What makes a good hostel?

When I told people I was travelling for a little over 4 months, many of them said “isn’t that expensive? Hotels aren’t cheap!”

Correct, hotels aren’t cheap. Well, in South East Asia, you can get one for as little as US $10 per night (my most recent was Hotel Xoai in Can Tho, Vietnam) or you can push the boat out and stay in a 5 star, for under $100 for two nights.

My response to the above question was usually “nah, I’m backpacking, I’ll be staying in hostels” Many of which cost on average US $5 per night.

“A hostel?!” “Aren’t they dirty, and horrible and you have to share rooms?”

Sometimes, Sometimes, yes and no.


I love staying in hostels. They are often a great place to meet other travellers. I’ve met some great people on my travels and managed to stay with them for a week or so adventuring around. People in hostels become your temporary family as a solo traveller, you connect easily and quickly. Everyone is in the same boat.

When it comes to wanting some time to yourself, many hostels have private rooms if you want space to yourself/a better nights sleep.

There are downsides to hostels too. I have stayed in some dirty, and horrible places, but for $2 per night, you can’t complain. I’ve had nights with little sleep and on uncomfortable beds, I’ve encountered cockroaches in my room and rats outside, but those are the places I generally only stay one night.

When it comes to booking a hostel, I use HostelWorld, as there are no booking fees. You pay a small down payment (normally a few dollars) to secure your room and that’s it.

It’s also great for looking up reviews of other travellers. I tend to look at the reviews on Hostel World as well as Trip advisor beforehand. Though reviews aren’t the absolute for me, as what is a good standard for one, may not be for another.

I feel my standard of “a good hostel” has lowered slightly. A flushing toilet, hot shower and air conditioning are now considered to be a luxury.

Lately I’ve not been booking hostels, as my travel itinerary has been flexible. Laos for example had very few hostels in the locations I was in, and I often “rocked up” and got a room.

However, when I do book a room in a hostel, there are a number of things I look for.

1. Secure lockers – as someone who travels with a lot of Western gadgetry, I like to have somewhere I can secure my things as I go off exploring. A locker in which you can use your own padlock is a bonus, as its extra secure, rather than a key from the hostel (which could have a second copy .. Paranoid much?)

2. Free WiFi – As someone that writes online frequently, free wifi is a bit of an essential for me. If its not free, at least wifi that you pay per day will suffice. This is also good for Skype catch ups with family.

3. Free breakfast – the word Free is gold to a backpacker. Hostels that come with a free breakfast is often something I look for. Many breakfasts in hostels are just toast, and jam. However, a hostel in Borneo provided toast, cereal, pastries, proper filter coffee and fruit, and my most recent in Vietnam has a menu of Pancakes or eggs and fresh baked bread!

4. Free water! In South East Asia, you’ll drink a lot of bottled water. For two reasons. Tap water is not safe and it’s hot. Some hostels I’ve been in have a water filter cooler free of charge, others charge a small fee of 25 cents or so. Free water, and you’re saving the environment from another plastic bottle.

5. Location – not an essential, but a hostel that is close to the action is good for me, so I don’t have to fork out on expensive taxi or tuk tuk rides getting to places.

Added extras that have made my hostel stays on this trip a bit more luxurious or special are:
A free towel everyday

A swimming pool


A free welcome drink

Good staff – friendly and helpful staff go a long way in a hostel. I recently left my hoodie on a bus in Kampot, Cambodia and a staff member rode 30 minutes out of town to the bus station to retrieve it for me. I’ve also had staff that will provide you with money saving tips and advice on avoiding scams, as well as tips on great places to eat.

What do you think makes a good hostel?

What do you look for when booking hostels?


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