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  • Writer's pictureHiranmayi Narayanan

HOTELS OR HOSTELS: What Should You Pick and Why?

Updated: Aug 12, 2019

While travelling is the most fun activity one can possibly indulge in, sorting out accommodation can be a daunting task. Unless you’ve got a personal assistant who plans your holidays, of course. If you do, I’ll just go ahead and admit that I’d be a teeny bit jealous of you.

For mere mortals who don’t have the luxury of having all their travels plans sorted by a professional and have budgetary restrictions, one of the factors that can make or break a holiday can be your choice of accommodation. Budget travellers (like me) often seem to think that accommodation doesn’t matter all that much since one would hardly spend any time in a hotel room and would only be back late at night to sleep. I can tell you from experience that this isn’t entirely true. Choosing a suitable place to stay is essential for various reasons. There are of course obvious reasons such as location and safety, but an oft-ignored point is that a terrible accommodation can have an impact on your psyche and can end up being the difference between “having a holiday” and “having a perfect holiday”. While there is so much that I want to share on the topic of holiday accommodation, I’m going to restrict this post to Hotels and Hostels.



So, Hotels or Hostels: What Should You Pick and Why?


Firstly, I wouldn’t call this Hotels “versus” Hostels, since there’s never a “versus”. It completely depends on a set of factors that may or may not apply every time you travel. Secondly, I’ve come across people who haven’t heard of the concept of a “Hostel” for holiday accommodation. In a nutshell, here is what a “Hostel” is – it’s a budget-friendly accommodation with shared social spaces and facilities.


I’ve stayed at both many times and here are some of the factors you must consider while picking between the two:


1. YOUR DESTINATION CITY


I’ve deliberately used the word “city”. Hostels are more commonly available and reliable in holiday destinations which are cities, especially ones frequented by younger tourists. E.g. Barcelona, London, Paris etc. This doesn’t mean that Hostels don’t exist outside of Europe. They most certainly do (despite the concept having originated in Europe), but you will need to put in a bit more research before booking one in a destination which isn’t typically touristy. If your holiday destination is a beach town or a place which is neither a city nor a destination frequented by tourists, chances are that your choice for Hostels would be limited. In such situations, I would recommend sticking to Hotels. It’s simply more risk-free to book a Hotel, especially if you’re travelling by yourself or with children and are not the kind who wants to begin a holiday with an unplanned risky adventure. There would always be something that’s close to your budget, so don’t fret too much about the prices.


2. BUDGET


Your budget for accommodation, quite frankly, is the most important factor. If your budget is low or you’d rather spend your money on other things and you don’t mind cutting down on some amenities and sharing space, Hostels are your go-to options. Owing to the fact that Hostel rooms are generally shared (choice of dorms with 8, 6 and 4 occupants, with the option of female-only dorms as well), the prices are drastically lower than Hotel rooms. This is ideal if you’re travelling with a group and are booking an entire dorm for your group, as it eliminates any uneasiness that you may have in sharing a room with strangers. Although, I’ve noticed that even in a shared room, no one bothers anyone else and conversations flow only if you want it to, not otherwise. Most Hostels even have Private Rooms i.e. rooms for one or two people (just like a Hotel Room), but you need to be extra cautious while booking these (read the “Important Tips” section below to understand further – *half-decent tricks to get your readers to read till the end*).


If your budget for accommodation isn’t very low, you can explore the options for Hotels within that budget. Thanks to the highly competitive holiday market these days, even Hotels have various discounts and other offers which can make your stay affordable. Research is key. The main advantage of staying at Hotels is that most of them include breakfast with their tariff. Now, I can assure you that there is nothing that can cheer you up in the morning like a breakfast buffet. On a serious note, personally the breakfast inclusion is one of those subtle things that make my holiday better. A good breakfast ensures that I have enough energy to follow through with my itinerary and I don’t have to stop for long lunch breaks (I often skip lunch and make do with a smoothie or cookies instead). Another advantage is room service. There’s always someone to tend to you when you’re throwing a hissy fit (just kidding, don’t ever throw a hissy fit unless your last name happens to be Hilton or Trump) or even simple things like wanting the bed linen changed. Also, don’t forget en-suite bathrooms. There is just something incredibly satisfying about not having to share a bathroom!


3. AMENITIES


You would imagine that a Hotel would offer more amenities, but this depends on what you would categorise as an “amenity”. If you need a swimming pool, a gym, toiletries etc., more than 95% of the Hostels in the world are not going to have these. Hence, Hotels are your best option. However, if you’re looking for basics such as WiFi and a good travel desk to give you tips on exploring the city, help with ticketing etc., almost all Hostels have these amenities. Additionally, Hostels also have a common lounge area for people to socialise, a bar, a pool table/games room etc. Hostels focus on building social inclusion and community interaction. If you’re someone who can survive on basic amenities but would really love to be in a social space with the opportunity to meet people from around the world, you should definitely try Hostels.


4. LOCATION


The interesting and probably obvious aspect of this factor is how it ties itself to the budget factor. The more centrally located you want your accommodation to be, the more expensive it gets. Almost 90% of Hostels are located near city-centres or areas with maximum sight-seeing points. If you opt for Hotels in these areas, the tariffs are likely to be drastically higher. Budget Hotels tend to be outside the central part of any city or town. While public transport and cabs are always available, those may be fewer in number at night, making it harder to return to your accommodation. Therefore, opt for a Hotel only if you find one that is in the area you’re comfortable with and fits your pocket at the same time.


Important Tips


1. While booking Private Rooms in Hostels, be sure to compare prices with Hotel rooms. Often Private Rooms in Hostels can be priced equally high without the amenities that a Hotel can offer.


2. If you’re new to staying in Hostels, I’d recommend checking if your travel destination has widely recognised Hostel chains such as Generator, St. Christopher’s Inn, Wombats, Mad Monkey etc. If the place does have one of these chains, you should definitely opt for these to ensure a fairly hassle-free and enjoyable experience.


3. Book well in advance! This is true for both Hostels and Hotels, especially during the summer. Prices fluctuate all the time and you’re just so much better off if you’ve got your bookings done a couple of months in advance.


4. Privacy and noise are often factors that cause some apprehension towards Hostels. Frankly, unless you book a Private Room, there’s no privacy in Hostels and it is usually noisy, although not always. So, if you’re looking for some peace and quiet, I wouldn’t suggest staying in a Hostel.


5. Another concern that most people have is safety of personal belongings. I haven’t had bad experiences in Hostels (or Hotels for that matter) and I believe that as long as you don’t leave really expensive things in the room, it’d be fine. Most Hostels and Hotels also provide a locker facility, so if you’re really worried, you can also leave your expensive cargo inside a locker.


6. If you’re booking a Hostel for the first time, I’d recommend doing it preferably if you’re on a group vacation or if you’re travelling with at least one other person. Having good existing company takes away a lot of fear and apprehension.


There you go - That’s my list of factors to consider while picking a place to stay on a vacation! While I don’t have a particular favourite between the two (Hostels and Hotels), I would recommend staying in a Hostel at least once. It has an entirely different vibe and the experience is something you’d remember for a long time.

There are also plenty of websites which offer great deals and advice on this topic such as HostelWorld, Hostels and Booking.


Happy Vacationing!

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