It’s time to delve into hostels vs hotels and discuss the differences.
Now, we at Hostelgeeks do not claim hostels to be better than hotels. In fact, for us, there are different life and travel style choices. Claiming one is better than the other is simply misleading and ignoring many facts and circumstances.
Whenever a traveller decides on their accommodation, there are many aspects to consider. Some aspects can include:
What kind of trip are you on? Party, couple, single, …
How long are you travelling for?
What’s your budget (yes, also important!)
What do you expect from your accommodation?
And most important: What kind of experience are you looking for?
Here is the kicker: You have to be clear what kind of experience you are seriously looking for. Party travelling, tranquil beach vibe, cosy social experience, private honeymoon style couple trip – there are many possibilities.
When you are looking for a crazy party weekend experience, a stylish boutique hostel won’t be the perfect fit. Neither would a 5 Star Hostel, or obviously a 5 Star Hotel. An apartment, b&b, guesthouse won’t get the job done either.
Hostels are not better than hotels…let this guide explain to you why!
The newest trend: There is a new trend among hostel websites. The private rooms are called the hotel section, and the dorms are called hostel-type accommodation.
What is the difference between a hostel and a hotel?
This is quite a common debate, so let us break it down to the most basic differences between a Hostel and Hotel.
Hostels are budget-orientated
Hotels are more formal than Hostels
Hostels offer different common areas like living room and informal lounge,
whilst Hotels offer usually a more formal lounge and a bar.
At Hotels, you usually find an in-house restaurant and bar, while Hostels usually offer a kitchen for self-catering.
Personal note by Hostelgeeks: Comparing these two types of accommodation does not make a lot of sense to us, as both are designed for different purposes. So in case you want to start a discussion about this topic, please save your energy for something more useful e.g. solving a maths problem, or cleaning the beach.
Here are some helpful guides to introduce you to the hostel world:
The power of 2€ – staying at the greatest hostels in the world.
When it comes to hostels, the majority still has this idea of a cheap, basic accommodation in their head. And hey, it’s true. A hostel is a social-type budget accommodation. And the amenities at hostels are at large, pretty basic. No fancy, shiny things – usually!
Here is the kicker: Instead of staying at the cheapest hostel in town, you can get a totally different hostel experience for only 2€ more.
Are the 5 Star Hostels expensive? The answer is: not at all. In fact, they are usually average priced. Obviously, and this goes almost without saying, they are not the cheapest accommodations in town. BUT, between you and me, we do not want the cheapest, we want to the coolest, right?!
So, again, you can stay at the most amazing hostels in the world, and it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Walk in to a hostel looking for a bed and you might be lucky enough to get a discounted price, especially if it’s in the late afternoon/early evening.
Top tip: always check the hostel’s official website before booking. Some throw in a welcome drink or knock a few €’s off for booking directly.
2.8 All the free stuff
Everybody loves free things. This can be a free walking tour, free shots at night, a family dinner, free tea and coffee, you name it.
Some hostels, such as Caveland Santorini, even have free shampoo that was left behind by fellow guests.
Free breakfast is becoming more and more popular, and hostels are seemingly out-doing each other with buffets, eggs, pancakes – you name it!
Top tip: have a look in the kitchen for a free food bin before you do your grocery shopping. There’s often a “dry food bin” and one in the fridge labelled “free food”. Spices, oil, salt & pepper – these are usual and handy items you’ll come across.
Depending on the hostel, you could save quite a lot of money this way.
Should you skip the hotel and stay in a hostel? Probably.
2.9 The recommendations you get
Part of the deal with staying at hostels is the team of staff that are there to welcome and look after you. No, not like parents, like friends!
More often than not, the staff team is made up of travellers that LOVE hostels and have stayed in many around the world.
There are also family-run hostels, hostels run by friends and teams made up solely of volunteers.
They all have one thing in common: a love for the hostel and its destination.
Ask them anything:
Good places to eat/drink
Where to find the best party in town
Tips & tricks for local sights
Deals/discounts for attractions & sights
Whatever you’re after, chances are the staff have awesome recommendations to give!
All hotels and hostels have staff. The difference here? A personal touch that is genuine and welcoming from the get go.
2.10 A simple “Hi” opens a whole new world
One part we love about hostels is the fact people staying in a hostel are ready to mingle.
It’s the mindset. This is, for us at Hostelgeeks, the main difference between a hostel and hotel.
The mindset, for being ready to mingle and socialize.
Imagine: You are sitting in your hotel lobby, eating your food and somebody comes over, sits down and starts chatting with you.
In a hotel scene, this is odd… this would be SO weird, right!?
At a hostel, this is standard, this is the real life.
A few examples?
1. At Wallyard Concept Hostel I was chatting with a fellow hostel mate, when the young receptionist came over with the words „I will hang out with you guys, if that’s okay? What did you do today?“.
2. We were just about to leave The Common Room Project when another guest came in. We instantly hit it off, got along, and within the 2 minutes we chatted, we decided to go out for a drink that night. It was one of the most epic nights we had in Ho Chi Minh City.
3. We arrived at Chiang Mai Airport and were about to take a taxi to get a ride to OXOTEL, the 5 Star Hostel in Chiang Mai. A young guy came over, a tourist as well, asked if we want to share a taxi. As it turned out, he was still looking for a cool hostel to stay. We told him he should come with us to Oxotel.
He ended up staying 4 nights, we met even more people in the cool café of Oxotel and built a lifetime friendship.
We could give you a million more examples of how we ended up traveling a road trip in Europe with first a follower, now a friend, and how we bump into hostel friends all over the world time and again.
But you get the idea, right?!
Conclusion on #10?
A simple “hi” goes a looooooong way. It opens a whole new world.
Please, do not be shy! Hostels are about being social and fun.
2.11 Take some privacy if you need it
Once upon a time hostels were centered around shared dorms. Whilst dorms are still popular, many (if not most) hostels these days offer private rooms, too.
So! If you think booking a hotel room is the only way to enjoy some privacy, we’re here to enlighten you.
One of the absolute best indicators is the public rating on booking platforms. If a hostel has a rating of less than 7….RUN!! I would even go that far to say, the minimum rating should be 7.5.
The absolute basics when it comes to check hostel ratings:
a hostel should have at least 10 public ratings – if it has less, be doubtful!
minimum rating should be 7 (even 7.5)
Check the different rating categories like
Is the location rated as safe?
Keep in mind, ratings on Hostelworld are usually higher than on Booking.com. This is because it has a different user base. Hostelworld user tend to be younger, for instance. Hostelz.com outs together all ratings and they say, they are the only ones publishing genuine reviews with no censorship.
The absolute best hostel site to check ratings is Hostelz.com.
Our best tip for all ratings: Filter by the WORST Comments and scan them.
The worst comments are the BEST! Why? They give you a great indication of what to expect. Do this as well for the great hostels.
2. Safety issue
Does the hostel provide lockers? Lockers that do a proper job? Are there any comments or reviews about safety issues? Keep an eye on this.
After all: You should always feel and be safe when traveling. If a place does not feel right, then find a solution to it. Either check out or talk with reception to change room, for instance.
3. Is it social?
A great hostel is social; if it not social it is just a cheap accommodation! Always remember this!
It starts with the staff encouraging the social part. There might be a bar to socialize, a lounge, maybe hostel games. There are a few indicators to see if a hostel is social, such as:
Do you see people on the photos having a good time? (not the stock photos, please…)
Is there a bar?
Did people leave good comments about the atmosphere
Is there activities?
The instagram feed of a hostel can be a great resource as well to check this.
4. Is there an age limit?
This one does not mean it has to be bad, obviously. This one is more about if a hostel is the right fit for you.
On one hand, it can help you to figure out what type of hostel it is (party, youth) and will help you avoid an uncomfortable stay. On the other, this is discrimination that you won’t find in hotels. That being said, there is also hotels that are adults-only…okay, you see where we are going with this. Just make sure you pick the right fit for you and that you actually “qualify” for staying here.
Honestly, we’re not fans of putting an age limit rule on a hostel. Commonly, the typical age limit is from 18-35yrs. Some hostels go up to 45yrs. Often there is a stamp of 18+. Just be aware of this.
4. Hostel vs Airbnb
A few readers have asked the difference between staying at a hostel and booking an Airbnb.
If you’re keen to stay with locals and have more privacy, we’d suggest booking an Airbnb. Having said that, hostel staff tend to be local and also have wonderful knowledge about the destination. We also think, an Airbnb is much better than a bad hostel.
Airbnb’s range from booking a room in someone’s house, to having an entire house to yourself. It depends on what you want.
What are the pros and cons of using Airbnb vs a hotel and hostel?
Here’s Airbnb in Review which covers everything + a €35 coupon code for your first booking.
Also, have you heard about Airbnb experiences? There so many one-of-a-kind activities hosted by experts around the world.
Sum it up: Hostels vs Hotels
Hostels can be a huge part of your overall travel experience. They will take up so much space in your travel planning, in the people you meet, in the friendships you build, in the memories you create.
Therefore, life is too short for bad hostels.
We hope this guide to hostels vs hotels has helped you to better understand the overall differences.