Accommodation. One of the main budget eaters while backpacking. What if I told you it doesn’t have to be? Obviously, as a backpacker, you need to think budget, budget, budget. But you still want to feel comfortable and secure enough to rest easy at night after a long day of exploring the new city you’re in. You definitely do not want to waste your money on some dilapidated accommodation that did not live up to your expectations but at the same time traveling the world can keep the outcome flowing faster than Kuang Si waterfall while the income is at a momentary halt.
We are going to weigh up the pro’s and con’s of hotels and hostels while giving you a list of important aspects we consider before booking anything. We hope that our tips guide you and you keep them at the forefront of your mind while browsing accommodation.
Our priorities often went: price, location and security. If the location had a low rating but the price was amazing sometimes we would bite the bullet and trek back to our accom every night. Often with this though you end up paying what you would have for a better located place in tuk-tuk or taxi fares. Finding the balance here is key. When it comes to location also make sure you’re close to a local shop, market or 7/11! Food is another important must have budget guzzler. Believe me you don’t want to be trekking for food. To be “hangry”is a real thing, just ask Sam :).
Security is always so important. How can you get out and about during the day and take in everything you’re seeing if in the back of your mind you’re worried about your backpack? Security is everything.
Research is your best friend!
Honestly we cross check every accommodation we find through a range of different websites in order to get the lowest price or the better deal. We love to use Booking.com (Take me to Booking.com) as a base website, the first one we use to research our accommodation. We find it’s easiest to navigate via the filters you put in. Another base we use is Hostelworld (Take me to Hostelworld.com). They both also have really easy to use apps for iPhone and Android. These are the 2 main sites we book all of our accommodation from as they are the ones that almost always have the lowest price.
As a part of the research into booking accommodation always make sure you read reviews of every place before booking. Everyone always has a different experience to share but you can really build a picture of the place before you book it. You may think looking at the numerical rating will be enough, it’s really not. Reviews are excellent to give you pro’s and con’s of each place before you book and help you to tick off you’re priorities (as mentioned above). Sometimes it seems the write up on certain places are too good to be true, they are most of the time! Read the reviews to make sure you don’t do a Homer Simpson, it looks great in theory but sometimes things aren’t quite picture perfect!
TripAdvisor (Take me to TripAdvisor ) is my favourite site to read reviews and write my own. There’s not only reviews about accommodation but also restaurants and attractions all over the world! Simply amazing. The TripAdvisor app is one of the most used on my iPhone.
Hotel or Hostel?
Honestly each have their own perks and downfalls. In our experience we have enjoyed both and also sometimes we couldn’t wait until we left some of the places we booked. Here are some of our early experiences in Southeast Asia when it came to hotels and hostels.
HUG Hostel in Chiang Mai was one of our favourite’s along the way. It was clean and comfortable with good security and location was right on the border of the Old City. It was one where the pictures were exactly what was found when we arrived at our dorm. It ticked all the boxes. We also met lots of great people in our dorm room. The people we met here we continued to bump into a long the journey throughout Southeast Asia!
This was probably the best priced private room we stayed in and it also included a small buffet breakfast every morning! Like a hotel with a hostel backpackers’ price-tag. This is a must stay if you’re in Siem Reap. The only con was the location but you can get a fair priced tuk-tuk to the main action of Pub Street and the Old Market for $2USD.
We got a private room at this hostel because it wasn’t much extra in comparison to a dorm. Another place where the breakfast was included and it was delicious (order the pancake, it’s only one but it’s as thick as 3!). Even though we went private we were still able to meet some great people because of the free breakfast every morning. It had a very communal feel to it, like a big family sitting down to breakfast every morning!
We booked a Beach Bungalow with a Fan and it was everything we hoped and more. The beach and the pool were only steps away. You couldn’t find a more relaxing place if your tried. Safe to say we booked an extra night here. If you want to see more amazing footage of Sabaii Bay visit our Facebook page and watch our video called Southeast Asia Part 2.
It’s not a myth. You can find decent hostels with hotel like facilities but still at a decent, value for money price.
Now here are some of our horror stories also…
Baumanburi Hotel, Phuket
We decided to splash out a bit and get a “nice hotel” for a couple of nights. I wish we did not bother. The staff were extremely rude. I actually had an experience here where a man and lady came out of the lift, the lady was beside herself crying as the lift had gotten stuck and the emergency button was faulty!! Talk about a death trap! We were also kept up all hours of the night as it was across the road from the Hard Rock. Should’ve done more research! This was one place I would’ve traded a hostel dorm for any day.
Chillaos Youth Hostel, Vang Vieng
This one we booked in a hurry as we were on our way to Vang Vieng and thought, as it is a popular backpacking place to go, that a lot of the cheaper accommodation would be booking out quickly. If you are a massive party person this is a great hostel! But, while we love a good time, we don’t like it being forced upon us. This place was like a sorority/frat house. Our first clue should’ve been the free whiskey that is served from 5pm. The horror story that happened to me was while showering some guy chucked his guts up outside my shower cubicle and, brace yourself, his alcohol fueled vomit leaked into my shower WHILE I WAS STILL INSIDE. I just, yep, I feel I need say no more.
While yes these are nightmarish stories we have been very blessed with mostly great accommodation. This is mostly due to our rigorous research and time spent making sure we were getting the best for our money through the use of great sources such as Booking.com and Hostelworld.
In answer to the question of hostel vs hotel? Well it all comes down to you. Happy researching!
Sam and Kirsten x