overbearing. If you’re looking for more than just a rail-side stopover, setting up base camp at The Hosteller could be a good option.

Now back to Hauz Khas Village…

Since The Hosteller moved south, there really only seems to be one viable option left near Hauz Khas…

New Delhi Hostels
Hauz Khas Tombs – Photo: Vaurn Shiv Kapur

Madpackers Hostel

I stayed here a couple of months ago because of the location, but it actually turned out to be a pretty good spot to chill. In addition to being fairly close to the airport (about 25 minutes by car), it’s only about a thirty-minute walk to the entrance of Hauz Khas Village.

Hauz Khas Village (or “HKV” to drivers/locals) is one of the more happening areas of town if you’re looking for a fun place to bar hop. Once you make it to the entrance, you’ll see bars stacked on top of bars stacked on top of restaurants stacked on top of more bars. No exaggeration, I feel like there has to be over 100 bars and restaurants piled into this small area.

The prices here aren’t too bad, and the crowd is typically a fun mix of students and twenty-somethings looking for a casual night out. If you’re a mid-week partier, you’ll have no trouble finding drink specials somewhere in HKV every night of the week. If the bars shut down a bit too early for your taste and you can stomach the prices, grab an auto-rickshaw over to Club BW to extend the night.

After a night or two out in HKV, you can always head south to see Qutb Minar or push north to find some action downtown. If partying isn’t in the cards for you, there are tons of other fun things to do in the area – check out Deer Park, Siri Fort, Hauz Khas Forest or The Lotus Temple.

 

One of the best parts about Delhi is that traffic is relatively manageable when compared with other big cities in India, and catching an auto or an Uber won’t cost you an arm and a leg. No matter where you decide to set up base camp, I truly believe that Delhi is a city that should be enjoyed for more than just a day.

 

A Life Less Settled

Zimbabwe Visa

“…for those who value stability, who fear transience, uncertainty, change, have erected a powerful system of stigmas and taboos against rootlessness, that disruptive, anti-social force, so that we mostly conform, we pretend to be motivated by loyalties and solidarities we do not really feel, we hide our secret identities beneath the false skins of those identities which bear the belongers’ seal of approval. But the truth leaks out in our dreams; alone in our beds (because we are all alone at night, even if we do not sleep by ourselves), we soar, we fly, we flee. And in the waking dreams our societies permit, in our myths, our arts, our songs, we celebrate the non-belongers, the different ones, the outlaws, the freaks. What we forbid ourselves we pay good money to watch, in a playhouse or movie theatre, or to read about between the secret covers of a book. Our libraries, our palaces of entertainment tell the truth. The tramp, the assassin, the rebel, the thief, the mutant, the outcast, the delinquent, the devil, the sinner, the traveler, the gangster, the runner, the mask: if we did not recognize in them our least-fulfilled needs, we would not invent them over and over again, in every place, in every language, in every time.”

  • Salman Rushdie

I have to admit that I haven’t read much of Salman Rushdie’s work, but this quote hit me like a ton of bricks when I read a portion of it in a recent Surfer magazine article titled “An Ode To The Unsettled.”

Having lived and traveled in a lot of different places over the past seven years, I think I’ve developed a legitimate fear of settling down anywhere. Anyone who tells you that you’ll “get it out of your system” has clearly never lived the life of a long-term traveler. I can still remember how my first year-long trip abroad was meant to be my last. I was all set to make the classic play – teach English in Asia and go home as a more well-rounded and employable young educator. One trip somehow became two, and two slowly turned into five. At some point over the last seven years I simply lost track of time and just kept hopping from one place to another.

Now, here I am with a solid job and a relatively settled existence, but I still constantly search job boards looking for a unique opportunity to earn 1/3 the money and live in a shoe-sized apartment in Central Anywhere-But-Here.

 

The Only Hiking Music Playlist You’ll Ever Need

Jamming out to a playlist while hiking may not be the traditional approach to tackling the outdoors, but if you prefer tunes while hoofing it in the wilderness, look no further. I did the dirty work of compiling this little playlist and linking it up to the best YouTube clips that I could find – some of it’s obscure and international; some of it’s classic. Whether you’ve heard of the artists or not, I feel like all of these tunes are more than appropriate for any decent hiking trip.

Hiking Playlist
Photo: Michael Bass-Deschenes

 

(If you like the music – don’t be an asshole – go and buy it. If you’d rather be an asshole, don’t mind low quality MP3s, and are cool with maybe breaking a copyright law or two, you could just copy the links and paste them to this site that converts YouTube links to MP3s.)

 

Stan RogersNorthwest Passage

John Olav Nilsen and Gjengen –  Diamanter og Kirsebær

Xavier RuddLand Rights

Jack JohnsonThe News

Benjamin Francis Leftwich1904

Bob MarleyAfrica Unite

Joshua RadinWinter

MatisyahuSunshine

Band of HorsesIs There a Ghost

Bon IverSkinny Love

Jimmy BuffetA Pirate Looks at 40

Patrick ParkSomething Pretty

Norah JonesShoot the Moon

The Middle EastThe Darker Side

Red Hot Chili PeppersOther Side

Dustin TebbuttThe Breach

Jah Cure – Life We Live

Stan RogersBarrett’s Privateers

NOEP Golden

The Postal ServiceSuch Great Heights

The CoronasHeroes and Ghosts

Ray LaMontagneTrouble

Colin MeloyCrane Wife 1, 2, and 3

Phoenix1901

NatirutsMeu Reggae É Roots

SteelDriversIf It Hadn’t Been for Love

BirdyWhite Winter Hymnal

Gordon LightfootThe Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Ben KwellerHomeward Bound

Iron & WineGrace for Saints and Ramblers

Martin SextonGlory Bound

Roadkill Ghost ChoirBeggars’ Guild

Sticky FingersHow to Fly

 

If you have any suggestions that you would like see on the hiking playlist, let me know – leftoverslastnight@gmail.com or @oldleftovers on Twitter