Airbnbs vs. Hostels: What You Need to Know

by Sojourner

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After buying a plane ticket the next step is finding a place to stay! In 2017, hotels are not the only option for housing. Two of the most popular ways to live while traveling are hostels and Airbnbs. The dilemma is deciding when to choose a hostel and when to book an Airbnb. I’ve used both and had only one sketchy experience that turned out fine in the end. I’ve found that different trips require distinct housing situations so I’m here to break down 6 ways to make these housing decisions easier!

Baggage security? Airbnbs.

When it comes to safe housing for your bags, Airbnbs are the safer option. While hostels offer lockers for free or to rent that are secure most of the time, I’ve seen some lockers be broken or have the same key used for multiple units. Since you can rent out an entire Airbnb apartment, and the only person who has access is your host, there are less people involved which means more security.

Hosts are only present to show you around on the first day and pick up the keys on your last day. With hostels, travelers are always checking-in and checking-out, since you are sharing a room they have room access too. For Airbnbs, since only you have the keys, you can sleep and explore knowing that all those Instagram-worthy outfits and unique souvenirs are kept safe.

Short-term travel? Hostels.

Hostels were my go-to spot for weekend trips when all I needed was a bed to rest my head. If you leave on a Thursday night or Friday morning and don’t return until Sunday afternoon or evening, that’s only a 48 hour trip. You won’t be staying in your room much anyway. With hostels you are just paying for a bed therefore it isn’t necessary to pay for a whole apartment for only 2 days. Save money and get a cheaper hostel room so you can splurge on food, shopping and other attractions in the place you’re visiting.

Central location? Depends.

Both Airbnbs and hostels have housing options in city centers, some that are situated closest to the hottest attractions, and even others that are above the best bars in town for a lively experience. The earlier you book either one, the more flexible your location availability.  Where you stay can also effect the price of housing, with city centers housing being more expensive.

If you prefer solitude and quiet after roaming Paris or London, book an Airbnb outside the city. Airbnbs typically have more variability since they are the apartments and cottages of local people. On the flip side, not many hostels stray too far from city centers, nightclubs, bars and tourist attractions. If you want a more vibrant environment, choose a hostel. Again, personal preference is key to location and what type of trip you’re planning.

Meeting new people? Hostels.

Whether you’re a solo traveler or traveling in a group, hostels are social breeding grounds for making new travel friends abroad. You’ll find expats, study abroad students and short-term tourists alike all sharing a hostel bedroom. It’s one of the fun parts of traveling! I have many random Facebook friends and Instagram followers from all over the world who are people I met while in a hostel living room or a fellow bunkmate.

Hostels are also perfect for bar crawls where you can meet new people. Just sign up with the receptionist and pay 10 to 15 euros for drinks and a local to guide you to the best bars in town, ending your night in a club with all your new friends. With Airbnbs you can still sign up for hostel bar crawls too, it just requires a bit more effort to find them online. Yet if you travel solo or in a place where you don’t know anyone but still want social interaction Airbnbs are more isolating, so hostels win this one.

Long-term travel? Airbnbs.

Airbnbs take this category, no debate. They are more comfortable and offer better amenities than hostels. Sleeping in hostel beds for weeks at a time may sound appealing since you’re frequently on the move, but your back may not think so. Hostel beds are not comfortable! Also, depending on your travel style, you may not like sharing a super tiny bathroom for weeks on end. From laundry machines to wash clothes, spacious living areas to relax after a long day of exploration and kitchens to cook when going out gets too costly, with Airbnbs you can have it all. They are the ideal housing of choice for those longer, more intimate trips with friends, family or significant others.

On a budget? Depends.

I initially chose hostels for this category, but retracted because there is such a broad range of accommodations on both Hostelworld and Airbnb. You can book private rooms in hostels at hotel prices or share an 18-bed dorm room with strangers for 10 dollars. For Airbnbs, you can book a private room or the whole apartment, but most of them have been remodeled for travelers and can get costly though you’ll be out exploring anyway. If you book farther in advance and pick a non-holiday or special event weekend your housing will be cheaper.

If you want to attend an event such as Feria in Sevilla, where hostels that are normally 10 euros a night are 80 euros instead, you’ll be paying more for a bed than usual. Airbnbs can also hike up costs per person in the room, city taxes and/or cleaning fees. There are so many variables to consider! At the end of the day, everyone has their own living style and many travel decisions come down to funds. Research and adjust your living situation to fit your needs.

Choosing a hostel or Airbnb requires Google and price comparisons to find the one that fits your style. I have stayed above bars, in residential areas, and down the street from major touristy plazas. Between hostels and Airbnbs the options are endless. Even so, there are horror stories about traveler’s experiences in both on levels of racism and physical trauma. All of my Airbnb hosts and hostel staff have been friendly and helpful. However, as always with traveling, read the reviews of hosts carefully and take proper precautions. Email someone the address of your hostel or Airbnb and your overall itinerary for your trip. Traveling is wonderful, but don’t be naïve! Take care of yourself and stay safe.


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