The Art of Manliness offers great advice on making the best of a bad hotel room. It’s not unusual, especially if you’re in a far flung country to encounter a dirty, loud, generally unpleasant hotel room. Here is the Art of Manliness post with “survival” tips.
One problem I see missing is how to handle problems if the clerks don’t speak English. I’ve found that most hostels with the Hosteling International do have English speaking staff. Their cleanliness and comfort had a wide range, but there was always someone at the desk who spoke English.
I’d add that you might want to just book one or two nights at a hostel with an eye to extending your stay if the accommodations are to your liking, though in peak season you might not be able to extend.
I have come to play it safe by booking with chains. I’m not a backpacker any more and a couple nights at a hostel is enough. With a chain there’s a good chance that someone can make things right. The chain cares about its reputation and responds if not on site, than after seeing a tweet or Facebook post. It’s not always the case as two recent stays at Ibis hotels (one in Jakarta by the airport and one in Hangzhou) have demonstrated.
Do read this article for more great tips.