- I spent more than 40 nights sleeping in rentals this year, from hostels and Airbnbs to luxury hotels.
- Hostels are cheap, but my year of traveling convinced me they’re not worth the hassle.
- Budget hotels are a great alternative and don’t cost that much more.
Hostels are generally considered the best accommodation for budget travelers. But after spending more than two weeks in hostels across Southeast Asia, I can firmly say that budget hotels are the better choice.
I’ve been writing about backpacking and regional travel for Insider for nearly a year. This year alone, I stayed in more than 40 different accommodations across five countries. My travels, most of which Insider paid for in full, took me from hostels and love motels to Airbnbs to luxury resorts.
My time on the road has convinced me that budget hotels — which are typically in the one- to two-star category — offer much more than hostels, for not that much more money.
Here are five reasons travelers should skip hostels and instead opt for budget hotels when traveling in Southeast Asia.
1. Safety: Staying in hostels often entails sharing a sleeping space. When I spent the night at The Explorers Guesthouse in Kuala Lumpur in April, I had to share a room with three men. The hostel didn’t have pods, so I had to sleep in an open bunk bed, which made me, and the male guests who were already there, uneasy. I ended up paying $7 more to stay in a private room, and the additional charge was worth the privacy and sense of security.
2. Hygiene: Hostels aren’t exactly known for their cleanliness. While Singapore is often touted as one of the cleanest countries in the region, I found some of the hostels in the city-state to be badly maintained. In March, I spent a night in Galaxy Pods at Chinatown, where I found a stench permeated the space and the bedsheets were dotted in black dust. At $45, it wasn’t worth the price, especially as budget hotels like Hotel 81 usually cost only $10 more.
3. Space (or lack thereof): Most hostels come in one of two forms: bunk beds or capsules. While the beds can be spacious, like with the queen-sized bed at Capsule Transit in Kuala Lumpur’s airport, the enclosed space of the hostel pods can feel claustrophobic.
4. Lack of amenities: Many hostels don’t come with facilities like lounges, gyms, or swimming pools. There are, of course, exceptions — like Luk Hostel in Bangkok, where I stayed in July, and which has a beautiful rooftop party space. But for the most part, the hostels I stayed at didn’t have public spaces to relax in, and I would have gladly paid a bit more for the amenities of a two- or three-star hotel.
5. Price: Some hostels, especially in expensive cities like Singapore, can be just as pricey as budget hotels. For example, DreamLodge, a top-rated hostel where I spent the night in April, charges up to 173 Singapore dollars, or $127, for a one-night stay in a couple pod in January 2023. In comparison, budget hotels like Fragrance charge around SG$85 for a private room in the same time frame. While prices fluctuate throughout the year, hostels can actually cost you more than love motels — and love motels aren’t all as bad as their names would imply.