Hostels are great places that laid back traveling people can enjoy. They are some of the best places to meet new friends and share your favorite backpacking stories. However, we’ve all met some types of people who just shouldn’t stay in hostels. While there are more, these are our top seven types of terrible hostel guests.
Chiang Mai has long been on our list of must dos. A hub for expats and digital nomads in Southeast Asia, we imagined it as a place we could settle down for awhile. After a few weeks of Bangkok, we needed to get out of the big city so we purchased a cheap flight to Thailand’s north. You can also take the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, but for a minimal amount more you can trade the 12 hour ride for a 1 hour flight. On arrival around midnight we took a cheap taxi pickup truck, called a songthaew to our hostel.
The hostel, to our dismay, had forgotten our booking, which we found out right as it started to downpour. Fortunately we found a private room right around the corner at Nomadic Guesthouse for only 200 baht per night and got ourselves some rest, ready to explore the town in the morning.
We instantly loved Chiang Mai. The vibe was so much more relaxed than our previous weeks in Bangkok, and the friendly people made us feel very welcome. Read more →
Yimwhan Hostel & Cafe in Ayutthaya, Thailand is a new and chic hostel in the old capital city. Located in a quiet neighborhood just outside the old city, Yimwhan offers everything a traveler needs to feel comfortable in a new place. Their cafe and common room are great places to enjoy a coffee, or you can rent bicycles from their friendly staff and quickly find yourself among the ancient temples. If biking is not your thing then they will call you a tuk tuk and have you at the temples in minutes.
Their private rooms feature large comfy beds on trendy pallet supports. We loved the antique style light bulbs and old 80s televisions used as tables. Each room also has a safe for your valuables.
Yimwhan Hostel & Cafe also has mixed dorm and female dorm rooms. The dorms are simple, clean, and well lit, a great value for the price.
The highlight of Yimwhan Hostel & Cafe for us was the free breakfast. Going way above and beyond the normal free hostel breakfast, Yimwhan served eggs, sausage, toast, cereals, milk, juice, and coffee.
Yimwhan’s common room is a great place to relax after a long day of biking around the temples of Ayutthaya. They have comfy beanbag chairs and movies to watch to wind down. Check out our video below for a virtual tour around the hostel!
Backpacking Malaysia is great for easy Asia travel. Easier than South America, easier than Thailand. We traveled the length of the Malaysian peninsula from Malacca to Penang, Kuala Lumpur (KL) to the Perhentian Islands through the Cameron Highlands. The people are friendly, welcoming, and excited to have you in their country. The buses are clean with organized stations and the roads are smooth with minimal traffic, especially in the countryside. The highlight of backpacking Malaysia was the food. From Malay to Chinese to Indian, the cuisine is an amazing fusion of different cultures, living together in relative harmony. Low food costs are easy for every budget traveler and in Malaysia you can get a full meal starting at $1.50 for a vegetarian banana leaf lunch. Even though the government just added a tourist tax to all hotel rooms, Malaysia still has good deals for travelers on a budget. We stayed in some of the nicest and most fun hostels of our lives, and our 15 days in the peninsula didn’t scratch the surface of what the country has to offer.
Pick a Route:
Picking a backpacking route though Malaysia is easy. For a two week trip we would recommend starting in Singapore and working your way north from Malacca to KL, Cameron Highlands, Perhentian Islands, then back across to Georgetown, Penang. If you have three weeks we would suggest adding Taman Negara National Park and Langkawi Island. These are both trips along the standard backpacker trail, great for your first time in Malaysia. Since Malaysia has much fewer tourists than Thailand, you will run into the same friendly faces as you go. There was one lady on our trip that we ran into in at three different places on our adventure. Of course there are many other parts of Malaysia worth exploring, mainly the jungles of Borneo where things are more wild. On a four week trip we would suggest spending a week there getting off the tourist path.
Enjoy the Food:
The food in Malaysia is easy and good for any backpacker’s budget. The most we “cooked” for ourselves in Malaysia was to peel a banana, maybe once. The local markets are great places to pig out economically. Check out the laksa, poh piah, mee koring, and nasi kandar. Western style restaurants are there, but they are the most expensive and generally not as exciting as the local flavors. Every city has a Chinese neighborhood and an Indian neighborhood. Little India was always our favorite spot to eat, great for vegetarians and meat eaters alike! For one meal I had seven different curries and spent a total of less than $3. For these reasons, Malaysia was my all time favorite country to eat in!
Stay in a Hostel:
Backpackers will love Malaysia for the hostels which are cheap and easy to book online. Sometimes they do fill up, especially in the busy season, so we suggest booking in advance. They range in price and quality and there is a new 10 Ringgit tourist tax for every room. Our favorites were the Lemongrass on Long Beach in the Perhentians, and Frame Guesthouse in Georgetown, Penang. Prices range from $10 per night for a dorm bed, $15 for a beach bungalow, or $18 for private room with A/C.
Speak With the Locals:
Backpacking Malaysia is easier than other parts of Asia because most people can speak or at least understand English. A majority of the signs are also in English and Malay, so you will never have a hard time finding your way around. Malay also using the English characters so it’s easy to pick up a little bit along the way which always makes the locals appreciate you more. Knowing few words like terima kasih (thank you) can get you a lot of respect points and make you look a little better than the average traveler.
When looking for easier Asia travel, backpacking Malaysia should be at the top of your list. With top notch people, food, nature and adventure, and hostels, never ending aventuras await you in this tropical paradise!
Like this post about backpacking Malaysia for easy Asia travel? Check out our archives for never ending travel advice, reviews, and many stories of adventure in Malaysia!
Hostel Holidays are the best holidays. You meet friends from all over the world and share a special time together. It’s an incredible opportunity for travelers to learn about new holidays they don’t celebrate at home. Sharing holidays is an important part of cultural exchange. It creates a bond between the traveler and the local that becomes the base of friendship. Having activities like these are what makes great hostels great.
Take Thanksgiving for instance– it’s a great hostel holiday. It’s so much fun to cook a huge feast of all your childhood favorites and show the other backpackers what they’ve been missing out on their whole lives. This year we are planning a food and wine buffet at Yim Yam Hostel & Garden in Bangkok. Mashed potatoes are of course the most important part, with lots of butter and salt.
While Carrie was working at a hostel on Christmas in San Diego they would have a special free breakfast buffet with champagne mimosas, then do the “present ball” game with dollar store gifts! You could also do a white elephant gift exchange, creating mayhem by swapping and stealing each others presents. It always turns into a bunch of laughing and merry hooting and hollering. Getting some free drinks into your customers is a good way to start the holiday off right! This is why hostel holidays are the best!
As a local, it’s nice to keep travelers up to date on the upcoming holidays – especially if it involves stores closing or transportation headaches. One of our craziest holiday experiences while traveling was when we were in Morocco for Eid al Fitr. Eid is the biggest holiday of the year for Muslim families. Signifying the end of the Ramadan fasting period, Eid is the yearly giant feast. Most families will purchase a sheep which is slaughtered on the morning of the feast. The week before the feast it’s a sight to behold with sheep being shuffled around all over the city. There were sheep on the backs of motorbikes, parking lots turned into temporary “sheep parking”, and sheep just about everywhere. We walked into the apartment complex where we were CouchSurfing. Our host sniffed the air like “What’s that smell?” and tried to open the basement door. “Sheep parking in the basement!“, he realized. We called it the sheep genocide. The festival impacted where in Morocco we could travel as the bus tickets were almost all purchased by locals in advance. We ended up having to change most of our trip but since we’re flexible we still had fun.
You should also create events for your guests around the holidays. If there is a Christmas parade in town, take them to go see it! Free food for a Buddhist vegetarian festival? Make signs and organize a tour there! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more tips on hostel activities and how you can make your hostel holidays great!
Penang, Malaysia had been on our bucket list since before we even knew what country it was in (😳embarrassing)! One sleepy afternoon years ago, we were watching Anthony Bourdain on “Parts Unknown” stuff his face at Line Clear in Georgetown and decided then and there that any trip to Asia would have to include Penang. After all, it was street food heaven right? We had five nights planned! We decided to stay at the Tipsy Tiger Party Hostel because everyone on the backpacker trail was talking about it. The price was kind of high at 40 Ringgit for a dorm bed but included was free breakfast, all-day coffee and water, and two strong drinks at the bar. The bar area closes at 11 after the nightly beer pong tournament then everyone goes on a pub crawl down the street to Love Lane where you can continue the party as late as your heart desires.
The Tispy Tiger was a good time but after two nights of craziness we were ready for something more chill. Our second accommodation, The Frame Guesthouse, a very zen/minimalist place with cedar ceilings and antique stairways. We really liked our private room here and stayed for three nights enjoying the AC and waterfall showers.
The highlight of Penang for us was the street food. Every corner had different stuff and you could really experience the fusion of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cuisines. We tried to eat as much as possible, always opting for fourth and sometimes fifth meal. It was a hard life. Most of the food vendors have a few tables where you can sit and eat, and most require you to buy a bevarage- beer, soda or fresh-squeezed juice- if you use the table. It really was a street food heaven. Here are our favorites!
One of the best places to eat is the famous Red Garden Food Paradise. They usually have some singers and dancers in the center stage and around the edges there are so many different food vendors selling dishes from all over the world. It has a very classic feel with red plastic chairs and happy families sharing tables stacked with food. It’s always busy and opens at 6pm nightly.
My favorite late night spot was the 24-hour joint Line Clear. Always a line and barely a menu, they kind of yell “What do you want?” when you get to the front then they slop it on a plate with rice and you get a scoop of sauce from each of the curries. The food they sell is called nasi kandar, which pretty much means “country rice.” It’s simple and everything you ever wanted after having a few beers on Love Lane. Street Food Heaven indeed!
Georgetown is unique in Asia because it largely avoided the bombings of World War II and the following wars. Only a few bombs were dropped there so the old architecture has remained, giving the city a whole lot of character. The only negative is the lack of sidewalks; you basically just walk along the side of the road and hope you don’t get clobbered by a drunk, texting motorbiker. There was a lot of unique street art, most memorable of which were the cartoon wire sculptures depicting life in Penang throughout the years.
As in the rest of Malaysia, the mishmash of cultures and religious blends peacefully and beautifully in Penang. So, I’ll leave you with a sunset over the downtown mosque and Hindu temple.
While spending years traveling the world, we’ve stayed in a LOT of great hostels. Sometimes we check out the trendy new ones, sometimes we try to save money and go bottom budget. Besides the obvious necessities like cleanliness and safety, here are some things that make for great hostels:
Hostel activities are the best way to make friends while traveling. It is also usually the cheapest way to do the things that you want to do anyways. These actives could be free yoga, beach bonfires, beer pong tournaments, surf lessons, language exchanges, exploring the market, or hiking adventures. Some hostels go as far as to focus their whole marketing strategy around their actives, like Volcano Boarding at Bigfoot Hostel in Leon, Nicaragua
2) Free Breakfast
Not paying for that first meal is important to long term travel. Some breakfasts are better than others but it’s nice to at least get some coffee, bread, and fruit. The best breakfasts ever were at the Casas Particulares in Cuba where we one time were served 8 different types of fruit, in addition to bread, eggs, and cheese.
3) A Bar and Restaurant
Sometimes you just want to stay in and hang out with travelers. Hostel bars are the best place to do that. They provide an international vibe that some towns lack. Sometimes the bar is the attraction itself, like Loki Hostels in South America or the Tipsy Tiger in Penang, Malaysia.
4) Chilling Areas
Comfortable places to meet new friends, use your laptop to advance your digital nomad dreams, and share stories of your adventures are a must. These areas range from bean bag chairs, to hammocks, to comfy couches or soft green grass. For places with dorms this is the area that most people will spend their time. The swimming pool at Equity Point in Marrakech wins our vote for best chillin’ area.
5) Fast WiFi
Some countries just have terrible internet all over. But sometimes the hostel gets cheap and goes for the internet package that wouldn’t load AIM in the 90’s. You. must. have. fast. Wifi. It’s so nice to be able to upload photos to Facebook or Skype your family back home in Ulakalakalakastan or wherever you’re from. Yim Yam Hostel & Garden in Bangkok wins for fastest hostel WiFi ever.
6) Knowledgeable and Friendly Staff
You want tours, you want advice, you want someone who will laugh with you at your stupid mistake of waking up early to spend all of your money on taxis to the airport one day too early (oops). The staff should make you feel at home and help you have the best time possible. By far the best staff we’ve met were at USA Hostels Ocean Beach, San Diego, California.
We know we said 5, but wasn’t 6 better?
Other things that make your stay better:
– Privacy curtains on dorm beds.
– Water refill station.
– No bed bugs. Sometimes if places look grimy it’s better to just pay the extra $1 for no bed bugs. Check out our post on how to remove bed bugs from your stuff.
– Free maps.
– Free earplugs (for the party hostels).
– Instagramable decor – you know you want to brag to your friends back home.
Sometimes in the end everything is not perfect, but sometimes those imperfections are what makes great hostels an experience. I mean, you could have stayed in a hotel and gotten a good nights sleep. But after you go out with your new hostel best friends and dance on the bar until 6am, you never think “man, I wish I would have gotten a hotel and some sleep!” Well sometimes you do, but that doesn’t make a very good story now, does it?
If you’re interested in finding some good places to stay, check out our HOSTEL REVIEWS page and get out there on your own aventura! What important in great hostels to you? We’d love your feedback!