During our budget backpackers travel for the whole of last year, we nearly exclusively stayed in a hostel or at an Airbnb. The main reasons will be to keep the accommodation budget cost down. Furthermore, these accommodations usually provide us a kitchen which allows us to cook and also keep the food budget down. With a whole year’s worth of experience, we like to share our opinion on the pros and cons of Hostels vs Airbnb.
For our accommodation, we value as much personal space as possible. The Airbnb we stayed at are very basic but we would always get the “whole house” option when we can as this gives us the whole space of the house to ourselves. We found that the basic Airbnb are usually the same cost as staying in a “private room” option in a hostel which is our other preferred option. We didn’t stay in a shared dorm during our stay in hostels this year.
Prefer to have flexibility on arrival time? Hostels vs Airbnb
- Hostel: Win
- Arrival times are very specific with Airbnb. We have to be at the accommodation at a specific time as agreed upon with the Airbnb Host.
- With a hostel, there is always a check in counter and it is almost always available 27-7. Arrival is a lot less stressful staying at a hostel as we could arrive and leave the accommodation whenever we want.
- If your schedule to arrive extremely early or late, the host may not be able to accommodate you at that time. Sometimes when we arrive early in a city, we would need to sit in a cafe for a few hours before the host could open up at the accommodation. But you have to remember, traveling wasn’t always as easy as it is now, thankfully most hostels will usually have a spare room for us to check in immediately no matter how early we arrive so that’s a great thing that’s offer now.
- If the public transport arrives extremely late, we would have to try to get in contact with our Airbnb host as they usually won’t be waiting around for long. Once when our host left after waiting for half an hour when our bus arrived late at the city and we have to wait around for while till they come back. To have this constant contact with the host we have to have an international roaming phone number which adds costs to a budget trip.
- Some hostels do have a small safety box for the entrance key so we can self-check in and out. However, this is the minority of the cases.
If you like to have your own private space? Hostels vs Airbnb.
- Airbnb: Win
- When we want to stay in an Airbnb, we would choose to either stay in a whole house so we wouldn’t need to share any common area or bathroom with anyone else.
- On the days we have been out all day sightseeing, the last thing we want to do is to go back to a shared home to a shared space. We just want some private space to relax.
- Although we have our private rooms in hostels, we have to cook in the shared kitchen. Most of the time we have to either line up to use the stoves or have to fight for the limited cooking equipment. Sometimes we have to wake up early just to avoid the breakfast cooking rush.
If you want good travel tips from locals? Hostels vs Airbnb.
- We understand that sometimes the Airbnb host will take their guests out to find the hidden gems of the city. However, that really didn’t happen to us. Most people running Airbnb are treating it as a business rather than a place to make friends. They show you the room, they may give you a few tips and they leave. We are usually too shy to trouble them for recommendations after they leave too.
- We usually found that the tours and restaurants recommended by Airbnb hosts are usually not very good either. Once in eastern Europe, we wanted to ask the young host on how to take public transport but he doesn’t have a clue as he rides his scooter everywhere in the city.
- For hostels, the front staffs are always accessible and they usually have a wealth of knowledge about the city we stay in. They always have the standard supplies of maps and information including where to buy cheap food and ingredients. Most importantly they would always know how to take the public transports.
- The majority of the time, other guests in the hostel can always give helpful tips on what to see and where to eat, especially they have stayed in the city for a few days.
- For cheap day trips, Hostels seems to always have the best deals and prices.
If you like to make friends? Hostels vs Airbnb.
- Hostel: Win
- It’s a given that staying at a hostel you would meet more people than staying at an Airbnb.
- We stayed at Hostels for the whole four months in South America and we met so many new people during this time.
- In Europe, all the tourists’ attractions are easy to get to and we don’t need to join any tours or ask for any tips to get to certain locations. So staying at Airbnb was convenient but we would not meet anyone new during our stay. During the periods of Airbnb, everyone shares a common cooking space where they would chat and exchange information.
- Hostels would also have different events such as Pub Crawls or rooftop BBQ. It was an easy place to socialize and meet new people.
If you want to stay in unique styles of accommodation? Hostels vs Airbnb.
- Airbnb: Win
- If we ever want to stay in unique style hotels or resorts, we would be forking out a fortune to stay at those places.
- With Airbnb, houses with unique styling are available at extremely affordable prices. A few of the places, the hosts themselves stay there and rent out when they are away, so the houses are extremely tastefully decorated.
- We have relaxed in a holiday house with a huge Jacuzzi in Iceland for an extremely price compared to other accommodations.
- Have a good browse when booking for Airbnb, you might just find a hidden gem for a very affordable price!
- On the other hand, hostels are usually simple, basic rooms located in convenient locations. don’t expect anything out of the ordinary.
When you want to reduce the risk of booking a bad Accommodation, Hostels vs Airbnb.
- Hostel: Win
- We always do through research before we book an Airbnb and Hostel. But the chances of us getting a bad surprise is so much higher when we stay in Airbnb.
- We found that most people give overly generous reviews for Airbnb accommodations. We believe that this is probably because most people would have met the hosts personally and don’t want to hurt their feelings.
- We usually found that the cleanliness for many Airbnb is quite poor. We think that people who stay in cheaper Airbnb may have lower standards of cleanliness.
- The chances of having an unexpected surprise at a Hotel is a lower. The reviews of hostels can most likely be found on TripAdvisor and we found that the reviews on TripAdvisor are a lot more realistic and reliable.
Conclusion: Hostels vs Airbnb
- Airbnb suits couples or a family better. It is usually an accommodation suited for more people and better quality of stay.
- Airbnb may appear pretty online but it may not be very practical. The beds can be quite uncomfortable and the kitchen can be unpractical. However, you do not need to share this space with anyone else.
- Location wise, hostels are usually located more centrally unless you are prepared to fork out more to live in a central Airbnb location. Personally, I found that if the accommodation is within 4 km of the city center, that is still acceptable as we don’t need to take public transport and could still save on transport cost.
- When you want to print something such as a ticket, Hostels are a lot more convenient as there is always someone helps you print for free. We found it quite time-consuming when we have to find somewhere to print when we stay in Airbnb. Printing in Europe can cost up to 1 Euro per A4 size page.
Alternate accommodation where you can cook: Service Apartment
- It’s like a mixture of Airbnb and Hostel. You can have a whole apartment to yourself and can also have a receptionist.
- They have a reception so there is no time pressure in terms of needing to arrive at a particular time.
- Usually, they have clean up services daily.
- Service apartments can be found on Trip Advisor， Booking.com or Hotels Combined
- They are a pricier option compared to Airbnb and Hostels so it isn’t suitable for long-term travels.
Everyone has different expectations out of their accommodations and it is important to find an accommodation that fits in your expectation. Sometimes you would prefer to have more flexibility in the trip and sometimes you would want to have more privacy during your stay. Hopefully, after reading this article, you would have a better idea of what to expect when booking Hostel vs Airbnb. For people who has yet to join Airbnb, click this link for a free $50 AUD Airbnb voucher.
More money saving tips, check out our “How to eat on a budget while traveling around the World?“ article