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6 Big Differences Between Hotels and Hostels

Updated on December 18, 2017
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Poppy is the author of "A Bard's Lament" and the Black Diamond series. She lives in Enoshima, Japan, with her husband and young son.

The flights are booked, you have an idea of what you want to see and do, you've started to pack your suitcase, and you can feel the familiar build-up of excitement as the date of depature gets closer and closer. But there's one thing you still need to figure out whilst you're on vacation, whether it's a two-week stay on a beach island or backpacking through Europe - and that's your accommodation.

This article compares the best and worst features of hotels and hostels, exploring your personal travel arrangements to see which would be the best for you. Both hotels and hostels can provide excellent - if very different - experiences. Which would you be better off in?



Nearly every town, city and island in the world offers some kind of hotel or Bed & Breakfast; finding one isn't the issue. There are plenty of online comparison websites to find the best deal too, such as TriVaGo or The main positives of staying in a hotel are as follows:

  • Privacy. You get your key and enter your room, several floors above the busy lobby, bars and restaurants, and you can get a private shower and relax on your bed.
  • Tea and coffee facilities in the room - no running to a cafe or vending machine for a caffeine fix.
  • Daily maid service. You'll come back from your adventures in the evening and have fresh towels, a made-up bed and new teabags.

However, there are negatives to a hotel too:

  • Price. Hotels can be expensive, especially anything above three-star. When you stay in a hotel, your accommodation costs can take up over half of your entire vacation expenditure.
  • It's impersonal. You check in, grab your key, and check out again several days or weeks later. You may get a fantastic or mediocre service from the staff, but never anything personal or sincere.
  • You're not likely to meet people. Hotels are for sleeping in, not for making life-long friends.

If the above doesn't bother you, then a hotel might be the best option. But for those on a lower budget and wanting to make international friends, a hostel might pique your interest.



Hostels are a cheaper way to enjoy your time on vacation. Not only is the price lower, but there are many great things about a hostel that a hotel might not be able to offer.

  • You can meet people. Hostels are designed to be sociable places; usually there isn't a lobby, but a public area such as a living room where you can meet like-minded people who love to travel. When i stayed in a hostel in Tokyo at eighteen years old, I made a lifelong friend from Australia, who I'm still in touch with today. A hotel just doesn't provide the same kind of social conditions.
  • A hostel usually has free wifi and computers. Hotels will nearly always charge for wifi, but many hostels have several computers that are free to use. Hostel staff appreciate that a lot of their visitors are young people travelling alone, and understand the importance of staying in touch with friends and family at home.
  • Price. You can stay in a hostel for cheap (check out HostelBookers or HostelWorld), which means you can stay in your holiday location longer than you thought.
  • Cooking facilities. Instead of having to pay to eat out every day, hostels sometimes have a kitchen where you're welcome to cook. This is another way to bond with other people staying in the hostel - perhaps cook a big pot of Something and share it.

However, with positives there have to come negatives.

  • Many of the rooms aren't private. Unless you're willing to pay extra, hostels usually put you in a shared bedroom, set up with a locker to put your things in, and a curtain to cover your bed. If this sounds utterly nightmarish to you, the privacy of a hotel room might be the best choice.
  • Some hostels aren't as clean as hotels. The hostel I stayed in was fine, but there are horror stories out there of dirty rooms and dodgy toilets in hostels, which is why they're so cheap to stay in. Doing research when looking for a hostel is mandatory.
  • Shared bathrooms. If you need to take a shower, you might have to wait your turn.

Of course, this is all part of the experience - it depends what you're searching for and how adventurous you are.

To compare

Travelling alone or with friends
Need privacy
Want to meet young people
Need daily maid service

Your Personal Situation

If you're still unsure which is best for you, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who are you travelling with? Are you alone, so the choice is entirely your own? Are you with a group of friends who would love to mingle with other travellers, and cook and drink with them? Are you a couple who need privacy? If you're an eighteen-year-old student travelling by yourself, your choice will be different to if you're a couple in your sixties.
  • What do you want out of your vacation? Are you hoping for a week or two lounging by the pool, or are you backpacking Thailand with some friends? The type of vacation you're planning will greatly affect your decision.
  • How important is price? Will you be outside from 8am to 10pm every day, and therefore don't really care about the accommodation you're staying in? Would you prefer to pay for a cheap hostel and have more spending money? Or are you willing to pay for a four-star hotel for greater comfort and privacy?

This article hopefully gave you some idea of the difference between hotels and hostels, and which would be right for you on your vacation. Choose wisely - both experiences are completely different, and both have the potential to be fantastic. Good luck on your decision, and enjoy your vacation!

© 2014 Poppy


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