You might be the kind of person that prefers hotels, or you might prefer hostels. Maybe, you’re in between the two. There are pros and cons to staying in both of these types of establishments. Yep- there are cons to staying in a 5-star luxurious hotel.
When you stay in a hotel- you know what you’re getting. You get a crisp bed set tucked in so tight you have to untuck it to get in. You have six pillows too many. A large flatscreen tv that turns on to the local hotel channel. A mini fridge with a coffee and tea setup above it. A bathroom with a small hotel-spa branded kit. What you get, is predictability.
I love hotels for that very reason of predictability. I love that it is a familiar experience and I can fully relax and enjoy my vacation with a slew of amenities right at my fingertips. Especially if you’re at a resort, it is its own little world. And, the nicer the hotel, the nicer the stay.
Now here is the con- hotels are isolating. Chances are you don’t leave the resort grounds during your stay because everything you need is at your fingertips, so you might not see any reason for leaving. Of course this is exactly what some people are looking for but if you’re trying to really experience a new city, culture, and country, staying in a hotel might not be the best place to ensure you get the experience you’re looking for.
If you’ve never stayed in a hostel before- what are you doing?! Sure, it’s not going to be as pristine as a five star hotel, it won’t have an in-house spa, or pillowy duvets… or… a lot of things. What it will have though, is a whole lotta character and a whole lotta characters.
The con I mentioned about staying in a hotel doesn’t apply to hostels. Staying in a hostel is going to keep you on your toes and you’ll be surrounded by activity. Hostels have all the deets on the best places to visit, best tours, and local secrets. Like a hotel concierge, the front desk at a hostel can help steer you in the right direction of an activity both interests you and fits your needs. Because hostels are also so budget friendly- it can be a cost effective way to travel.
Hostels also have the most interesting people. Sure- there are interesting people staying at a hotel, but they’re likely not going to be mingling with with the masses. Everyone is friends with everyone in a hostel, and you might even be lucky enough to gain a host the next time you go abroad- you meet people from all over the world. Some people are passing through and others have been camped out for some time, but everyone has the same intention: have fun, and have an adventure.
The con to staying in a hostel is it’s pro- that it is so lively and communal. But if you’re trying to hit the hay early for an early departure, you might have trouble doing that, especially on a weekend night. With communal rooms, you could have some hostel go-ers coming and going, so if you’re a light sleeper bring those earplugs. Because there is a lack of privacy, you also need to be wary of your items. If you’re going to cry over an item getting stolen- probably don’t bring it with you! However some hostels will have secure lockers, or you could leave items at the front desk/in the luggage room while you’re out during the day.
Because hostels aren’t as cut-and-dry as hotels, here are a few tips when you’re looking to book a hostel:
- Read reviews! Make sure you are choosing a reputable hostel that has a solid amount of reviews. Because these aren’t big names like the Four Seasons or Mandarin Oriental, you won’t automatically know if they have a good reputation or not.
- Choose a hostel close to a city center. The last thing you want is to be too far from the main event- unless you’re on a trek or something and you’re supposed to be in the middle of nowhere. Part of the reason many people book a hostel in the first place is to save on costs while traveling. If you’re too far out from the city center, you might end up spending too much money getting places when you could have just walked or biked instead.
- Research the neighborhood. Make sure you have an idea of where your hostel is located and what surrounds it. Tourists get taken advantage of left and right, and you don’t want to put yourself deeper into that position by staying in a bad area.
- Know what living situation you are about to book. Hostels can have a variety of living corridors set up. There are private rooms, doubles, dormitory-style with upwards of 20 people, single-sex dormitories, and co-ed dormitories. If you aren’t comfortable staying in a co-ed dorm, know that if you still were to book it, you might not be able to switch to a single-sex dorm if the hostel has no vacancy!
- Be aware of how the hostel takes payment and handles cancellations and extensions. Beyond your deposit, make sure you know if paying by card upon arrival is the preferred method or if you will need to have the local currency on hand and pay in cash. Also be aware of their cancellation and extension policy- you never know what is going to happen when you’re at a hostel!
Hostelworld.com is a great place to start your hostel search! You’ll learn that there are a wide variety of hostels, with some that are old and worn, and others that look modern and even a little hotel-like.
SO, HOTEL OR HOSTEL?
Neither one is better or worse. It just depends on the kind of trip you are looking for!