Hostels vs Hotels – Why the Hostel often wins

backpackers entering a hostel

Many travellers who haven’t stayed in hostels before often ask what is the difference between hostels and hotels? Guest blogger Jenna explores the great hostels vs hotels debate and tries to dispel a few myths along the way by offering five advantages of hostels over hotels.

If you’ve not done much backpacking before, you may also want to read about the types of people you meet in hostels, a humorous take on hostel life.

5 Reasons Hostels are Better than Hotels

When I booked my weekend trip to the Amalfi Coast as a Florence study abroad student, I figured I was making the obvious choice when I chose a hotel instead of a hostel. The idea of a hostel brought forth horrific film images of dingy basements, fake blood, and conniving Europeans.

However, upon stepping into a dingy econo-lodge reminiscent motel, equipped with stray hairs and sour milk, it quickly became apparent which was the better choice, especially when checking out the modern, chic, and youth-friendly hostel down the road.

As in all situations, one isn’t always better than the other, however when it comes to backpacking, hostels are bound to be your better bet with a little bit of background research beforehand.

So why are these colorful cohabiting pseudo-homes so much cooler and more fun than your run-of-the-mill hotel?

1) Hostels keep you social

hostel drinking game
Hue backpackers hostel drinking games via @felixtriller, CC BY 2.0

Unless you specially request a private room, normally, hostels bunk you with a bunch of other independent travellers like yourself – they usually have between four to sixteen beds per room, although in extreme cases that can range up to 100 beds. It should be obvious when booking how many other beds will be in the dorm, but unless it’s a busy period, it’s unlikely all will be occupied.

For some, this may be a turn-off, but for young backpackers, especially those flying solo, it’s the easiest way to grab a travel buddy and make international friends for the next time you hit the road. What better way to make friends with someone than to brush your teeth next to them?

2) You’ll meet more “travellers” than “tourists” at hostels

When staying at hotels, you’re bound to run into some loud little kids, stuck-up tourists, and confused vacationers. However, staying at hostels, chances are that you’ll be with other adventurous backpackers that you’ll have more in common with and may even stay in contact with for years to come.

The average age of one staying in a hostel tends to be younger (e.g. 18-30) although it does vary from country to country and hostel to hostel. Most do not have upper age limits and you shouldn’t be put off staying in hostels if you are older. However, regardless of your age, you may want to avoid certain types of “party hostels” if that’s not really your scene and you are looking for a good night night’s sleep.

3) Hostels add an interesting new level of surprise to your travels

capsule hostel, Japan
9hours in Kyoto via Tobin, CC BY-SA 2.0

A hotel pretty much always looks like a hotel, especially if you’ve opted for a chain or you don’t have the cash to drop on a luxury hotel. However, hostels tend to be more optimised with amenities, activities, and décor related to the city you are actually staying in.

There are all kinds of different themed hostels and different styles. Capsule hostels are very popular with those travelling in the Far East for example and offer an extra degree of privacy for those unsure about staying in dorms.

4) Hostels tend to run much cheaper

Because you usually share a room with other travellers and they are geared towards younger travellers, hostels are almost always much more cost-effective than hotels, especially if no loyalty points are involved or you’re only staying for a night or two.

The average nightly price of a bed in a hostel is under $10 in some countries and will rarely go above $30 even in more expensive countries. If you can part with Egyptian cotton sheets and private bathrooms, then the hostel price is worth it.

5) Hostels tend to be locally owned and operated

backpackers entering a hostel

If you’re angry that your room is sub-par and you complain to the desk staff at the local Holiday Inn, chances are the staff at the front desk probably don’t really care.

However, when you’re upset about an issue with your hostel, the person you are complaining to (or praising) at the front desk, may even own the whole place and they will usually be only too happy to help you handle your issue (there are exceptions!).

They will also have more flexibility when it comes to changing hostel policies to avoid that issue coming up again. In short, you’re dealing with real people who will look to find solutions rather than employees who seem to have sworn an oath to follow company policy.

Author Bio

Jenna Intersimone is an internationally wandering writer who is just as likely to stumble into an Antiguan villa as she is to end up at your back door asking for a place to crash. A former award-winning editor and writer for several publications, Jenna is a Journalism and Design graduate of Monmouth University and currently works for Gannett Newspapers and regularly – and obsessively – contributes to her travel blog, Life aboard the Traveling Circus. You can also find her on facebook and twitter.

This guest post looking at the hostels vs hotels debate was last updated in November 2022.

Hostels vs Hotels – Why the Hostel often wins

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