Young travelers interacting in a dorm room in a hostel

Hostel vs Hotel? Here Are Key Differences & Honest Advice

Hostels vs hotels — if you’re planning a big trip and wondering which is best for you, then you’ve come to the right place!

Hotels and hostels are two entirely different experiences. Hotel guests have the upper hand with privacy and amenities, while staying in a hostel dorm is a great way to meet people and save money.

Even though some people worry if hostels are safe, the truth is that they’re actually the best solution for many types of travelers. But, if it’s not what you’re looking for, it can be a nightmare. 

I have a lot of experience staying in hostels and hotels all over the world, and am here to guide you on which is the best fit for your trip. Let’s do this. 

Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. Thank you!

Which is Better Hotel or Hostel? 

Whether hotels or hostels are better depends on your desired experience. A hotel room provides more privacy, amenities, and a safer environment for families. Alternatively, hostels offer more budget-friendly accommodation and a more social atmosphere. 

Advantages of Hotels

  • Privacy
  • More luxurious experience
  • Quieter
  • More amenities

Advantages of Hostels

  • Budget-friendly
  • Easier to meet other travelers
  • Variety of different kinds of hostels
  • More opportunities for events/activities

Hostels are Best For

  • Budget travelers
  • Backpackers 
  • Long term travelers
  • Party lovers
  • Solo travelers
  • Gap year travelers
Best Hostels
HostelWorld
4.7
If you’re wondering how to book a hostel, then look no further than Hostelworld. They have a worldwide selection of hostels, each rated and reviewed by real travelers.

Hotels are Best For

  • Couples 
  • Families/large groups
  • Luxury travelers 
  • Relaxed trips
  • Short-term vacations
  • Weekend getaways

Hostel vs Hotel – Detailed Comparison 

In a rush and have no time for small talk? No worries, I’ve broken down everything you need to know right here.

The following table compares the features of hotels vs hostels and see who comes out on top:

Feature/CategoryHostelHotel🏆 Winner
PriceA very budget friendly option.  Ranges from $5-$60 per night depending on where you areHotels tend to be more expensive. Ranges from $80-$1,000+ per night depending on where you areHostel
PrivacyVirtually no privacy unless you book a private roomHotels only offer private rooms. So, you have your own room with plenty of privacy. Hotel
AmenitiesLimited amenities. Usually comes with a basic locker or lockbox, sometimes small swimming pools or breakfast options Lots of amenities. Typically has a swimming pool, spa, continental breakfast, bar, room service, etc. Hotel
Events/ActivitiesPlenty of activities to meet other travelers. Many hostels have bar crawls, meet & greets, walking tours, pre-game events, etc. Few to no activities or eventsHostel
Social AspectA very social environment where its easy to meet other travelersUsually not a very social environment. More difficult to meet peopleHostel
Work to StayMany hostels have work-to-stay programs Hotels rarely to never have work-to-stay offersHostel
SafetyGenerally considered less safe since you’re staying in a dorm room with many travelersConsidered one of the safest accommodation options. Many hotels have security, cameras, etc. Hotel
AtmosphereSocial atmosphere that’s great for making new friendsLuxury atmosphere that’s great for a family vacation or romantic getawayTie

Hostel vs Hotel: Price

Hostels are known for being ultra-affordable. I’ve stayed at hostels that were as little as $3 per night that ended up being nicer than some hotels. While there are rare exceptions, the general rule is that you’ll always be paying more for hotels than hostels. 

Hostels are cheaper because almost all facilities have: 

  • 🚽Shared bathrooms
  • 🛏️Dorm-style rooms
  • 🧑🏻‍🤝‍🧑🏻Minimal privacy 

You’re paying for a bed instead of a whole room. While it’s a little less glamorous, there’s no better solution for a traveler on a budget than staying at a hostel. Staying at a hostel can make your accommodation costs a fraction of what they would be staying at a hotel. 

🏆 Winner: Hostel

Best Hostels
HostelWorld
4.7
Hostelworld is the premier service for booking a dorm bed. They have a worldwide selection of hostels, each rated and reviewed by real travelers.

Hotel vs Hostel: Privacy

When it comes to privacy, there’s no comparison; hotels reign supreme. In chain or boutique hotels, you’re getting your own space in a private room with a private bathroom. The only time you really run into other guests is when you walk through hotel lobbies. 

When you stay at a hostel, you’ll be staying in the same room as many other people, usually sleeping in a bunk bed. Many hostels offer private rooms, but even these come with far less privacy than a hotel. Privacy is one of the major differences between hostels and hotels. 

Without a doubt, hotels have more privacy than hostels. 

🏆 Winner: Hotel 

👉 Pro Tip: One way to protect your stuff when staying in a hostel room is by locking it up. Even though most hostels have lockers, they usually don’t provide locks so make sure you bring your own, like these TSA Luggage Locks

Hostel vs. Hotel: Amenities

At most hostels, you make your own meals. Hostel staff won’t be picking up for you, and you’re expected to keep your area pretty tidy (unless you want to be despised by other guests). On the other hand, hotels offer a full luxury experience. 

If you need fresh towels and shampoo, they’re on their way. Hotel staff are usually hired specifically to make your stay convenient and comfortable. Alternatively, hostel staff are usually more like friends. They’re super nice and fun to hang out with, but they’re not there to serve you as much. The involvement of hostel staff varies from hostel to hostel, though. 

🏆 Winner: Hotel

Hotel vs Hostel: Events/Activities

In general, hostels will always have more events than hotels. 

There are many different types of hostels, and each one has different kinds of activities. Like bar crawls, walking tours, and relaxed hang-outs. If you want to be out all night, you can stay at a party hostel. 

Alternatively, there are: 

  • 🖥️Co-working hostels
  • 🌼Boutique hostels
  • 💵Budget hostels  

The events and activities available might differ depending on the type of hostel you choose. Whatever type you stay at, most hostels have fun stuff to do in communal spaces and the lounge area.

Hotels, on the other hand, rarely have events for their guests. At best, you’ll maybe get a map of the local area. A hotel is mainly worried about giving you a room to stay in, not providing you with activities. 

🏆 Winner: Hostel

Hostel vs. Hotel: Social Aspect

Even though staying at a hostel usually means sleeping in bunk beds, it makes up for that by giving you an amazing social experience. There’s nothing quite like staying at a hostel. It’s like immediately gaining a room full of automatic friends. 

When I started traveling by myself, as an introvert, I was a bit nervous. But, I found it easier to meet people at a hostel than anywhere else. I’ve met so many interesting people at hostels. It can be a great way to make friends if you’re on a gap year or traveling solo.  

Hotels don’t have nearly the same magic to them. Everyone is usually minding their own business and doing their own thing. If anything, most people at hotels prefer not to be bothered by other guests. It’s not necessarily bad. It’s just totally different than hostels. 

If you’re looking for a social experience, hostels are definitely the winner.  

🏆 Winner: Hostel

Hotel vs Hostel: Work to Stay

This is another huge difference between hostels and hotels: work-to-stay opportunities. If you walked into a hotel and asked if you could work there in exchange for a free room, you’d probably get laughed out the door. 

Hotel staff tends to be trained professionals explicitly hired for the role. But, having guests work for their bed is a super common thing at hostels.

It’s pretty easy to find a hostel job while you’re traveling. In fact, most of the staff at hostels tend to be other travelers looking for an even cheaper way to wander. Just ask around, and you’ll probably stumble across something pretty quick. 

🏆 Winner: Hostel

👉Pro Tip: If you’re more of a planner, you can browse online to find work-to-stay positions at hostels. Websites like Worldpackers or Workaway can be fantastic resources for finding these opportunities. 

Our Pick
Worldpackers
Featuring a wide range of experiences and reviews, Worldpackers is our fave resource for finding a job abroad.

Hotel vs Hostel: Safety

Safety is a big question that comes to people’s minds when they’re considering staying at a hostel. The truth is, a hotel is typically a safer option than a hostel. 

With hotels, you have: 

  • 🔐Your own private, lockable space 
  • 👮Loads of security
  • 📹And cameras all over the place

It takes away a lot of the safety concerns. That’s why families with children usually go for the hotel. 

Even though I’ve never felt unsafe staying in a hostel dorm, the reality is that you’re still sleeping in a room with a bunch of strangers. There’s a higher chance that you could get your stuff stolen when you’re sharing a space with 20 other people. So, the hotels end up winning the safety round. 

🏆 Winner: Hotel

👉Pro Tip: Here’s one of the most important travel tips out there. Whether you stay at a hostel, or hotel, the best way to stay safe is by protecting yourself with reliable travel insurance. My go-to for travel insurance is always World Nomads because they have the best coverage for the lowest cost. 

Travel Insurance
World Nomads
Whether you choose a hostel or hotel, securing your trip with travel insurance is a must. We love World Nomads for its range of policies and trustworthiness.
Pros:
  • Simple & flexible
  • Balances price & quality
  • Upfront transparency about covid (no insurer covers all covid risks, but at least they explain it!)
Cons:
  • Not available to seniors 70+ in USA (or 65+ in other countries)

Hotel vs Hostel: Atmosphere

The question of atmosphere is a tricky one. Hotels and hostels have such incredibly different atmospheres that it’s difficult to compare the two. Hotels have the luxury appeal. It really feels like you’re on a fancy vacation with the amenities, privacy, and overall convenience.

However, hostels have a social aspect. When you spend time at hostels, you know that you’re going to make friends and have no trouble meeting a bunch of people. There are always cool events happening at hostels, and it’s just a more guaranteed fun time. 

So, the place with the better atmosphere really depends on what you’re looking to find. If you want to party or meet new people, it makes more sense to stay at a hostel. If you need your own space and want a more traditionally comfortable experience on your trip, go for a hotel room.  

With so many factors at play, its a tie for atmosphere. 

🏆 Winner: Tie

Final Verdict – Hostel vs Hotel

When you’re deciding between a hostel or hotel for lodging on your next trip, you need to evaluate your accommodation priorities. A hostel is better for travelers who are on a budget or want to meet new people. Alternatively, hotels are better for families, couples, and people that want a real “vacation” experience. 

FAQs About Hostel vs Hotel

Is a hostel better than a hotel?

A hostel is better than a hotel if you want to save money and stay in a more social environment. Hostels are a terrific accommodation option for young people or solo travelers who want to make new friends. Alternatively, a hotel room is a better option if you want complete privacy and more amenities. 

What is the main difference between a hostel and a hotel?

The biggest difference between a hotel and a hostel is that you have much more privacy at most hotels. In a hostel, you’ll stay in dorm rooms with anywhere from 4 to 24 other people. Another big difference between hostels and hotels is the price. Hostels are almost always cheaper than staying at hotels.

Is a hostel safe?

Hostels are safe with a bit of common sense and preparation. Before booking a hostel, do research and read reviews about the facilities to see if there are any red flags. Upon arrival, keep belongings locked away and don’t leave valuable thrown around. 

Is a hostel more expensive than a hotel?

A hostel is usually less expensive than a hotel. If you’re booking a private hostel room, it can get a little more expensive. However, it still costs a fraction of a hotel’s price. This makes it an excellent option for budget travelers.

***

You’ve reached the end of my hostel vs. hotel comparison guide! If you’re looking for more accommodation comparisons, then check out my guide to hotels vs Airbnbs

Enjoy your trip!

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