For backpackers all over the world, Asia is the Promised Land. It is the land of the $1 meal, where nobody ever goes hungry. It is the land of the 50c beer, where nobody ever has to forgo a night of fun. And most importantly, it is the land of cheap accommodation, where backpackers can afford to stay and explore all that these wonderful Asian countries have to offer. From the temples at Ankor Wat, to the beaches in Thailand and the oceans of Indonesia, Asia has something for everyone.
Here at Hostelzoo, we’re in agreement that of all our favourite places in the world, well over half are within Asia. We love Asia, for all of its perfections, as well as all its little flaws. Now, as you’ve probably realized by now, one other thing that Hostelzoo is seriously in love with is hostels. They’re our life. We live and breathe hostels, hostel living and the glorious ups and downs that come with them. But Asia isn’t really the land of hostels. Sure, they exist there, but backpackers stay in hostels in Western countries because they’re cheaper, but in Asia the opposite is sometimes the case. While in places like Australia budget accommodation options jump from hostels to motels and hotels, in Asia there are a whole lot of other options in the middle ground.
Consider the guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, homestays, losmen and all the other super cheap options that populate the landscape of Asia. In some countries, these places go for $5-7 a night, and while a dorm bed is usually around the same, it certainly isn’t a private room. So why would you stay in hostels in Asia when there are so many other options? Is it better to choose hostels over guesthouses, or the other way around? Or, are both preferable in their own way?
Well, it pays to think about what you want to get out of your travels in Asia, and what kind of a traveler you are. If you’re the type who can walk into a room and instantly become everyone’s best friend, confidant and go-to guy (or gal) then you’re probably set. You can’t deny that a big piece of the decision to stay in hostels or not is the social aspect. Hostels are social places, and they allow a relatively safe place (often in an unfamiliar area) where you can meet like-minded people. Hostels attract backpackers, and backpackers are attracted to hostels. This just makes the social part of backpacking super easy, because the hostel you stay in is definitely going to be filled with backpacker types, possible future travel buddies, or generally travel focused people.
Obviously, the same cannot be said about guesthouses. Unless you’re staying in a guesthouse in the middle of a popular backpacker area, there could be anyone staying there. Now, this shouldn’t necessarily considered to be a bad thing. With no offence meant to any of the amazing backpackers we’ve met over the courses of our lives, there are other types of people in the world. Sometimes it pays to get out of the backpacker sphere for a little while, just to remind yourself that there’s a whole other reality out there. Of course, you could show up at a guesthouse and find that there’s a great group of other backpackers staying there as well, so who can say for sure?
What we’ve noticed that more independent travelers will often choose guesthouses over hostels, while people just starting on their travels will be more comfortable in the familiarity of hostels. Both styles of travelling are equally valid, and we don’t think there’s any need to force people into boxes based on whether they prefer hostels to other budget accommodation. But, here’s something we’ve noticed in our travels through Asia:
Guesthouses can be hard to find online.
Let’s say you’re arriving into Bangkok at 10pm and you need somewhere to stay for the night. Do you want to be pulling into Khao San Road and looking for a bed in the middle of the night? No, you want to rock up somewhere, sleep off your flight and assess the situation in the morning. In an instance like that, it’s wise to make an online booking, just to guarantee you’re not going to have a horrible first night in a new place. But hostels tend to be the big avertisers online, whereas smaller, budget accommodations are easier to find on the ground. It isn’t always the easiest thing to trawl through a google search looking for a half-decent guesthouse in the middle of an unfamiliar city.
Well, we’ve noticed this, so we wanted to make it easier on Hostelzoo.com. Not only do we list hostels all over Asia, we also list budget accommodation options like guesthouses. Pulling information from a number of budget accommodation booking sites, we make sure that you’re getting the best deal for your dollar. After all, just because you’re in a cheap place like Asia, doesn’t mean you want to waste your money. A few expensive nights of accommodation can really translate a long way when you’re travelling in the land of affordability.
So what do you think about the hostel v. guesthouse conundrum when travelling in Asia. Do you have a definite preference or is money your primary concern?