Travel on a budget is possible, but which is the winner in a battle of Airbnb vs. Hostel?
Many people dream of world travel. Checking out new landscapes, putting your feet in the sand and experiencing new cultures is at the top of many wish lists, but few take the plunge.
Traveling the world is a unique and often life-changing experience, and yet many do not get to tick all of their dream destinations off of their ‘bucket list.’
While many are held back by fear, time, and commitments at home, money can also be a huge factor.
Whether you plan to travel by bus, car, train or by air travel costs can add up quickly. Once you actually arrive at your dream destination, there are always many attractions and hot spots that you ‘must see’ while on your trip. So how can you possibly plan a dream vacation on a budget?
The answer is in the accommodation. Hotels can take a large chunk out of your travel budget, especially in major tourist hot spots. For many budget travelers, the cost of a hotel could make the trip unaffordable and the trip unattainable.
The easy answer is to ditch the hotel and start to look at some better options. Let’s check out the best options in the battle of Airbnb vs Hostel.
How many times have you heard someone plan to ‘backpack through Europe’? This holiday is a popular option often among young people who want to see the world before settling down into a career.
For these travelers, budgets are often small and need to stretch. Europe is a popular destination because travel between countries is often cheap and many countries are just a short train or plane ride away.
While there may be many countries within a relatively small area, Europe is not an inexpensive destination for travel. For many travelers, a hostel is the only affordable accommodation available.
What is a Hostel?
A hostel is a type of accommodation that brings many travelers together in a common area to offer inexpensive lodging to many people in the same area. Basically, most hostels offer a shared space at a reduced rate when compared to hotels in the same area.
Many hostels offer combined kitchen and living room areas that guests can enjoy together. Bedrooms are usually shared and may consist of single beds all the way to triple bunks.
While some hostels offer ‘female only’ rooms or entire properties, often rooms are co-ed.
What are the Benefits of Staying in a Hostel?
Many hostels offer multiple benefits that attract travelers regardless of price. They have been designed to be social, secure, and offer great locations. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits and the drawbacks of this unique travel accommodation.
Hostels are known for their reduced rates. In fact, they are known to be a great way for travelers to stretch their budgets.
Hostel One Notting Hill offers accommodation in the heart of the infamous London neighborhood. For bookings on June 15th, 2019 (getting into the high season) prices were:
- $41.88 USD -non-refundable for a single bed in a co-ed dorm room with eight beds.
- $175.60 USD -non-refundable for a private double room:
You can really save by giving up a little privacy. This hostel offers a great value to its patrons by serving a free family-style dinner each night, daily tours and free WIFI.
While it offers a lot of frills that would be attractive for budget-conscious travelers, it was actually twice as expensive as the cheapest accommodation we found in the area.
The Smart Hyde Park Inn (also a hostel) offered a single bed in a 16-bed co-ed dorm room in the same area on the same day for only $20.79 USD.
This option included many more roommates, no dinner, and simpler facilities- but half the cost.
Make Friends and Have Fun
One of the main attractions that hostels offer (other than low rates) is their ability to bring people together. Many find themselves traveling solo in a foreign country, and hostels can act as a gathering place to meet others in the same position.
By staying in a hostel that offers communal living areas, you have the opportunity to meet people, exchange travel tips for finding the area’s hidden gems and making new friends.
Many hostels offer a free or cheap family style meal where visitors have the ability to sit and eat together, which can be a great change from meals on the road.
Many hostels offer a fun and friendly atmosphere. They often have age restrictions so that like-minded people can gather in the same area. When there are age restrictions, the range is usually 18-35.
That means that you often won’t find a senior citizen or small family in the next bunk. These types of hostels often want to attract a young crowd that wants to have fun.
Hostel staff can be an invaluable resource on your travels. Not only are they often available 24 hours a day to give you a sense of security, but they have a lot of good information.
Hostel staff often have great insights on the hidden gems in the area. They can point you in the direction of all hot spots, help you with public transportation, and even act as a tour guide.
Some hostels offer day tours, game nights and evenings out so road weary travelers can experience a bit of friendly fun.
The Drawbacks of a Hostel
While a hostel may be the perfect accommodation for one tourist, it could be a nightmare for another. Let’s take a look at some of the drawbacks of staying in a hostel.
Many hostels have a strict age restriction that requires guests to provide ID upon check-in. The restriction is not a suggested guideline. In fact, your age is verified upon check-in, and if you are not within the restrictions, your reservation could be canceled.
Many hostels require their guests to be between the ages of 18-35. This makes sense if they want to attract like-minded tourists for a fun party atmosphere. It would not be a good fit for families, children, or seniors.
This is a common practice, but there are hostels that accept families and older adults. They may just be a little harder to find.
Many hostels every precaution to keep their guests safe. Often they have 24-hour staff on site as well as security cameras installed. Despite these measures, by sleeping with complete strangers in an unfamiliar place, you could be making yourself vulnerable.
If you ever feel that your safety is compromised in a hostel, always ask the staff to switch rooms. You can also choose to book a female-only room or hostel.
While most hostels are cleaned daily, (much like a hotel) you are living among strangers who may be messy. As often as the shower, common room or bathroom are cleaned, some people just choose to be messy. Living in a shared space, you will be forced to live in their mess as well.
While many hostels rely on their online ratings for business and therefore have high standards, there are always those who fall through the cracks. Road-weary travelers may not have the option to run their sheets through the laundry if they look a little dirty. Or run the dishes through a dishwasher if they look a little grimy.
In a party atmosphere, you also run the risk of someone drinking too much and getting sick all over the bathroom. While it may get cleaned-eventually-you may have to continue to use that facility in the meantime.
A study published in the Annals of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases tested public toilet seats, including those in hostels. They determined that using public toilets, even if they are cleaned regularly, still harbor a high number of bacterial organisms and could put users at risk for infection.
While many may worry about the bathroom, Dr. Richard Honaker of Your Doctors.online says that the remote is likely to be covered in much more bacteria.
“The biggest concerns would E. Coli and MRSA,” He said. “E. Coli is often found on remotes when people handle them after not washing their hands after a bowel movement. MRSA is carried around in the nose and can be spread through poor hand washing as well.”
Many may choose a hostel as a budget-friendly place to get sleep after a long day of sightseeing. While some hostels may offer peace and tranquility, others are more of a party atmosphere. Do your research before making your reservation and if all else fails, carry some earplugs or headphones to block out the noise.
What is an Airbnb?
While only in existence since 2007, Airbnb has gone from a money-making idea that stemmed from the increasing cost of real estate to a household name.
The idea for Airbnb came to its founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia because of their struggle to find affordable accommodation after moving from New York City to San Francisco. When a convention came to their city, the two decided to capitalize on a lack of available rooms available for the influx of visitors.
The pair decided to offer a bed and breakfast service in their home using air mattresses they purchased for their new enterprise. This move led to the term ‘Airbnb.’
Airbnb is a different kind of service because it allows regular property owners to make an additional income. By listing their property with the service, they can make extra cash by lending out their homes or spare rooms.
Travelers can seek out these spaces for a ‘home away from home’. Often these spaces are much more affordable than a hotel room. Airbnbs can be renting a single room or an entire home so it is a great option for families searching for accommodation on a budget.
With the draw of both budget-conscious travelers and property owners seeking additional income, Airbnb has grown to six million listings in over 191,000 countries. The company is rumored to be worth over $25 billion.
What are the Benefits of Staying in an Airbnb vs Hostel?
Staying at an Airbnb offers a much different experience than a hostel. While they are sometimes both shared accommodation, you are often staying with the property owners, rather than hostel employees.
When compared to a traditional hotel, Airbnb is an affordable choice for a home away from home. Not only are you able to rent out a room for shared accommodation, but you can also score the entire place to yourself, often cheaper than a hotel room.
For a booking In Notting Hill, London on June 15th, 2019, we were able to find a single room in an apartment with a double bed for $36.39 USD a night.
While this is about twice as much as the cheapest hostel in the area, you are getting much more for your money. This listing offers a bathroom with a jacuzzi tub as well as a double bed in a private room. There is also a small kitchen available to be used.
If you are traveling in a group, you may find an Airbnb to be a cheaper option since you are able to share the cost of the rental. For hostels, you are charged a price per bed, unless you book a private room.
In comparison to a hostel, an Airbnb listing offers lots of privacy. Instead of sharing sleeping quarters with up to 16 people, you are offered a private room.
That means that instead of sharing a bunk bed with up to two strangers (some hostels have triple bunks) you can stretch out and slumber in complete solitude. You can also opt to have the entire place to yourself. This means that you can truly relax knowing that there is no one to judge your Netflix lineup or junk food diet.
This privacy also extends to the bathroom facilities. While some co-ed hostels offer an ensuite option, others have dorm style bathroom facilities. These shower options may be a difficult sell for those bashful travelers who like a locked door between them and a roomful of strangers.
A Good Option for Families
Many hostels have age restrictions in order to attract their desired guest. This often leaves no room for families to travel on a budget. These restrictions often make sense as families may have children who are early to bed and early to rise. The exact opposite schedule of many twenty-something travelers.
When choosing to stay in an entire home or apartment, families are able to access all of the comforts of home. You can shop and prepare homemade meals to avoid the high cost and potential issues that can come with taking little ones to restaurants.
You also have the security of knowing everyone who is sharing personal space with your family. Children can sleep in private rooms and have the security of a locked front door.
Many Airbnbs also offer a family-friendly washroom. There may be a bath to bathe younger children and lots of privacy for the entire family. Where hostels may offer dorm style showers only, a young child will likely be able to practice the same bathing routines as home.
A Good Option for Couples
Hostels may offer a fun and friendly atmosphere for young couples to meet people and hit up local hot spots, but the sleeping arrangements aren’t ideal. In fact, some hostels offer triple bunk beds with no ability to choose top, bottom, or middle. This means that a couple could potentially have a stranger sleeping between them at night.
When choosing an Airbnb, even if couples are only renting a room, they are still offered much more privacy than a hostel. Couples are able to share a bed and enjoy sleeping with each other in the same manner they would at home, versus a dorm or camp style bunk bed.
When renting an entire space, couples are able to truly make themselves at home. They can stay up late or go to bed early without being disrupted or disrupting others.
Some hostels do offer private rooms, but they are at a much higher cost. It should also be considered that a private room in a building housing dozens and dozens of travelers may not actually feel quiet and private.
The Drawbacks of an Airbnb vs Hostel?
While an Airbnb may be an economical alternative to hotels while on the road, it is not always the right fit. Sharing a room in someone’s home is not always a perfect fit. A property owner is not always the ideal host or hostess. Let’s take a look at some of the negative aspects of checking in to someone else’s property.
Many Airbnb contracts limit the number of guests you can have. That means that if you want to continue to party after last call, you need to find another place to have a nightcap. Failure to follow these rules can result in additional charges on your credit card.
There can also be noise restrictions, so even if only paying guests are present, you can still get in trouble the morning after.
No New Friends
Staying in an Airbnb does not often allow for the same ease in making friends as a hostel. You may be staying in an extra room in a family home, or have the entire place to yourself. A hostel brings like-minded people together, and an Airbnb is simply a place to stay.
May Not be Private
Staying in a room in a family home could feel awkward, especially if you are in a new country. Unless you are extremely outgoing or already know the host, it could make for an awkward night.
May Not be Clean
While Airbnb offers reviews for guests to choose a reputable host, a review is still not a guarantee. There is no staff at the front desk to call if your space is not cleaned to your satisfaction. While you cannot get immediate help, you can file a grievance with the host and Airbnb. Of course, a review can also warn others of less than clean accommodations. In a pinch, you may have to stay now and complain later.
Less Money for Travel
Spending more money on accommodation means less money for checking out the local sites and attractions. If you are on your dream vacation, what are you going to remember– the amazing things you saw or the bed you slept in? If the goal for your trip is to see as much you can on a tight budget, it may be worth it to sleep on a triple bunk and go on a special tour.
Airbnb vs Hostel: Our Conclusion
A travel plan is often as unique as the person taking the trip. Are you willing to sacrifice privacy for a location that is in the middle of all the action? Do you need a soft spot to land or a way to meet people on the road? Are you a person who needs their personal space in order to feel sane, or do you thrive on action and adventure with new people?
When it comes to the most budget-friendly option, it really depends on how many people are traveling with you. A solo traveler will find the best bang for their buck, choosing a bunk in a hostel, where a family or group of travelers will be able to share a lower cost at an Airbnb.
Traveling to new places and scratching new destinations off your bucket list is a dream for many that few actually achieve. Make sure that you enjoy your time in a new place by picking the accommodation that is right for you– regardless of the price.
Have you ever stayed in a hostel? Was it a ready-made party or a soft place to land? Let us know in the comments!