One of the most tedious things about travelling is finding somewhere to stay that’s affordable, comfortable and hopefully within walking distance of wherever you want to explore in the city you’re visiting.
The problem with finding accommodation is that there are so many different options and types available that it can be stressful to choose just one single place.
Apart from some of the free types of accommodations available the most common places that you’ll look for somewhere to stay are:
Each type of accommodation offers its own benefits and drawbacks depending on what you’re looking for, what your preferences are and what your travel budget is.
If you’re sticking to a tight budget and you want to get to know a range of different people while you’re traveling then it’s probably hostels that you’ll want to consider.
If you’re looking for some privacy, high class amenities and for everything to be taken care of while you’re abroad then hotels are your best bet.
If you want your own room or apartment, some privacy, usually access to a kitchen and washing machine and you want to experience how locals live then you’re going to want to go with AirBnb.
In this post I want to go over the benefits and drawbacks of each type of accommodation and which one is the best for you depending on how you like to travel.
Hotel vs Hostel vs AirBnb: Choosing the Right Accommodation
Before the internet took off the majority of people traveling abroad would stay at hotel, but hotels have been losing their market share every year since the Internet became popular and widely used.
Today, hotels are a lot more competitively priced than they once were and there are a lot more different ones to choose from, especially if you’re visiting a larger and more popular city.
For accommodation hotels are typically the most expensive and usually have the most additional fees for anything extra that you want (breakfast, parking, wireless internet, etc).
Depending on where you’re traveling it’s not hard to spend a minimum of $100 dollars per night to book a hotel room.
Sure, there are cheaper places to stay in some of the more affordable cities and countries to visit but you can expect to spend the most on accommodation if you’re staying at hotels during your time abroad
For budget travelers hostels are one of the best inventions ever.
In many hostels the way it works is that you pay for a bed in a room that’s shared between 4 or up to 32 people.
Because all of you are sharing a room this helps to bring costs down and makes hostels a great choice if you’re traveling on a budget and looking for somewhere very cheap to spend the night.
Many hostels also offer private rooms which cost a little bit more per person than if you were to book a bunk, but are still a more economical choice compared to hotels.
There are three different types of AirBnb rooms/apartments that you can book.
You’re able to choose from booking an entire apartment, a room in an apartment or even a shared room.
If you’re booking a private room the prices are a little bit more expensive than if you were to book hey bunk in a hostel but the upside is that you get your own room in someone’s apartment.
Booking an entire apartment is great because you get the whole place to yourself and you’ll usually have access to a full kitchen and washing machine.
If you’re able to spend a little bit more money but you still don’t want to shell out for a hotel then AirBnb’s are a practical choice for reasonably priced accommodation.
In a hotel you’ll usually get a room with a large bed, desk, private bathroom and some storage space.
Depending on how nice of a hotel you’re staying at you might get a suite that has a living room or you might just get a very small room with just enough space for your bed.
Before booking anything it’s always a good idea to read reviews and look at pictures online to see how much space you’re getting but typically hotels offer enough space for you to relax after a long day of exploring without being too spacious that it feels too big for your needs.
When you’re staying in hostels the space available is set up differently than you would find at a hotel.
The room where all the bunks are really isn’t going to be that big, especially if you’re staying in a room that has 10 or more bunks, and there will be some storage space but not room for much else.
However, the trade-off here is that there’s usually a common area or lounge where you can hang out and meet other travelers and many hostels also have a kitchen where you can prepare meals.
In an AirBnb if you’re booking the entire apartment it really depends on what you’re booking when it comes to the space that you’ll have available.
Apartments range in size from closet sized like the micro apartments that you can find in New York City all the way to a sprawling, enormous luxury penthouse that takes up the entire floor of a building.
If you’re traveling with two or more people then you’re going to want to look for AirBnb apartments that offer enough beds and space for a larger group but if it’s just you or just one other travel partner then you could opt for something smaller.
As for private rooms, again they range in size from barely big enough to have enough space for a double bed to a room that’s the size of a small apartment.
Just like I mentioned with hotels it’s a good idea to take a look at the pictures of any of the apartments that you’re interested in booking to get a better idea of how much space there is available
When you’re in your hotel room you’re able to take advantage of all of the privacy that you would ever need.
As soon as you shut the door behind you you’re basically locked into your own private space and unless you call up for room service or there’s a problem it’s unlikely that anyone is going to come knock at your door or bother you.
Sure, you might be able to hear your neighbors or people walking through the halls but if you want some quiet time in a private space to get some work done or relax you’re definitely able to do that when you’re staying at a hotel.
Staying at a hostel gives you the complete opposite experience of what a hotel offers.
If you didn’t book a private room then you’re going to be a room with a bunch of strangers who will hopefully be quiet through the night, but you’ll never know.
If you have trouble sleeping or you don’t think you’re going to get along with other travelers then you’re going to want to opt for a hotel or AirBnb where privacy is available in abundance.
On the other hand, if you like to meet other people, you want to party it up with your bunk mates and you’re able to sleep through anything then hostels aren’t going to be a problem for you.
As for the bathroom situation, the majority of hostels offer a private bathroom where you’ll be able to use your own toilet and shower. Sure, someone might hear you poop but they’re definitely not going to be able to see you or walk in on you unless you forget to lock the door.
An AirBnb apartment, whether you booked a private room for the entire place, offers plenty of privacy and it’s comparable to what you’d expect if you’re staying in a hotel.
In a private room you might have to talk with the host and you’ll probably hear them walking around but you have your own space to relax in and you could just shut the door behind you if you don’t feel like being social.
If you book the entire apartment then of course you’ll have the whole place to yourself and, unlike in a hotel, you don’t have to worry about room service or a maid accidentally walking in on you while you’re changing.
If you’re staying at a nicer hotel or somewhere with good reviews then it’s likely that your room is going to be clean when you arrive and be cleaned on a regular basis during your stay.
I’ve definitely stayed at some messy hotels before but a quick call down to reception and the room was able to get cleaned right away.
You might run into some stains or some marks on the wall, but as long as you read the reviews and stay at better rated hotels then you shouldn’t run into any problems
When it comes to cleanliness in hostels I would say that it’s pretty hit or miss depending on where you’re staying and who’s running it.
Some hostels that I’ve stayed at have been exceptionally clean and these places usually kick you out of your room for a few hours during the day so that they can clean everything up.
There’s also some places that I’ve stayed that have been pretty messy but for the price it’s hard to complain and with so many different types of people staying in hostels you’re bound to run into someone that’s a bit messier or not as clean as you might like.
The majority of AirBnb apartments that I’ve stayed at have had someone come and clean up before my arrival.
In some cases though, it’s actually the apartment owner that does the cleaning.
Out of more than 20 different AirBnb stays I’ve only had one place where it was really messy and obvious that the owners didn’t clean beforehand. I simply contacted the owner and they were able to deal with the mess quite quickly so it wasn’t a problem in the end.
Again, as long as you’re staying in apartments that have been positively reviewed then it’s unlikely that you’re going to run into any problems with cleanliness.
Keep in mind that it’s very hard and time-consuming to completely clean an apartment so that it’s 100% spotless so if you see a little bit of dust or something out of place don’t worry to much about it, it’s not that big a deal.
Amenities and Extra Services
In a hotel you’ll have the option to pay for just about anything extra that you want.
Even if there isn’t anything additional that you want to pay for there are some services and amenities that are offered in most hotels.
Usually there is daily cleaning, 24 hour service at reception, some amenities in the room like a kettle or fridge and many of the more higher-rated hotels are located in prime areas.
Additionally, there is sometimes parking available and breakfast is often included in the price as well.
There are still some amenities and special services offered at hostels.
Many of them will have a daily cleaning in the room you’re staying in and there might also be breakfast available.
There’s also lockers to securely store your gear and many of the better rated hostels will have lounge or common area that you can relax in and meet other travelers.
Very high-end hostels will even have a restaurant or bar on site and might even offer some additional tourist services like guided tours or bicycle rentals.
Apart from this the people working at hostels are usually very friendly and are either locals or travelers themselves so they’re able to offer helpful and accurate information should you have any questions or concerns during your visit.
In an AirBnb there are a range of different special features and amenities that you’re able to use and you also get to take advantage of some of the things that people most often have in their homes.
This includes a full kitchen where you can prepare meals or store snacks and in many cases there is also washing machine so you can do laundry without having to pay anything extra.
Also, most of the apartments come with free wireless Internet and depending on the host you might even get picked up from the bus, train station or airport.
I find that many hotels are very safe, especially if you read reviews beforehand.
In many hotel rooms there will be a safe that you can use to secure any of your valuables or electronics and you can also opt out of having your room cleaned everyday if you don’t want someone in your room snooping around.
I’ve never had anything go missing out of all of the hotel rooms I’ve stayed in and as long as you’re staying somewhere that’s positively rated then you shouldn’t run into any problems with safety.
Also, you either get one or two key cards that you can use to enter the room or a dedicated key and it’s hard for someone off the street that doesn’t have these items to just walk into your room. The reception or lobby area is an added form of security and even further helps to keep things safe in a hotel.
Hostels are completely safe and are just as safe, if not more so, than a hotel but it also depends on where you’re traveling and the quality of the hostel you’re staying at.
There are always bad people around so you might get unlucky with someone who’s going to take one of your things but if you stay at a hostel that has a locker or you keep your expensive electronic gear and valuables with you when you’re walking around then it’s quite easy to avoid any problems.
As for the people, it can be scary sharing a room with strangers but the upside is that there will likely always be someone else in the room with you but you can ask for help if anything goes wrong.
Travelers are usually quite happy people and it’s not often that you run into anyone dangerous when you’re traveling abroad and staying in hostels.
Whether you are booking the entire apartment or just a private room AirBnbs tend to be quite safe.
The downside here is that there is in fact someone else that you don’t know that is going to have access to your apartment and could potentially come in when you’re not around.
This has never happened to me and as long as you read reviews you should be able to avoid any problems. I really don’t recommend staying in any AirBnb apartments that don’t have reviews but ultimately it’s up to you.
For additional safety and security I recommend hiding some of your valuables if you’re ever worried and just making it a bit harder for someone to find your things if they happen to come into your place when you’re not there.
Where’s the Best Place to Stay?
Having gone over a range of the different features, benefits and drawbacks that each type of accommodation offers it’s up to you to decide type is the most practical and suitable for your traveling needs and requirements.
If you’re not worried about a budget and you want to stay in higher class, more comfortable places without having to worry about dealing with an apartment or anyone else then it’s hotels that I would recommend.
If you’re interested in meeting new people, you’d rather save some money on accommodation and you don’t mind sharing a room with strangers then hostels are a good idea for you to consider using when you’re traveling abroad.
If you want your own private space where you can do what you want and have access to kitchen, Washing machine and a more local lifestyle then it’s AirBnb apartments that I’d recommend.
Personally, now that I’ve gotten older I prefer staying in hotels or AirBnb apartments.
Hotels are just so easy and you just need to shut the door behind you and you can just head out to explore new city without having to worry about anything.
If I’m traveling for longer periods of time then AirBnbs are ideal because they give me a comfortable, private space where I can get some work done, prepare some meals and get my laundry done while being able to take advantage of staying in a more local area.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what the best accommodation is for you to use and as long as you read reviews and stick to your own budget then you’re most likely going to have a great time regardless of where you’re staying.