Youth Hostels in China

YHI LogoWhen being on my trip for more than a month in China, I found it most convenient to stay in one of the International Youth Hostels (国际青年旅舍, Guójì Qīngnián Lǚshè). It seems that only a few years ago such youth hostels were a rare found and when leaving behind the more international cities they were virtually not existing.

In recent years China is more and more becoming a country for Westerners attending not only tours as part of a tourist group but individual backpacking and low budget travelers as well as a becoming a country in which Chinese more and more use their chances to travel on their own. With a growing importance of this clientèle new youth hostels in the many cities are springing up like mushrooms while one even has the possibility to chose from several youth hostels at major travel destinations.
The youth hostels are often located in the city center, often in old hutong building or other special houses, like the youth hostel in Jiuzhaigou that was in an Tibetan style building.

Xiangzimen Youth Hostel in Xi’an
The entrance of Xiangzimen Youth Hostel in Xi’an leads into an old courtyard.

As they were mostly opened not too long ago, the interior is generally very modern and often much better than other low budget hotels. When looking at their mission statement, it is clear that many do not simply see themselves as a provider for chap accommodation but also as a service provider, sometimes offering bike rental, free movies and laundry service. However, some hostels were opened inside a larger hotel, so one floor of the hostel has rooms with more beds but these kind of youth hostels lack a bigger room for gathering. Youth hostels that have such a room sometimes even feature a free pool table like Chengdu’s Loft Hostel or the Xi’an Xiangzimen Hostel.

Loft Hostel in Chengdu
The Loft Hostel in Chengdu.

A lot of hostels also have free Internet available or charge only a small fee (Internet is generally cheap in China and a Net Bar (网吧, wǎngbā) down the street will only charge very moderate prices, anyway). Some youth hostels also feature a small library which can be quite useful because when being on tour with a backpack since one is happy about every item one does not need to carry. Sometimes one can also find some travel guides that are more detailed for the specific region and therefore much better than a book that covers the whole country.

If one seeks information about nearby tourist sites, the current weather condition or what local food is a no-miss, one can usually go to the front desk and gets some comprehensive information – no matter whether you speak Chinese or only speak English. Many hostels have maps available and tell you where to go and how to get there, it is very convenient to have the staff reserve bus, train or flight tickets and saves a the way to the station and waiting in line for quite a bit.
In some hostels we met highly motivated staff, in Chengdu we even happened to spend one evening having some beers with one of the staff members. She told us that it was her day off – she still came to the hostel because of “the atmosphere”. The atmosphere in Chinese youth hostels is indeed very special: There are a lot of international guests who are open to share their travel experiences, some Chinese tourists, many of them in a youth hostel for the first time. Most of the “first timers” were very impressed and some were considering to become a member of hostelling international (A membership card that is valid worldwide gets you an average discount of 5 yuan per night and cost 50 yuan).
Even it not a member, a bed in costs only about 25 to 40 yuan per night in a shared room. It can be fun to be in such a room because I was able to hook up with other travelers when I was on my own. Often the hostels also have single or double rooms that are more quiet – I have never came across a guy who snored as loud as one Chinese who shared a room with us in Jiuzhaigou.

Youth Hostel in Jiuzhaigou
Tibetan style youth hostel in Jiuzhaigou.

Looking for a hostel at the next stop is very easy and in the youth hostels usually the staff can recommend another youth hostel at the next city you are going to and make a reservation. To check for hostels online, there is the official web page of Hostelling International, but since many of the Chinese hostels are very new, they have not been added yet. The page of the page of YHA China offers a map and also links the newly opened hostels.
One bad thing about youth hostels in China: It’s often hard to find them, since they tend to hide their blue “HI” sign so I often had trouble getting to the hostel even with directions…

Kaiyue Youth Hostel in Qingdao
The Kaiyue Youth Hostel in Qingdao used to be a church building.

Last but not least is an (incomplete and unsorted) list of the youth hostels the I can recommend:

  • Chongqing Nanbin Lu: Tricky to find but very cheap rooms and friendly staff.
  • Teddy Bear Hotel, Mt. Emei: Friendly staff and conveniently located at the foot of Mt. Emei
  • Shanghai Mingtown Youth Hostel: Located right in the city near People’s Square
  • Qingdao Kaiyue Hostel: Located in an old church building
  • Lijiang Old Town: In one of the narrow streets of Lijiang’s ols town – on clear days one is supposed to the the snow covered Yulong Xueshan from the hostel.
  • Loft Hostel in Chengdu: Has a cool loft and the best staff I have met in Chinese youth hostels
  • Jiuzhaigou (郎介之家, phone 0837-7734818 or 0837-7734616): I did not expect to find a youth hostel there, not very much comfort, but it’s in a Tibetan style building and the owner and manager also makes some Tibetan style food.
  • Xiangzimen Hostel Xi’an: After getting a free pick-up from the train station the friendly staff welcomed us in this old but newly renovated Chinese house with a courtyard.


One Response to “Youth Hostels in China”

  1. Michael Genko Says:

    yep … i think i sent you this page didnt I ? This is great … !

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