Before I left for Southeast Asia, the travel agent who booked my flights said to me, ‘you’re not going to be one of those people that goes for the cheap $5-$10/night accommodation are you?’ i found it funny when the trip started, because it was so easy to find accommodation in that price range, and for the most part, these places were clean, comfortable and often lots of fun. Laos only has one backpackers of which I’m aware – Vientiane Backpackers, which is fairly basic. The remaining accommodation is all guesthouses. Thailand has some impressive hostels, such as Nap park, but it is more expensive $15-$20, and when you can get your own private room for $5-$10 its not worth it.
1. Siem Reap Hostel (www.thesiemreaphostel.com)
Dorm Size: 6
For just $6, Siem Reap Hostel is amazing. The rooms are cleaned and sheets changed every day, the food in the bar/kitchen is reasonably priced and delicious, the air con is actually cold, the staff are super friendly AND there is a pool!
I lazed around in the cafe for many days, as a number of people do. By night the other travelers gather downstairs for some Anchor draft before hitting pub street. It’s location is good, with a 5 minute walk to pub street across the river and past the market.
There is a $2 buffet breakfast before 10am if Pub St didn’t keep you up too late (I only made it once)! They also do pickups from the bus stop for free. Free WIFI in the rooms also.
2. Hanoi Backpackers (www.vietnambackpackerhostels.com)
Dorm Size: 6 – 12
The original Hanoi Backpackers was founded in 2004 as the first hostel in Vietnam. A lot of hostels have sprung up since, due to the places enormous success. It is almost always fully booked every night. Because it’s so busy, they also operate out of a little hotel directly across the road (where I stayed), and opened up Hanoi Backpackers Downtown. Again, the rooms are cleaned most days, the air con is good and the staff are helpful. There is a free breakfast included. The rooftop bar is good fun at night, and they run a pub crawl from the Original Backpackers to the Downtown Backpackers. the downtown Backpackers on Ma May is a lot bigger and has a lot more life at night, until the curfew kicks in at midnight! If you want to chill out I recommend the Original, for partying I suggest staying Downtown.
Hanoi Backpackers run the infamous Castaway Tour to Ha Long Bay. The tour is 2 nights of drinking, partying and fun. It is expensive at approx. $200, but so much fun, and it provides an opportunity to meet people who are also traveling south at the same, and you can meet up along the way.
I’ll also mention Hue Backpackers, which is very similar to the Hanoi Backpackers, clean, comfortable and lively.
3. Saigon Backpackers/Hostel (www.saigonbackpackershostel.com)
Dorm Size: 8
Saigon Backpackers has a great lobby area with a pool table, couches and TV. The staff are really friendly and often up for a game of pool. The rooms are clean and the air con is a relief after walking the hot streets of Saigon. There is a basic breakfast included if you get up early enough and on Christmas Eve the staff even put on a fruit platter and drinks.
4. Mad Monkey, Phnom Penh (www.phnompenhhostels.com)
Dorm Size: 8
The food in the Mad Monkey Restaurant is unreal, a little bit more expensive, but so good. This place also has a rooftop bar which is a cool place to hang out at night. The hostel itself is in a top suburb of Phnom Penh, so you can walk around at night, and its about 5 minutes by tuk tuk to the red light/riverfront area of Phnom Penh. The rooms are clean and we even had a little balcony. Free WIFI in the rooms.
5. 88 Backpackers, Phnom Penh (www.88backpackers.com)
Dorm Size: 8
88 Backpackers has a nice pool, big dorms with air con and nice ensuites. In 3 months in Asia, the best shower I had was in 88 Backpackers. It also has good food and a good lobby area. It’s a weird place because it isn’t in a purpose built building. It’s situated in a sort-of old mansion/government building and you have to walk through conference rooms and reception areas to get to the dorms, but it is a nice building, right near the red light/riverfront area of Phnom Penh.
And the worst hostels……..
Utopia Backpackers, Sihanoukville
Dorm Size: 28+
We got to Sihanoukville, and fearful that we might not find a place leading up to NYE, we checked in here while we went and looked for a nicer place. Simply put, its in the middle of a bar/club. The mattresses are blue gym mats laid side by side on timber platforms. The sheets are filthy, The air con doesn’t work, I heard shocking things about the bathroom, and the bed bugs from what I hear are rife. I’m thankful that we found a better place.
Koh Rong Backpackers (www.facebook.com/KohRongBackpackers)
Dorm Size: 6-8
First thing first, Koh Rong as an island is very undeveloped, and power is only on for a few hours a day. Secondly, accommodation is very limited as it is. The hostel looks cool, its on stilts above the ocean, with a boardwalk to the beach. But all these things make for a terrible nights sleep. The heat is difficult. Air con isn’t essential, but without power for even a fan there is no relief. The walls are superthin timber boards with huge gaps between, and the doors dont even close, so one persons snoring is heard through the whole place. Obviously staying on a basic island you naturally lower your expectations, but as a hostel it was one of the most unpleasant.