Hi. I have stayed at hostels in Beijing and Shanghai. I cannot comment on the shared rooms because I only choose rooms with private bathroom. Luckily for me, the ones that I stayed are just as nice and in some cases better than the regular hotels.
In Beijing, I have stayed at Beijing City Central Youth Hostel for 6+ times, starting from when they just opened and did finished renovations, but I have not stayed there for over a year. Here are my thoughts on this place...
- opposite Beijing Railway Station (not all trains go through this station)
- subway station (just seconds away; no need to cross the streets)
- post office
- luggage storage services near the train station (rates are low; some are government approved/operated and some are not)
- several convenient stores are nearby
- opposite is a small shopping centre (because businesses are constantly changing, I do not know if there is still a KFC)
- lots of taxis nearby
- check-ins/outs are slow (sometimes up to 30 minutes; hopefully this has improved)
- hotel food is terrible
- rooms are somewhat dark (not enough lights)
- security guard (or door man) does not offer any assistance with your luggage in/out the hotel
- windows are dirty or blocked (strangely, the cheaper middle rooms also have windows... why?)
- taxis cannot stop in front of the hotel (this is a hassle when carrying several pieces of luggage)
- streets are noisy from early morning to late at night
- con artists selling fake train tickets and other things (just ignore them)
- many taxi drivers have never heard of this hostel (just tell them it's opposite Beijing Railway Station... in Chinese language of course)
When you are in China, if dressed properly, you can go into any hotel/hostel and ask to see their rooms prior to reservation. Ask if discounts are available. Ask if breakfast is included (but keep in mind that breakfast is often traditional Chinese style).