The Difference Between a Hostel and a Hotel

All About Hostels and Why They Often Beat Staying in Hotels

Hostel or Hotel?
••• Not all hostels are busy and messy like this one!. Greg Rodgers

Hostel or hotel? The line differentiating the two has become increasingly blurred in Asia.

The hostels in Asia differ somewhat from their counterparts in Europe and Australia. Forget about dorm rooms crammed with bunk beds and 20-somethings queuing for the shared bathroom. Many of the top hostels found throughout Asia specialize in private rooms with ensuite bathrooms; dorms, if they are available at all in a boutique hostel, are often an afterthought.

Hostels aren’t just for backpackers anymore. With an increasing number of “boutique hostel” options, hostels are beating out hotels for smart budget travelers who demand more than bare-bones accommodation. You’ll now find hostels offering free breakfast, complimentary snacks and drinks, free Wi-Fi, and add-ons once only expected in pricier hotels. And no, bed bugs are actually a bigger problem in many luxurious hotels!

Opting to stay in a nice hostel rather than a hotel many change your entire trip experience; meeting people is certainly easier than in hotels. With an exciting new country just waiting to be explored, you’ll probably only be in your room to sleep and shower, anyway!

What Is a Hostel?

Although there are a few dotted throughout the country, the concept of hosteling still hasn’t caught on in America as much as in other countries.

With very cheap beds, hostels once primarily targeted backpackers, students, and long-term travelers on very strict budgets. The standard style of accommodation consisted of bunk beds in a shared room with little or no privacy. But with an increasing number of flashpackers, couples, and more sophisticated travelers preferring privacy, hostels offer private rooms for those squeamish about sharing a space with strangers.

Not all hostels are created equal!. The cheapest options actually are hot, noisy, crashpads for party-oriented backpackers, while nicer places will have fresh flowers on your table to accompany the free breakfast!

Read more about budget accommodation in Asia and what you can expect.

Reasons for Choosing a Hostel Instead of a Hotel

  • They’re Cheaper: To cut costs, most hostels typically forgo the usual room amenities that most travelers rarely use anyway. You probably won’t find luxuries such as telephones, televisions, work desks, irons, coffee makers, or hairdryers. You will, however, find a TV and some of those other items in the common area of the hostel to be shared by all. The savings for unnecessary luxuries is passed on to guests.
  • You’ll Meet People: On top of being cheaper, hostels are great places to meet other travelers! Hostels are far more social than their hotel counterparts. The common area serves as a catalyst for meeting other travelers and getting good recommendations for where to eat and places to visit. Hostels attract a “different’ type of crowd, often a demographic interested in meeting new people.
  • You Don’t Always Have to Share: Most hostels in Asia offer private rooms with options for either private or shared bathrooms. How much you interact with other guests will be entirely up to you.
    • The Basic Services Prevail: Like hotels, all good hostels offer advice and ticketing services at the desk. You’ll be able to book your tours in Asia along with finding out about transportation options at the hostel desk. Many hostels in Asia offer laundry services, food, screened movies, and other services that make travelers happy.
    • Hostels Focus on Travelers: Unlike chain hotels with headquarters based far away, possibly even overseas, hostels are more in tune with the local neighborhood. Many of the hostels in Asia were started by Western travelers who wanted to settle down and build a business without losing touch with the travel world. These experienced business owners know what it’s like to be far away from home and are better able to meet the needs of fellow travelers.
    • You Can Negotiate: Since hostels often cater to backpackers who only stay a night or two at a time, you may be able to negotiate a better rate if you’ll be staying a week or longer. Many owners would rather have a long-term guest occupy a room to avoid cleaning or the chance that a room sits empty for a few nights. Hostels may be willing to work with you on price, particularly if you’re staying during the monsoon or low season in Asia.
      • Less Hidden Fees: Many hotels throughout Asia will tack service charges of up to 15% onto your bill at checkout. Despite most of Asia lacking a tipping culture, the staff in upscale hotels actually have become conditioned to receiving gratuity from guests who don’t know better. On the other hand, you’ll pretty well never be expected to tip in a hostel.

      Potential Downsides of Staying in a Hostel

      • Payment May Not Be as Convenient: With already low rates, many budget hostels simply won’t accept payment via plastic, or if they do, a “service charge” will be tacked on to cover the commission. Some hostels in Asia may ask that you pay for your stay either up front or day by day. Read more about managing and accessing money while you’re in Asia.
      • Some Hostels -are- Noisy: This is where is pays to do your research. If booking online, read reviews carefully, but bear in mind that reviews about bed bugs are often left by competing hostels. Some hostels do attract a younger crowd, so if your room is adjacent to the bar or common area, you may have to deal with late-night noise. Sometimes the noise problem doesn’t even come from other guests; rooms that face the street may be loud as motorbikes sputter by throughout the night.

      Booking a Hostel

      You’re better off actually being able to visit a hostel before committing to a long stay. If you will be booking online, choose a hostel booking site that is reputable and demands honest reviews.