Finding cheap fares from the United States to Far East destinations like China has always been something of a hassle. Indeed, for the budget-minded backpacker hoping to see Asia on a shoestring, airfare has always been the most significant financial hurdle.
If you’re already thinking about booking a cheap flight to China, head over to SkyStub’s booking engine and have a look for yourself.
And once you’ve made it to the Middle Kingdom? Finding an affordable place to hang your hat each night will definitely be one of the smartest ways to stretch your budget.
China, after all, has become an incredibly popular destination for students and other financially-strapped backpackers over the past decade or so. As a result, budget guesthouses and bunk bed-style youth hostels have begun popping up even in some of the country’s lesser-visited locales.
Keep reading to learn about some of the very best backpacker hot spots in the county today.
Drum Tower Youth Hostel
With its enviable location across the street from Beijing’s Drum and Bell Towers — it’s also close to the city’s few remaining hutong neighborhoods — the Drum Tower Youth Hostel features free Wi-Fi, free luggage storage, a lending library, and charmingly mismatched Asian décor. You can grab a private room or a bunk in a shared room at this Hostelling International-affiliated spot, which has long been popular with young world travelers traversing through Asia on a tight budget.
Peking International Youth Hostel
Comfortably tucked away in one of the city’s picturesque old hutong neighborhoods, and located not far from the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, the Peking International is an especially well-kempt and comfortable budget option. The dorm rooms here are spacious, private rooms are available, and afternoon tea is served in a gorgeously plant-filled outdoor courtyard. As with most hostels in China, staffers here are eager to help out with travel plans, and bicycles are available for rent.
Beijing Downtown Backpackers
Operated by a small company that offers tourist-friendly excursions throughout China, Beijing Downtown Backpackers sits in the trendy Houhai district, which is popular with expats and culture-savvy locals. You’ll find lots of decent nightlife and international dining options nearby, although the hostel itself boasts a great restaurant and bar, both of which see lots of action. If you book a private room for five nights or more, they’ll even pick you up from the airport.
Le Tour Traveler’s Rest Hostel
Situated near the bustling Nanjing West Road in downtown Shanghai, Le Tour Traveler’s is located in an aesthetically unique 1930s building that was once a very busy towel factory. Today, it’s an especially affordable backpacker destination with both private and dorm-style rooms, free Internet access, table tennis and billiards, and even a garden area. Air and train tickets can be booked here, and rental bikes are available as well.
As long as we’re talking location, it’s tough to beat the Captain Hostel, which sits super-close to The Bund, a waterfront area in central Shanghai that’s popular with tourists and locals alike. The building itself is nearly a century old, and the available accommodations here run the gamut: You can grab a bunk bed mattress in a shared room for less than USD 10 per night; you can also choose to drop upwards of USD 150 on relatively splashier private digs. There’s a bar and dining room onsite, and hostel staff can help arrange tours and onward travel tickets.
Mingtown Hiker Youth Hostel
Roughly a 20-minute walk from People’s Square and about five minutes on foot from the Bund, Shanghai’s Mingtown Hiker looks and feels much more like a standard Asian business hotel than a funky hostel. But that’s a good thing: The private rooms, the dorm facilities and the various common areas are all pleasingly spic-and-span. And the English-speaking staff is known for being friendly and helpful. If you plan on visiting the Shanghai Art Museum or MoCA Shanghai, Mingtown might be your best bet; both of the popular museums are within walking distance.
“Stay characterful” is the motto of Mix Hostel, a truly unique backpacker’s HQ in the enormous Sichuan Province city of Chengdu. And while Mix’s tagline may be linguistically incorrect, it still manages to ring true, thanks in large part to the incredible décor here: a “mix” of the traditional Sichuan style and cultural Tibetan artifacts. Shared dorm-room accommodations are as cheap as USD 6 here, and you’ll find all the youth hostel standards: board games, a bar, a small lending library, and movies on DVD. Other bonuses included a rooftop terrace garden and a cozy inner courtyard lobby.
Flip Flop Lounge Hostel
Conveniently located smack-dab in the center of Chengdu’s trendiest commercial district, Chunxi Road, the Flip Flop Hostel is beautifully decorated and incredibly colorful. The widely traveled international crowd that gathers in the lounge area here spend their evenings playing pool and foosball, and swapping travel tales over beers. There’s a rooftop laundry area, bikes for rent, free Internet, and a wide range of dorms and private rooms that start at USD 6. The in-house travel agents at Flip Flop are known for the budget tours they arrange to Tibet.
Chengdu Lazybones Hostel
One of the newest hostels in Chengdu and also one of the most centrally located, Lazybones is owned and operated by the same people responsible for Chengdu’s ultra-popular Mix Hostel. Less than a 10-minute walk from Tianfu Square, Lazybones offers largely the same comfort, conveniences and charmingly mismatched décor as the city’s other budget-backpacker accommodations, along with free walking and biking tours that take visitors through the streets of the city. Bunk in an eight-bed dorm here for less than USD 10, or grab a private single room for as little as USD 25.
A self-described “boutique hostel” located in a residential neighborhood in the central part of Xi’an, Han Tang Inn offers laundry facilities, bicycle rentals, free Wi-Fi, and a popular outdoor garden area complete with a ping-pong table. The hostel’s interior is tastefully decked out in a sort of Asian minimalist theme, and guests can purchase budget-priced tours that take place in and around Xi’an. Bunks in clean, well-lit communal rooms start at around USD 8.
Bell Tower Youth Hostel
Known as the longest-running hostel in Xi’an, and named after the ancient Bell Tower that can be seen from the windows of its lobby, Bell Tower Youth Hostel is home to all the Chinese backpacker accommodation standards: darts and billiards; Internet terminals and DVDs; a bar and café serving familiar Western entrees. The location, though — right in the center of the ancient city wall — can’t be beat. Even better: Hostel staff can help arrange train tickets and travel permits for Lhasa-bound backpackers.
If hostels with odd architectural histories are your thing, you won’t do much better in Xi’an than 7 Sages. That’s because the hostel sits in a series of brick and timber Chinese row houses that once served as a command post for the revolutionary Red Army. Along with a large restaurant and bar area, you’ll find dramatic arched doorways and a huge outdoor courtyard here, as well as a reading room and free Wi-Fi. Free pickups from the train station are offered. And in classic youth hostel style, there are even a few guitars lying around the grounds at 7 Sages, where boozy sing-a-long sessions are known to break out at a moment’s notice come nighttime.
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