Hostel vs Hotel: 13 Differences Between Hostels and Hotels

Wondering what the difference is between a hostel and a hotel?

You’ve come to the right article as I’ve written a complete guide to hostels vs hotels.

Knowing the difference between a hostel and a hotel is important to know before choosing what type of accommodation you are going to stay at when travelling.

As a full-time traveller and as someone who stays regularly in both hostels and hotels, I am going to compare a hostel vs hotel throughout this post.

This will allow you to decide which choice is right for you. So let’s get right into it!

What Is A Hostel?

Before we jump into comparing the two, let’s first get the definitions straight for both types of accommodation.

A hostel, sometimes called a “youth hostel”, is a form of accommodation similar to a hotel but with a few major differences.

A hostel offers shared accommodation, where you sleep in a bed, typically a bunk bed, in a room with between 3 and up to 39 other people.

Of course, this is much cheaper than a private room, which some hostels also offer. Hostels are a great way to stay somewhere cheaply, as well as meet new people quickly and easily. A hostel is similar to a dormitory.

If you find yourself saying “Okay, sounds good but what is it like to stay in a hostel?, I have written a full post about my experiences from my stays.

A picture of a typical hostel room with bunk beds in very close proximity to eachother.
A typical hostel room

What Is A Hotel?

Hotels generally offer a more “premium” stay, offering only private rooms but often much more in terms of amenities.

Hotels would typically have a pool, gym, restaurants and more. A hotel is the most popular form of accommodation for travellers to stay in.

The chances are, you have most likely stayed in a hotel before, on a family trip, or staycation, for example.

A picture of a typical hotel room with a double bed.
A typical hotel room

Difference Between Hostel and Hotel Overview

Immediately, we can notice key differences between hostels and hotels, the biggest differences are in terms of privacy and cost.

However, this is only scratching the surface, there are many more differences between the two.

To properly compare a hostel vs hotel, I have evaluated 13 differences. These differences are:

  • Privacy
  • Cost
  • Amenities (Facilities)
  • Comfort
  • Atmosphere
  • Social Interactions and Events
  • Types of Travellers
  • Staff and Service
  • Safety
  • Freedom
  • Availability
  • Room Options
  • Reception

I will assess the pros and cons of both a hostel and a hotel for each of these categories.

After assessing the pros and cons,
I will declare a winner of each category!

Hostel vs Hotel Differences

1. Privacy

In a hostel, you are typically sharing with at least 3 people. In Southeast Asia, where hostels are very popular, due to the famous backpacking route, the Banana Pancake Trail, the hostel rooms can have as many as 40 beds. I would say, worldwide, the most common would be 6 or 8-bed rooms.

Due to the shared space in a hostel, you most likely change clothes in the bathroom and remain semi-clothed while asleep (looking at the guys here…). Of course, there are minor changes to everyday life, but they are important to follow. Hostel etiquette should be followed.

Although there are options to stay in a private room in a hostel, throughout this post, I will refer to a hostel as a dormitory-style room, for continuity and comparison’s sake.

A picture of a typical hostel room with bunk beds in very close proximity to eachother.
A hostel bed I had in Basel, Switzerland.

Whereas in a hotel, you will have a private room all to yourself. You can do however you please and no one is going to tell you otherwise. You can undress without having to worry about who is looking and sleep however you want- you need to cover up to sleep in hostels. Not to mention a bit of privacy is always nice to just have some time to yourself.

There is a clear winner in the privacy category. You will always have more privacy by yourself compared to sharing a room with others.

Winner- Privacy: Hotels

2. Cost

Hotels are a very cheap and affordable form of accommodation. Prices vary worldwide, but wherever you are, hostels are definitely going to be the cheapest option.

You could typically expect to pay around £/$/€15-20 for a hostel in Europe. Despite mainly originating in Europe, hostels are more expensive here than in other parts of the world.

Such as in Asia, where you can find hostels for as cheap as £/$/€1-2 per night. That’s incredibly cheap! Although the prices are rising as an aftermath of the pandemic.

Like all forms of accommodation, some hostels are cheaper than others. The cheapest hostels are usually dirty, old and not worth staying at.

On the other hand, the most expensive hostels are not worth staying at simply because they are overpriced. Usually, the best hostels are somewhere between the cheapest and most expensive.

A picture of 2 bunk beds with curtains to pull over for privacy.
A hostel room I had in Lisbon had curtains!

Hotels are probably the most expensive style of accommodation, outside of renting or buying a house or flat etc. For a good hotel, you would expect to pay around £/$/€100+ per night.

This is due to having a private room, which is more expensive due to the benefits and perks that come alongside it. Of course, it is possible to stay in a budget hotel for somewhat cheaper.

Some hotels also include breakfast as part of their price. That being said, one of my favourite hostels, while I was backpacking Rome also included breakfast in the price.

Hotel prices generally fluctuate throughout the year too, whereas hostel prices are more consistent. Of course, similarly to hostels, hotels’ prices also vary depending on the location and country of the hotel.

It’s worth noting that a private room in a hostel is also cheaper than a hotel room. When it comes to price or cost, there is a clear winner for this category.

Winner- Cost: Hostels

3. Amenities (Facilities)

As you can probably imagine, hostels typically have limited facilities, compared to hotels. But that’s not to say hostels are missing any facilities. Hostels, for the most part- of course, there are exceptions, only have the necessities. However, these facilities will be shared, as you may have guessed.

You will share your bathroom including toilet and shower, your bedroom is shared of course too. But a huge plus for hostels is they usually have a kitchen.

It’s always great to have the option to make your own meal as opposed to eating out. Not only will it save money, but it’s usually healthier too.

You do however need to bring your own toiletries etc. as they are not provided in hostels the same way they are in hotels. I have a full list of things to bring to a hostel if you want to know what you need to take.

For me personally, it doesn’t matter too much what amenities or facilities the hostel, or hotel have. When I’m travelling, I only really use my accommodation to sleep, clean and sometimes cook and eat. For the most part, I am out exploring and doing things all day. I don’t spend the day in my accommodation.

A picture of a pool in a hotel.

Hotels will generally have more facilities, with swimming pools (although quite a few hostels in Southeast Asia do too), gyms, saunas, jacuzzis, restaurants and bars, but how often do you take advantage of these facilities? If you are anything like me, you don’t spend that much time in a hotel.

If you are the type of traveller who spends all day in a hotel relaxing by the pool, then it’s not worth considering a hotel vs a hostel, the answer for you is a hotel.

So while a hotel will have better and more facilities, I don’t see any point in them. I use my accommodation as a base camp while I am out during the day. For that reason, I’m calling this one a draw.

Winner- Amenities: Draw

4. Comfort

Comparing hostel vs hotel in terms of comfort is a case of “you get what you pay for”. Sleeping in a hostel usually involves bunk beds and a single thin pillow on a solid mattress. Whereas in a hotel, you get a comfortable double bed (usually) with soft sheets and more pillows than sense.

It’s a short category, but it doesn’t require much explaining. Sleeping in a bunk bed with uncomfortable pillows compared to sleeping on a large double bed with comfortable pillows, there’s a clear winner.

Winner- Comfort: Hotels

5. Atmosphere

The atmosphere of a hostel is somewhat unexplainable. You have to feel it to be able to understand it. There is a sense of togetherness, that everyone has something in common.

Most people I have met at hostels have similar mindsets to mine. I describe the atmosphere in hostels as “hakuna matata. Yes, the phrase from the Lion King, but it’s actually a real phrase used in Africa.

The atmosphere in hostels is “go with the flow”, whatever happens, happens, that sort of thing. People who stay in hostels are generally outgoing, “up for anything”, and spontaneous people.

It’s due to this atmosphere, that I have met so many great friends from all around the world simply by staying in hostels and speaking to people. You’ll meet someone for the first time and then go out for dinner together an hour later.

There are lots of hostel life quotes but I think the quote “A hostel is not just a place to stay; it’s a community of like-minded wanderers” perfectly captures what it’s like to stay in a hostel.

If it wasn’t for hostels, I would never have had the most random but amazing friend group in Washington D.C. consisting of a Brit (me, someone from China, someone from the Philippines, someone from Vietnam, someone from Greece, someone from Turkey and someone from Germany. What other situations can produce groups this diverse? It’s incredible to be a part of.

A picture of two travellers speaking in a hostel. In terms of atmosphere in a hostel vs hotel, hostel is the winner.

On the other hand, I’m not sure I have ever experienced an atmosphere as such in a hotel. Maybe in a resort hotel, where you stay in the hotel for a week sunbathing and doing fun activities within the resort, but in a typical hotel, I’m not sure there really is an atmosphere. Perhaps I’ve just never noticed one.

Nonetheless, it’s impossible to award this one to hotels.

Winner- Atmosphere: Hostels

6. Social Interactions and Events

Hostels are known for their social interactions. In fact, most hostels are designed to encourage you to meet new people, and make new friends. Having shared living spaces and rooms where you can just hang out (common rooms) are standard in most hostels.

As I said in the last category, most people share a similar attitude and mindset towards life, so making new friends is really easy. It’s common for me to make a friend I feel like I’ve known for years when in reality it’s been 2 or 3 days.

Hostels typically also put on many events. Whether it be happy hour in a local bar, a bike tour of the city or a full day trip to a nearby landmark; hostels are known for being courteous and organising lots of tours and other fun things. I’ll say it again, hostels are designed to allow you to make new friends!

A group of travellers talking in a hostel.

In contrast, hotels generally will not put on (m)any events at all. Maybe there is nighttime entertainment, but that is usually all. Hotels may also have a kids club, but if you are considering staying in a hostel, the chances are that you aren’t travelling with kids.

For me, there is a clear winner in terms of social interaction and events.

Winner- Social Interaction and Events: Hostels

7. Types of Travellers

The most common types of travellers to find in hostels are backpackers or budget travellers, and solo travellers. It makes sense because backpackers and budget travellers want to save money, and solo travellers want to meet new people.

Hostels accommodate both of these. Hostels are especially common in areas where backpacking is popular, such as South America where backpacking Brazil, Colombia and Argentina is common.

It’s worth noting that hostels have an age requirement, usually 18. Some hostels have an age limit, but this isn’t too common. But I would also say that most travellers in hostels are under 30, but that’s not to say you can’t stay in a hostel past 30!

The hostel I stayed in in Washington where I made that unique friend group, I had some amazing conversations with a 70-year-old woman travelling the States. Having conversations was really insightful and her attitude on life at 70 was remarkable.

A backpacker checking in to a hostel. Backpackers and solo travellers love hostels vs hotels commonly have families, couples, etc.

Hotels will generally have any type of traveller. Families, couples, friends, and solo travellers, all will choose to stay in a hotel. Private rooms are attractive to anyone, meaning hotels attract everyone.

There’s not really a winner as such in this category unless you prefer a certain type of traveller.

Winner- Type of Traveller: Draw

8. Staff and Service

Obviously, staff and service depend on the hostel or hotel in particular. It would be unfair to say hostels have worse service and staff than a hotel or vice versa.

That being said, I would say it is more likely that any hostel staff member would be more likely to help you book a tour, or organise a bus etc. Whereas in a hotel, there are usually staff employed specifically for this.

There’s no real winner in terms of the staff here. Hotels most likely have more staff, but this doesn’t really matter.

A picture of staff behind a bar in a hotel. There is no difference between hostel and hotel staff.

On the other hand, hotels probably offer more services. You can get room service etc, but this is not possible in most hostels.

Hostels do have regular cleaning staff, the same as hotels, that clean rooms between stays etc. You will find that most hostels are just as clean as a hotel, but once again, you get what you pay for.

In terms of service, hotels do offer a little bit more than hostels, so for that, I will give them the win for hostel vs hotel for staff and service, but again, this is nothing to do with the staff.

Winner- Staff and Service: Hotels

9. Safety

From my experience, I have had no safety issues while staying in hostels. You can read my full guide on “are hostels safe” for more information.

However, there are stories of people having less safe stays in hostels.

Naturally, staying in a room with a group of strangers is going to be less safe than staying in a private room by yourself. It’s one of the concerns people have that backpacking is dangerous.

For this reason, safety has to go to hotels. But do not let this deter you from hostels, most hostels are incredibly safe.

Winner- Safety: Hotels

10. Freedom

Some hostels do have curfews, where you are only allowed in and out of the hostel between certain times. This is for a number of reasons but mainly as receptions sometimes aren’t 24 hours, and also to avoid disruption within rooms.

Imagine trying to sleep and someone walks into the room drunk at 3 am. Although hostel curfews are less common now than in decades prior, it’s still common courtesy to be back at a respectable time or if you are out late, make as little noise as possible when coming back. Don’t turn the light on if people are asleep for example, that does my head in!

Thankfully, there are ways to teach yourself how to fall asleep in a noisy hostel.

A picture of a door with a lock on it, to symbolise a curfew in a hostel.

Whereas in a hotel, you can come and go as you wish. There doesn’t need to be much more explanation than that. When it comes to freedom, there is a clear winner once again.

Winner- Freedom: Hotels

11. Availability

Comparing a hostel vs hotel in terms of availability, there are usually more hotels, but these hotels are quicker to book out than hostels. Usually.

There are a growing amount of hostels in most cities across the world, as budget travelling becomes more popular. Some cities have literally hundreds like Bangkok which is very useful if you are backpacking Thailand. During peak times, some hostels in popular backpacking destinations, like Bangkok, will sell out.

Hotels are usually more available in the sense that there are more hotels than hostels, generally speaking. So even though a hostel is more likely to have beds available, there are more hotels than hostels so hotels win in terms of availability.

However, if you need somewhere to stay last minute, I would suggest trying a hostel.

Winner- Availability: Hotels

12. Room Options

Most hotels will have multiple room options ranging from single rooms, rooms with ensuites, twin rooms, and family rooms, just to name a few. There are numerous options for every type of traveller, accommodating different needs and coming in at different prices.

Although some hostels do offer private rooms, it generally doesn’t go much further than that. You have a choice of a hostel bed or a private room. That being said, some hostels have rooms varying in the number of beds. You could choose between a 4 bed, 6 bed and 8 bed-room for example.

A picture of a typical hostel room with bunk beds in very close proximity to eachother.

Despite these offerings, hotels definitely offer more choices in terms of rooms. But in my opinion, if you are going to stay in a hostel, there’s only really one type of room you would plan to stay in, which is a room shared with other people, so hotels don’t really need to offer anything else.

Winner- Room Options: Hotels

13. Reception

Both hotels and hostels mostly offer 24-hour receptions. But a hostel is more likely not to. Does that make sense? A hostel and a hotel most likely will have a 24-hour reception, but if one of them were to not, it would most likely be a hostel.

In terms of size and number of receptionists, it varies from hostel to hostel and hotel to hotel. There’s no clear winner. You will find a hostel reception is very similar to a hotel reception. It’s just someone behind a desk who checks you in and out and offers any help or advice as and when needed.

A picture of someone at a check-in desk in a hostel. There are few differnce in a reception in a hostel vs hotel.

I’ve found that a hostel receptionist is more likely to show you straight to your room/bed than a hotel receptionist though.

But there’s no winner or “loser” here, it’s a reception. It does its job.

Winner- Reception: Draw

Hostel vs Hotel: Which Is Right For You?

When deciding between hostel vs hotel, you need to consider what you want to get out of your accommodation. Below is a summary of the differences between hostels and hotels along with the winners of each category.

Amenities (Facilities)Draw
Social Interactions and EventsHostel
Types of TravellersDraw
Staff and ServiceHotel
Room OptionsHotel

As you can see from the summary table, hotel “wins” 7 categories and hostel “wins” 3 categories and there are 3 draws. Hotels win in terms of privacy, comfort, staff and service, safety, freedom, availability and room options. And hostels win in terms of cost, atmosphere and social interactions and events.

So there is a pretty clear split between a hostel and a hotel. A hotel is the choice for you if you want privacy and luxury in your accommodation. Hostels are the choice for you if you want cheap accommodation and also the ability to meet loads of new, like-minded people.

It really comes down to how you like to travel and what you seek from your accommodation. As someone who likes making new friends, and travels cheaply, hostels are my preference. And in my opinion, the categories that hotels prevail in, most aren’t too important: freedom, availability, room options, staff, etc. As for me, I prefer hostels. But as I say, it depends on how you like to travel.

Difference Between Hostel And Hotel: FAQ

Below are a few questions related to the difference between hostel vs hotel, along with my answers.

Which is better a hostel or a hotel?

It depends on what you want to get out of your stay. If you prefer luxury stays, hotels are better. If you like to meet new like-minded people and travel cheaply, hostels are better.

Is a hostel cheaper than a hotel?

Yes, a bed in a hostel is significantly cheaper than a room in a hotel. A private room in a hostel will also be cheaper than a room in a hotel.

What is the point of a hostel?

Hostels are a great affordable form of accommodation that allows people to travel cheaply, on top of meeting new like-minded people during their stay.

Why hostels are better than hotels?

Hostels are an amazing way to make new friends. Most people who stay in hostels are outgoing and spontaneous. Hostels are also very affordable and offer many of the services that hotels do too.

Difference Between Hostel And Hotel: Conclusion

And there you have it, a full evaluation of the 13 differences between hostels and hotels.

To summarise, hotels are more luxurious forms of accommodation, that allow you to have more privacy.

Hostels are for people who want to travel cheaply and also make lots of new friends while doing so.

Whichever one you choose, make sure to have a good consideration between hostel vs hotel, and most importantly, enjoy your trip!