When it comes to travelling, there are so many options for accommodation.
Airbnb, couchsurfing, hostels, homestays, hotels and even resorts! However, in this post we will be focusing on the two most commonly utilised types of lodgings – hotels and hostels.
Both serve a huge range of clientele and both have pros and cons, so if you are wondering which option will suit you best, wonder no more!
Here is a thorough breakdown of what makes each option great, and the less appealing factors that also should be considered. By knowing all the major pros and cons, you can make an informed decision regarding what type of accommodation is best for you.
1. Bathrobes + Bathtubs + Towels
I have said it before and I will say it again, there isn’t much more I love in a hotel room than a big bath and fluffy robes, they just make for such a comfortable stay, and even though they aren’t a necessity by any stretch of the imagination, I still always love having them.
However, the other bonus is the consistent provision of towels. Most hostels will only provide towels to those staying in private rooms, and people like me who prefer to slum it in dorms are left either being forced to rent them for an extra fee or using their own microfibre towels.
Don’t get me wrong, the pair of $5 microfibre towels I bought on eBay like seven years ago have served me well and are still going strong, but even though they get the job done, they just don’t do it as well as a real towel. Sometimes it’s nice to get out of the shower and be dry within a few minutes, as opposed to battling with a microfibre towel for 5 minutes and then still needing to air dry for a while.
2. Room Service
Sometimes no matter how much your brain is telling you to make the most of your time in a destination, all you really want to do is chill out and veg for an evening, and when that mood strikes, having room service available to you is so freaking lovely!
I’ll admit, my favourite way to sleep is either in just a pair of undies, or in nothing at all. But sleeping in one’s birthday suit isn’t exactly a great thing to do in a hostel dorm, but in a hotel it’s a whole different story!
You can pretty much do what you want without having to worry about being disturbed, so you can get around in whatever you want, eat when you please, get up at an ungodly hour without disturbing anybody and just generally not have to worry about being courteous to anybody else.
4. 24/7 Reception
You might be surprised at just how many hostels have limited reception hours! Of course this is not the case for larger chain hostels, but those are the kinda places that I try to avoid. Hotels on the other hand, pretty much always have 24/7 reception, which is really helpful when you encounter travel delays or are reduced to taking red eye flights to save moolah.
5. Comfortable Beds
Hotels are not always synonymous with comfort, but in my experience, your chance of scoring a seriously comfy bed is a lot higher in a hotel than it is in a hostel.
1. They are often expensive
When you are used to spending $15/night on accommodation, it can be a bit hard to adjust when staying in a semi decent hotel can easily run up in into the hundreds per night. In terms of value for money, hotels do not always do the greatest job.
2. Food related facilities are limited
Sure room service can be brilliant, but if you are on a budget and don’t feel like venturing out to find street food, you kinda become left between a rock and a hard place. For many travellers, doing ones own cooking is a prime way to save money, but this requires access to a kitchen, and I have not once seen a hotel that allowed guests to cook their own food.
3. Laundry services do not come cheap
$2 per item? Yeah, I’ll pass thanks.
4. Rooms don’t always come with a safe
This bugs me.
When travelling for long periods of time, you pretty much carry your entire life on your back, and this can include some really important and valuable possessions. Having a locker or safe makes me feel much safer about leaving my stuff in a room (even though I know that hotel safes are notoriously easy to break into) and when a place doesn’t have one, I feel forced into carrying everything with me.
5. It’s hard to meet other travellers
If you are travelling with a friend, partner or in a group this isn’t really an issue, but if you frequently travel on your own, you might find that this contributes to feelings of isolation – and if making new friends is hard it can become quite frustrating.
Basically, hotels are lovely for couples, a little lonely for solo travellers and much more expensive. However, if you are looking for a consistently good nights sleep, they are absolutely your best bet. Plus, sometimes there is nothing better than eating amazing room service in a fluffy bathrobe!
1. Socialisation + Making Friends
The sheer number of friends I have made in hostels over the years is pretty astounding. For people travelling independently, there is really no better way to meet people than by staying in hostels. This is one area in which hotels can just never compare.
2. Best Value Beers
For backpackers, hostel bars often serve the best value booze in town. I have scored 20c beers in Cape Town, 40c beers in Cambodia and $5 beers in Iceland (which may not sound like a bargain, but believe me, in Iceland it really really is) all thanks to hostel bar happy hours! Hotel bars tend to be much more upscale, which can be lovely, but $25 for a cocktail just isn’t financially reasonable if you are travelling for an extended period of time.
3. Kitchens + Cooking Your Own Meals
After accommodation, the cost of food is easily one of the biggest expenses when going on an adventure. Most hostels come with kitchens – allowing you to buy cheaper supermarket food and do your own cooking. Not only does this save money, but it also allows you to still get the comfort of home cooked food whilst on the road.
4. Theft is a Rarity
When I’ve asked people why they are reluctant to stay in a dorm, time and time again I have heard that fear of theft is a major factor. But honestly, this is completely unfounded! I feel much safer leaving my stuff in a dorm room than I do in a hotel room, which may sound crazy – but it really isn’t.
As a general rule of thumb, backpackers are all in the same boat and as a result, there is a sense of camaraderie amongst your fellow bunk mates. Sure, it pays to lock up your valuables, but I have forgotten to do this on multiple occasions where I left very valuable items in plain view, and they were never so much as moved an inch.
This just goes without saying! Some hostels can go for as little as a few dollarydoos per night, whilst good hotels often go up into the hundreds. Also, if you are travelling as a duo you can often get a private room in a hostel for a lot less than a standard hotel room.
If you are a light sleeper, hostels will mean that an uninterrupted nights sleep is a rare luxury. People don’t usually mean to be noisy, but 3am arrivals and departures are the norm for many. However, if you are not bothered by wearing earplugs, this probably won’t be too much of an issue.
2. Bunk Bed Sex
This is especially bad if you are on the top bunk – you can’t escape from the rockin that’s going on below you!
3. Limited Reception Hours
Sometimes you have delays, and sometimes getting in at an ungodly hour is unavoidable. If you rock up to your hostel and find that they close reception early, you can end up stranded for the night.
4. Cold Showers
This isn’t as common as people think, but they definitely do come up from time to time. If you are an early riser this will likely bother you less as the hot water won’t have had as much time to run out.
5. Fewer Power Points
There isn’t much that is more frustrating than trying to charge your devices, only to find that there is only one single power point for 10 people! Hostels are getting better at this, and generally speaking most new hostels will provide a plug for each bedside, but older hostels can be lacking.
When it comes to affordability, hostels easily reign supreme. They are also great for solo travellers and anyone looking to meet people and make new friends, plus, hostel bars will serve some of the cheapest booze around. On the flipside, getting a completely uninterrupted nights sleep is a bit of a rarity, and privacy is often lacking. But if you get some decent earplugs and learn to not give a crap about other backpackers seeing your racoon eyes in the morning (if you always forget to take off your mascara like me) then they are absolutely a great option.
So which is best?
I routinely stay in both hostels and hotels, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Both have their pros and cons, and are amazing (but very different) options for travellers. Some countries are better serviced by hotels, others by hostels. It also depends on what you want and what you appreciate.
In the end, you just gotta go with what floats your boat!
8 thoughts on “Hostel vs Hotel | A Thorough Comparison of all the Pros + Cons”
I agree… they both have their pro’s and con’s, the best choice will come down to what type of trip are you planning to have… want to be relax, stress free, get to know yourself more? Hotels are the way to go… if the plan is knowing the local culture, soak it in, hostels will do a much better job
It’s so difficult to generalize about hotels. I like small ones, and they don’t usually have bath robes or room service, and they don’t cost hundreds a night. Plus, if you want a kitchen there are apartment hotels like Citadines. I also like B&Bs which are good for meeting people.
I don’t mind sharing a bathroom but I have given up on sharing sleeping quarters – I want more quiet and more privacy. Unfortunately private rooms in hostels are usually doubles, and can cost as much a room in a small hotel or guesthouse.
As I have aged, hostels just don’t float my boat anymore. If in a pinch I will use one but prefer AIr B&B or just a B&B. Smaller, private hotels are nice but you still must be careful. Will I never stay in a hostel, no, I would use one under certain circumstances. Missing the camaraderie of people is the sad part I’ll miss.
Bed and breakfasts or staying with families who rent out rooms an option you’ve explored?
I’ll be doing my first hostel stay when I head to the PNW. I’m actually looking forward to the community/socialization. And I was able to score a private room with en suite bathroom.
Another vote for hotels – but that’s because I’m older now, and I don’t want to rough it any more. But I can see there are benefits to hostels, I just don’t want to be in them any more.
Thanks for the great comparison and for dispelling some of the hostel myths, like theft and security. Yep, great read. Thanks again.