Home General Airbnb, Hostel, or Hotel? Pros & Cons of Popular Travel Accommodation Options

Airbnb, Hostel, or Hotel? Pros & Cons of Popular Travel Accommodation Options

by Kendra Gordillo
Happy traveler in a hotel room | AIFS Study Abroad

As soon as I landed in Munich and was on the bus to Salzburg for my study abroad experience, I immediately began thinking of which countries I wanted to visit. That meant I needed to start looking at places to stay and how to get there. Prior to going abroad, many people told me about the hostel option and other types of places they stayed, like Airbnb or a hotel. With so many options available, how do you know what the best place is? I have tried to compile some pros and cons based on my experiences in Europe thus far.

If you’re having trouble deciding where to stay, here’s the inside scoop on choosing between an Airbnb, hostel, or hotel when you’re traveling abroad as a college student:

1. Airbnb

Pros:

  • If you are staying with multiple people, you may want to consider an Airbnb. I probably booked more Airbnbs than hostels because your total cost is per night, not by the bed. I tended to travel with multiple people so it was less expensive this way. If you are okay with sharing a bed, like a queen or king with a friend, then you need less beds and can therefore cut down on cost.
  • Airbnbs tend to be more private. You can book a whole apartment or house, or for one or two people, you could book a single room. For example, when my friend and I traveled to Alicante, we got an Airbnb that was a single room in an apartment. All we needed was a bed and bathroom, and that’s all we got. It was roughly $11 per night, so split between us the price was extremely inexpensive.
  • Most Airbnbs have a kitchen you can use. This means you could buy groceries and make meals on your own instead of eating out while traveling. When I stayed in Slovenia, my three friends and I made french toast for breakfast with the kitchen instead of eating out. It definitely saved us some money.

Cons:

  • When you are in an Airbnb, there’s less of a chance to meet new people. You only get to interact with your friends and maybe the host. If you want to meet new people, this may be more difficult.
  • It can be expensive for a solo traveler. If it’s just you traveling, you may end up paying for things you don’t need, especially if you rent a whole house or apartment. This could be pricey, especially in big cities.
  • You need to plan your own events. If you have certain things on your bucket list, then this may not be a concern for you. If you are with a group of friends, you all may have places to want to visit and that will take up all of your time. Other types of accommodations, like hostels, sometimes set up tours or sightseeing.

2. Hostels

Pros: 

  • Your cost is per bed, per night. If you are a solo traveler or in a small group, it may be less expensive to go to a hostel since you pay by the bed. Many hostels were somewhere between $15-30 per bed, per night. Obviously, if you stay for multiple nights this cost can add up.
  • Hostels have staff around the clock. Many front desks are staffed 24/7 so if you have any issues you have someone available to help you.
  • It’s a great way to meet new people. I met people from so many places around the world in hostels: Peru, Austria, California, Italy, Argentina, and the list goes on. Plus, most hostels have walking tours and other events planned so you can socialize with other people staying at the hostel.

Cons:

  • You’re sleeping with strangers. You never know who you will meet. My friend and I had a poor encounter with someone who was staying in our room in a hostel and myself, my friend and the other woman in the room had to have him removed from the hostel. Nothing bad happened, but obviously that was out of our control. Never be afraid to speak up for yourself but be aware that you don’t have much control over who else will be there. If you are a female, I’d highly recommend choosing an all female room over a mixed one unless you are in a mixed gender group. I had a much better experience in a 10 person all female room than I did in a mixed room. Again, this was simply from my experience.
  • You don’t have as much privacy as you would have in a hotel or Airbnb. Some hostels have privacy curtains or private rooms, but that’s about as much privacy as you will get. You can’t spread all of your stuff out since you are sharing the room with other travelers.

Not a pro or con, but a tip: See if your hostel offers breakfast. Sometimes it may be worth paying a little extra for a place that includes breakfast since you won’t have to spend that at a café. In France (this was actually an Airbnb, but illustrates my point) we picked an Airbnb that included breakfast and we had the most amazing experience — fresh honey and eggs from the host’s farm, fresh bread and cheese spread, which was all included. We definitely saved tons of money by choosing this place and we got to try authentic French cuisine. Also check to see if they offer towels so you can pack accordingly. Some may ask you to pay a Euro or two.

3. Hotels

Pros:

  • You have plenty of privacy, similar to a private Airbnb. You have your own room, and depending on what type of room you are in or how many people you are staying with, you may have your own bed.
  • You get fresh linens and towels everyday. Some people don’t care about this, but it can be very nice after doing lots of traveling.
  • Like a hostel, it is a great option if you are by yourself since there is 24/7 access to the front desk and security.
  • Some hotels include breakfast in the cost which can save money and time. Or, if they are not included, you can pay extra for it. This can be very convenient.
  • Many hotels have other amenities like pools, gyms, spas, etc. which can be a nice treat.
  • If you or your family has a reward account with the hotel you are staying at, you can either use your points or earn points which may even lead to upgrades or other little treats.

Cons:

  • The biggest con: money. Hotels are almost always more expensive than a hostel or Airbnb. If you are traveling on the off-season, you may find a good deal since the hotels won’t be packed with tourists, but it can still be very pricey. I feel like this is the biggest reason not to book hotels if you are a college student studying abroad. I only stayed in a hotel when we went on group trips through AIFS, or once in Madrid and my parents used their rewards points on it.
Traveler in a hotel room | Deciding between an Airbnb, hostel, or hotel as a student traveling | AIFS Study Abroad
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