Often, the accommodation you choose and the people you meet there can define your experience of a new location. As a backpacker, you will most likely be looking to sleep as comfortably as you can on your tiny budget, without sacrificing a banging atmosphere. Usually this means sticking to hostels. Our budget didn’t allow much for accommodation, and we tried to stick to an absolutely crippling maximum of £15 per night. In some locations, like anywhere in the Philippines, meeting this target was impossible but for the most part we managed it. To help you choose where to stay on your trip around Southeast Asia, here is a list of our top 10 favourite hostels in Southeast Asia.
10. Everyday Bangkok Hostel, Bangkok, Thailand.
Located in Silom, just 20 minutes from Hua Lam Phong Central Railway Station, this hostel is excellent accommodation for a short stopover in Bangkok. You can’t really escape visiting Bangkok if you’re flying into Southeast Asia from Europe, so you should chill out here for a night or two. Everyday Bangkok offers 8-bed, 6-bed, and 4-bed dorms, as well as twin-bed, and double-bed private rooms.
It spans four floors, offers free wifi, coin-operated washing facilities, television with Xbox and Playstation, and even has a guitar which can earn you free drinks if you play songs all the way through. Our visit was in low-season so it was pretty quiet, but there is a large social area and a kitchen with a fridge and a kettle. Although our visit was brief, the hostels cleanliness and layout impressed enough to make it onto this list; it was ideal for an overnight stop on our way to Cambodia.
9. Easy Tiger, Phong Nha, Vietnam.
Set back into the hills of Phong Nha, Easy Tiger is another popular place for travellers to rest their heads. Having been heavily flooded during the typhoon in October 2016, Easy Tiger quickly recovered to its usual energetic self. Flags of many nations adorn the walls of the reception and the TVs show random sports from around the globe. The bunk beds here are unbelievably comfortable, and come with warm, cosy blankets. To book a room, you have to email email@example.com as, strangely, they don’t use booking engines or take bookings over the phone.
Every other night a local band performs popular cover music, often inviting sozzled guests to join in as the night draws on. The bar has excellent happy hour deals from 7pm til 10pm but if I were you, I’d avoid the rice Rum… I’ve never had a worse hangover in all my life, and I spent four years at university. All in all, this is a cracking place to stay in a location as sedate as a sleeping sloth. And for my Australian readers, it’s maybe the only place in all of Asia that you can buy Vegemite.
8. Silver Moon Resort, Koh Phangan, Thailand.
Most people only go to Koh Phangan for its legendary parties; us included. Fortunately, we found that Phangan actually has some really gorgeous places not related to the Full Moon Party. In truth, Silver Moon is more guesthouse than resort, and offers several bungalows as well as private rooms for rent. We knew that we wanted to attend the Full Moon Party, but we were keen not to stay too close to the parties as the music was thumping late into the morning, even after the ‘official’ end time of 6am.
The owner, Heinz, and his wife Nutt, have a wonderfully secluded spot away from Haad Rin beach. They have a private beach, canoes, kayaks and paddle boards, and even put on an all-you-can-eat barbecue on the night of the Full Moon Party – once a month. (This is a highlight, close to the best BBQ I’ve ever had and I’m part Aussie). Their prices are affordable, and though the actual accommodation are pretty basic, the warmth you will be treated with more than makes up for it. This family is truly special and really made our visit happy and comfortable.
7. Cozy Guesthouse, Koh Lanta, Thailand.
Okay, so Cozy is not strictly a ‘budget’ hostel but if you visit Lanta in low season, the owners will be more than willing to give you a discount. The rooms are tiered by colour; we chose the Green room and paid a discounted 550BHT a night. The room was wonderfully spacious, a welcome change from the cramped rooms we were used to.
One impressive thing about this place is that the owners, Linda and Anders, are actively combating the rampant problem of plastic waste in Thailand. They have teamed up with Trash Hero to reduce the amount of plastic used on the island – there is no sophisticated waste disposal system, it just gets piled on to the middle of the island. They offer metal water bottles and a water fountain for your usage during your stay, and you can even buy them for 200BHT. The staff are extremely friendly, the restaurant and bar well equipped, and the whole place just oozes quality. We definitely recommend a look at least.
6. Hug Hostel, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Located on one of the more central roads of Chiang Mai, this accommodation is a great launch pad for all of the amazing activities available in Chiang Mai. The staff will help you decide what you want to do and the reliable wifi allows you to research your next destination. There is a comfortable bar and restaurant area with a pool table and a comparably cheap menu. (The chefs here make Katherine’s favourite Spaghetti Bolognese in all of Asia). The atmosphere here, as with Chiang Mai in general, is laid back and chilled out. There is no pressure to get drunk and spend money, though on Friday they have a disco night – which we unfortunately missed out on.
5. Capsule New Seminyak, Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia.
This is an unusual one. The dorm beds are in capsules with walls and neon green lights. The mattresses are ridiculously comfortable, and the pillows are like the thickest, fluffiest Indonesian clouds. The beds are so comfortable, cosy, and tucked away that we often didn’t wake up until 11am; very unusual for us in Asia. The bar area is usually lively and as the night draws on, it fills with people preparing for a night at La Favela, the nearest club, with pre-drinks and Cards Against Humanity. The bar also offers food for the times you can’t be bothered to wrestle with Bali traffic. It’s very tasty, and the cheapest we found in Bali.
4. The Banyan Tree, Kampot, Cambodia.
A beautifully restful spot along the Praek Tuek Chhu river, this guesthouse is somewhere quite special. Offering accommodation ranging from $3USD for a 12-bed dorm bed to $12USD for a riverside, floating bungalow with three walls. We stayed in this bungalow on a complete whim. We didn’t know what it was and asked if we could have a look when we arrived. Immediately wowed by the river flowing calmly past the open wall, we moved in here for a couple of nights and gee was it peaceful. The Banyan Tree is run by local Cambodians and offers an alternative to Mad Monkey, Monkey Republic, and partying mecca, Arcadia.
3.Dalat Family Hostel, Dalat, Vietnam.
Recommended to us by several travellers we met on the road, this place has a unique feel to it. Dalat Family Hostel was initially set up by a woman with empty nest syndrome after her daughters had left home to study at university. It soon became a family enterprise when her daughters returned and now it has turned into one of the foremost places to stay in Dalat. Offering both private rooms and dorm rooms, the hostel is great for a few nights stay if you don’t mind a little noise.
The backpacker atmosphere was perfect for us. The bar is open until around 8pm when the soundproofed ‘nightclub’ in the shed opens. Yes, in the shed. The clear highlight was that for a mere 50000VND (about £1.60) you were treated to an all-you-can-eat Vietnamese dinner. Even better, and unique to this hostel, is that you eat on long tables next to other guests; it forces you to mingle and meet new people. This was a really cool aspect to the hostel, and one that made it feel like a real family experience.
2. Backpackers Village, Mui Ne, Vietnam.
If you’re travelling up or down the eastern Vietnamese coast – if you’re a backpacker you almost definitely are – then this hostel is a slice of affordable luxury. It’s called ‘Backpackers Village’ for a reason; its huge. The spotlessly clean rooms stretch all the way up what they call the ‘Mountain’ – about 20 steps up a hill – and range between $4USD 12-bed dorm beds and $35 private double rooms ($25 during quieter periods).
When you enter the complex, you’re greeted by a monumental, bright blue swimming pool framed by sun-soaked backpackers bathing in the roasting sun. However, considering the number of backpackers in one place, it is not much of a party hostel. Instead, you can expect to chill out by the pool of an evening, with a $1USD Saigon beer or two. There are the occasional messy beer pong tournaments followed by a trip to a beachside nightclub but even the club has areas you can chill out and chat by the sea. Another great thing about this place is that organize tours to the sand dunes, for just $5 – well worth the money.
1. Mad Monkey, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Mad Monkey is a behemoth of backpacker accommodation in Cambodia. It is impossible to visit Siem Reap or Phnom Penh and not be asked if you’re staying at Mad Monkey. Even tuk-tuk drivers will assume you’ve bagged a room there because the hostels are so popular. The chain is known for its party atmosphere and, if that’s what you’re looking for from your accommodation, then Mad Monkey is comfortable, affordable, and gives you what you want. The clientele tends to be young singletons ranging in age between 18 and 32, but if you don’t fit in this bracket, don’t be deterred. Even if you aren’t a big drinker and you’re not a fan of partying, it is still a great place to meet other backpackers. Many of the friends we made in Cambodia came from nights spent in the rooftop bars of these hostels.
All told, we maybe had 2 nights out during our time in both hostels, but we enjoyed the atmosphere so much that in Boracay in the Philippines, we spent our evenings at Mad Monkey’s pool and bar area even though we weren’t staying there. In Phnom Penh, we actually moved from another hostel to Mad Monkey because we knew that quality was guaranteed. Each hostel – as well as those in Kampot, Koh Rong Samloem, and Boracay – has some form of stylish bar, a pool, and usually cabanas or other tables where you can chat and meet other people.
You can book rooms at Mad Monkey through Hostelworld, and directly through their website. Prices range from $8USD for a 12-bed dorm bed with Air Conditioning to $25 for an ensuite deluxe private room with AC. The hostels are centrally located which is perfect for visiting the local attractons such as the Angkor Wat Temple Complex in Siem Reap, and the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh.