Hostels vs Hotels vs Apartment

| November 12, 2012 | 49 Comments

For the average traveller looking to step outside their comfort zone, they want to do it in comfort. But that doesn’t mean you have to find yourself a swanky hotel anymore.

With the huge rise in the popularity of apartment rentals for travellers, like Wimdu, over the last year, and the number of hostels which have really nice private rooms, there are a couple of different options for every budget type.

Hostels vs Hotels vs Apartments

Not all Hostel rooms are scummy.

The only problem for an adventure travelling couple is choosing between the three different options.

We wanted to help you out on your next travel adventure by doing a quick summary of Hostels vs Hotels vs Apartment.

Hostels vs Hotels vs Apartment

Privacy, budget, location and facilities all play a huge part in the way we choose our accommodation when we travel. And while each of the different options have their benefits, none of the three are perfect.

We should also note that while every Hostel, Hotel and Apartment is different, we have been very generic in our answers below. Some accommodation options are much, much worse, while some are much, much better.

Basically, the majority of the time you get what you pay for, but sometimes it just comes down to pure luck.

Hostels

When we first started travelling we always stayed in Hostels. However, the longer we have travelled, the less time we have spent in Hostels.

In particular, we very rarely stay in Hostel dorm rooms now unless we are travelling with a group of friends. This is because we like our space and privacy. Even if it is just to keep the romance alive while on the road.

Romance in San Sebastian Cole and Adela

We have learnt that if you don’t sleep well, romance will die while travelling.

Hostel Pros:

For a single traveller Hostels always provide reasonably good value for money. Where else can you find a place to rest your tired jandal wearing feet and have a free breakfast for around $10 – $20 per night?

You also have the chance to meet a lot of other international travellers because Hostels are generally well-known as being social.

The staff are often friendly and other travellers will be looking to share travel stories with you.

Hostels will put on events such as pub crawls, fancy dress parties and free walking tours to help you explore the destination.

Most Hostels will come with some sort of kitchen facilities so that you can cook for yourself, helping you stretch your budget even further.

Hostels vs Hotels vs Apartments

Learn to cook cheaply, but well, in Hostels.

Hostel Cons:

Due to Hostels being very social, they can also be very noisy.

Unless you opt-in for a private room then don’t expect any privacy. We have stayed in dorms with over 20 bunk beds. Basically if you want to sleep, don’t stay in a 20 bed dorm.

While you may get free breakfast, expect it to consist of white bread with only a few spreads and basic cereal options like cornflakes. If it is a buffet option, then check out our all you can eat buffet eating tips!

The kitchens are usually messy. We don’t understand how travellers cannot clean up after themselves. Do your own dishes!

The cost of a private room in a Hostel is comparable to some 2/3 star Hotels.

Hostels vs Hotels vs Apartments

Dorm room in Barnacles Hostel.

Hotels

If we book a Hotel room when we are travelling then we are very particular about our choices. They have to have a free breakfast and be centrally located to make them worth the extra cost.

Hotel Pros:

Private rooms. What else do we have to say? After three years of travelling it is nice to be able to escape for a few hours in privacy.

Hotel rooms are often nicer than Hostel rooms with more space and larger beds.

As members of the Hotels.com reward scheme we can earn free accommodation the more we book online. You should definitely check it out if you stay in Hotels.

Hotels often have some sort of fitness facilities such as a pool or small gym. This is really important to us while travelling.

Hotel chains such as the Radisson Blu or the Starwood group will have the same high quality around the world.

Hotel Cons:

Hotels can be quite sterile in nature. We don’t mean clean, because that is nice, but they can be very business-like.

While front desk staff are friendly, they won’t go out of their way to help you find adventures and things to do.

There is little to no social scene or a chance to meet with other travellers. And if they have a bar on site it is likely to be expensive and dull.

There won’t be any kitchen facilities so that you can cook for yourself. Restaurants are often your only option.

Apartments

We have recently discovered short-term apartment rentals while we are travelling. Basically how they work is that someone either has a couple of spare rooms in their own apartment that they rent to you, while they are still there, or they have a whole apartment you can rent out for your stay.

Some of them are wonderful, while some can be misleading in their descriptions.

Apartment Pros:

Apartments can feel like a home away from home when you are stepping outside your comfort zone. Having a homely base to come back to each day makes a huge difference to travel happiness.

Kitchen facilities allow you to cook with ingredients picked up from local markets and help you travel for longer on your budget.

Florence Italy Local Fruit Markets

Affordable apartments are not usually located centrally which means they will be quieter allowing privacy and lots of relaxing after being on the go all day.

With a group of travellers you get the benefit of all being in the same apartment which makes the travelling experience better. Most of the time.

Apartment Cons:

If you are renting out a room in someones shared apartment, it can be extremely awkward and you feel as if you are intruding in their private lives.

Some affordable apartments will not be located centrally. So factor in additional costs for transportation and getting around.

You won’t get the chance to meet other travellers.

Hostels vs Hotels vs Apartments Verdict

For the first time traveller or budget traveller, Hostels are your best friend. You get the chance to meet new people from around the world and find out travel tips from travellers that have been there and done that. Plus if you stay in Hostels you can save your money for travel adventures like kayaking in Naples.

kayaking in Naples

Hotels are generally nicer and comparable in price to private dorms if you are travelling as a couple. And if you have found one with a good buffet breakfast you can usually skip lunch.

While staying with a local in a shared apartment can be great if you want to find out some local travel tips, it will feel like you are intruding in their lives. Therefore we recommend booking an entire apartment for your privacy, kitchen facilities and a home away from home.

Overall, if we can find a suitable apartment then we always choose an Apartment over a Hostel or Hotel.

READER QUESTION: In the Hostels vs Hotels vs Apartment debate which one do you choose? And why?

About the Author ()

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

Comments (49)

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  1. Loved this post – your pics are really great. And I cheated an linked to it as my own post today – saved me writing about all the same stuff! Loving your work!

  2. Caro says:

    I can speak for both Matt and I, we’re definitely on the apartment bandwagon! One of the top pros for us is the luxury of having a whole kitchen to ourselves. We really love to cook good food on the road which brings down our costs and is healthier. Restaurant food gets old, very quickly. And you’re right about hostel prices! I can’t believe at the prices now, hardly seems worth it!
    Caro recently posted..Product review : Wimdu.comMy Profile

    • As a couple Hostels just are not worth it anymore. We love apartments for the exact same reason though as you guys. Local ingredients from the markets are the best to cook with!

      • Caro says:

        Very interesting point about hostels and couples. We want to do a post about it actually, see other’s opinions since we realized we could maybe save more staying in dorms but is it actually worth it? I just feel awkward. Or maybe getting old haha! Nice to hear we’re not the only ones though!
        Caro recently posted..Our Bulgaria – Part 1My Profile

  3. Laurence says:

    For me it sort of depends on the situation. For independant exploring we love the apartment options. For all out pampering.. it’s got to be a hotel (if the budget ever stretches to that..) wheras if we’re feeling social, then hostel it is!
    Laurence recently posted..Thailand – Exploring the Land of Smiles by PhotosMy Profile

    • Hostels are nice to mix it up every now and then because it is great to talk to someone else once in a while. Well for Adela anyway because I think she gets sick of me babbling on. Would love to afford Hotels a lot more, but not having a kitchen really sucks. We like to eat healthy (most of the time).

  4. Angela says:

    I like the idea of renting an apartment, it’s probably more intimate and I like cooking my food, but maybe it’s not the best solution if you stay only for a couple of days. In that case, I would go for a hotel. I usually avoid hostels because they always mean dorms to me, but if they have a private room with a private bathroom like the one I went to in Cordoba, I wouldn’t mind hostels either.
    Angela recently posted..Getting intimate with Paris in the heart of RomeMy Profile

  5. I am strictly a hotel guy, although I’ve stayed in a couple properties of late which are “condotels.” Condos that are run like hotels and rented out when the owners are away. Definitely have a few benefits.
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..A Visit to The Culinary Institute of AmericaMy Profile

  6. Salika Jay says:

    I prefer hotels, although if I’m staying at a city for more than few days, I’d go for apartments. I haven’t considered hostels though, mostly because I want privacy and my beauty sleep for happy traveling. Love the photos, especially the first one of you both :)
    Salika Jay recently posted..Best Family Vacation Spots In USAMy Profile

  7. My choice is apartment. It is like my small home abroad.
    Victor Tribunsky recently posted..Russian Castle Muromtsevo. Almost Buried WonderMy Profile

  8. Jessica says:

    Another page for renting apt. is Airbnb.

  9. Joy says:

    I really enjoy hostels. You can’t beat the atmosphere, the price, and usually the food. I think even in my home country I might give hostels a try while traveling. I haven’t tried apartments yet but if I’m traveling with a small group of people already that sounds like the perfect place to stay. Thanks for comparing!
    Joy recently posted..Maybe I Don’t Like TravelingMy Profile

  10. Clay says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the topic, very useful!
    I personally think the apartment option is very interesting: it gives you the feeling to be a “real local” and allows you to some extent to understand what living in a specific place as a local tastes like
    Clay recently posted..5 Simple Steps for How to Be S.M.A.R.T.My Profile

  11. Anna says:

    Great post! The face of hostels is changing as you guys mentioned. There are many with private room options that let you sleep but give you the hostel atmosphere. We are working on finding the best hostels and design centric accommodation with private rooms around the world for <$100/ night. Check it out!

    The Poshpacker

  12. ANGLO/Dale says:

    We’ve only rented an apartment on the one occasion & it was an absolute disaster. Description was wrong. Price was wrong leading to disagreements. Owner lied about facilities so we were without hot water for the entirety of our stay. Gutted.

    At least with a hostel if there’s no hot water then are are 20 other people to exchange the annoyance with. Saying that, we’ll have to try again for sure.
    ANGLO/Dale recently posted..Five Tips & Pics for Passing Time in HostelsMy Profile

  13. Give me a hotel 80% of the time, travelling on a budget though means you have to take best value depending on the destination, so apartments are great for long-term travellers. I’m just a sucker for luxury.
    Flashpacking RTW recently posted..China Tour: Badaling Great Wall of ChinaMy Profile

  14. Wish all hostels looked like your top picture!

  15. This post will really help travelers to determine what kind of accommodation they need. I’m particularly interested with apartments. It will make you feel like one of the locals because of the atmosphere and you can also save because you can cook your won food.
    Jemma@ The Philippines recently posted..Papa Kit’s Marina & Fishing LagoonMy Profile

  16. I love staying in rented apartments. I have never rented out a room but usually go for the one bedroom or studio apartment. They are usually cheaper than hotels while being largwr and more comfortable.
    The Traveling Fool recently posted..Greek Organ GrinderMy Profile

  17. Ali says:

    For me it all depends on where I’m going and what the situation is. Price is a big factor, and also how long we will be there. If it’s just a few nights an inexpensive hotel or a private room in a hostel works well for me and Andy. But if we’re staying for a little longer, apartments are really great.
    Ali recently posted..Are You Afraid to Travel Alone?My Profile

  18. Vicky says:

    We have been traveling just over 2 months already and have been splitting up our time between couchsurfing and hostels (with a couple hotels). When we started we mostly couchsurfed entirely through Japan and South Korea and it was awesome but got to be a little bit tiring, especially when we would be sharing a studio with someone else. In China we have been mostly staying at hostels but unfortunately none have had kitchens! We are going to look into testing our apartments soon because I love to cook and have been missing it on the road! It would be so nice to be able to wake up and make myself a hot egg breakfast the exact way I love it!
    Vicky recently posted..Battling Fog at Tianmen Mountain in ZhangjiajieMy Profile

  19. Kieu says:

    Were Wimdu’ing across Eastern Europe! With one hostel due to last minute cancellation. Love it! :D
    Kieu recently posted..Favorite Eats in KyotoMy Profile

  20. I try to use all three. Back when I was a single and solo traveler, I only stayed in hostels, because they are usually cheaper for singles and as you mentioned, a great way to meet people. After I started traveling as a couple I did a mix a private hostel rooms and hotels. Honestly sometime I find hotels on Orbitz that are cheaper than ones on in hostels. I just recently tried renting an apartment and really like that as well. I think you picked out some good pros and cons, but like you say, all hostels, hotels and apartments are different. So I don’t think I would ever choose just one of these options. For me price and value is my biggest concern so I usually look through all three options to find what is the nicest property in my budget. On top of that, sometimes I just prefer one to another depending on what I am looking for in my destination. Great post though. I like how you compared the three and started a conversation about it. Nice to see what everyone else thinks :)
    Bobbi Lee Hitchon recently posted..Traveling like a local in BrooklynMy Profile

  21. If the financial is the not factor to decide where to stay, I would prefer Apartment! :D

    But still hostel is usually much more cheaper! ;)
    LeX @ LeX Paradise recently posted..Fly to South Korea this coming winter with AirAsia X !My Profile

  22. I haven’t tried hostels but I’ll probably try this in the near future.

  23. Istanbul says:

    Great article for hostels ! Love it ! Thanks for sharing

  24. When It comes about cost saving, The hostels are the perfect choice. Though one may not find the premium comfort and privacy of Hotel in Hostel,The Hostel is perfect choice for the lonely Nomad like me. Thanks for the perfect comparison.

  25. Great post, guys. I love that you highlight the pros and cons of each. When we travel, we usually go for cheaper hotels or apartments, though we’ve been known to stay in hostels when it’s only for a few nights. It’s much tougher when you’re traveling as a couple than when you’re a single backpacker. You have to adjust your definition of “budget” travel with the cost of accommodation and now having to pay for two flights instead of just one!
    The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen) recently posted..Come Sail Away: Belize Raggamuffin Tour, Day ThreeMy Profile

  26. Arti says:

    A comprehensive post on the choices that a traveller has! We in India have another choice, quite a few temples offer rooms for stay. Though not all are good but some of them beat 5 star hotels easily. Plus the ambience is great!

  27. Great article! I prefer hostels myself noisy as they can be but Couchsurfing is still my fave. Do you guys ever use Couchsuring? It’s by far the cheapest accommodation for the budget traveler…free!

  28. Long-term apartment rentals for me. I don’t dig on hostels unless I’m with friends on a weekend outing, and hotels are a waste of money. I also don’t like CouchSurfing and staying with strangers :)

    And I live on the cheap. I have a nice, comfortable middle-class lifestyle and manage 650-800 a month (USD). My apartments are fully furnished and kitted out with Internet, AC, cable, etc., and I haven’t paid more than $400 a month for the past 5 years in Bulgaria, Colombia or Mexico. That comes out to around $13.50 per day for my accommodations. It’s even cheaper when the exchange rates are good :)
    T.W. Anderson @ Marginal Boundaries recently posted..Comment on The Breaking Point by T.W. AndersonMy Profile

  29. Zorica says:

    Great article. Hostels can be good value for money but I think sometimes it’s worth to give some extra money for privacy!
    Zorica recently posted..Travel Crete: Joanna of Turkey LoversMy Profile

  30. Alexandra says:

    I think they all have their time and place! I stayed at a few hostel in Asia that had double beds in the dorms. That made it cheaper than having two beds in the dorm and still had the social aspect!

    My boyfriend and I are actually booked in a hostel dorm for 3 nights from now for our first stop, Mexico, in our 2013 RTW! I will say that after almost a year of not being in a dorm it does feel strange to know I will be sleeping with 8 other strangers in fa few nights ;)
    Alexandra recently posted..Travel Information About Panama &#8211; Central America BlogsMy Profile

    • Hmmm be kind of weird I would have thought having double beds in the dorm rooms! Most dorm rooms are bad enough with all the couples getting it on haha. Good luck with your travels in 2013 :)

  31. Esther says:

    When travelling alone couchsourfing is a good option too.
    Esther recently posted..Flamenco in MadridMy Profile

  32. A great article. Usually people go straight for hotels, but there are many options out there. Hostels don’t have the reputation that they once had, and as you say, apartments are becoming more and more popular.

    I don’t think there’s a “perfect accommodation type”… It really does depend on your needs.

  33. saif anam says:

    hi great helpful post. i like to stay hostel. i like those hostel who has 100% safety,kitchen facilities.

  34. Sermin says:

    airbnb.com is a good site to find a place. Some people prepare a/few room(s) in their houses to rent for reasonable money. I haven’t found a chance to try it but I could find some good place to stay for my future destinations.I use app for i-phone

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