Hotels vs. hostels: Which one is right for you?

Nov 19, 2013 at 7:25 a.m. ET

When you're traveling, whether as a family, as a couple or solo, hostels are a great option for saving some money. But are hostels for you? We're breaking down the pros and cons of hostels vs. hotels and helping you decide which type of accommodation is best for you and the type of trip you're taking.

Youth hostel


Hostels offer a cheaper place to rest your head. How much cheaper depends on the destination. A hostel in Santa Monica or Manhattan might end up being comparable to a hotel room if you opt for a private room versus a dorm bed, but in general, staying in a hostel will save you money. Hostel dorm rooms can accommodate anywhere from four to 18 people, with shared bathrooms. The more beds in the room, the cheaper your stay will be (in dorms, you pay per bed).

Hostel pros

We’ve already mentioned that hostels are cheaper, so that’s already a huge plus for many travelers. But there are many other perks that come with your stay. Hostels make it easy to meet people since there are often many common areas to relax with a book, watch TV or just hang out in between bouts of sightseeing. Not to mention, if you’re staying in a room with several other people, you’re bound to strike up a conversation with at least one of them. Also, hostels often offer group excursions, from bike tours to pub crawls, which are also conducive to making connections.

Hostel cons

The idea of dorm rooms or even simply sharing a bathroom with strangers can immediately turn people off of hostels. So if you appreciate your privacy and want to ensure a private bathroom, hostels might not be for you. Hostels can also draw a younger crowd (but not always) and tend to be a bit louder due to that demographic.


Hotels come in all shapes and sizes, from multistory high-rises to small boutique properties with 50 rooms or less. You can stay somewhere you know (a Marriott, a Best Western) or opt for a property with more character and no brand name attached. Price points vary according to many factors, including size of the room, location of the hotel, amenities offered and the clientele the hotel is going for (families, business travelers, budget-conscious travelers, etc.).

Hotel pros

With so many ways to review hotels now, you mostly know what you’re getting when you check in: a room, a private bathroom and the amenities that matter to you (pool, gym, business center, etc.). For the most part, hotels offer a certain standard of comfort and style that might not come with a hostel (although there are many "boutique" hostels). You might also get a coffee machine in your room, a concierge desk, maid service and turn-down service that won’t come with a hostel stay.

Hotel cons

Where hostels can brim with personality, hotels can oftentimes seem sterile and cold. They don’t offer as much in the way of activities or outings, and even common areas can feel uninviting. Plus, hotels can be expensive, especially in popular destinations such as New York, Los Angeles, Paris and London (among many other highly trafficked areas).

The bottom line

If you are a solo traveler, hostels can be a godsend. There are always people around, and there’s always something to do. Plus, you’ll save money, which comes in handy when you’re traveling alone. Hostels can also work for couples and families looking to save (for a family of four, a four-bed dorm will be cheaper than a hotel). However, if it’s amenities you crave and can’t live without a pool, three restaurant options and fresh towels daily, a hotel will suit you best. No matter where you’re planning to stay, do your research and read reviews of both hotels and hostels. You might just find a review of a hostel that meets your requirements in terms of comfort and location, even if you’re more of a "hotel" person — and vice versa.

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