Finding a good hostel in Southeast Asia is a bit of a gamble. After 5 months of travelling, I got pretty good at finding decent hostels but there are quite a few traps which can easily be avoided with my top 5 hostel hunting tips!
1. Find out what your requirements are
Once you’ve figured out what you actually want from a hostel, finding the ones that will suit you becomes a million times easier! For me, I knew that I wanted a quiet, social hostel with a good location. I avoided party hostels most of the time, except for NYE and Christmas when I stayed at a hostel that was known for its rooftop partys.
2. Be prepared for anything
I was incredibly lucky with the first hostel on my trip as it was super clean, the beds were comfy and had curtains and there were lots of shower facilities. My expectations were pretty high afterwards but keep in mind that all hostels are different and will not always live up to your expectations. So, be prepared for anything. I brought a mosquito net with me which was super useful as not all hostels have aircon or a mosquito net. A sleeping bed liner is also handy if you end up somewhere not as clean as you want to.
3. Location, location, location
If you want to truly experience a new place, stay away from the touristy and party areas. Lots of people that go to Bangkok end up wasting so much time on the very European Khao San Road and never make it beyond that area. Of course, if that’s what you want – go for it! I know it’s not for me, I prefer quieter areas with good transport links and authentic, affordable street food!
4. Read reviews
That’s were it gets difficult. I find that some hostels have really good reviews and you’re tempted to just think ‘ah it’ll be fine!’ and book it. I found that if you really go through the reviews on Hostelworld, you’ll find out quickly if this is the hostel for you or not. I always checked how old the travellers were that gave the reviews, to get an idea of the people staying there. Cleanliness is important of course, but for me as a solo traveller, the atmosphere score was more important. I also made sure that the hostel has common area where you can meet people!
Be aware of fake reviews though! I had one incident were I panik-booked a hostel in Malaysia with pretty good reviews as everything else was fully booked and it turned out to be the worst hostel on my whole entire trip and it was infested with bed bugs! After I went through the reviews again, it turned out that most of them were fake and obviously written by the owner! So try to make sure that the reviews are legit (many reviews from people that have given only one review on Hostelworld in total and that are written in bad English are usually not).
5. Talk to other travellers
The best tip I have learned whilst travelling is to ask other travellers for their recommendations! I’ve discovered many hostels through recommendations, especially the smaller ones that aren’t online! I always have my notepad or phone ready to take down advice from fellow travellers! If I met someone who was similar to me and liked the same style of hostel as me, I would as them where they’ve been and ask them for recommendations in each place they’ve been to (and which places to avoid)!
6. Listen to your gut
If you want into a hostel that you’ve booked but don’t feel safe or comfortable, leave! Unless it’s 2 a.m., you’ll most likely always find a different place to stay. Even if you’ve paid a deposit, don’t stay somewhere you don’t want to stay. Think about how much money you’ve spent on your trip, don’t let it be ruined by an awful hostel!
Also, don’t plan to far in advance! I once booked a hostel I was recommended a week in advance because I feared it would be fully booked soon but then stayed at a lovely hostel a few days before where I met the lovliest bunch of people and decided to cancel the other hostel. I ended up paying a fine but it was so worth it!
7. Cheap doesn’t always equal good
Even if you’re on a budget, I wouldn’t recommend always going for the cheapest option. Take other factors like location and food in consideration as well. Some hostels might be more expensive, but they include breakfast or they’re in a better location meaning you don’t have to pay for transport!
For me, a hostel is not only my base to explore the city, it’s also a place to meet new travel buddies. If you follow all of these tipps, I’m sure, you’ll be able to spot the best hostels in a new place quickly! But as usual, only practice makes perfect and there might be a few potholes along the way!
If you want to find out what the best hostels on my trip were, you can find out in this article!