Book ahead during high season or around festivals or holidays, when rooms fill up in popular destinations.

  • Hostels Dormitories provide cheap and social lodging for solo travellers. Amenities sometimes include pool, restaurant or rooftop hang-out space.
  • Homestays Live like a villager in a family home; set-ups are simple but come with bonus cultural immersion.
  • Guesthouses These backpacker favourites have a range of rooms from basic to plush – and offer loads of local information.
  • Hotels From stuffy to snazzy, hotels have modern amenities (refrigerators, TVs, air-con) and private bathrooms.

Types of Accommodation

Basic rooms typically have four walls, a bed and a fan (handy for keeping mosquitoes at bay). In the cheapest places, the bathroom (and shower) is shared. In the cheapest box rooms, the walls may stop short of the ceiling for ventilation, meaning lots of noise.

Most places geared to foreigners have Western-style toilets, but hotels that cater to locals usually have Asian squat toilets. Air-con and private bathrooms cost more. Camping is not widespread due to the tropical heat, but dorms are becoming a more economical option – especially in the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Be a smart shopper when looking for a room. Always ask for the price first, then ask to see a room to inspect it for cleanliness, comfort and quiet.

Each hotel or guesthouse has its own convention for payment. Some require payment in advance, while others collect the money upon checkout. Before you pay for numerous nights in advance, make sure that you find the accommodation acceptable, as getting a refund will be tricky.


In remote corners or basic accommodation, you’ll meet the Southeast Asian version of a shower: a large basin that holds water for bathing. Water should be scooped out of the basin with a smaller bowl and poured over the body. Resist the urge to climb in like a bath-tub and avoid washing directly over the basin, as this is your source for clean water.

Modern places usually have a cold-water shower. In more expensive accommodation, large cities and colder regions, rooms may come with hot-water showers at a higher price.

Many rural people bathe in rivers or streams. If you choose to do the same, be aware that public nudity is not acceptable. Do as the locals do and bathe while wearing a sarong.