Hostel vs. Hotel: What’s the Difference, and Which is Right for You?

Hotels offer privacy and can be luxurious. Hostels, meanwhile, provide social interaction and affordability.
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Written by Alisha McDarris
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Edited by Meghan Coyle
Assistant Assigning Editor
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As you plan your next trip, one of the biggest — and often most costly — decisions is where to stay. Several lodging options for travelers are available, from home rental sites like Airbnb and Vrbo to more classic options like bed and breakfasts, campgrounds, hotels and hostels.

But what’s the difference between a hostel and a hotel, besides that extra 's?' We’ll break it down so you can decide which type of accommodations are right for your next vacation.

The difference between hostel and hotel

The only thing hotels and hostels tend to have in common is that they offer a place to rest your head for the night. Otherwise, they’re generally quite different. Here are some main differences between the two.


  • Private rooms.

  • A private bathroom, typically located in your room (en suite).

  • Daily housekeeping.

  • Security. Hotels make it generally easy to leave luggage and valuables in your room with some sense of security.

  • Often offers more luxury experiences.

  • More expensive (especially for solo travelers).


  • Most hostel sleeping areas are shared rooms and feature multiple single beds or bunk beds (though some hostels do offer private rooms for an upcharge). These sleeping areas are often referred to as 'dorms.'

  • Bathrooms are often shared by multiple residents.

  • Facilities (whether sleeping areas or bathrooms) are typically coed, though female-only options are growing in popularity.

  • Lockers are often available to store valuables.

  • More budget-friendly.

  • Plenty of opportunities to meet other travelers.

  • Often younger clientele.

» Learn more: What is a hostel?

When to choose a hotel

Here’s why you might want to choose a hotel over a hostel depending on your style of travel.

If you’re traveling with a partner or family

A hotel's lack of communal living means it’s easier to enjoy time with your traveling companions without lots of other people swarming nearby. If you just want to enjoy time with a friend, family member or loved one, a hotel is likely the accommodation for you.

If you desire quiet and privacy

If you’re traveling on business, celebrating a special occasion, can only get a good night’s sleep when it’s dead quiet or simply value your privacy, a hotel is almost certainly the right choice. While hostels can and do offer private rooms, sometimes even with private bathrooms, you’re less likely to enjoy complete peace and quiet.

If you want a more upscale experience

While hostels and hotels vary when it comes to amenities and luxury experiences, hotels tend to offer more high-end options. These extend beyond the hotel room itself too, as some properties offer spas, room service, upscale restaurants and picturesque pools.

You’re more likely to be able to kick back and relax in style, eat well and get pampered at a hotel.

If you value security

While you should always take measures to protect your valuables when traveling, generally speaking, hotels tend to offer better security for your belongings. Not only are you the only one occupying your room, but there are often safes that are typically free to use during your stay.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Hostels usually offer locker-style storage, and you frequently have to bring your own lock.

When to stay in a hostel

For as many reasons that exist to stay in a hotel, there are just as many to book a hostel. Here’s who might want to consider these often lively accommodations.

If you want to meet people

While you don’t have to be traveling solo to want to make friends when you travel, hostels are a great place to connect with fellow travelers for tips and companionship for navigating your shared destination. Hostels often organize events, schedule mixers, plan theme nights and generally offer a more collective living space due to their shared sleeping areas, common areas, bathrooms, kitchens and more.

If you are on a budget

Often, hostels are less expensive than hotels, especially if you’re OK with sleeping in a large, shared room. But prices are per person at hostels, not per room as at hotels.

If you like to cook your own meals and do your own laundry

While you can book hotels with kitchenettes, most hotel rooms have microwaves and mini fridges at the most, so if you like to cook for yourself when you travel — for budget reasons or because of dietary restrictions — consider a hostel.

Hostels generally offer full kitchens with not only pots and pans, but sometimes essentials like salt and oil. Additionally, many hostels also have laundry rooms.

Hostels vs. hotels: The bottom line

Hotels tend to offer more privacy, security and amenities, and can range in style from budget to deluxe. Hostels, meanwhile, cater to travelers who are interested in more communal experiences, typically offering residence hall-like rooms, group activities and shared bathrooms and kitchens. Both hotels and hostels range in cost, but hostels are generally more affordable.

The right lodging option for your next trip depends on your travel style, budget and goals. Choose wisely and you’re bound to enjoy your trip to the fullest.

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