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Hotel vs Hostel

WORLDWIDE | Wednesday, 22 February 2012 | Views [4778]

If you’ve ever travelled internationally there’s a very good chance that you’ve had the pleasure or displeasure of staying in a Hostel. There are many awesome features that come with Hostels – they’re cheap and they’re also fantastic places to meet people in similar situations to yours. 

That being said, for many travellers the advantages of staying in a Hostel might not be outweighed by what could be considered to be disadvantages. With that in mind here are a few tips to consider when weighing up the choice between a Hotel and a Hostel. 

Value for Money

Luxurious Hostels are few and far between. Given that you’re not able to actually go and tour the facilities until your bleary-eyed check-in I can advise doing as much research as you possibly can online. The accommodation guides that you can find on online review sites are the best place to go. 

Keep in mind, though, that everyone is after something different - while someone may have been disappointed by their experience that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be. However, if you find a Hostel with considerably more bad reviews than good ones, it’s a pretty sure sign to look elsewhere. 

Any Hostel worth its salt will be reading these reviews and working on rectifying problems. Naturally, the more recent reviews will give you the best idea of what to expect.  


Most Hotels around the world will provide you with a miniature safe in your room for storing valuables. Hostels will in many cases be an entirely different story. While some will provide some kind of locker or storage area often the quality may be sub-par with locks that don’t work or a storage room filled with the bags of 50 other travellers as well. Those with SLR or Video Cameras as well as laptops may not find the thought of this ‘security’ too enticing. 

Depending on your faith in humankind you may also want to remember that people come and go from Hostels all the time. In a dorm-room you might fall asleep and wake up with different people sharing the room. I’ve never had any experience with theft while travelling but it serves well to bear in mind that knowing they’ll never see your face again can make a potential thief more brazen - don’t freak out, just be aware of the remote possibility. 

Cleanliness and Maintenance

This can often come back to value for money, if you’re paying ultra-cheap to stay somewhere you can’t expect too much, if anything at all. When last travelling in Europe I had the pleasure of staying in a few different Hostels throughout Prague, Berlin in Amsterdam and they were all very different.

In Amsterdam I stayed at the Hans Brinker, a place that proudly displays in its lobby its award for ‘worst hostel in the world’. We had no idea of that, and while Amsterdam is certainly not a city where you need to worry about these things so much, with 4 nights of sleeping on a ‘bed’ that smelled strange with two metal bars across your back for support, and a bathroom that flooded if you took a shower for too long, it can be deterring.

The Hotel (Apollo Museumhotel) I stayed at in Amsterdam after the Hans Brinker was truly immaculate. That may have just been by comparison though.  

Much of your reaction will depend on your expectations – so expecting too much before you check-in can often result in disappointment. 

Creature Comforts

In a Hotel you’ll more often than not have your own shower, a TV, perhaps even a fridge. All of these items are yours to do whatever you’d like with, within reason. The amenities, rooms, and other devices a Hotel room may or may not have are typically all communal in Hostels. Your room might have a shower but you share that room and that shower with various other people who don’t know you from a bar of soap, and who might even USE your bar of soap while you’re out. 

This once again comes down to personal preference and expectations. If the thought of sharing a room with multiple randoms who you may not even be able to communicate properly with is one you find unattractive, perhaps Hostels aren’t for you. If you want to spend your late evenings curled up in bed reading or watching the TV, a Hotel might be a better idea.

So which should you choose?

The choice between a Hotel and a Hostel will ultimately depend on the type of experience you’re after. If you prefer comfort and security, as well as every nights sleep being a good one, a Hotel is the logical choice. If you want to immerse yourself in your travel and really don’t care about things like whether you can access your own personal amenities then a Hostel is a great place to stay and experience, and it will also save you a considerable amount of money. 

Having stayed in both, and having seen the worst a Hostel can be, even I acknowledge that sometimes, after a few weeks, you just want a room that isn’t going to be filled with other people – a little space for your own. 

Staying in a Hotel does not make you a prude or a snob - everyone appreciates comfort once in a while. Ultimately what should matter the most is where you’re going and what you’re seeing, not where you’re staying, but everyone has their preferences.   

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About the Author

David Piepers is student of international relations, a foreign diplomat in training, culminating in research at overseas meetings of the minds such as music and beer festivals. Dave’s travel advice is like that of the father you never had. A father who’s slept in some of the worst hostels Europe has to offer. Follow him on twitter @jvanderp.

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