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7 Differences Between Hostel and Airbnb (What’s Better?)

Even though hostels and Airbnb both offer great value for money with budget-friendly accommodation at bargain basement prices, it’s only logical to wonder whether to stay in a trendy, centrally located hostel versus Airbnb, as they both have significant benefits and drawbacks.

Hostels are normally centrally located and reliable, with shared amenities like kitchens, showers, living spaces, and convenient check-ins. Hostels are ideal places to get travel tips and socialize. Airbnb is more private and less reliable, but with a wider range of stunning properties. 

Although all hostels and Airbnb properties differ dramatically, it is never wise to generalize as they are both great in their own way. Finding a great vacation rental space that suits your budget and lifestyle is not always easy. 

So, if you want to avoid making a potentially costly mistake – read on!

Image of hostels with bunkbeds on left and bedroom in an airbnb on right_Hostel Vs. Airbnb

Check-In Times

Compared to an Airbnb, where you must meet the property owners at a certain time to check in, you have a lot more flexibility at hostels as most have 24-hour reception desks, which is great if your flight lands in the middle of the night.

Furthermore, certain hostels have entrance safety boxes with keys so you can check yourself in or out during odd hours if necessary.

While some Airbnb hosts are more accommodating, most won’t let you check in incredibly late or early in the morning when you arrive in a new city, so you will have to spend hours in a café until the host can hand over your keys.

Another great advantage of staying in a hostel is that most will have a spare room available in the dead of night, even if you did not book a room ahead of time.

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Airbnb accommodation is also less than ideal if your public transport is delayed, as you would need to pay for expensive international roaming mobile phone costs to inform your host that your bus was delayed, and they might not hang around until you finally reach your destination.

Privacy

A bedroom of Airbnb

Airbnb apartments or houses are the outright winners if you are looking for a private space that you don’t have to share with other travelers, especially after a long day of sightseeing when you only want to lie back and relax. 

While hostels have private rooms and ensuite bathrooms, in rare instances, you will have to share communal spaces like living areas and kitchens, with limited space and amenities, which often results in long queues behind the stove to make dinner or rise early to make breakfast.

Hot Travel Tips

just arrived in the city

Although most Airbnb hosts will make a concerted effort to make you feel at home and give you a few good pointers about their city’s hidden gems (which are not always great), they treat their properties as a business interest, and few will go the extra mile to give you great travel information.

Furthermore, most Airbnb hosts might not be able to share basic travel information like using public transport as they drive around in cars or know where you can get a great two-for-one dinner special.

In stark contrast, hostel staff has a wealth of local knowledge about their cities, like great public transport options and day trips, including cheap meals and supermarkets. 

Hostel staff will also have city maps on hand to show you how to get around and which areas to avoid, especially if they are dangerous or tourist traps with ridiculously high prices. 

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Other travelers are also a great source of information about the best deals in town, especially if they have been staying in the area for some time, so they will have a lot of tips and tricks that can save you money while exploring the city.

Socializing

guests of hostels socializing

If you are looking for a vibing place where you can meet like-minded people and potentially make lifelong friends’ hostels are ideal, as their communal living spaces lend themselves to that.

While some Airbnb properties have communal amenities like shared kitchens or living areas where you could meet fellow travelers, those interactions are normally limited to brief dinner-time encounters and small talk.

Hostels, on the other hand, host several social events ranging from communal dinners, night tours, and bar crawls to fun poolside BBQs on hot sunny days and themed parties where you can meet interesting travelers from across the globe and share your hair-raising travel adventures.

Although if you are an introvert who would prefer to be on your own, a private Airbnb property would be better suited to your needs.

Stunning Properties

A property of an Airbnb

While hostels range from rustic places where you need a sleeping bag with limited and semi-clean showers to luxurious upscale properties with hotel-style amenities, most hostels are incredibly basic with no extras.

In stark contrast, Airbnb properties have a far wider range of stunning properties that could give some upscale hotels a good run for their money with tasteful interiors and unmatched world-class amenities only found in expensive resorts and hotels, albeit at bargain basement prices.

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While hostels are mostly situated in convenient locations, with access to public transport, they are not a great choice if you want more luxurious yet budget-friendly accommodation.

Reliability

good hostel

In terms of reliability, hostels are the outright winner as TripAdvisor reviews are normally incredibly realistic, and backpackers and other travelers are used to sharing helpful information with others, especially if they can warn others about a dirty hostel with a rude owner.

Your chances of getting a bad surprise with an Airbnb property are normally higher as most reviewers are too generous either because their host is a family friend or because they don’t want to offend a hospitable or kind host.

Furthermore, the Airbnb guest reviewer might have low standards about acceptable cleanliness levels, especially in cheap places with low expectations, or they simply could not bother to provide a helpful review.

Amenities And Value Adds

Living area, kitchen and dining area in Airbnb

The great advantage of staying in an Airbnb property is those little personal touches or thoughtful gestures that make you feel at home, and even if you are sharing communal spaces with other guests, you will still have all the amenities needed for a comfortable stay.

Standard Airbnb amenities in most apartments include a kitchen, bathroom, laundry facility, and a living area, with various extras ranging from basic to expensive high-end value adds.

However, the most inconvenient aspect of staying at an Airbnb property is the strict afternoon check-in times and check-out times before noon, although your host might be more lenient in that regard.

Hostels, on the other hand, cater to budget travelers and backpackers, so their shared amenities are normally incredibly basic, and you cannot expect any luxuries, but they are perfect for long-term stays. 

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Most hostels have a wide range of amenities like free internet, including tea and coffee, laundry facilities, showers, kitchens, bike rentals, pools, and surf clubs, and depending on their location, they may even have rooftop bars, yoga studios, and onsite restaurants.

The Final Verdict

While hostels and Airbnb can offer great value for money, especially if you are on a tight budget, they both have significant benefits in terms of reliability and significant disadvantages like a lack of privacy.

Hostels are better suited to solo travelers, so if you are planning a family vacation, an Airbnb property rental would be ideal as it allows for more space and privacy compared to communal hostels, where all the amenities are shared.

However, it is important to point out that some hostels offer private family rooms with ensuite bathrooms in certain locations, which might be an option if you are traveling on a tight budget.

Even though online Airbnb pictures and reviews can be misleading, especially when they don’t mention the creaky beds, unpractical kitchens, and noisy neighborhoods, you won’t have to share the space with other travelers or deal with their annoying personal habits.

However, location-wise, hostels are normally the most central and far less pricey compared to expensive Airbnb city properties, and any hostel that is located near the city center or within 4km will save you a lot of money as it is within walking distance, so you don’t need public transport.

Another great advantage of staying at a hostel instead of Airbnb is that they will normally print essential documents like airplane tickets for free which can be costly if you must print in European countries at 1 Euro per page, with the added inconvenience of looking for a printing place.

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