Updated: 16.05.17

Summary of this blog post

One of the very first questions I tend to get asked as a long term traveler is around accommodation – where do you sleep?! Interesting question aye, and one I’m hear to answer! 

This article will go into detail in terms of my own experiences staying at Hostel’s, Hostels and Guest Houses throughout Asia.

I think this is a very useful piece of content for new travelers and more advanced travelers alike for trips around Asia!

So let’s get to it Hostels VS Hotels VS Guest Houses In Asia! 


The very word of “hostel” is almost like a swearword in the UK due to the fact we don’t use them, and what little hostels we might have tend to be for the homeless, especially out side of London.

This often gives the wrong impression to exactly what is refereed to as a hostel which is commonly used by travelers and backpackers throughout the world.

So, reading in the UK or other countries that are not sure on the word “hostel” keep on reading!

In Asia the word hostel really is referring to a cheap alternative to a hotel, where you stay in dorms for a vastly reduced amount of money per night.

Yes, ideal if you’re on a budget, but even more so if you want to meet fellow travelers (of course you do!) as it allows you an awesome platform to meet new people – either whoever you’re sharing your room with or throughout the hostel!

The dorm rooms, where you have multiple people staying in one room, normally on bunk beds, generally these range from 3 people rooms (such as Gili T where this is actually enforced by law!) to some of the biggest dorm rooms you can imagine – once saw a dorm room in Cambodia for 32 beds and in Japan for 48 beds!  

I’d recommend sticking between 4 to 10 at the max end, depending on your budget of course but the bigger the less likely you will get any sleep so it does all depend on what you’re wanting out of the stay too!

Hostels in Asia tend to come with an area to chill out, like a TV room or have a bar attached with reduced prices for people staying. You don’t often get kitchens in Asia and lets face it its prob cheaper to just go out and buy it! However, in the likes of Australia you will tend to get a kitchen as most people tend to cook their own food due to cost of living!

Tell me about the toilets! Well I couldn’t go leaving this info our right….Toilets are also normally shared, sometimes, and I mean sometimes en suites are offered – sounds good right? I wouldn’t recommend when you’ve got loads of people who are using it as smell and all that horrible stuff tends to roll into the room so go for showers and toilets away from sleeping! 

Hostels come in all sorts of price ranges. For example Cambodia is super cheap, whereas the islands of Thailand you’d get less bang for your buck.

My advise isn’t go for the cheapest, or the most expensive but one with ratings over 8 and lies in the middle in terms of bed per night and you’re off to a winner!

Top Tip: Looking for a party? Meet new people? Generally have an awesome time? Search Google for Party Hostel in X! Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean it will be insane but you will find somewhere with the atmosphere you’re looking for! 

Hostels are cheap, fun and generally clean (gotta watch for that!) and ideal for budget travelers. 


Bloody loved my stay at the Mad Monkey in Boracay!


We all know what we are going to get, or should get as the cause might be in some countries, when it comes to a hotel.

You’re going to get your own room (or maybe twin/double bed if you’re sharing) and get all the luxuries that come with it! Sound good right? Well I’m not all that sure.

From my experiences I tend to keep away from hotels and use these as either a last resort or as a treat – yes a treat!

Getting annoyed of hostels and sharing dorms and having trouble sleeping? Then check yourself into a hotel!

Or, you might be having a layover like I did twice in KL, where instead of going all the way into the city and stay at a hostel I located a hotel that was close to the airport, saved time each way and got some quality sleep for not much more.

You’re in Asia so hotels won’t set you back loads unless you head to the big names however can be useful when used throughout your travels!

We all know the benefits of hotels, however its the negatives that come with staying at hotels when traveling. You’re away from the action, you will find it a real struggle to meet new people and form awesome friendships and you miss out on the social element of traveling!

What you doing bro!?! Not to mention the additional costs associated not staying in a dorm! 

Just use when you really require some sleep, or a really comfy bed or as a layover if it makes things easier!

Guest Houses

These are a tricky one in my opinion as you get an awful lot of guest houses on the likes of HostelWorld and HostelBooker apps and you tend to ask the question “mmm whats the difference between a guest house and a hostel?!”.

Yep, its a tricky one but I might after so much experience now I’ve finally worked out the difference!

The difference? Its actually a guest house. Its not a chain of hostels (good or bad I suppose), someone owns it, often a local family, its their business. That means you might get a mix of an experience between a hostel and hotel but without really saving any extra money.

I’d say guest houses are likely to be for the more mature traveler, the ones that want to have sleep and get up and explore all day, and who have a little bit more budget to play with when it comes to choosing somewhere to sleep! You still often get dorms though, so its not in the same price as hotels and single / double rooms prob come at a distance compared to hotels. 

I’ve not got anything against guest houses, time and a place though. Sometimes it makes sense and you get better accommodation. Sometimes its somewhat a flat experience. 

For example, Koh Rong Cambodia we opted to share a twin room at the Happy Elephant Guesthouse as it was like a dollar or so more each per night vs the hostels that didn’t look all that cracky once we hit shore! And on the island, most hostels were not on the apps, which makes me suspicious, where as the guest houses where on booking.com.

We heard good reports, booked it for a couple of nights and loved it, extending for times than I can remember! Clean place but little going on….

Top Tip: Heading to Koh Rong in Cambodia? Stay at the Happy Elephant Guesthouse, had a ball and wrote a review you can find here

These types of places aren’t often where you’re going to be doing shots with the bar staff, or playing drinking games with other guests until silly o clock and then hitting the nightlife.

Again, depends what you’re after but for the general young travelers I’d recommend hostels! Best way to find out? Ask fellow travelers! 

Stick to hostels most of the time, above ratings of 8, if you’re looking for the 20-something traveler experience!

Hostels VS Hotels VS Guest Houses

So, what should you do with?!

Hostels or hotels or guest houses when you’re traveling Asia? Well the answer is that each have their own merits, each can be helpful depending on what your mood is, what you’re wanting and where you’re!

I’d recommend that if you want the 20-something experience backpacking throughout Asia then hit up Hostels, and party hostels as much as possible. Make sure to go for the middle price range but rest assure these are just hotels really but with more beds in the room!

Hotels play they part, don’t get me wrong, sometimes you need that good night sleep but if you’re like me you won’t be able to wait until you’e back in the hostel meeting new folk!

And, lastly, don’t totally discount guest houses, don’t tend to be as good value or as fun as hostels but have a time and place! if you struggle to find hostels on the apps for a certain places like I did in Koh Rong then Booking.com and guest houses might be to your rescue!

Not sold on any of these? Why not try AIRBNB & receive $50 off! Find out more

Thanks for reading – what are your experiences staying at hostels, hotels and guest houses? Any bad experience, any positive experiences – any that people shouldn’t miss in Asia? Comment below and help others out! 



Dan Elson
Entrepreneur, Digital Marketer,
& Traveler of Worlds
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