Last Updated: July 11, 2017

Hotel vs. Hostel vs. AirBnB: Which is your best option?

In many ways, travel has become easier and more accessible in the last few years.

There are just so many options everywhere, from flights to destinations to tours. Perhaps the biggest game changer is accommodation; gone are the days when half your trip cost is a few nights in a hotel. With so many new boutiques, hostels, apartments, and rentals available, the cost of travel gone significantly down. It has also allowed travelers to stay longer in one place by renting a cheap room instead of an expensive suite.

But is cheaper always better?

The biggest question right now is, “Do I stay at a hotel, a hostel, or AirBnB?” Each type of accommodation has its own unique perks, flexibility, and options. As with everything about travel, it all boils down to your personal preferences. What kind of traveler are you, and what will provide you with a good night’s sleep?

There are four main things you need to consider when booking an accommodation:

Price

Hotels used to be the most expensive option, but the lines aren’t so clear anymore. With the rise of budget hotels and the availability of some out-of-this-world AirBnB rentals, the range is pretty wide. The prices and availability also depend heavily on your location. Some more remote areas have few hotels but a lot of hostels and AirBnB rentals. More popular destinations will give you wider options.

The catch is that if you’re budget-conscious, you will almost always find a cheaper hostel and AirBnB compared to most hotels. The cheapest hotel accommodation available will always be more expensive than the cheapest AirBnB and hostel in the same area. Hotels also tend to have more additional fees and will require an additional deposit upon check-in. If you’re the type of traveler where every dollar counts, hotels are definitely not for you.

Hostels are great options if the price is an issue. Most hostels now come with a lot of self-sustaining amenities free for their guests like a kitchen, laundry facilities, and lockers. You also get some form of service, though not as personalized and extensive as hotels.

Finding cheap accommodation on AirBnB is almost guaranteed but takes a little bit more effort. It’s easy enough to set filters, but cheaper accommodations are likely to be small, far from the center, or very basic. In more popular destinations, value-for-money options may not be as scarce. You just need to go through several listings to find one that fits your budgets and your creature comforts.

Privacy

If privacy is important, stay away from hostels. There are some hostels where you get private rooms, but the numer is always limited. Most hostels also have thin walls to keep costs low, so you’ll probably be listening in on conversations in the next room no matter how private your room is. Then there are the common areas where most hostel guests hang out. Keep in mind that if you’re in a hostel, you’ll be sharing pretty much everything – living space, showers, facilities.

It’s a bit different for AirBnB since you can choose to book either an entire place or a private room. Sometimes, you’ll have to live with the owner of the place, but that can also be a plus if you need to ask for information about your destination. Booking a more private space on AirBnB does have cost implications, though. Private rooms and entire apartments obviously cost more than a shared room.

Booking a hotel room will be the best option if privacy is your number one priority. Nobody is allowed to bother you if you don’t want to be bothered. Common areas like the lobby are not as crowded. Even if you opt to stay in your room for most of the time (though that would be a waste of vacation, wouldn’t it?), you’ll most likely have enough space to move around. You can protect your personal space, and you can enjoy your time alone or with your companion without having to deal with other people interrupting your peace.

People

Meeting new people is part of the fun of traveling. Hostels give you a great jump off point if you want to find kindred spirits. The main point of hostels is to create conversations between like-minded souls, so mingling with fellow travelers is great at hostels. If you’re a solo traveler, staying at a hostel will definitely help you with your travel. You can easily chat about places everyone has visited, or even find a travel buddy who can keep you company and share adventures with.

AirBnB is great for getting a taste of the local scene. Finding a host that knows the ins and outs of the neighborhood is pretty common on AirBnB. This is where you can most likely discover less popular places and activities, but totally worth going to. Depending on the accommodation you booked, you can get all the juicy details from your host, and then opt to never see him or her again if he or she doesn’t live in the same place. Ultimately, living like a local is a great way to experience any city.

For a more organized and structured interaction, hotels will be best. Most hotels already have tours and packages for the convenience of their guests. Hotel staff are professional and will more likely try to accommodate your requests than people you just met that day. If your ideal vacation is for you to show up and have everything planned for you, then hotels will be your best option.

The Extras

You have a great room, a nice bed, and a place to stay. Sometimes the deciding factor is that little something extra.

Hotels are equipped with a range of facilities that come free when you book your room. The most common would be a business center where you can at least make phone calls or print documents. Some also have a gym, a pool, a running path, or even parking if you need it. Hotels also have their own clinics or at least first aid on hand, which is an important element most travelers don’t care to think about (until you need it). Security at hotels is also almost always ensured. Free breakfast is also a big plus. Check-in times for hotels are also mostly predictable, usually at 2 PM, and check-out at noon.

AirBnB rentals come with a more personal touch. Again, that depends on the kind of accommodation you book, but it will most likely feel like home. Even if you book a shared room, you will likely have access to everything that a proper apartment would have – kitchen, laundry, living room. These extras can be very basic or very extensive, but the best part about it is feeling like living in your own place. Personally, the most inconvenient part about booking through AirBnB are the check-in and check-out times. Most of the check-in times are some time in the afternoon, although you will find some flexible check-in times. The check-out is even more restricting with many rentals requiring check-out before noon.

From the nature of the guests who book at hostels, facilities here are geared more towards backpackers or budget travelers. Most facilities are shared, basic, but complete for you to stay for long periods of time. Laundry services or facilities are almost always available, and WiFi is usually free for the digital nomads. Some hostels also offer bike rentals (or sometimes even for free), depending on your destination.

Where should you stay?

There is no best accommodation, just the best one for you. It really depends on what’s important to you and what you’re comfortable with.

Hotels are great if you need privacy and if money is not really an issue. Hotels are for people who put convenience and accessibility at the forefront of their travels.

Hostels are for those who want to meet fellow travelers. You may be naturally an extrovert or you’re traveling alone. If you want to be surrounded by people and listen to different stories from all over the world, then book a bed at a hostel.

AirBnB is a good option in between hotels and hostels. You can fully customize your accommodation, from price, privacy, and people, and filter down to find the extras you’ll need. Of course, the more requirements you have, the slimmer your options would be. This isn’t for someone who doesn’t have the patience to go through thousands of listings, though.

Wherever you decide to stay, the important part is that you enjoy your travel. Remember that you’ll most likely come home tired and hungry from a full day’s travel, so make sure that you book a place that will give you the rest you need for another day of adventure the following day.

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

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