I traveled to all these four countries one after the other in around three countries, and it’s exciting to compare these countries to each other. You may think that these countries are similar to each other, but that’s not the case. There are vast differences, and one of these differences is the quality of Hostels. I think that’s a critical point when you are traveling for a long time and especially when traveling solo.
There is no doubt, Thailand has by far the best Hostels and Laos has by far the worse ones. Vietnam comes close to Thailand and Cambodia is somewhere in the middle. And I think I’m not the only one with this opinion. To illustrate, go on Hostelworld.com and search for Hostels in Bangkok, the first 10 to 15 results have ratings of over 9.0 (out of 10) or even above 9.5. If you do the same for Laos, for example, Vang Vieng, you can’t find any hostel with a rating above 9.0 (out of 10), most Hostels are between 6 and eight which is very bad. Here are some significant differences I found to be very important.
I do budget travel that means I’m glad for every cent I can save. Breakfast included in the Hostel is an excellent way to save money. This is the case in most of the Hostels in Vietnam and Laos. In Cambodia, it’s never included but offered expensive from the hostel. Thailand has breakfast included in most of the Hostels in the north but never in the south. However, you can find a seven-eleven around any Hostel and buy very cheap breakfast there.
I think no explanation is needed if the Hostel or Hotel is dirty the stay is unpleasant. Laos is one of these countries where the Hostels are extremely dirty. This may be because the streets are filthy too or no real roads are existing what brings dirt into the Hostels. But people don’t care about it – of course, it’s more work to keep it clean but that should be done – and it’s not. In every hostel, you have to put off your shoes, but by the moment you arrive in the room, your feet are black from all the dirt on the floor. In Vang Vieng, I booked a private room for four nights, but they didn’t clean it ones and not even asked if I wanted a new towel or so. In Luang Prabang, the two girls on the other bed checked out, but it needed two days to clean their beds – nobody else got the bed, but the wet towel and the dirt were on the floor. It’s kind of the same story for Cambodia.
In Thailand and Vietnam on the other hand, Hostel rooms are always cleaned every day. You can run around barefoot, and your feet stay clean and also the toilets get washed more than once a day.
Cambodia has the most expensive hostels while Vietnam has the cheapest ones. In Cambodia, a Hostel room in an 8-bed dorm cost around 8 to 11 Euro a night without breakfast. In Thailand, prices range between 5 and 10 euro (Bangkok or the islands are obviously more expensive, while the north is cheap). Laos has hostels between 4- and 10-euros including breakfast, and in Vietnam, you can get a Hostel bed in a good Hostel with breakfast for as cheap as 3 euro.
Especially as a solo traveler, this is one of the most critical points is the sociability of a Hostel. With that, I mean a good common area where you can hang out, work on something and meet other travelers. If a Hostel doesn’t have a common area at all and you’re in a small room and don’t get to meet someone in the room it’s often just impossible to meet someone new – you don’t start talking while brushing your teeth but with a drink in the common area. And if there is a common area it has to be designed as good that people want to hang out there. The best hostel in the regard was definitely in Bangkok the Back-home Backpackers Hostel. They even had two volunteer worker whose job it was to talk to the guests and organize activities. It was so lovely there I didn’t need to leave the Hostel and still had a lot of fun. I can’t pick a favorite country on this point; every country had some good and bad Hostels regarding this point. In my opinion, Hostelworld should add a new category to rate this.
In general, I can conclude that Thailand has the best Hostels while Laos is far behind in nearly every point but mostly cleanness. An exception to that is the Barn1920s Hostel in Vientiane; one of the nicest Hostels with the friendliest staff I stayed in.
Tip: Always look at the rating of the Hostels especially on Hostelworld. They always give you a good representation of how the Hostel is. I prefer Hostels with a rating from over 9.0, and in my experience, every Hostel with a rating under 7.5 should be avoided.
- Total countries I visited until now: 33
- Planes: 7
- Busses: 34
- Trains: 15
- Boats: 13
- Km running: 1236