Ban's Diving Resort, Ko Tao
Ban's is one of the biggest resort / diving-school joints in Ko Tao: but don't let this put you off. It's a great school: highly experienced instructors, friendly service, and all the support you could need. It's a great resort: lovely rooms, a superb bar / restaurant, and an unbeatable location. Plus, despite all that, it still manages to offer pricing competitive with many of its lesser rivals; and even more amazingly, it still manages to retain a cosy, chilled and friendly vibe. Alex, Caroline and myself stayed at Ban's for four nights (accommodation complementary with the PADI course), and we had a blast here.
Piccadilly Backpackers hostel, London
Piccadilly Backpackers is fairly similar to both the other hostels that I've stayed at, here in London: it's big, it's impersonal, and it feels awfully similar to a prison. Three tries, and still no budget accommodation with character in this city: I guess it's just a London thing. Anyway, Piccadilly Backpackers is at least in an excellent location; and putting the rest of the enormous complex aside, the hostel's small lounge and common room is quite charming and very friendly. Good place to stay if you need to crash in London for a few nights.
Kabul hostel, Barcelona
Kabul is — like Cat's in Madrid — well-known for being one of the best hostels in Barcelona. And as such — also like Cat's — I took no chances, and booked my stay at this hostel well in advance. Kabul may have a rather unfortunate name, but otherwise it's a super-duper place. The bar and lounge / eating area, which takes up the entire first floor of the hostel, is its beating heart: it's packed with a ripper of a crowd every single evening (and buzzing during the day as well); it's filled with extra little attractions such as a pool and a fussball table; and it's where you can take advantage of most of the hostel's numerous freebies, such as the meals and the Internet. If you're able to book ahead for your stay in Barcelona, then take my word: don't even consider staying anywhere else, 'coz it don't get better than Kabul.
Cat's hostel, Madrid
Cat's is by far the most architecturally beautiful hostel I've ever stayed in: the enclosed central courtyard of the building is not only a chilled meeting and relaxation point; it's also a gorgeous work of painted Spanish arches and columns, exquisite marble flooring, and an ornate stained-glass ceiling. As well as the building, the hostel itself is also a great place: it has a lively bar with cheap drinks (including sangria); a great mix of fellow guests; and many conveniences nearby. My only complaint is with some of the staff. Other than that, this is quite likely the best hostel to be found in Madrid.
Stay and Learn hostel, Frankfurt
Hostels really don't get much more conveniently located than Stay and Learn: it's across the road from the train station! It seems that the owners of this hostel are prepared to admit the truth: Frankfurt's a big boring city, and most people only come here in order to make some kind of transport connection (generally a flight). I guess that, due to its name, many people also stay in Frankfurt in order to learn some German — because there's nothing else to do here :P. Considering that it's in big commercial Frankfurt, I found Stay and Learn to be surprisingly fun and colourful, for the one night that I was here. The common room upstairs is very friendly, and the free all-you-can-eat dinner (on some nights) is not to be missed.
Snowbunnys hostel, Kitzbühel
Snowbunnys is more than just a hostel. It's an institution. A warm, cosy, crazy, and very Aussie institution. Owned and run by Dave the crazy Kiwi, Snowbunnys is also something of a miracle: a budget backpacker retreat, in the heart of one of Austria's fanciest and most upmarket ski resorts. The TV in the lounge provides illegal hacked access to hundreds of satellite channels: Dave will show you which are the porn channels, but will warn you "don't watch them, you'll be embarrassed when I walk in and see you". The clothes-drying room in the basement provides space to air your clunky boots and to dry your smelly socks; and the garage out the back has capacity for all your ski-gear needs. Plus, vegemite is sold at the hostel for €4 a jar. And, of course, it's the friendly fellow guests of the place that really makes Snowbunnys feel like home. I spent six nights here over Christmas, but I wish I could have stayed longer.
Yoho hostel, Salzburg
Yoho International youth hostel is quite easily The Best hostel I've stayed at so far in Europe, as well as The Only hostel you should consider staying at when in lovely Salzburg. Yoho is one of those hostels that's the perfect size: not so big that it's impossible to meet anyone; and not so small that there's nobody there to meet. The bar is open every night, it's there to be visited, and visit it is what everyone does. Yoho is also famous for playing "The Sound of Music" in their TV room, every single day at 10:30am — if you're crazy enough to want to watch it while you're there, then feel free. I think the hostel's slogan says it all: "easy to find, hard to leave".
Wombat's hostel (the base), Vienna
It almost seems like I haven't left Munich at all: because here I am in Vienna, and I've just moved from one Wombat's to another! The Wombat's chain in strongest here in Vienna: they have two separate hostels in the city (both near the main train station); and I stayed in the bigger and older one, "the base". Wombat's (the base) isn't quite as crazy a party venue as is Wombat's Munich, but it still has a great bar (with a free welcome drink upon arrival), nice facilities, and tonnes of Aussie guests.
Wombat's hostel, Munich
Wombat's Munich is a great place to stay if you want to experience the best of Munich. The free daily tour of Munich, that they run for their guests, is an excellent introduction to this gorgeous and unique city. Plus, the bar and lounge area (with pool table, and a funky "winter garden") is (a) packed with the hostel's lively and "true-blue backpacker" guests every night of the week; and (b) a good place to begin sampling the best thing about Munich: beer! However, Wombat's is also a little too much the "stereotypical backpacker" joint: while here, you really are expected to party hard and to drink harder. And — as its name suggests — if you're not sick of Aussies already, then you will be once you're done staying at Wombat's.
Herberge der Jugend, Dresden
The Herberge der Jugend, Dresden is an absolute last-resort accommodation option: I only stayed here tonight because every single other hostel in Dresden was full; don't consider staying here unless you're faced with a similarly dire predicament. It's a nice enough place: but it's more than ½ an hour from the city centre, and it's completely dead. Dresden has plenty of better hostels: do yourself a favour, book one of the others... and make your booking well in advance!