Not long ago, there were pitifully few low-budget accommodation options available to foreigners in China.
Recent years have seen big changes, especially in Beijing and you can now find an abundance of youth hostels, which are for the most part centrally located and clean, offering friendly service at good prices.
Whether you are looking for cheaper-than-cheap dorm-beds, or are searching for a place with more character and charm than big chain hotels provide, Time Out has something for you.
Beijing Downtown Backpackers
Nanluoguxiang is brilliant for backpackers as it has the advantage of being near cafés and restaurants with English menus and western food, without being horrendously touristy, overpriced or full of touts. The hostel is quiet and homely, nicely central and well connected with buses.
City Central International Youth Hostel
What this hostel lacks in charm it makes up for in convenience. Located on the doorway of the metro opposite the railway station, the noisy traffic, hordes of people and touts who try to pack you off to Tianjin might get annoying if you have to stay here for a while. If you're just passing through and need a bed for a night then this is probably your best option.
Jade International Youth Hostel
Jade is a good all-rounder. It's near the Forbidden City and Tiananmen and it's clean with good facilities. Staff are friendly and rooms are luxurious. The tour services have had mixed reviews though, so be warned.
Lama Temple International Youth Hostel
Only five minutes walk from the Lama Temple and the Gui Jie food street, this youth hostel is not only well located, but also one of the friendliest in town. Its impressive main room boasts a throne and a ceiling is covered in Tibetan-inspired patterns; similar attention has been giving to the designs of the guest rooms. A word of warning, the ground floor rooms lack natural light: make sure you set an alarm clock, especially if you are jetlagged, or you might find yourself starting the day out mid-afternoon.
Being a stone's throw from Tiananmen doesn't make Leo's any easier to find. When you eventually do, you'll realise you've reached one of Beijing's most sociable hostels, with a comfy communal area everyone gathers in to chat. However not everyone will appreciate this, especially in the early hours when guests are still nattering and DVDs still blaring. Leo's organise a Secret Wall tour to a stunning, remote section of the Wall, a hike that's physically demanding but comes highly recommended.
One of Beijing's most beautiful and atmospheric hostels, Lotus offers you the chance to stay in a traditional Chinese residence, set in a central but peaceful hutong. It comprises two floors of guestrooms opening up onto a central courtyard. The rooms contain traditional Chinese furniture and paintings and are lovely and clean. Friendly staff speak good English and arrange tours and onward trips.