I’ve stayed at all of the hostels in Austin, thanks to my two weeks in Austin over SXSW Festival. Here’s my review of all them so you can decide which one to stay at.
There aren’t actually that many hostels in Austin, considering how popular it is. I stayed at three of the five that were there when I was.
Well basically I was in Austin for SXSW Festival and had to move hostels depending on where I could actually find space, for as cheap as possible. I ended up spending the most I’ve ever spent on a hostel here, and wasn’t happy about it. But I also ended up staying in one of the best hostels of my travels too.
Every cloud has a silver lining.
Choosing the right hostel when you travel is so important. It’s like choosing your home, breakfast, likelihood of sleep and potential friends all in one. A lot depends on it.
I can’t help with every hostel decision, but after spending three weeks in three different hostels in Austin, I feel I can definitely help with this one.
Best hostel in Austin? HK Austin
HK Austin is part owned by the world’s number one travel blogger (and personal friend) Nomadic Matt and best-selling author, Brent Underwood.
For starters, that’s cool.
I came here exhausted after getting no sleep at Drifter Jacks Hostel (more on that below). After being shown around the library, the porch balcony looking out to the street and the lounge, I sat in the kitchen with the (awesome) general manager Alejandro for a chat.
The feel of HK Austin
HK Austin has an awesome homely vibe – if I had a house in Austin I’d like it to look like this. It’s in one of those Antebellum-looking houses with a huge garden and big rooms inside. The kitchen was spacious with a big picnic bench in the middle – the best seating for making friends. There’s a communal fridge, daily fresh fruit to share and you’re free to use all the facilities to save some money and calories on the Austin food.
The lounge area was cool and I ended up spending one night playing King’s Cup with the rest of the guests and Brent’s mates. I wasn’t planning on drinking that night – and then… too many beers later, we went out. During SXSW the house had been rented out by Atlantic Records and they’d left some records for them. The Weeknd became the soundtrack to our night.
My roomies at HK Austin became instant friends and we went out together all three nights that I was there. On the Saturday Brent even did a free bbq for everyone, I mean, what a guy!
The facilities at HK Austin
I haven’t even mentioned the bedsheets yet. The crowning glory. When you stay in hostels you get used to a certain kind of shit sheets. I’ve stayed in some sheets that I’d bet were older than I was. At HK Austin I had a proper duvet with dreamy soft sheets I just didn’t want to get out of. Had some well good sleeps here, especially as it’s in a quiet, residential area, and, as I said, I had a few drinks every night to help me off.
At HK Austin the four of us in my room – Alex, Chad, Billy and me – had a bathroom to share that was like one you’d have at home. So good to have a bit of privacy when you’re dripping wet and need to towel off.
I’m always honest with you so I’ll say now that I was given my three nights at HK Austin complementary to see what I thought. And I thought good. HK Austin was just so homely, chilled, fun, got a good sleep, well located, comfy and spacious that it’s my number one choice for Austin.
Take a read of these other guys though, HK Austin doesn’t have that many beds and is currently riding high on the hostel charts (9.4/10 on HostelWorld) so you’ll need to book early to get in.
Best hostel in Austin? Drifter Jacks
I have mixed feelings about this place. I didn’t sleep for more than three hours straight at any point, over 8 nights. Sleeping is obviously the main point of a hostel, so it definitely lost points there. Most of the staff were cool though, and it was alright, so I feel bad totally slating it.
Let me tell you how it was…
I stayed here for eight nights during SXSW and after. During SXSW it wasn’t too bad, as I’d be back at about 2ish and just collapse in bed from drink and tiredness. Then I’d be up for 9am and out ASAP. So the two to three interruptions in sleep just meant I went straight back under.
The feel at Drifter Jack’s
It was the days after SXSW where I got really annoyed. I stayed in the only girls dorm, which was next to the lounge area and diagonal from the kitchen. It also had the check in desk just outside. It was SO noisy. The night staff would play music loud all through the night for starters. All kinds, from rap to jazz to some weird violin shenanigans.
I’d managed to get to sleep for 12 one night then at about 2am I was woken by a party in the common room. By 3am and even with my earphones in with the music turned up as loud as my eardrums could take, I could still hear them actually shouting and screaming, I went out to ask the night manager what was going on. He just replied ‘it’s 3am on a Saturday’. I’m no party pooper but my room had me and 5 other girls in all tossing and turning awake with this next door.
The facilities at Drifter Jack’s
My other issue was the breakfast. During SXSW I paid £45 for my bed in a six-person dorm. All they had for breakfast was shitty pancake mix. After SXSW suddenly boiled eggs and tomatoes appeared. I asked the guy about it and he said there’s always been that I just hadn’t been there early enough. I’d always made it for 9am. I think it’s pretty shoddy to charge twice the price for the beds and not have enough stuff to cater for everyone. How many cents is an egg in America hey?
And then worse, the bathroom in our room stank like drains. Oh and the Wi-Fi was shit. Aannnddd they had the kind of sheets I was talking about, that’ve been around since America began. I had a shoddy excuse for a pillow and a duvet that was too small for its cover so you end up with the sheet space which is the equivalent of sleeping under a weak handshake. Makes me feel queer. In the old sense of the word.
They also had those squeaky metal beds that wake the other person up as soon as one of you moves.
It was a good location and I’m glad I stayed up at that end of town to see more of Austin, but if you want any kind of sleep, I’d recommend the other hostels.
One last thing… ok I realise I really didn’t like this hostel now…
There was one night where the female guests that were partying in the living room late just started using our ensuite bathroom as a toilet. As in, there was a shared one off the kitchen but I presume it was being used by the party in the kitchen. They’d just stroll into our room, flick the light on (this was between 1 and 3am) noisily use our bathroom and leave.
To be fair, just before I was about to ask one of them wtf she was doing after round three, the night manager did ask her to use the kitchen.
One of the girls who worked there would also come in to use our full length mirror, while we were sleeping. It was just bizarre – no privacy or respect from staff or guests.
I honestly don’t know how it’s got such a high rating. Good if you want to party for a few days, I guess.
Best hostel in Austin? Hostelling International (HI)
Ok, ranting about Drifter Jacks went on a bit, I’ll keep this short.
Hostel International was nice. It was the first hostel in Austin I stayed at and until I stayed at HK Austin I liked it. It’s a little out of town and on the other side of the river, but I walked in almost every day and it was fine. There’s always the bus too.
The feel at Hostelling International Austin
The shared space here was brilliant., especially thanks to the huge windows that looked out onto the river. There were crazy rain storms in my first two days and the floor to ceiling windows gave a prime position to watch them from.
Compared to the other two hostels there wasn’t as much of a vibe here. I think just because it was bigger and there was a more varied clientele, as in not just people wanting to party, whether in or out the hostel.
The facilities at Austin Hostelling International
Hostel International definitely had the best breakfast of them all. They had toast and bread delivered from the local bakery, a huge vat of coffee and porridge and fruit too.
Unfortunately they did have my hostel hate: metal beds. I was also in an 8-bed dorm here, something else I’d never recommend. Aaaand, they had sheets and blankets, which disturb me because I once watched a programme about how hotels never actually wash the blankets. Eugh.
The shower and toilet situation here was as I’d expect at a Hostel International – perfectly clean communal ones at the bottom of the corridor. Staff were cool, there was facilities to make your own food, and they put on special nights for the guests, which I didn’t actually experience because I was busy with SXSW.
Other memories of this place include the gross man who put his big skanky feet on the coffee table facing me while I was eating my porridge, and the girl who spewed in our room. But that’s not Hostel International’s fault. That’s shared living.
Cool place. Would stay again.
The best hostels in Austin
Austin hostel recommendations in order.
1. HK Austin
2. Hostel International
3. Drifter Jacks
The only other hostel in Austin is the Firehouse on 6th Street. I met a girl staying there who said it was cool but I didn’t get to try it firsthand. Could be worth a try!
Considering there’s so much to do in Austin, and it’s such a cool city, it’s amazing there aren’t more Austin hostels. At least it narrows it down for you to choose between though. Not like New Orleans where there are loads of hostels to choose from!
Just let me know if you have any questions on hostels in Austin in the comments box below.